Bullet journals are great tools to destress and organize various aspects of project management. In this guide, we’re diving deep into the pros and cons of using this method to organize projects of all kinds. Keep reading to discover what bullet journal project management is and how this practice can boost productivity to new levels.
What is a bullet journal?
A bullet journal is a customized space to organize all of your personal projects and goals. It can also be used to track deadlines and prioritize tasks. Bullet journaling became popular thanks to the book Getting Things Done, which is about a project management technique that uses a bullet journal to manage different projects efficiently.
Bullet journals are often used to create daily, weekly, and monthly project plans. They can also be home to your to-do lists, inspiration boards, and project notes. They’re relaxing to create and relatively easy to maintain.
If you have multiple projects to manage, then you may want to use more than one notebook. Or you can swap your physical journal for a professional services management software that has plenty of space for storing digital plans.
Software tools are also easy to customize, make collaboration easier, and help with turning the plan into reality through task creation and assignment tools. With Wrike, data from multiple users will automatically sync so that everyone is on the same page with new updates and responsibilities.
If you do use a physical journal, using loose leaf paper in a binder will allow you to add pages as you go. This is useful for keeping track of all the data in one place instead of switching to additional notebooks when you run out of room.
There are many elegant, decorated bullet journal page layouts out there. Many invest time into making them artistic with drawings, decorative tape, and cut-out images. This isn’t necessary for project management, but it may be a fun activity outside of work.
Bullet journals can use several different layouts. The most common is a two-page spread that includes a month-long calendar on one page and a breakdown of goals for that period on the other. The latter will help you keep track of all the dates and commitments that are important to you as you get closer to starting a new project.
The two-page spread makes it easy to see where you'll be working most efficiently in the coming weeks. It's ideal for people who manage multiple projects simultaneously.
You can also create a view of the next six months within your bullet journal project management layout. This is called a future log. A future log is a calendar that lets you keep track of important events and dates for long-term projects.
How do you use a bullet journal in project planning?
Projects are essentially collections of notes and tasks that are linked to a common goal. They can be pulled together in a bullet journal for you to easily see all of the work related to that specific project. To start, you’ll need to list out your goals.
Create a list that includes every project goal you or your team can think of. Sort them in order of importance. Ideally, these smaller project goals will align with your organization’s big-picture goals.
Once you know what you’d like to accomplish, you can begin your bullet journal. Start by breaking down your number one goal into a project action plan. This can span days, weeks, or months. Then, break down your project action plan into individual tasks. Determine what the task is, who will be in charge of getting it done, and when it needs to be completed.
After that, you’re ready to use your bullet journal for project planning.
Step 1: List out your sections
Number your pages if they aren’t already. At the beginning of the bullet journal, write the name of the page on the left side and the page number on the right.
Step 2: Add your key
You may use symbols and abbreviations throughout your project planning. Put these at the beginning of the journal either after or on the same page as your key. Use color coding to signify which symbols belong to each project if you have more than one.
Step 3: Write out your future log
A future log is a list of key dates and tasks that aren’t part of your immediate three-to-six month plans but are important to keep in mind. Add this after your key and leave space for other items as they come up.
Step 4: Create your calendar
This can be in the form of a traditional calendar page. Some people like to hand draw them. However, you can also print, cut out, and paste a blank monthly calendar page into your journal too.
Step 5: Track tasks
Create sections for monthly, weekly, and daily task lists. You can organize these in a few ways. Some project managers prefer to do it by project or by person. You can also create one massive list with everything you’re personally responsible for so you have it all in one place. Or use a combination of any of these for your various projects.
Make sure to check in with your bullet journal weekly and monthly. Note any upcoming or past deadlines. Adjust your task list and schedule for unexpected issues as needed.
The benefits of using a bullet journal for work
Project managers often have a hard time keeping track of their work activities without losing track of anything along the way. This is one of the reasons why the bullet journal is so useful. Not only does it give you a roadmap of your next projects, but it’s also good for daily use.
You can keep track of to-do lists, priorities, and daily reflections. You can also journal about your progress and realign with goals all in the same notebook or tool. You can also rapidly log your thoughts for the day to boost your creativity and clear out emotions that no longer serve the project.
Combine your bullet journal for work with your personal goals. It will be easier to prioritize and accurately schedule tasks when you have your entire life laid out in front of you on paper.
