The Business Journal: An Introduction

6 Min

Life is busy. It’s a constant stream of tasks, that can often pile up and become overwhelming. Now there are a plethora of task management systems and methodologies, from GTD (Get Things Done), Pomodoros, MindMapping, Kanban Boards, Google Calendar, traditional ToDo Lists, this list is never ending. Each method has varying levels of complexity and time commitment. I’ve tried most methods, and with each, there was always something that felt a bit off. I found I would dread morning planning sessions, tasks would accumulate faster than I could complete them and I was constantly looking for the best app to fit the methodology. I’ve tried OmniFocus, Wunderlist, Any.do, OneNote, Evernote Trello, the default iOS todo list app, and so many others… My management system often hindered me rather than making me more efficient.

Enter The Bullet Journal.

An analog system for the digital age. The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.

Now, let me start off by saying… At first, I was totally skeptical. I’m a software engineer, and help other people build apps to automate their analog systems. I live in my computer, yet, here I am using an analog system for task management? WTF… I know, I know… We will get to that.

The basic premise a bullet journal:

  1. A Flexible and Forgiving System: Meaning you’re encouraged to adapt it to your own style, and if you miss a day of doing your task management, it’s OK!
  2. Any Notebook will Work: Although I prefer grid books, its completely flexible and can work with a bunch of notebook paper stabled together.
  3. Its Hierarchical by Date: Start with the year, then months, then weeks and finally the days and get more detailed as you go down.
  4. Its a life journal: It’s super easy to mix in your business and personal tasks into a single place.
  5. It’s a JOURNAL: You can write whatever you want in it, in any format. It doesn’t just have to contain a bunch of bullets. It can include paragraphs about your business plan, or scratch notes of tax calculations (ewwww), or dinner date options, whatever you want.
  6. Creativity is Encouraged but not Required: You don’t have to follow any particular rules, creativity is encouraged, but it’s completely in your control.

I’ve hooked 8 of my friends on bullet journaling and they have said its changed their life. It’s the only system I’ve used where I’ve been able to adapt all my favorite methodologies into a single system. A part of GTD is reviewals, and since I really enjoyed them in GTD, I’ve brought this into my Bullet Journal. Similarly, Pomodoros are a great way to get focused and manage time, I mark all my tasks in the bullet journal with a number of Pomodoros I estimated it would take to complete and how many it actually completed (I’ve set my Pomodoro chunk to 20 min intervals as it goes into an hour easily).

Here’s one of my friends bullet journals for reference!

I worked in my bullet journal for months and loved every second of it.

But one thing still bothered me… Every day I would remove my hands from my keyboard, reach into my book bag, grab my journal, find a writing device, open my bookmark and handwrite every task. UGHHHH.

Enter Notion

Before getting to my full-fledged system, I first need to introduce an App that has changed my life. Yes… CHANGED MY LIFE. Notion .

Docs, Wikis, Tasks. Seamlessly in One: A unified workspace for modern teams.

If you asked me the most important app in my life I would hands down have to say Notion. Go ahead and take a second to look through their website. Notion combines documents, wikis, and tasks seamlessly together to create a workspace that ‘just works’. It is literally Evernote, Dropbox, Trello, Google Docs, Basecamp, Wiki, all in one App.

For years I’ve struggled to find one app that is cohesive enough to work as a task manager, note taker, and content sharer all in one. Evernote could have been this, but missed the mark on tasks and content sharing. Google Docs has too much of a rigid document format. Trello isn’t a place to hold long-form content. Wikis suck to edit and format… You get the point.

Rather than talk about it, you should go check it out. If you fall in love with it, send the team an in-app message and say you heard about them through the podcast “Business, Code and Design” and get your monthly pro membership for $5.

When I found Notion, it was right around the time I had been using the analog Bullet Journal for about 4 months. I saw an instant solution to my analog problem.

Enter the Business Journal

I’ve adapted and merged the best of the Analog system of the Bullet Journal together with the flexibility and adaptability of Notion. I call this the Business Journal . It’s nothing new, rather just a mashup of my favorite pieces of various task management systems together to maximize myself and my teams efficiency and communication.

At first I used Notion’s Template feature to replicate and automate every feature of the bullet journal. Then I added on some GTD methodologies like ‘Weekly Reviews’. Recently I’ve added a template to make it easy to add how many Pomodoros a task took to complete. I also record the results of each task I complete, and any thoughts I had at the time of completion. This has been really handy! One final tip, set up reoccurring tasks to review your yearly, monthly and weekly goals so they are always fresh on your mind.

Flexibility is what binds the Bullet Journal and Notion together. They are there to support your workflow without binding you down to any absolutes or implementation details. Experiment and figure out what works best for your workflow.

Final Thoughts

This post was meant to be an introduction to the Business Journal and how I came to its development. In future posts, I’ll talk about implementation details and how to create your own Business Journal in Notion, or any other note-taking program.

How do you manage to-do tasks in your life? What about goals? Do you separate your work tasks and goals from your personal? Comment below and join the conversation!

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Author Avatar

Wesley Vance

I spend my time helping small businesses, validate, design, develop and code their wildest ideas. I spend my time helping small businesses, validate, design, develop and code their wildest ideas.

4 Comments

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Tomer S

Hey Wes! Great read! Thanks for sharing your process with us. I’m all about to-do lists, personally. I use SimpleNote, which syncs my notes in the cloud and I have it on every device and a webapp when I need it. I also can use SimpleNote to write out thoughts or start a draft for a blog post, etc. Would you recommend Notion for me? Do you use it on mobile? How well does it work for to do tasks?

Comment Author Avatar

Wesley Vance

SimpleNote looks interesting. Notions a new company so they are still working on their mobile solution- I’m on their beta list so I’ll update when I get the mobile app!

The reason I love Notion so much is it combines a few key elements for me:
1. Todo and task management (Trello)
2. Document Publisher (Word)
3. Wiki Builder
4. Collaboration (Google Doc)

In my experience I haven’t found any other platform that integrates those elements into a single and cohesive application.

Notion has a free tier (albiet, they limit by the number of blocks created), but how about you give it a test run and post back here what you think?

Comment Author Avatar

Avraham

Wes, great post! I also love the Bullet Journal. You’ve made some great adaptions with other systems.

For me, I like to calculate how many minutes of “working minutes” I have in the day — it’s always a shock how few I have. Then I take my tasks and write next to them how many minutes I think each one will take me. I prioritize the tasks I want to get done in the day. I add up the minutes of the tasks and see if I have enough “working minutes” to cover my tasks. Most of the time, I have too many tasks and have to assign a few of them for the next day. This helps me set realistic goals for the day, and teaches me the value of one minute. I time each task with a countdown timer. This keeps me focused. If I finish ahead, I can either find a small task from my tomorrow list or just chill and take a mini break.

At the end, everyone has to find their own system. I love how you’ve found yours!

Comment Author Avatar

Glaze

Hey Wes, thanks for the eye-opener! After reading this episode, I was encouraged to make my own bullet journal (which I’m glad I did)! It’s been helping me a lot in focusing more on the task/s that needs to be completed asap.

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