Productivity with a Bullet Journal
by Catarina Mateus (@catsplanner)
If you own a bullet journal, you know it is one of the most important tools to keep your life organized and your mind clear. A bullet journal can also help you to be much more productive and help you to accomplish more in your life, whether that's tracking your habits or just organizing your thoughts.
Let me tell you how I use my bullet journal to stay productive every day!
First of all, clear your mind
In order to be productive, you need to focus.
Being overwhelmed and stressed out about everything you have to do will only make you procrastinate and lose your focus, so before your work session starts, write down on a blank page in your bullet journal everything that you have to do and that is bothering your mind.
Sometimes you will see that the list is not that long!
In my bullet journal, I have a page that I do every month called brain dump page. This page is like my mind, with all my thoughts and ideas, but that my eyes can see. I’m a very visual person, so I like to have everything that I need to do and that needs my attention right in front of me.
My April 2020 brain dump page.
I normally keep this page with a lot of blank space but with only a few decorations from the monthly theme.
Things you can do on a brain dump page:
- Divide the page into sections;
- Add post-it notes;
- Doodle an idea;
- Etc. The options are endless!
My February 2020 and March 2020 brain dump pages filled in.
I do this page monthly so I can separate my tasks between the different times of my life. So for example, everything I write down on the brain dump page for the month of April, is what I need to get done throughout that month, and once I create my May pages, only the things undone in the previous month are the one I migrate into the new month.
Pro Tip: Migration
When you approach the end of the month in your bullet journal, sometimes there are things you didn’t do or didn’t finish. In order to decide if those things need to be done in the future or cancelled, we look back at them, and the ones that we have to do, we migrate them into the upcoming month. To simplify, the migration process consists in looking at your undone tasks and reflect whether or not you still want to do them on the upcoming week/month or if you want to let them go. If you want to do them, just transfer the undone task to you brain dump page or tasks section on the new month.
My bullet journal consists of a compilation of to-do lists, a to-do list for things to do this week, another for things to try, and even one for my goals. To-do lists are what keeps us in order.
Making lists was the main reason why I started a bullet journal. I used to make a to-do list every single day in the morning with everything that I wanted to get done, sometimes I finished it, sometimes I didn’t.
The problem was that every day, I would get a new piece of paper to write down my tasks, and I wasn’t keeping a record of the things I did the previous day. That made me feel extremely unproductive and like I wasn’t doing much because I couldn’t see the things I have done.
My December 2019 weekly spread.
Now with a bullet journal, I make monthly lists, weekly lists and also daily lists, so I can keep track of what I have done and feel productive and motivated!
Dividing your lists between monthly, weekly and daily, can also help you break down bigger projects, so you can see the progress of it every week and every day.
My October 2019 and my March 2020 weekly spreads filled in.
Pro Tip: Specify your tasks and goals
Instead of writing down in your to-do list “laundry”, write down what you are actually going to do, for example “hanging out the laundry”. The same works for goals and habits, instead of writing “read book”, try to write “read 10 pages”, and so on. In the future, this will help you to see what you actually did and accomplished that day. You can find more examples below.
Are you more productive if you have 10 things on your to-do list but only do 2, or if you have only 4 but you did them all? Exactly.
I caught myself multiple times in the past with 7-8 things on my to-do list. The night before that day, I felt productive and hopeful, because the next day would be a big day full of tasks to cross off! Well, that was never the case… Throughout the day I would try to do everything that was on my to-do list, and once I was setting up the upcoming day, I found myself migrating most of the tasks to the following day, making me feel unproductive because my day was not that productive overall.
Nowadays, I live by the 5 things rule: 1 goal, 3 tasks and 1 bonus task 👇
This rule allows me to have 1 goal for the day, for example, read 3 chapters from my book or go to the gym; to have 3 tasks to focus on throughout the day, it can be filming a bullet journal setup, organize my stationery or editing the raw footage of a video; and 1 bonus task, if I have the time, and it can be answer emails, or brainstorm my next video.
I choose to have this system and accomplish 3 tasks every day and do extras tasks if I have the time, instead of overwhelming myself with a long list of things to do that can be endless.
My first weekly spread for April 2020.
Even though being productive is a matter of consistency and persistence, you can’t be productive every day. You can try, but your body and mind also need to rest.
The same way you sleep every night to rest, your mind also needs some time off. Doing nothing and enjoying your accomplishments is part of being a productive person.
If you did 4 out of the 4 things you had on your to-do list, that’s awesome! So before you start planning the next day, or even the next extra task, try to relax and to look back at your day, and review all the things you did, that you don’t need to do tomorrow because they were done today. Even if you didn’t do everything on your to-do list, you should reward yourself.
Success is part of the process, right? Read a book, drink a good cup of tea, watch a movie, journal a bit about your day, and try to satisfy your mind and soul before you get to work again.
My March 2019 minimal monthly calendar.
Ready To Be Productive?
Before you go, here are some reminders that can help you:
- Work smarter, not harder: It’s better to have one task done, instead of three tasks uncompleted.
- Take breaks: Before you jump to the next task, take some deep breaths, move your arms and legs and reflect on what you just did.
- One task at a time: Multitasking is sometimes your worst enemy, focus on one task at a time and give it your whole attention.
- Good habits = Good mind: You can’t just work all day. Go to the gym, workout, read a book, drink water, take naps, eat healthy, socialise, because you are not a robot!
About the author
Catarina Mateus is a 19-year-old Portuguese bullet journal artist who developed a love for drawing since she was very young. She started to share her art and bullet journal spreads on Instagram (@catsplanner) in April 2018 which allowed her to expand her art skills and inspire others.
Some useful links: