Note from Beth: At last year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, I was lucky enough to join a “birds of a feather” lunch table. The topic was bullet journaling and the table host was nonprofit tech colleague Ma’ayan Alexander. I have found this productivity very useful in my own work and Ma’ayan was kind enough to write up this guest post for nonprofit professionals.
Bullet Journaling for Nonprofit Professionals – Guest Post by Ma’ayan Alexander
Bullet Journal (BuJo) started as “an analog system to track the past, organize the present and plan for the future.” Within a few years, it grew to be a community of people who use it as a tool for planning, organizing, and adjusting the methodology to their life habits and routines. Basically, you take a notebook and a pen, and make it your calendar, journal and planner.
BuJo was designed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer. Diagnosed with learning disabilities early in life, he was forced to figure out alternate ways to be focused and productive. Through years of trial and error, he developed a methodology that went far beyond simple organizing.
What is the Bullet Journal System?
Ryder’s has produced a video guide and the BuJo website guide, which are very clear and explain the system well. Recently, Ryder published a book, The Bullet Journal Method, which explain it in greater detail. The main features of BuJo are:
- Analog journaling: writing in your hand writing, in a paper notebook (even though there are digital versions too).
- Rapid logging: writing tasks and notes in bulleted lists.
- Planning and managing in different time “resolutions”: future log, monthly log, daily log.
- Custom collections: BuJo is designed to become whatever you need it to be, be it a fitness tracker, food log, diary, sketchbook etc. You’re encouraged to design your own Custom Collections.
- Migration: a way to reschedule tasks following reflection and a reassessment of them.
Since it is a very simple tool, it is highly customizable for each user’s needs. When you find a way that works for you, it becomes a tool that works for you. Sometimes these adjustments are an ongoing process, as our lives and preferences change with time. As Beth described it earlier, “it is actually a methodology best described as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.”
BuJo for nonprofit professionals
When I started using BuJo I was working for a large public organization. Since then, I became self-employed, and BuJo accompanied me through this change. Having worked for over a decade with nonprofit professionals, I can think of several ways they can benefit from it. Among them:
Have a place to plan, reflect and think offline. Getting offline for thinking on paper and writing are known tools to improve our thinking and creativity.
Reduce over-planning. When you work in a nonprofit, there are always more things you want or need to do than possible. Designing my own BuJo ‘weekly spreads’ let me limit the number of tasks I can assign each day. The BuJo migration process forces me to face my over planning and realize what is feasible for me to plan and execute in a day, a week, a month or a year.
Combine and balance work and personal life. Whether it’s by creating weekly spreads that give more room for your personal life, create personal life collections, or spend more time on thinking about this balance and follow your habits – BuJo can help with that.
Establish and track daily habits. Among the most popular collections of the BuJo community you’ll find the daily trackers. Adding the trackers in your weekly or monthly spreads can help you follow them up and stick to it. There is also the option of creating trackers as a designated collection. Among the habits you might want to track: daily exercise, daily sleep hours, not eating lunch in front of your computer, checking email only twice a day, counting how much water you drink, writing morning pages, etc.
My collections: 2 examples
My weekly spreads change with time, but I love keeping a spot for a weekly quote, inspirational or motivational. Sometimes it is inspired by things I hear or read, and sometimes it’s related to my plans for this week. When preparing for Nonprofit Technology Conference, my weekly motto was “be present” – reminding me to focus on what happens now and who I’m talking to now, reduce my social media time, and enjoy this present of participating in NTC.
Book reading list is a popular BuJo collection. Last year, I used it to follow how many books I read. I wasn’t surprised to learn that I read about 10 books a year (not including work reading). However, I have at home over 30 books that I haven’t read yet, and that insight helps me realize I need to select more intentionally what I read, and what I give up and give away.
Not a silver bullet, but a useful tool
Bullet Journal doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, but it works and helps hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Adapting it to your needs and routines takes time. If you search for it online (especially in Instagram and Pinterest) you might think it’s a tool for professional graphic designers – but it is not, and you don’t need to be a graphic professional to adopt it.
BuJo is a personal tool. It doesn’t fully replace digital tools for project management (especially when many people are involved or code is developed), or organizational knowledge management tools. But it can work for you in many different ways, and I recommend you to give it a try.
For me, BuJo makes time management and planning more enjoyable. Also, in a way, BuJo is an open source movement with its basics, many versions and user community. I’m proud and happy to be part of this community and movement.
Ma’ayan Alexander, @maayanale, is a tech for social change professional and a web projects manager, consultant and trainer for nonprofit professionals, public servants, activists and students for over a decade. She has bullet journaled since September 2015 and has published about it online in IG @nekudott, the “Life in bullet dots” blog (Hebrew), and in the “Bullet Journal in Hebrew Facebook group.