One of the biggest challenges of going out on your own as an entrepreneur is creating a system for efficiently managing and tracking every part of your business. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when you have a busy schedule, a wealth of ideas, multiple goals, new contacts to make and track, leads to follow up on, emails to send, finances to manage, social accounts to populate, a website to update, marketing initiatives to manage, and a home, mind, and body that need to be tended to as well.
This is compounded by the fact that the many available systems for managing contacts, emails, calendars, tasks, social media, and more don't always play nicely together.
What entrepreneurs need is a portable and tangible system for logging progress across a variety life areas, that can take input from a variety of systems, and that works as quickly as they do. The bullet journal is a perfect solution.
A bullet journal is part to-do list, part planner, part productivity tracker, part diary, and part creative project. It aids in productivity with task tracking, checklists, and daily and monthly reminders, but also helps you express and organize less tangible thoughts, ideas, accomplishments, milestones, and more.
There's an official Bullet Journal system for logging and noting your tasks and progress, designed to quickly and easily identify outstanding, completed, and migrated tasks as well as events and notes with specific shapes and symbols, for "rapid logging." This makes it easy to adopt, quick to use day-to-day, and helpful for quickly finding previous notes, ideas and more.
But the other great thing about bullet journaling is that it also allows for a tremendous amount of creativity, flexibility, and personalization to make sure that the system works for you. You can choose the things you want to track (or not), create spreads and layouts that meet you and your business' needs, and add and adapt as your business evolves.
Some bullet journals --or "bujos"-- are works of art, with hand lettering and drawings that make it hard to imagine you'd get rid of it when it's filled. Others are impressive in their detailed tracking, with creative ways of marking progress on things you never thought to track before. If you need inspiration, do a search for #bulletjournal or #bujo on Instagram, check out Pinterest posts, join some bullet journal themed Facebook groups, where fellow bujo afficianados share their spreads and ideas.
Here are a few things for entrepreneurs to track in a bullet journal
Meetings, calls, and appointments in a planner section
Budgets, expenses, payments, invoices, and other financials
Hours worked for specific clients, by individual employees, or toward a specific project
Growth of social media accounts over time
- Books to read, podcasts to listen to, TED Talks to watch, tools/apps to try, and other entrepreneurial resources recommended to you
- Birthdays, anniversaries, and personal facts about clients, investors, customers, and other key contacts to make following up easier and more personal
Healthy Habits for work/life balance (hydrating, working out, calling family, and more)
Here are a few of the essentials you'll need to get started
Priorities for a bullet journal notebook would be a dot grid layout (never lined and not plain, unless you're really capable of straight lines without any guidance), and pages thick enough that your designs don't bleed through. Leuchtturm is the preferred brand of many bullet journalers because of the paper stock and built-in index at the front for finding pages easily. (The black hardcover A5 seems to be preferred, but this comes in lime, pink, and a whole host of other colors and sizes, too.) I use Moleskine's softcover black dotted notebook, but admittedly the pages aren't as thick and things sometimes bleed through.
Many bullet journal devotees have a go-to pen brand that they swear by, but you can make due with any pen that has consistent thin lines, won't smudge as you decorate layouts, and won't bleed through your paper. Tombow Brush Pens and Staedtler Triplus Fineliners are nicer favorites, but I usually default to Sharpie Ultra Fine.
There are a lot of options for adding some color to your lettering and layouts. Some love using colored pencils or pens because they're less likely to seep through thinner pages, and others prefer markers with brush tips that allow for more artistic writing. This 24-pack of Fineliner ChromaScapes is a good place to start, but you can even go with standard Crayola Colored Pencils or Fine Line Markers like you would be back to school.
Washi tape is great for adding some color to your layouts, creating separations or borders, or making banners and section headers without having to draw them out. You can simply opt for a starter kit with a range of basic color options or get fancy with metallics, patterns, animal themes, and more. There are also Washi stickers in a variety of patterns, shapes, and themes that you can use in place of stencils or stamps (more on that later).
A lot of bullet journaling involves organizing your thoughts and tasks into lists, grids, and other trackers, so you'll need some straight lines to do that. When looking for something to draw lines, you'll probably want to focus on something lightweight and transparent that fits inside your notebook, like this one from Westcott. Some stencils (more on that below) provide a measured edge for drawing lines too, offering a two-in-one deal. Just don't get one too short to make vertical lines the height of your notebook or you might end up with wobbly edges to your lines.
If you're not able to free-draw a banner, box or other decorative elements, stencils definitely come in handy for making your bullet journal shine. This 20-pack is only $9, and contains just about every banner, star, box, shape and symbol you might need. Unless you're planning to do all your bullet journaling at home or carry a supply kit, you may want to opt for thin, flexible and lightweight stencils that can be stored inside your notebook for ease.
For repeatable elements that you foresee using a lot in your layouts, you can invest in some stamps to save time and create consistency. This is especially helpful if you haven't mastered hand lettering or don't consider yourself particularly artistic. Some great options for starter stamps would be numbers, days of the week, months, checkboxes, and other decorative elements. This one also contains a good mix of key calendar words and icons for marking up the planner section.
How you customize your bullet journal is up to you and depends on your needs, but you may find you'd like to attach a pen to your notebook with a loop, add pockets to your covers, or snag some tabs/inserts for marking specific pages. If you're nervous about mistakes as you're learning, a Wite-Out tape pen may be helpful, too.