I picked up my first bullet journal in 2020. I love the simplicity of it and the monthly migration process, that forces me to reevaluate my priorities. We face new opportunities, constantly. It makes life interesting, dynamic and fast. However, for most of the work we do it is not beneficial to jump from one topic to another, if we want to do it right.
This morning, I looked back at how I have been using my bullet journal in the last few months, I noticed something interesting: I have far more notes and collections of ideas, than personal todo’s. This got me thinking about why that might be and I think it has a lot to do with how I work as an entrepreneur. Let me try to explain how I use my bullet journal and what I believe the best role for me as a startup founder is.
Don’t write down too many tasks
Short term gains give us a lot of satisfaction. It is nice to go through your bullet journal in the morning, knowing that you have ticked off all the task you had the day before. When you are able to break down your long term vision into actionable items, small projects and tasks, you should probably not be doing them anymore. As an entrepreneur, this is the phase in which you need to ask for support from others.
My bullet journal looks a little different, though. I mostly collect thoughts and insights from others, and add them to project collections. Every month, I go through the project collections and eliminate the ideas that do not fit my long term goals. Since it takes targets to meet these goals, they are fairly fluid and I would see my long term vision as more of a moving target.
Of course, I also have a couple of things that I need to get done. My task list is probably one of the longest you will have ever seen. But, the main reason for that is that I don’t have endless resources on our team to get everything done. 7 out of 10 tasks on my todo list, are non-time critical and represent more of a catalogue of ideas, than anything else.
How to gain inspiration and a long term vision
I get inspired by talking to my peers at work, reading as much as I can, and by taking the time to reflect on my own thoughts. That last part is essential for me, I like to let my mind wander. That is why I take long (1-2 hour) walks in the early morning, regularly write morning pages (if you don’t know what those are, look up Julia Cameron’s “The artist’s way”) and use my blog to collect my thoughts.
All of these elements contribute to my view on my own work and where I want my company to be, years from now. The company vision constantly moves. But the direction is clear. Since I try to involve as many of my peers in my thought process, communicate proactively and openly on many channels, I feel those around me have a fairly clear picture of where I envision us to be – at some point in the future.
I believe the direction is more important than the sole long term vision. It helps the people who support you to work towards that vision make their next steps clear. There is nothing worse, than having to micro manage a team. Each individual needs to understand the direction of the company, and determine what they think would benefit the greater good best – even in their daily operations.
The entrepreneurial art of delegation
The delegation of tasks is key to success. I know that I cannot do everything myself. For one, I don’t have all the required skills, nor the time to meet the market demand. And as much as I am someone who likes to “deal with things” personally as much as I can, I would not be successful had I not learned to delegate work and ask for help.
Over the years, my view on what makes an entrepreneur successful, has changed dramatically. Not so much in terms of having to “hustle vs. work smart,” but how an entrepreneur should seek to create scalable systems. As the business owner of a digital consultancy (www.gandt.ch), that operates in multiple countries, I cannot do everything by myself. I need support to capitalize on the market opportunities that I see.
When I started out as an online entrepreneur in the mid-2000s, I thought that “getting my hands dirty,” meant that I had to do as much as I could to be successful. Now, I look at my role a lot differently and it has changed my business- and personal life in the last couple of years.
As an entrepreneur, you job is to:
- Get inspired (read, and talk to as many people as you can),
- capitalize on ideas (don’t wait, but collect, sort and act),
- sort them to fit your long term vision (!),
- make the projects and tasks tangible (break it down for others to understand),
- find help to get those tasks done (you cannot do this alone), and
- make sure that the team has the resources to execute on your vision (cash flow is key).
What you can take away from this
There is one thing I would like you to try and understand, from my experience I can tell you that when my todo list gets too long, I am doing something wrong; it is a clear sign for me, that I am not focused on the long term vision of my company enough. It is essential that you learn to collect and sort your thoughts in one central place, let it be a bullet journal or any todo list app on your phone, and delete/migrate any tasks that do not sort your long term vision.
I have taught myself to structure my notes by projects, instead of topic buckets. This helps me to delegate tasks and sub-projects more easily. My team mates need to understand how to get there. The general direction and projects need to be tangible enough for them, so they know how to contribute to the success.
Last but not least, when I see that I am not able to do all of the tasks myself, I ask for help – immediately. If I cannot get the help I need, I move the task over to the ideas collection in my bullet journal and revisit the thoughts in the next month.
I hope this has given you some insights into how I structure projects and determine what to do next. Have a great day,
A bullet journal is a method of personal organization developed by designer Ryder Carroll. The system organizes scheduling, reminders, to-do lists, brainstorming, and other organizational tasks into a single notebook. Wikipedia
I only use it to write down my ideas in different collections and concrete project tasks. I do not use it for daily journaling.
A bullet journal works with calendar months. Each day you make new entries and notes on things that you would like to do that day, or new ideas you have collected. At the end of each month, you go through your notes and migrate all tasks that you did not get around to – and are still relevant.
It is key to delete any entries that are not relevant anymore, you do not want to “drag along” unnecessary tasks and thoughts into the next month.
Absolutely, it is one of the easiest ways to keep track of your todos and I personally love to write with pen and paper. A nice habit, and a living document that does not have to be perfect – but is far from scrap paper.
Here are some pages where you can buy bullet journals:
Also published on Medium.