Planning my week with the Bullet Journal
Planning my week with the BuJo
In my latest experiment, I’ve been trying to use the Bullet Journal (BuJo) to plan my entire week. I wanted to balance time spent between different groups of tasks. Here are the three groups that I wanted to spend time in:
- Urgent Items - I have a wave of urgent tasks that come up in life. They typically have due dates assigned. These are the high priority tasks that I need to work on before I can start working on the other two groups.
- Big Rock projects - A group of tasks that are geared towards achieving a final goal. They are not as urgent as the Urgent Items but they are an important part of improving
- Small Rocks - Single next actions that appears throughout the week. It is a constant surge of incoming tasks that is generated from daily life. They aren’t as important as the urgent items in the first group but I do need to take care of them. If possible I try to delegate or automate as many of these small rocks as possible.
My first attempt at the BuJo started here.
This layout idea worked for a while but it didn’t cover everything I needed to work in throughout my day. I’ve found that my layout has changed over time to reflect my current demands. Everyone will have a layout that works for them. It will take time to figure out what works. Weeks of field testing a new layout will tweak your two-page spread to fit your needs.
I wanted to take a group of Big Rock projects and single actions from my massive list in my task manager and schedule them for the next week. When I look at my task manager, I am swimming (or almost drowning) in a sea of possible projects and tasks to work on. If I can narrow down my list of projects and tasks to a select few, I reduce my resistance to my task manager backlog and redirect my focus back to projects and tasks that will take care of the immediate needs (urgent and due) and make systematic improvement for a future “me” with Big Rock projects.
Daily Pages vs. Weekly Pages
Daily Two-Page Spread
I’ve gone back and forth between a daily two-page spread and a weekly two-page spread. There are adbantages to both layouts. Here is a popular daily layout that I found many moons ago:
Emergent Task Planner
There are many different types of planner pages available for sale. Find one that is predesigned for you or design your own. It’s your choice! I did use a Franklin-Covey Planner setup during my college years and it fit me perfectly for that period. Fast forward decades later and I’ve moved on to a custom BuJo setup. Many of the day planners I’ve tried had a daily two-page spread like this:
The daily page spread allowed me to focus on each day. I had a column of today’s tasks, a day schedule to fill in my day with the day’s classes, appointments, and party times. There’s also a large notes page for me to capture anything that catches my eye. This two-page spread focused on one day but it lacked a higher horizon of control for me. Looking at this layout, I can see today’s landscape but I couldn’t see anything that would come up in the next seven days.
Weekly Two-Page Spread
I am always trying to stay ahead of the Game of Life. I am concerned about today’s work but I also have to look ahead to urgent tasks that will be arriving at my office door in the next few days. I needed to plot my game plan for the week in my BuJo. After much experimentation, I’ve updated my BuJo layout to include my calendar appointments, Due Tasks, MITs (Most Important Tasks for today), Big Rocks, and Small Rocks (maintenance tasks). I took my inspiration from the weekly two-page spread from my old Franklin-Covey Planner:
Preparing My BuJo Weekly Two-Page Spread
After much thought and re-organization, my BuJo layout evolved to what I have here:
I love the A5-sized notebooks. It’s big enough to hold my two-page spread but compact enough to toss into my messenger bag or backpack when I am on-the-go.
The left page has a seven day block which will contain my due tasks, appointments, and MITs. I’m not a micro-manager and need to account for every minute of every day. But if I needed to do fine-grained recording of my time spent, I’d just use a digital calendar or go to a larger-sized notebook to give me more room to create a fully day calendar similar to the Franklin-Covey Weekly Planner page. For my daily work driver, day blocks with my tasks for the day are sufficient.
The right page is split into two halves. The first half holds the Big Rock projects and the first 3-5 next actions. The second half will hold any one-off tasks or maintenance tasks that aren’t scheduled in yet but are available to me. I called this section my “Menu.”
Creating My Menu For Next Week
I use my digital task manager as my second brain to store all of my projects and tasks. I have a mixture of Big Rock projects, Someday/Maybe, repeating maintenance tasks, single one-off tasks, and checklists. I don’t need to refer to many of these items daily but I do need a place to park them. The task manager serves this purpose well. I’ve tried many times to work exclusively from my task manager but I just couldn’t do it. I get enough screen time and sometimes I’m away from my computer or iPad. Carrying a notebook was much easier and more carefree for me. Who knows? I might just return back to my iPhone or iPad but I’m still in love with my BuJo.
I have so many tasks stored inside my task manager. It’s time to figure out what I am not doing and focus on what I intend to do next week. Using my task manager, I can say “no” to many tasks and projects and say “yes” to the right ones. I will choose my two to three Big Rocks and find a handful of other tasks to focus on next week.
