BJP: Tell us a little about yourself, what you do and how long have you been a bullet journalist?
JW: I’m John Wells, owner of J B Welly, Inc. My background is in the publishing industry and up until a couple of years ago I was President and Director of Technology for a magazine publishing company in Seattle. I was the one who put in place all the organizational systems and processes, did the hiring and firing and generally kept the place operating smoothly. These systems were all computer and database oriented. When I left the company a few years ago, my first instinct was to create a software company. But I started to realize that I was pretty tired of spending all day every day staring at computers and I craved to do things that didn’t require the computer.
As the one in charge of organizing the publishing company for many years, I knew the major work-flow concepts very well. I was particularly focused on GTD – David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology – and I implemented various flavors of it througout the organization. For my own personal day-to-day task management I used the iPhone app, OmniFocus. This is an excellent product and I relied on it for every aspect of my personal task management. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever be able to function without it.
As part of my craving for non-computer things, I suddenly found myself enamored with fountain pens and handwriting. I began to keep a daily journal and I found myself with a fountain pen obsession. I had fallen in love with handwriting and looked for more reasons to use a fountain pen.
Then about a year ago I came across Bullet Journaling and Ryder Carroll’s site. I began to wonder if a Bullet Journal could actually replace my beloved OmniFocus. Is it really possible to keep track of everything without using software? It was exciting, and a little scary, to think about. Then one day I decided to give it a try.
One of the main things I relied on through the day was being able to capture tasks anywhere at anytime with my iPhone. So I started carrying a Field Notes pocket notebook and a pen with me. I implemented the core elements of the Bullet Journal system in the Field Notes notebook, which was always with me. It was a little like strapping on some paper wings and jumping over a cliff, putting all of my trust in the new system. I found that it worked like a charm! After a couple of weeks I realized that it was totally going to work!
Not long after that I wanted to expand my Bullet Journal use and incorporate my daily journaling. So I got a Leuchtturm1917 dot pattern notebook and set up a full-fledged Bullet Journal. To satisfy my need to capture tasks and ideas anywhere anytime, I carry a Field Notes in my pocket, and then migrate to the Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal. The Field Notes is my GTD Inbox.
Soon I discovered that I liked the ideas of Bullet Journaling so much, I decided to go into the business of selling pens and journals online.
In these days when we spend so much of our time sitting at computers or staring at iPhones, it’s just great to have some things that are not in the computer. I feel like the Bullet Journal has given me the ability to be organized and efficient and in control of all of my projects without having to use a computer to do it. I feel so much better being able to use paper and pen for some things in my life.
My current set up is a Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted journal as my Bullet Journal. I carry a Field Notes pocket notebook with me everywhere, and I use a Rhodia A4 pad for meetings that will require a lot of notes.
BJP: What features of the bullet journal do you find are well-suited for career-minded professionals?
JW: One of the core strengths of the Bullet Journal system is that it is modular, and each person can use whatever parts or modifications suit their own needs best. With computer apps, you are limited to using just what the developers have made, the way they want you to use it. You end up on an endless search to find the “perfect app,” which, of course, doesn’t exist because everyone is different. The free-form, modular nature of the Bullet Journal also makes it way better than any pre-printed planners that you can by. Just learn some of the basic Bullet Journal layouts, modify them to your liking, and you’re good to go.
Another thing that I think is really important for the professional is that it gets us out of the computer for at least part of our job. These days it doesn’t matter what you do for your job, most of us are stuck sitting in front of a computer for the bulk of the day, which is very unhealthy. It used to be that people moved around more at work. Now the big issue is how to get more movement while we are at work. With the Bullet Journal, at least some of our job involves not using a mouse and keyboard.
BJP: Tell us about some of the projects that you manage in your bullet journal and how you do it.
JW: For project management, I use a system that is a simplified analog version of what I developed in the computer at my former company. I call it the “Welly Method.”
It starts with a Project Index that lists all projects. It indicates whether it’s for home or for work, the project reference number, the page where the Project Page is located, the name of the project, if it has a due date, and a check for when it is done. A quick scan of the Project Index gives me an overview of all the projects I have going.
The details of the project are on the Project Page. This is a simple layout that has the working details of the project. Because of the fluid nature of projects, I use a pencil rather than a pen. The page starts with the project’s reference number, then the project name, if it has a due date, and a check for when it is complete.
Below the Task List is the Project Log. This is a place to record everything that is happening with the project. Generally it has a quick entry when something is done, along with the date it was done. With this you can look over the history of the project, what happened, and when it happened. If the log entry involves something on another page (such as meeting notes, the creation of sub-projects, or collections of information), the page number is put next to the log entry.
Next is an area for general project notes. The areas of the Project Page can be as compact as a single page for simple projects, or expanded to many pages depending on the complexity of the project. If some tasks are delegated, there can be a section showing who it was assigned to and when it is due. If a project grows bigger than the original layout, any part of it can be extended to more pages.
BJP: Where do you get your inspirations for your bullet journal?
JW: Honestly, I am inspired by the whole Bujo community. There is huge interest in Bullet Journaling right now, and some really cool things are happening. Brilliant ideas are springing up all over the place. Though my Bullet Journals are mostly unadorned and focused more on the flow of information, the stuff happening in the non-professional Bujo community is truly breath-taking! I think it’s absolutely thrilling to see the conversations around the ideas everyone are exchanging. I am particularly moved when I see that someone’s life has changed because of Bullet Journaling – that suddenly someone has been able to make sense of life’s chaos and been able to achieve their goals.
There are so many, but to name just one person who I think is doing great things for the Bullet Journal community, that would be Kim of Tiny Ray of Sunshine. She is awesome, and is inspiring so many people!
BJP: What would you like to see from this community of professionals?
I think, as professionals we are more interested in how it works rather than what it looks like. I love seeing all the beautiful and amazing things some people are doing, but I am always thrilled when I discover some new concept or way of organizing things. I think it’s important, in the information age, to keep looking for analog ways of doing things so we can keep the joy of pen and paper alive long into the future.
Thank you John Wells @jbwelly for your time and insights!
Now, get back to work!