How to Get Organized With Bullet Journaling

How to Get Organized With Bullet Journaling

By: Melissa Nelson
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I once saw a post on Tumblr that said something along the lines of I like stationary because I like the illusion of productivity”, which fits me to an absolute T.  However, the illusion of productivity and actual productivity are, unfortunately, two very different things.  When I first started my Co-op position, my time-management style consisted of a lot of procrastination followed by coffee-fueled (often mediocre) marathon work periods.  This meant that when I transitioned from full-time student to full-time employee with few deadlines for projects, I had to quickly learn effective ways to balance my eight-hour days to fit in all of my work and plan for the week.  The following is my favourite way to keep track of tasks and appointments at work.

I love bullet journaling.  And while I tend to do this in my personal life to unwind and unleash a little creativity, the basic system by Ryder Carrol provides the perfect foundation.  I stray a little and use a set of symbols that are more meaningful for me, but the idea of making lists to organize my days is the key.  I use a circle beside each task, and draw an arrow through it if I need to ‘migrate’ it to another day, an ‘x’ when it is complete, and draw a line through the whole task if it is no longer necessary.

The next step for me here is to keep an ongoing list of tasks that don’t have a set due date.  These might be things I’d like to get done (e.g. clearing out the filing cabinets, or organizing my desktop), or things that I’d like to suggest for a project in the future when I have some downtime.  I keep this list in a notebook, but it’s just as easy to keep a sticky note or two stuck to your monitor if that works better for you.

Find a simple colour-coding system.  I always struggled with this in school, because I had a tendency to make things overcomplicated, but I like to think I now have this mastered.  I stick with three highlighters: yellow for the day’s priorities, pink for priorities that rely on someone else’s input (e.g. a supervisor’s approval or a colleague’s contribution to a project), and green for something time-sensitive (e.g. a meeting).  I try to limit my lists to as little colour as possible so that I can focus on the most important things that are time sensitive.

Make use of a calendar.  I use a blend of a digital calendar and a paper calendar.  This worked especially well in my previous position since the paper calendar contained a ton of detail relating to everything important in my department, while my digital calendar was used only to program reminders and view my colleagues’ meetings.

Most importantly, be reasonable.  When you sit down at the beginning of your day set aside a few minutes to really prioritize your tasks and think about what you can feasibly fit into your schedule.  Then, during the last few minutes of your shift, reflect on what you need to migrate, whether there are any projects you should schedule for later in the week, and take a look at how much you were able to get through.  I think this is crucial, because at the end of an eight hour grind it can be difficult to feel like you got anything done if you’re leaving with a million little tasks on your mind.  If you take a minute to reflect and unwind it’s much easier to head home with a clear head and enjoy your downtime.


As I transition into my second Co-op position, I’m going to be taking on my first two 400-level classes in addition to working 30 hours a week.  While that idea might have seemed utterly terrifying before, I can say now that I feel confident that these skills have transferred to my personal life, and that I’m one of those people” who finds crossing off their to-do list an incredibly rewarding experience. 



Beyond the Article

Posted on September 20, 2017