Bullet Journaling or bujo was developed by Ryder Carroll as a way to increase productivity, reduce overwhelm and stay organized. Essentially, it’s a journal where you can track to-do lists, keep a calendar, jot down notes, and track goals. The difference between a bullet journal and a regular planner is that you get to design your bullet journal from scratch! You purchase a blank or dot grid journal and create the pages you need. While it takes time to set up, the result is totally customized to your specific needs.
So, how you can use a bullet journal for your business? It turns out that although this system is often used for personal development, the layouts can also be optimized for professional needs including goal setting, tracking progress, time management, keeping a calendar, brainstorming and so much more.
Check out these 6 ways to use your bullet journal to organize your business and increase your productivity.
1. Set year-long goals and track your progress
Image credit: @ivanajournals
Visually divide your annual plan into monthly, weekly and daily sections with the bullet journal and write down your goals. There are several options you might like to try including the future log, and the year at a glance. The bullet journal builds on your ability to take a quick overall inventory of your business, and consider pivots. Because the bullet journal can become a record of a business’s successes, failures and overarching patterns, it is a great tool for reflection and analysis at the end of each year. The insights that come from last year then become the framework for the new year’s annual planning.
2. Examine how you are spending your time each month
Image credit: @lolastarryart
Avoid the feeling that each month is flowing into the next without any changes to your big annual goals. Use the monthly overview spread to see key deadlines, events and launches at a glance. This is a great place to track goal progress. Some journalers use a graph to make checking in simple. Think of the monthly overview spread is like a check-in point. The previous month can easily be referenced while working in the current month and occasionally recording future items in the following months. Annual goals that continue from month to month, are easily reviewed while specific priorities for the current month are clearly noted. From here, your weeks and days can be broken down into small tasks that work towards the goals and priorities of that month.
3. Track your time
Image Credit: @mashaplans
There are a lot of methods to try in the time management area of bullet journaling. You may want to plan, track or leverage your time and there are methods for each!
Here, Masha Plans demonstrates how to use a color-coded graph in her bullet journal to track how her time is spent. Most of us want to jump right into planning our time, but planning can be unrealistic if we don’t already have a sense of how much time things usually take us and what we spend most of our time doing. A tracking system helps to identify where we are to start, making the planning portion simpler. The tracker can also act as an accountability technique each day.
The Daily Plan Bar can help when you’re ready to plan your time each day and be more efficient with it. When you want to level up your productivity, use the 1-2-3-4 method for leveraging time management. The idea of this method is to build momentum by completing a simple task, followed by a slightly longer task before transitioning to a big task and wrapping up with a fun and rewarding task.
4. Manage projects and plan content
Image credit: @ivanajournals
Content is strategic and it often involves logistics, preparation and so much time. These are the reasons so many of us business owners put it off. Having a repeatable system to plan within will help to calm the overwhelm and break content processes into steps. Try having a calendar that corresponds to platforms, preparations needed and duration of the project. Also, note how deadlines affect launches and other key areas of your business. In the example here, the calendar is vertical which makes for a simple, easy-to-read space for content titles. Projects other than content can also be tackled in your bullet journal. Set up your spread with a clear timeline section, goals and outcomes and individual tasks. This video is a great guide to get you started on project management in your bullet journal.
Image Credit: @mashaplans
The brain dump is a powerful tool that can be used in many different ways including bullet journaling. Sometimes it can be used to record brainstorming for a new project. As creatives, sometimes a great new idea hits us while we should be working on another project with an approaching deadline. Instead of losing track of this idea, take 10 minutes to record everything you’re thinking about it in your bullet journal and revisit it at a better time. Brain dump is also a great way to end your workday. Taking 10 minutes to write down where you left off, what you want to do next, thoughts and reflections on the day keeps you from worrying over work until 2 in the morning. Your brain dump may simply be a list, or it may look more like a bubble chart or doodle page.
