Bullet Journals and Printable Productivity Planners: What Can They Do for You?

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Ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels but aren’t making any progress towards the life goals that matter most? Keep thinking about that passion project you wanted to get off the ground but haven’t found the time yet? You’re not alone. 

Maybe you could try using bullet journals and productivity planners to help.

Luckily for you, there are lots of printable planners available online (both free and paid). Bullet journals are also in vogue. Later, I’ll look at what printable planners are and how you could start one. First, though, I’ll talk about bullet journals and how using one could help you set goals, prioritise, come up with ideas and maybe even boost your productivity.

Let’s dive in.

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What’s a bullet journal?

A bullet journal is a mixture of a diary and a planner. It can also serve as a form of written meditation. Keeping a bullet journal can turn the chaos of your daily life into a more streamlined affair. Using one can help you become more productive and achieve your personal and professional goals. You can customise your journal to suit you, with sections for daily to-dos, long-term goals, a monthly calendar, notes, ideas, and more besides.

Creator of the bullet journal Ryder Carroll suggests that by updating your journal each day, you can rid yourself of distracting thoughts and jot down things you care about. As he says, the only thing your journal needs to be is effective at getting you closer to achieving things that matter to you. Exactly what makes it so is down to you.

That’s where using the journal as a form of written meditation comes in. Unlike when using traditional planners, this method encourages mindfulness. It lets you consider how each of your tasks, responsibilities, and goals make you feel. It also encourages you to reflect on your progress towards your goals on a regular basis.   

Here’re a few tips about how to start a bullet journal.

  • Work out what challenges you’re facing. What do you want your journal to do for you?
  • Start by using it to decide on your goals for the month ahead. Then as you become more comfortable with it, you can begin to flesh it out by including your daily tasks and your goals over a longer period.
  • Save time by writing phrases and keywords instead of full sentences to improve efficiency. This is called rapid logging and makes for a more functional, productive bullet journal.
  • Here are categories you may want to include:
    • Index – This is usually found at the front of your notepad and is used as a table of contents and might include a key to explain the different symbols used throughout your journal.
    • Future Pages – This is where you can add events, birthdays and travel and holiday plans for the year ahead. Here, you can note your long term goals and tasks, too. You can use a yearly calendar to help do this.
    • Monthly Pages – You can use a month-to-month calendar for this. In this section, you can write your goals for the month ahead and note challenges you want to take on. If you want, you can also add pages to help you track your progress with each of your aims, like your fitness, food or financial goals.
    • Daily Log – This is a space for your daily to-do lists.  

By following this structure, you’ll find yourself periodically reviewing and thinking about your wants and needs. You’re likely to get a motivational boost as you see yourself making progress which may well increase your productivity. There’s also plenty of room for creativity, inspiration, and ideas within this layout.

Soon, I’ll look at some examples of planner templates you can download to start building your own planner. Now though, it’s time to find out what printable planners are and why you might want to use one.

What is a printable planner?

A printable planner is one that’s brought (or downloaded) in a digital form and then put together, rather than the other way around. It works in pretty much the same way a bullet journal does save for the fact it’s printable. Printable journals are generally less expensive than other versions and give users more control over how they use them. Many printable journals are based on bullet journals and are adapted to be printable.  

Bullet journals are often created in notebooks, so printable journals can have lined or blank paper or follow the dot method. They are generally far more customisable than traditional planners because they aren’t constrained by being built in a notebook.  You can use them in much the same way as a bullet journal, to frame your goals and help you be more productive. If you haven’t much experience planning or don’t know quite what to use your planner for, you may want to try out more structured versions first to see which features you like best, before creating your own with printable versions.

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com

Why use printable productivity planners?

What makes printable planners so appealing?

Here are 3 good reasons.

  • You don’t need to learn anything new.
  • There’s no need to worry about downloads, annoying notifications or updates.
  • The templates are customisable and flexible. If you want, you can download and change the design to suit you.

To my mind, with a printable productivity planner, you can get everything an app can offer in a simpler more condensed form. If you assemble one that doesn’t work for you, you can scrap it and begin a new one.

5 great productivity planners

Here’s a choice of planners I’ve found that might be useful.   

Intelligent Change

Do you enjoy writing a diary? A printable productivity planner that feels like you’re keeping a journal might be perfect for you. If you want to dip your toe into the world of planners, try Intelligent Change’s 5-minute journal to see if you like it and find it useful.

If you’re more into planning, you can get their Productivity Planner or create your own using the ideas in their template as a guide.

Pumpkin Productivity Planner

This is a good option if you’re a student who needs something to help you keep stuff together. It’s designed to help you strengthen your study routines and habits. Created by a student, you can use this cute, useful planner knowing that it was made by someone who has first-hand experience struggling to keep things on track in college.

So if you’re always studying hard but feel you’re never making any real progress, why not give the Pumpkin Productivity Planner a go and see if you can use it to power through your studies.  

Daily PlanIt

The defining characteristic of Rosemary Rice’s PlanIt, is the idea of combining the best aspects of online productivity tools with the best parts of paper-based ones. She offers paid tools along with loads of free resources you can use to build your planner.

You’re sure to find one that suits you. You can use a simple system to jot things down and create a killer mourning routine. You can also use the Monthly Repeating Tasks to keep tabs on your progress towards your long-term goals over a month and start forming new good habits.

Productive Flourishing

Productive Flourishing’s Heat Map includes a time tracker you can use to pinpoint times of the day when you’re likely to be at your most focused and productive. The quick visualisation may help you assign your most complex, cognitively demanding tasks to times of the day when you’re at your most alert. Then you can slot simpler or more creative tasks in at times when your brain needs a rest. This can help you live your best and most productive life — both professionally and personally — by helping you understand the quality of the time you spend working.

There are many different free templates you can pick up on this site, including:

  • The Handoff Holder – This is fab for when you’re working in teams.
  • The Productivity Jumpstarter – Is good if you regularly work alone.
  • The Individual Project Planner – Is also useful if you spend quite a bit of time working on your own.

The List Lab

This is an online shop, but there are many free templates you can download if you want. One such download is The Daily Routine PDF, which divides the day into three parts. Its simplicity is its strength.

The List Lab also has a cool Streak Challenge that’s printable and is super for setting and pursuing long-term goals that demand a degree of commitment.  

Summary

We’ve covered the upsides of bullet journals and printable planners and talked about how you could use them to achieve your personal and professional goals — both long and short term. I hope I’ve given you the confidence to go ahead and try creating one for yourself. Start making your dreams a reality by transforming them into goals today. Along the way, you might just find you’ve transformed yourself into a better, more productive version of your former self.   

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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