More and more of us are turning to pen and paper to keep our work lives in order. Here’s how to turn your notebook into a productivity goldmine.
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again – learning how to be more productive is one of the best ways to invest your time, whatever profession you’re in.
There’s a wealth of knowledge out there, from time techniques like the Pomodoro method to psychology hacks like habit-stacking and temptation-bundling. But what if a simple notebook and pen could revolutionize your personal productivity levels?
There’s a growing movement of people who are shifting away from apps and digital productivity solutions and embracing the world of pen and paper. From luxurious notebooks and stationery to the enjoyment of the hand-written word, there are plenty of reasons for choosing to add a good old-fashioned notebook planner into your modern lifestyle.
For one thing, as our lives become more entwined with technology, going analog answers the need to switch off. Working with a paper productivity system is a neat way to perform a digital detox without putting your life on hold. There’s no blue light, so you can update it at night without risking your sleep hygiene. And it’s a great way to focus for a period of time without the interruption of notifications or the temptation of more-ish mobile games.
The pen-and-paper lifestyle has an undeniable appeal. But is it right for you? To help you decide, here are some of the ways paper productivity solutions are different from their digital counterparts.
We’ve explored the differences between paper planners and online or digital tools. But who said it had to be either or? Why not take the best from both worlds and combine digital and paper tools in a way that suits you?
For example, you could set a daily alarm on your phone to remind you to update your journal. Just set it up as a daily recurring event on your calendar app. Or you might run a digital to-do list alongside your notebook planner. This could be a promising option if you often have tasks that have a component online, for example a link to your Maps app for directions to an event, or to your best friend’s Amazon Wishlist when you’re planning for their birthday.
Tip: use a special symbol in your paper planner next to these tasks to show that they’ve also been added in your app, so you can cross-reference the two.
The appeal of the notebook planner is obvious when you take a look into the online world of bullet journaling (#bujo). Fans of this trend, which was developed by Ryder Carroll, fill their blogs and Instagram feeds with inspiring page spreads from their notebooks, and use luxurious stationery and tools to create planners that are functional works of art.
We’ve delved into the bullet journal trend previously, but now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of bullet journal productivity.
A typical bullet journal starts with an index page, which is a numbered contents page for your notebook. After that there are a series of logs, or lists. These are usually based around time periods, like month, week or day, although you can also have ‘custom logs’ for specific tasks or events such as wedding planning or vacation research.
The language of the bullet journal is ‘rapid logging’. It’s a way of noting things concisely, and as the name suggests it’s pretty speedy. Unlike writing long-hand, it condenses your journaling into the shortest possible time, so you’ve got more of your day available to get work done. According to the Bullet Journal website, Rapid Logging has 4 components:
Short, informative titles for your pages, such as “Vacation Checklist” or “January”. They make it simple to keep your thoughts organized and to group your tasks on a page.
b) Page numbers
These are important because they map the pages of your bullet journal to an index at the front of your notebook, so you can find what you need at a glance – another time-saving win.
c) Short sentences
Unlike a regular notebook or journal, a BuJo is about saving time, so sentences should be short and concise. Instead of “Today I need to take my dog to the vet”, write “dog to vet”
The heart of the bullet journal system. There are a few kinds of bullets which help you plan your time and record your progress.
At the end of your day, week or month, you can choose to migrate the tasks left open to the next page of your notebook, or discard them by drawing a line through them. That way you’ve left a record of how you prioritized your tasks which can make future planning more efficient.
There’s no question that the bullet journal is the definitive 21st century productivity journal. But it’s not the only analog notation style in town. There are other options too, such as Strikethru. This system is interesting because it shares some characteristics with the Kanban board, a digital to-do-list focused on moving tasks from one place to another.
With Strikethru, your notebook is divided into 3 parts:
You can also include a calendar section at the front or back of the Strikethru notebook to help you keep track of important events, anniversaries and deadlines. And of course, there are no rules saying you have to adopt just one system and stick to it. Why not combine elements of the bullet journal and Strikethru in a way that suits you? It’s your notebook after all.
One of the biggest challenges people seem to face with productivity notebooks or planners is actually using them.
Notebooks that were started with enthusiasm can end up gathering dust on a shelf unless you’re able to successfully form the habit and stick to it. Regular use will also maximize the benefits of the process, as you’ll build up a record of your activity over time.
Adopting a regular journal schedule is one way to make sure the journal habit sticks with you. Decide on a ten-minute window each day when you’ll sit down with your notebook planner. It may be first thing in the morning while you drink your coffee, or last thing at night when you’re concluding your day and thinking about your goals for tomorrow.
For the best chance of success, pick the time of day you usually feel most alert and engaged, and make sure you have enough uninterrupted time to get the job done.
You don’t have to be a crafting genius to physically transform your notebook and extend its productivity powers. Here are a few simple hacks you can make using everyday items from your stationery drawer.