6. Self-care and balance
A precarious balance between work and the rest of life is common for small business owners. It’s easy to let the scales tip too far into work. Take a step back each week or even each day to keep track of where your time and energy are going. A visual tracker is a great alternative to a purely number-based log. Reflecting on your intentions for the day or recording business-related gratitude can shift your mindset during a frustrating day. The mental break of journaling or recording self-care items is an opportunity to reset and manage stress in the business. Self-care spreads could also include affirmations, and tracking physical and emotional wellness.
The bullet journal is a tool that can be a little intimidating to begin with, but the point of the system is to simplify and improve any aspect of our lives we’re hoping to level up. If you need a place to begin, try purchasing existing spreads from Etsy sellers or on Creative Market, but in the end you may find that your pages end up being a true reflection of your individuality so make it your own. Bring your style and creativity into your bullet journal to help make managing your business easy and joyful.
I would be quite upset if my staff spent time doodling instead of working. A true bullet journal is not filled with doodles and coloring book drawings. How is the examples related to business at all??
In our research, the recurring theme was that bullet journaling works because people are able to really make it their own. The idea here was to show many examples of what it might look like to spark a reader’s inspiration and help to generate ideas. There’s always the option to purchase ‘templates’ or copy your own spreads repeatedly and then fill them out. No need to do any doodling if you feel that is not an effective use of time.
I was really excited to get the link to this in my email, but ultimately disappointed in the way this is presented. There are some legitimately good bullet journal layouts and ideas out there in the world that were made for business by other business owners, but none of them were really presented in this post. There are layouts for tracking social media posts and growth, layouts for project planning, layouts for social media planning, financial tracking, and so many more that would have been better suited to making this post far more suitable for the target audience.
I’ve used a bullet journal in some way/shape/form since 2018, both as an employee in the public sector and, now, as a self-employed brick-and-mortar business owner. I’ve played with layouts that are more doodles and art, and I’ve gone minimalist and kept to the core basics, and a variety of blending of the two over the years. The thing that I’ve found, or maybe struggled with, is making it work for me as a comprehensive planning system as a business owner. I can use it as a daily task list and appointment reminder, but when it comes to working out the bigger things that are involved with being a business owner the bullet journal doesn’t really cut it.
I think, when you’re a small business owner, you are really planning things out months in advance. I end up setting up at least 3 months of weekly calendar pages in mine at a time so I can schedule out tasks, events, etc ahead to avoid having days or weeks where I’m staring at my calendar wondering what, exactly, I’m supposed to be focusing on this week. I have a page at the beginning of each month that lists out newsletter topics for each week’s email to send and those regular monthly tasks I need to keep track of (like did I forget to pay my electric bill in the craziness of last’s week’s sales rush??) and current projects and/or goals for that month. I have a page at the end of each month that acts as a recap of the month and some room for a bit of introspection before heading into the next month. Sometimes there’s a page of quotes and notes from a business book or podcast I’m working through that month if I have the room.
The traditional bullet journal system has you using the index at the beginning of the journal to keep track of what information you have where. That’s great if your brain is wired for that sort of thing and can handle notes on Project A being on pages 10, 58, 92, and 135 and notes on project B being on pages 17, 87, and 138 because they’re spread throughout everything else you’re writing in there over that period of time. My brain is not, however, wired this way – I need everything for Project A all together in one easy-to-find place and Project B needs to be in its own place, as well. Can I delegate a few pages in my bullet journal for these things? Probably. But what if I save 6 pages for the project and end up needing 10 for all the notes and planning I’ve been working on? So, instead of keeping these kinds of things spread out where I’ll have to dig to find them, I’ve been using a discbound system in addition to my bullet journal to allow me to keep notes from meetings or projects together where they rightly belong.
I’ve been using Ryder Carroll’s method (which bears zero resemblance to any of these examples) of bullet journaling for the past 4 years. The author does not understand the bujo method nor even the basic concepts of braindumping vs brainstorming. The bujo method is about the intersection between productivity and working towards achieving life goals. It’s unfortunate that you show no examples of someone using bujo for actual productivity and business organization.