Choosing the Big Rocks
I want to include my Big Rock projects in my weekly plan. At the end of the week, I look for two to three Big Rock projects to focus on for the next week. I’ll write them down in my Big Rocks section. I write down the next 3-5 next actions for each Big Rock. If I have three Big Rocks with three next actions, that’s already a minimum of nine next actions to work on for the next week.
Designing My Menu of Next Actions
I have a variety of single one-off tasks and repeating maintenance tasks that I want to include in next week’s game plan. After choosing the 3 Big Rocks, I start adding the Small Rocks to work on next week. I refer to my task manager and write down 10 or more tasks to work on next week. These are tasks that I should be doing but are not scheduled into my day calendar yet.
I still have room for more tasks that inevitably needs to be added throughout the week. If I get a new request/order today and it needs to be done this week, I will write it down here. If the request/order can be done later (hopefully next week), I will just enter it into my task manager.
In the picture above, I have 13 single actions in the Menu section and 11 actions in the Big Rock section. I have decided to work on these group of tasks in between my appointments (the hard landscape). I’ll be adding more throughout the week. Keep the number of tasks fairly low. For me, 24 tasks will probably take me the whole week to finish. This is on top of any incoming tasks that will eventually arrive on my desk throughout the week.
I have finished designing my group of tasks for next week. It’s time to fastforward through the weekend to the beginning of the next workweek.
The right page spread shows my list of tasks that I want to work on next week. The left side page shows my calendar and what I will work on each day.
Planning My Dashboard
Now it’s time to start filling out my week’s work agenda with:
- Due (urgent) tasks
- Big Rocks
- Small Rocks
Planning My Dashboard (Appointments)
I fill in each day block in the Dashboard with major appointments that will be happening. These are the first items that I must respect because it represents my hard landscape. I look at my digital calendar and transfer major events and appointments into the BuJo. In the next photo, I see that I have some early appointments on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. The rest of my week looks clear for me. I can plant tasks around days that are not full of appointments. I’ll look at my digital calendar and record any major appointments that must happen on my day blocks.
For the moment, I don’t necessarily need an 8 am to 5 pm day block. My schedule tends to be chaotic because I might have walk-in customers and requests that pour in throughout the day. I have tried hyper-scheduling and planning time blocks throughout each day but I get frustrated when I want to do something at 10 am but I get called in to put out a fire at that time.
I keep my digital calendar events so that I can get alarm notifications on my smartphone and my computer when the time comes. But I also record it in my BuJo to get an idea of my busy days and my quiet days.
Adding Due Items (Urgent) To The Dashboard
There will be many tasks that must be done by a certain date. This also becomes a part of my hard landscape along with appointments. I’ll look at my Due tasks from my task manager or from the Menu column and put them into my day block. I will list these tasks immediately after my appointments.
Planning For Tomorrow
I plan to work on at least one Big Rock project and at least three MITs. I’ll consider the day a success if I can complete them by the end of the day.
Planning My Dashboard (The Big Rocks)
I most likely won’t work on a Big Rock project if I don’t schedule it. I look into my weekly schedule and look for possible days to work on a specific Big Rock. I’ll schedule one Big Rock a day. If I’m feeling brave or if the Big Rock projects have a lot of quick tasks, I might schedule one for the morning and one for the afternoon.
Sometimes I won’t plan a Big Rock until the day before. It depends on the progress of the current Big Rock I’m working on. I am free to move Big Rocks around but I would like to stay on track. The Big Rock goes immediately after appointments and due tasks.
Planning My Dashboard (The 3 MITs)
At the end of each day, I will take a look at my Menu on the far right column. I choose 3 MITs for tomorrow and write them into the day block. The MITs are the single one-off actions or repeating single actions that I need to get done but aren’t urgent.
The Weekly Gameplan Is Complete
Planning my week ahead of time reduces the need to think of the next project or task to work on in the heat of the moment. I get decision fatigue if I have to choose a random task or project in my task manager. This BuJo layout assists me by reducing all the distraction that a task manager provides. I would endlessly scroll through lists of tasks and projects and feel that there is probably something easier or more attractive to work on. I might get back into planning mode and create new plans for world domination when I should really get back to work on what’s on today’s agenda.
At the end of each day, I pick at least one Big Rock project and 3 MITs to work on. If I can complete these items, I can always continue working on the Big Rock or choose a few more MITs from my menu.
I’ve been tweaking my BuJo and OmniFocus workflow to its current layout. As I encounter more friction or face a new situation, I’ll be looking at ways to acommodate the new demands. I’ve realized that my digital task manager isn’t the tool to help me with the day-to-day workflow. Its place for me is to store all of my projects and tasks. I’ve further entrenched myself in the hybrid task management system for the moment. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to all-digital one day.
Have you been planning your week or are you flying by the seat of your pants? How are you designing your week or day schedule? I’m curious to see what everyone has here. Create a new post here at the Productivity Guild and take a snapshot with your BuJo layout! It’s a great way to get inspired by other people’s layouts.