• A bullet journal is a flexible way to manage your business calendar and planning.
  • In a bullet journal, notes are short statements preceded by bullets.
  • The journal is helping me plan ahead, and I am finding that I enjoy the process of writing things down on a piece of paper.

Back in the 1990s, I used a Day-Timer calendar.

We used to be judged by how big and heavy our Day-Timers were. There were calendar pages and note pages and special pages for expenses. They are still used today, but I stopped using mine when the Palm Pilot came along.

The early Palm Pilots were relatively simple devices that stored appointments and notes and could be synchronized with digital calendars and a contacts database, too. I loved how small they were and how I could beam notes directly to the Palm Pilots of my colleagues.

When the Blackberry arrived on the scene, I just had to have one. I was able to sync all of the contacts I had in my Palm Pilot with my new Blackberry — and make phone calls, too. I could also send and receive email while away from my office.

I truly loved my Blackberry … until I got my first smartphone.

But after many years of using electronic organizers, smartphones and Evernote, I still felt like I was missing something.

I am very organized and seem to always be able to find what I need — even at tax time — but at some point I started to lose track of my goals and long-range plans as I focused on each day’s tasks.

Getting stuff done is important, but there are times when what I get done doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. I mostly don’t think, I just do; and I get up each morning and repeat the process — and then wonder where the day, week, month or year went.

A few months ago, I found a great solution, and it is working so well for me I thought I would share it.

Introducing the ‘bullet journal’

It’s an analog system called a “bullet journal,” which isn’t like the old-school paper planners or any of the very complicated fancy planners that people write in with colored pens and decorate with a lot of stickers.

It is just a notebook and any old pen or pencil.

After using it for few months, I feel more organized and like I have a plan and am reaching my goals — and I am able to hang on to some of my random ideas.

I still use my other systems, but when I added the bullet journal, I added a kind of guide that I didn’t have before.

The bullet journal is flexible and can easily be tailored to suit the needs of the user. Each page is numbered and has a title. Most users suggest that you use the first two pages as an index so you can find everything in your journal.

In a bullet journal, notes are short statements preceded by bullets.

My index includes two pages for each month. One page is merely a list of days, and I jot down the major events, like classes, seminars, vacations and so on.

It isn’t to replace my calendar, but it gives me a visual guide of what the month will look like. It helps me plan.

The second page of my two-page month is a bulleted list of things that I am planning on doing that month. They are my goals, and I actually plan a couple of months ahead so that some of my larger objectives don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Tasks can be crossed off when completed, carried over to the next month or even eliminated entirely.

There are also pages for a “future log.” Each page covers six months and is divided into squares, like on a calendar. It is a space where I keep track of major goals or events for the month. It is also one whole year at a glance.

The journal itself is essentially a series of simple bulleted lists. There are signifiers for tasks, for ideas and for notes — you can use dots, dashes, bubbles or any other type of bullet you want for each different type of list.

An asterisk before a bullet usually indicates the item is important. Your system can stay very simple or get as complicated as you need.

The index shows what is in the journal, so that sections are not forgotten, and it is easy to find the notes. You can start a compiling a list of real estate marketing ideas that you want to try, and if you put it in the index, you’ll remember that it’s on page 31, after November but before December.

The bullet journal helps me plan ahead, to make goals and to keep better track of what I have actually accomplished. I have a visual record.

How I’m using it

My journal has a page to list books I am currently reading and books that I want to read — and it has project pages, too, that are dedicated to various projects I work on.

There are lists of ideas and tasks and even random thoughts and a couple of drawings, and a diagram, too.

Project pages include the start of my 2017 business plan, which will be on pages 21 through 24.

If I need more pages, I can make them and add them to the index under “2017 Business Plan.” If I don’t need all the pages, some will stay blank.

Bullet journaling is flexible and easy to use, change or adjust.

I use an inexpensive notebook with graph paper pages. I started it in the middle of a month in the middle of the year, which I admit was a bold and courageous move.

I spend time planning at the end of each month, looking at what I have accomplished, and I decide whether any tasks that I did not complete will be carried over to the next month or abandoned.

I revisit my journal at least once a week and spend a little time planning and writing in it.

The journal is helping me plan ahead, and I am finding that I enjoy the process of writing things down on a piece of paper. I remember what I wrote, and I like getting it out of my head and reading it.

Using a bullet journal isn’t for everyone, and there is no free webinar about the best practices for the real estate industry. It’s uncharted territory.

There are few rules, and the structure is very flexible — which is why I find it so useful.

To learn more about bullet journals, go to BulletJournal.com.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman

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