Another benefit of using a bullet journal for work is that you can either DIY a notebook or use a planner you already have. It’s not so much what you use but how you use it.
And bonus: bullet journaling only takes five to 15 minutes a day. Whether it’s reviewing tomorrow’s meetings or crossing off today’s tasks, a bullet journal practice is easy to build into your schedule no matter how busy you are.
The disadvantages of using a bullet journal in project management
While bullet journaling project management is great for keeping track of key project details, many project managers need a separate system to manage their meetings and reports.
Having more than one journal or calendar to manage at one time can be confusing. Add more than one project to the mix, and it may be counterproductive to use a traditional pen and paper bullet journal to accomplish your goals.
Another disadvantage of using a bullet journal in project management is your lack of ability to collaborate with others. When writing on paper, you have to either show your team the notebook in person or scan the pages and share them online. Either way, it’s not ideal for large, remote, and/or revolving teams.
The other thing to know about bullet journaling before diving in headfirst is that it can be quite time-consuming. If you do a crafty layout with calligraphy and scrapbooking accessories, then it may even take several days to finish.
And once you do have your plans laid out, they can be hard to change. Rewriting, erasing, and making more space for things that come up are essential for project planning. For that reason, we suggest using an 11 inch by 7 inch grid lined notebook to give yourself extra space.
Also, you can outline headlines and calendars with a pen or marker if you like the look. But stick to pencil for any factual information that is subject to change throughout the lifetime of the project. If you don’t do this now, you may end up having to scrap entire pages and start over later on.
Bullet journal alternatives you should consider
Bullet journals are fun, unique, and creative. But there are some projects where they just aren’t the best possible option for managing it all. The project may be too complex or too large for a single notebook. There may even be so many updates needed that a physical notebook doesn’t make sense for your project.
If you’re facing any of these issues, you can try any of the following bullet journal alternatives:
- Digital calendar and list app combo
- Bulletin board, sticky notes, and shared files
- Project management software
Project management software is the top choice for bullet journal alternatives. Not only is it flexible, but it can make project planning more productive.
Wrike is the ultimate platform for customizing your own bullet journal project management processes. With over 30 predefined apps you can use to sync all your project data in one place, it's the most versatile platform for managing complex tasks.
As a single source of truth for a project, team, and entire organization, project management software offers more advanced features than a simple notebook can. Instead of writing everything down on a few sheets of paper, Wrike acts like a living document. And unlike other digital organization tools, Wrike is specifically built to optimize project performance and success.
Wrike's tools are designed to work seamlessly with any team. Anyone who has permission to access the project can share files and tasks quickly and easily. Once uploaded, collaborators can visually edit and obtain files.
They’ll also have access to reports and tasks that are simple to understand at a glance without losing the details in the process. This allows all managers to gain visibility across departments and groups.
Wrike is the ideal solution for teams that want to grow and operate efficiently with the help of cutting edge technology. For example, Wrike’s Work Intelligence helps you get started with the next generation of work, with AI-powered projects and automation. Wrike also features a streamlined UI that lets you customize its features to work seamlessly with your team. Although bullet journaling allows you to customize your project planning, you’ll be able to get and implement feedback from partners faster with a digital project tool.
Here are some other stand out benefits of using a project management software over a physical or digital bullet journal:
- It’s interactive. For example, Wrike offers Gantt charts that lets users visualize their plans and progress.
- It’s efficient. Kanban boards make it easy to work seamlessly with Agile teams by creating and sharing whenever needed.
- It’s faster. Wrike's template library is designed to help you quickly create and manage complex projects.
- It’s customizable. With custom request forms, you can easily gather details for your intake, assign tasks to the right teams, and dynamically route questions and requests.
- It’s up to date. Wrike’s calendars are ideal for team members who want to keep up with the latest information.
- It’s repeatable. Most tasks go through the same steps before they are finished. In a project management solution, you build a path for yours that will automatically assign and notify people when it's ready to begin through Wrike’s Automation Engine.
- It’s trackable. With timers, approvals, and visual task assignments, you can manage entire teams while streamlining your work.
- It’s transparent. Get a 360 view across all of your organizations with custom dashboards.
- It’s syncable. Wrike's 400+ app integrations make it possible to integrate hundreds of apps into one central hub.
- It’s safe. A digital project management software can safeguard your data by enforcing rules and encryption key ownership.
Ready to upgrade your project planning methods and tools? Check out Wrike’s two-week free trial for some more goal-achieving features.