This week’s Pro Q&A features Cory Ann Ellis, a South Dakota-based marketing professional at Montgomery’s and owner of her own commercial photography business, AC Ellis Photography.
BJP: We are pleased to welcome you, Cory, to our blog. Tell our Pro community a little about yourself, what you do and how long have you been a bullet journalist?
CAE: Thank you for inviting me! Let me start by saying that I am a wife, mother, chronic traveler (I’m currently in Beacon Hill in Boston) and professional.
It may be hard to understand what I do by my title alone. Titles do little to explain responsibilities. As the Brand and Marketing Manager for Montgomery’s, a 5th generation family owned home fashions business, I am responsible for coordinating all our marketing efforts. Our department consists of me and a marketing assistant. This means that I am personally responsible for doing much of the day-to-day work for Montgomery’s.
Here are some of the things I do: media buys for print, TV and radio as well as graphic design for signage and print materials. I also take care of writing, magazine publishing, direct mail, newspaper inserts, photography, website design and management along with promotion development and training, social media, e-mail, co-op submissions, budgeting, strategic planning and … whew!
In addition to my role at Montgomery’s, I am also an entrepreneur. I’ve run my own photography and marketing business, AC Ellis Inc, since 2004. My company is still rolling strong. I have two excellent employees: a project manager and an associate photographer. In order to do my job well and still have time for my family, I have scaled back my shooting and enjoy training my project manager to manage the business and take on more of our marketing clients. Two of my main marketing clients are Ideal Wedding and Events and CB Stark Jewelers. For our marketing clients, we collaborate with them to provide whatever type of marketing they need. For our photography clients, we offer wedding, portrait, food and different commercial photography services. Oh boy, writing it all down makes me tired!
For years, I have used notebooks, usually Moleskins, to take notes, create lists and reference material. Sometime this past February, I realized that the notebook I was using at that time — a Moleskin Evernote edition — only had about ten open pages remaining. I found myself going back and filling in all of the remaining open space in the journal and I also used Post-it® tabs along the top and side of the notebook.
While I always had my reference information in the Moleskin, it was not an efficient process. So I began looking for a different notebook. I ordered about ten different notebooks from a variety of sources.
I came across the Leuchtturm1917 and it was like a lightbulb went off when I saw the numbered pages and the index. Shortly after I purchased the Leuchtturm1917, I came across the bullet journal website by Ryder Carroll. And instead of a light bulb, it was like Times Square! Why was I using numbers? Why was I using lines and not dotted pages? Why didn’t I create a system for my Signifiers? It all came together at this point.
My first entry into my notebook using the bullet journal system was March 23, 2016. This notebook is dedicated solely for my job at Montgomery’s. I have greatly enjoyed the process of bullet journaling and have now created a second notebook for my photography business.
BJP: Discuss with us your experience with both analog and digital planning and advantages of the bullet journal.
CAE: There are many tools that I’ve utilized over the years for planning. I designed methods to help me track whatever the job required. Until recently I didn’t realize that many of the systems I created had incredible similarities to some well-known systems like Kanban and GTD. I’ve started to research these methods to help fine-tune what I am currently using.
My system is a mix of a few different methods which are used for different purposes. In other words, I tend to use what works best for the job or project. Software programs I rely on include: Evernote, iCal, Spreadsheets (Numbers & Excel), Custom Content Calendars (InDesign), and OmniFocus.
BJP: You are relatively new to the bullet journal. What features of the bullet journal made it your choice to use as a professional photographer and marketer?
CAE: As I mentioned above, Ryder’s bullet journal system overall and the Index particularly were the features that won me over. These features are ideal for meetings, research and all of the random things that pop up on a regular basis. I know this is silly but I liked that I didn’t need to jump around my notebook any longer and instead keep everything chronological. This means less wasted notebook space and it’s so easy to find my past notes.
BJP: Discuss how some of the basic principles from Ryder Carroll work or don’t work for professionals.
CAE: The fundamental principle of Ryder Carroll’s system that works for me is the Rapid Logging. The Bullets and Signifiers are excellent! I’ve adapted the Signifiers to work better with my responsibilities.
I’ve found that many people using the bullet journal system have a notebook for personal use or perhaps to manage their activities as an entrepreneur. In my situation at Montgomery’s, with direct reports and coordinating with multiple departments, I required a slightly different approach.
What doesn’t work for me, however, is the Future Log feature of Ryder’s original system. If I kept my Future Log in my bullet journal, I wouldn’t be able to share my commitments and tasks with my team. I keep my Future Log/Monthly Log in OmniFocus, Evernote and iCal. I do use the Monthly Log when I have some big events which block out entire days. The basis for my system is the Daily Log.
The Migration system is important for many people but I don’t want to spend time redoing my tasks every month. I’m a bit more strategic about items that go in my Daily Log and do not migrate tasks.
BJP: Tell us about some of the collections in your bullet journal or pages that are meaningful to you.
CAE: Oh boy, collections are one of my favorite aspects of the bullet journal. I’m often researching a topic and I love how I can just start making my research notes right there on the next page in my notebook. I transferred some my collections from my last Moleskin notebook and those are all lumped together at the front of my Leuchtturm1917. I’ve also extended my Indexes to include a unique Index especially for projects, article topics, etc.
BJP: Where do you get your inspirations for your bullet journal?
CAE: I’ve looked for inspiration online, and, honestly so much out there is beautiful and colorful but not helpful for me in a professional/business setting. Journaling is not my hobby; it is a tool to help increase my efficiency with work so I can spend more time relaxing with my family. Although, I do admit to a recent obsession with fountain pens and I do enjoy writing with them in my notebook. My favorite blog is Kim Alvarez’s Tiny Ray of Sunshine. Her spreads are beautiful and tend to be clean and functional, which is what appeals to me as a professional.
BJP: What would you like to see from this community of professionals?
CAE: You know, I’d love to see how other people are hacking the system to make it work for them. Specifically those in positions or jobs that have a lot of employees or large teams. It might also be fun to see how people are integrating their systems with their digital world, like I do with my other programs. I believe these are things that are important to professionals like me.
Thank you so much Cory for your insights and beautiful photographs of your bullet journal. You are indeed a very busy and productive woman. I think I can hear your supervisors now telling you to “Get Back To Work!”