How (and Why) I Went All Digital With My Organization: My Alternative to a Bullet Journal

I have been struggling to reconcile paper and digital organization for years. As someone who likes to write things down and take notes, I always felt like I should favor paper organization. In 2015 I went so far as trying to actively make myself into a notebook person. I read up on bullet journaling. I bought a refillable traveler’s journal with a pencil case, a lined notebook, and a calendar. I made lists, I took notes while I read about the KonMari method, I had planner stickers to track tasks completed. By mid-2016 it was time to admit that my notebook life hadn’t accomplished anything more than duplicating my work and adding a significant amount of weight to my bag.

There had to be a better way.

So I decided to experiment with going digital.

Getting Started: What Information Do You Need? Where Do You Need It?

If you are in love with Bullet Journaling but want to go digital, you can find numerous ways to set up apps as a digital bullet journal including guides from reddit, makeuseof, and more. Trello might also be a good option if you’re a fan of a visual grid layout. I found the BuJo process restrictive and tedious, so I didn’t worry too much about following similar guidelines.

If I was a fan of Google I could have used a lot of their applications and had them sync on my phone as well as wherever else I logged in. Some third party apps like Evernote offer options to sync across multiple devices as well as on a web platform. Others like Wunderlist start free but provide expansion options to paid users.

To avoid buying new things or creating new accounts, I decided to try to use all of the native apps on my iPhone. I also decided to go ahead and use my phone as a “base of operations” since I always have it with me instead of worrying about accessing information from multiple devices.

What I Changed: Calendar

Migrating my calendar was the easiest. I already used my phone’s calendar app to track my daily work schedule. When I took a closer look at my habits I realized that I tracked things more minutely on a paper calendar I kept at work. I still keep that for easy reference but when I update the calendar each month I also transcribe everything so it’s on my phone calendar. I made separate color-coded calendars for things I knew I would be doing often (work, fun, blog stuff, etc.). Then I just started entering everything into one place including my work hours, programs, reviews to cross post, etc.

How It Worked: Since consolidating all of my scheduling on my phone I have been much less likely to accidentally miss something or double book myself. As I got used to checking the phone calendar I also found it was a helpful way to get ready for the day and see my week plotted out.

What I Changed: Reminders

The one thing I really liked from trying out a notebook was that I could make checklists. Crossing items off to do lists was satisfying and offered tangible proof of my progress. But it also got messy.

That’s where the Reminders app came in. Instead of having one monstrously long to do list, I used the app to create multiple lists which I named and color coded to match my calendars (green for work, orange for blogging, blue for miscellaneous, etc.). I also arranged the lists according to the color spectrum but that’s definitely just a bonus.

How It Worked: Reminders have changed my life! The multiple lists have been incredibly helpful to keep a running tab of groceries to buy, and things to do. I’ve even started using it when I need to remember things like my last ATM withdrawal or postage fees. I have a separate list for committee work with deadlines and items to cover as I prepare training materials, a standard list for work items (book ordering, readers’ advisory lists, displays), a list for posts I need to write for TSU, and a rather long one of book reviews I need to finish. I get the satisfaction of crossing things off but they also disappear once completed so I am not left with a cluttered list. I can edit as I go if things change. Best of all I can add reminder alerts so I will get a notification if any tasks come due (or overdue). It’s great.

What I Changed: Notes

Notes were probably the biggest change for me. It felt like taking any kind of notes or doing extended writing on my phone would be inherently unproductive even though I knew from experience that I wasn’t going to pull out a notebook in the middle of the street or on the subway. So I finally decided to lean in and embrace my phone. It turns out that the iPhone Notes app offers a lot of versatility. I can make checklist bullet points for long running items that might not fit anywhere else, I can take notes while reading review books, jot down ideas, and keep things I need to reference regularly (this often includes the weight of packages I need to mail or hashtags I copy and paste for instagram posts).

How It Worked: This has been going better than expected. I’m writing more things down (and remembering more of what I need to) and making use of the option to take notes much more. Because the Notes app is an entity unto itself, I’m also taking more time to back up things on my computer and transfer relevant items where they need to be. For instance, moving notes for reviews to post drafts or the like.

What Happened When I Went All Digital

So now you know how I went all digital and why. What happened? Well, I decided to consolidate my organization digitally in October of 2016 and so far I’m still going strong. I feel more efficient and like I have a better grasp of the tools at my disposal and what I have on my plate both at work and at home at any given time. My biggest advice if you’re trying to reorganize your life is to take some time to think about how you process information. After examining your habits it is a lot easier to come up with a new strategy and find something that will work for you whether that means analog paper methods or hi-tech digital tools!

Have you tried Bullet Journaling? Are you a fan? What digital tools help you keep your life in order?

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