One of the most common questions I hear sound something like,
- “Can you bullet journal with a Google Calendar? (Or Outlook Calendar or…)”
- “Is using a digital calendar cheating the bullet journal system?”
From day one of using the bullet journal several years ago, I have always used a digital calendar, my trusty Google Cal, as my planning companion. No matter how many different methods I tried, the G-Cal has been constant, probably since I was in late high school. Instead of saying that it’s cheating to use one, I think it is an amazing tool to leverage if that is within your habits.
For context, I use two Google Calendars for personal and work purposes – my whole office runs on Google Calendar and we heavily rely on it to schedule meetings to do our very collaborative work. We share them and use them to find open time for meetings of two to 18 people within our staff, the whole University, and with our students as well, so our culture reinforces my use of the digital. That might not be the case for you, so keep that in mind!
Today I walk through how I complement my bullet journal with my Google Calendar, encouraging you that you can be BOTH digital and analog.
WAYS I USE MY GOOGLE CALENDAR
- Events and appointments. This is the most straight forward – it keeps track of where I’m supposed to be, with whom, and when. From doctors, to parties, to workout classes, social outings, teaching, check-ins with my boss or employees, etc.
- Tip #1: For meetings, I try to outline specific outcomes for that meeting, the work we all need to prepare, decisions to be made, etc for my Future Procrastinating Self
- Tip #2: If you are in a heavy meeting culture, I highly encourage adding in “white space” to your schedule. For me that means I add 30 minute blocks around my meetings just to prepare to enter or transition out of them. It might be transit time, or enough time for me to process my thoughts of what just happened instead of rushing to the next thing
- Long-term reminders. The future log of the bullet journal system has never really worked for me because I am very “out of sight out of mind” – but over the years I’ve been trained to reference my Google Calendar often, so why not leverage that? The kinds of reminders I add are things several months (or even a year away!) like “cancel your ____ subscription,” “decide if you want to keep this membership,” or “fast for your doctor appointment.”
- Work & project planning. This isn’t new, but looking at my events and due dates, I can plan backwards to block off time to work on various tasks. If I know I have to have a syllabus done by mid-July, I block off a few hours in the weeks leading up to it to get focused. Otherwise I end up having very sporadic chunks of time which doesn’t allow me to get into deep work.
- Meal Planning. Since I can see when I’ll have meals, I can outline which nights I need to cook, and what – when I’m at my best I can guess how much to make and make a single grocery list for one trip!
- Declaring my priorities. In my world, time displays your values – I have the privilege of having time I can choose to spend how I’d like, so I try to make time for things I care about: friends, family, working out, the blog, etc. Perhaps some day I would add time blocks for meditation, being with myself, creation, etc.
MY PLANNING PROCESS
On Sundays, I draw out my weekly calendar – I use the 5-day weekly that mirrors that of the vertical Google Calendar. It’s been the easiest for my brain to use, so I’m running with it.
I scan my Google Calendar for upcoming events – my anchors for the week – and write them into my weekly. From there I can add in tasks that prepare for those appointments and meetings, and set my priorities for each day.
Throughout the day I do what Laura from Get Your Shit Together calls a Mind-Sweep, adding in tasks as I think of them. I think in week-timespans, so I put the tasks in throughout the week.
For upcoming tasks, I have seen folks use an “Upcoming” section of their weekly, but I will typically put future tasks in an email or in my Google Calendar in the future.
Side tip: If you want to send emails later, I integrated the “Boomerang” app on my Gmail to schedule when emails can send. Working on email can be SUCH a time suck so instead of replying piece by piece, I’ll sit down for a session to crank out a batch of them, scheduling them to when they would be relevant. If I’m ever working outside of typical work hours (which doesn’t happen that often anymore!), I make sure to schedule my emails during the work day, so I don’t add to a culture of overwork to my colleagues and students.
As things change, I can quickly cross out things that get canceled, write in the new things – I am not really bothered by the mess, as you might know 🙂
That’s just a bit about how I merge digital and analog planning – I’d love to hear what works for you in the comments below!