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How Effective is Bullet Journaling for Project Managers?

One of the great benefits of the Bullet Journal is its ability to be flexible enough to work for people in many professions. That’s one of the reasons I began uniting a community of Bullet Journal professionals. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with professionals in marketing, healthcare, education, manufacturing, sales and many more industries. One group of professionals show up regularly in my conversations: project managers (PMs). The Bullet Journal and its basic components –Index, Future Log, Monthly LogDaily Log – is an ideal tool for PMs. I wanted to dig into this job category to learn more about PMs who are using a Bullet Journal on the job, how they are using it and, importantly, the difference it makes for them. More to the point, I have seen posts from people over the last year – many who claim to be PMs – who have made some glowing comments about the Bullet Journal but here now are some hard data points to support these claims. In August 2016, a survey was created especially for PMs. In total, 205 project managers completed the survey, giving us some terrific findings that we want to share with you this month. One of the core issues that often arises for new adopters of the Bullet Journal is whether to use the same journal for work and personal needs. We wanted to know how PMs used their journal. As you can see by this chart, it is a contentious issue. A little more than 50% of PMs polled told us they used the same Bullet Journal for both work and personal matters. But more than 36% of PMs use two journals. Only a small number of respondents stated they use their Bullet Journal only at work (7%) or only for personal matters (4%). 1a-work-personal_pie Since the focus of this survey was to understand how project managers are using a Bullet Journal on the job, we didn’t continue with those who use their journal only for personal matters. We next wanted to better understand how loyal these PMs were to the Bullet Journal. I often see posts in the Bullet Journal for Professionals Facebook group about how users are searching for digital tools, apps and cloud-based services to complement their journal. So we asked PMs whether they use their Bullet Journal exclusively. And it was no surprise to see the answers almost equal between yes and no. 2b-bj_only_bars So what are PMs using in addition to their Bullet Journal? Well, that’s a matter of personal preference. While a quarter of respondents indicated Microsoft Outlook as the tool of choice to complement their Bullet Journal, the range of responses varied widely. This word cloud only hints at the variety of responses, which ranged from sticky notes and 3x5 index cards to mind maps and Gantt charts. Digital applications also ranged widely from Google Docs to Trello and Asana to Toodledo and Wonderlist. Respondents also touched on other methods including David Allen’s method, Getting Things Done (GTD), to Kanban and Agile methodologies. While the survey was certainly targeted to project managers, we wanted to make sure that we were talking with respondents who were actively involved in project management on a daily basis. We had the respondents clarify their job title and verify if they were solely performing project management activities at work or if they had other responsibilities. We found a great variety of job titles but a little more than one-third of the respondents who answered were Project Managers. 3-job_title_listWe also found that project managers are multitaskers. 80% of the respondents indicated that along with project management activities, they had other responsibilities at work. Less than 15% of respondents focus exclusively on project management. 4a-pm_atwork_pie So, what are the responsibilities that PMs have on the job? Or, more specifically, what are the types of projects that PMs are managing? While many PMs were unable to answer this question in order to protect the confidentiality associated with their projects, those who did respond provided descriptions as varied as their job titles. 5-projects_mgd_cloud
So, let’s get to the meat of this survey. Here was the burning question that we wanted answered: How often are PMs using their Bullet Journal for project management?These two charts below show the great power and benefits of the Bullet Journal system for project managers. 6-bj_usage_chart7-bj_easier_pie 85% of PMs are using their Bullet Journal all the time or sometimesspecifically for project management activities at work. And, further, 77% of PMs state that using a Bullet Journal on the job makes their work significantly easier or easier. Many of you may be nodding your heads right now and saying, “Of course using a Bullet Journal at work makes life easier.” But now we have significant research among users, specifically, project managers, who verify the merits of the Bullet Journal as a meaningful professional tool. While we have documented how effective the Bullet Journal is for PMs on the job, there are still aspects of project management that are not captured. More than 50% of PMs told us that meeting notes and reports are not logged in their Bullet Journals. Surprisingly, a small number of PMs — less than 10% — do not use their Bullet Journals for managing the project tasks or the calendar module. Finally, I noted at the beginning of this post that I personally believe the Bullet Journal modules that Ryder created – Index, Future Log, Monthly Logand Daily Log – are ideal for PMs. But I needed to understand if PMs felt this way and what modules they were indeed using on the job. When asked about the modules of the Bullet Journal, I was delighted to see that 42% of PMs said they were using all four modules in their Bullet Journal. Further, less than 5% of PMs surveyed were not using any of the modules. Again, this shows the effectiveness of the Bullet Journal system for most project managers. 11-modules_pie In regards to the modules that were used, we see that more than 40% use the Monthly Log and Daily Log together. Another third of the PMs work with the Index and Daily Log as their go-to modules. And, further, about 29% of the respondents use the Future Log and Daily Log together on the job. 11a-module-list Summary The role of a project manager in most organizations is to keep a couple dozen plates spinning, all while tap dancing a four beat shuffle and singingThe Impossible Dream note perfect. And that’s all before lunch. The Bullet Journal is a wonderful asset for most anyone who needs to bring greater organization to his or her life. As I noted earlier in the article, most of us can agree that our Bullet Journal is a top-flight business tool, but that is table stakes for PMs. Project managers need an entirely higher level of organization than most of us. This survey provides statistical proof of the Bullet Journal’s ability to significantly improve task management for professionals whose jobs depend on it. Online calendars and project management software are essential tools for the job but we also now have evidence that a pen and paper-based system, while not exclusive to the job, can indeed enhance productivity. Coming up, we hope to field additional surveys to look at other professions and how they are using a Bullet Journal to enhance their productivity and organization on the job. Until then, stay on the job! __ Main Photo by: Thomas Lefebvre

About the Author:

Hello Pros! I’m Todd Foutz, head of marketing and business development for an advertising agency. I write about people, like me, who use their Bullet Journal on the job, planning their busy days and nights and meeting their career goals and job requirements. My mission here is to unite and bring ideas to a community of professionals who use their Bullet Journals to be more successful on the job. Let’s go, Pros!

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