Yesterday I pulled out a new notebook to use as a bullet journal. The previous one had lasted me from October of last year through, well, yesterday. While I didn’t execute the system perfectly – I often didn’t create new entries for each day or would take one of a few other shortcuts – the overall idea worked for me in a way that simply “writing down all the things I need to do” just didn’t.

I’ve taken a variety of approaches to tracking action items over the years. I used to use Producteev before I stopped liking that app after an update. I used Wunderlist for a while but ditched it after the news broke it would be sunset following the acquisition by Microsoft. And because life is messy there would be random thoughts thrown in Evernote, on Post-It Notes, in other notebooks stuffed in backpacks and elsewhere.

my blank (for now) bullet journal canvas

Every once in a while I would need to take a half hour and collect all these disparate notes and put them all in one place. Usually, that wasn’t one of the apps I was using but on a legal pad, where I would bring together everything I’d written down elsewhere. More often than not that process also unlocked thoughts about other action items I hadn’t previously written down but which needed to get down. So my memory was jogged as well, allowing ideas to not only stop being spread out among scraps of paper or bytes but also pulled from the labyrinth of my own mind.

What I like about the bullet journal method is that it prompts me to constantly reevaluate what I’m doing. It’s not just hanging there in an app, it’s something that’s always in front of me, something I’m constantly reminded of and having to weigh on the list of other items to take care of. More than once I’ve finally either eliminated or finished something because it no longer seemed important or because I was tired of seeing it on the damn list. I just wanted it gone, so I considered it as part of the larger picture and took the appropriate action.

So today I have a new notebook with a new list of action items. Some of those items are pulled over from yesterday’s list, but they are fresh for today. It’s a clean slate, a fresh set of priorities that are important for today. While I still use a couple of to do list apps for specific client projects, the journal helps me feel as if everything is captured in some manner. That’s refreshing and calming, particularly as a freelancer who’s juggling various personal and professional projects. Peace of mind is well worth it.