Bullet Journal for Project Management

The great thing about bullet journaling is that your process is allowed to evolve. The needs of current projects won’t be the same as future projects, so they’ll need to be tracked differently. What works for me today might not be what’s most effective tomorrow. Over the past two years I’ve played around with a number of different ways to use my bullet journal for project management. What I’m currently doing isn’t perfect, but it’s working in the moment so I thought I’d share.

My first tip is to use pen for anything that is absolutely, positively unmovable. For tasks and dates that might change, or can be allowed to slip, use pencil. This seems obvious, but it took my a while before I stopped running through copious amounts of correction tape.

Bullet Journal for Project Management

Everything starts with the project spread. I like working with facing pages, so I can have more information all in one place. At the top of the left-hand page I write the name of the project. Underneath that, I write the hard deadline if there is one.

Below that “title line” I divide the page into two columns. The left column is a future log. Most projects I work on don’t go on for months, so I sort it by weeks. Any milestones, benchmarks, fixed appointments, and mini-deadlines get noted there. Leave space to add things to it. Keep a spot open to thread, so if you need to expand a week on another page you can find it.

The right column is a task list. If you know the order things need to go down, great. I try to keep this high level so it can double as a mini-index. The smaller pieces can be documented elsewhere, if they need to be written down at all, but I’ll get to that. Leave room on each line to add page numbers and thread it. There should also be space to add to the list as needed.

On the right-hand page is where the daily log begins. I put the day and date, and list out any tasks that need to be accomplished. This is where high-level tasks can be broken down into smaller steps. I rapid log anything of note: things I learned, problems that arose, and so on.

Control Follows Awareness

As things are completed, I check them off at the future log, the task list, and the daily log as needed. This allows me to quickly scan through at the end of the day and see open loops. That helps me to carry things forward to the next day, or to reschedule it on the future log.

For some projects I’ve used the right-hand page a bit differently. I’ve split it into two columns, marked “events” and “pending”. Events are time-dependent things like meetings and conference calls. These get copied onto my main bullet journal future log and monthly logs, so I don’t forget them.

The pending column is for anything I’m waiting on. It’s the same as on a Kanban board. I can’t move forward on X until Y is done. No work can be done on A until we have B. These get written in pencil, and they’re in only place so I can remember them. As they get resolved I note it in the daily log and erase it from the pending. I could check it off, but this method makes it so I don’t have to browse. Things that are in the pending column tend to be urgent and important.

Two Journals for Work/Life Separation

At the moment I have a separate bullet journal just for project spreads. I did this so when I’m working on something, that has my complete attention. I’m not looking at my personal errands, my grocery list, or anything other than the work that needs to be done. I can take it into a meeting and not have to worry about anyone seeing my private stuff mixed in with the business. It also means that when I’m in my personal bullet journal I’ll see the events and deadlines, but not the esoterica. I can focus on life stuff, and have some separation from work.

That’s my process. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. How do you manage projects using your bullet journal?

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