How to start a bullet journal the simple way

Before we dive in, you need to know that this is a doozy of a blog post. It’s not a quick read. I go into a lot of detail describing what a bullet journal is and how I use it. So if you’re in the pickup line at school, I recommend you scroll to the pictures and then bookmark this page for later when you can really focus on the content. My hope is that by understanding how I use a bullet journal you’ll know how to start your own!


If you’ve been around social media lately, you’ve probably seen people using the hashtag #bulletjournal, #bulletjournaling or even #BuJo. Some are posting pictures of beautifully scripted quotes and elaborate calendar arrangements. You are probably wondering what a bullet journal even is. I had never heard of it until one of my cousins told me about it. Lest you think bullet journaling is just a girly thing, the cousin that told me about bullet journaling is a dude, a body builder, and an ex-marine. So yeah . . .  it’s not just some girly thing.

So what IS it?

Don’t want to read a long blog post? Watch me explain on Facebook how I use my bullet journal.

Ryder Carroll is the creater of the bullet journal and he describes it as “an analog system designed to track the past, organize the present and plan for the future.” I tell people that basically, it’s a planner.

But not just any planner. It’s one you create yourself, making it work for you rather than trying to fit the way your mind works into someone else’s planner layout. Yet it’s also more than a planner. It’s a place where you can plan out what you want your life to look like. For example, I put my personal hopes, dreams and long term plans in my bullet journal so that I can strategically work towards those goals. They live in the same space as my weekly/daily to-do list so that I can be reminded of what those larger goals are that I’m working towards. I truly love it. Now let me tell you why.

How I Use a Bullet Journal

how to start a bullet journalI’ve always been a digital, techy person. I like gadgets. I have several Mac products including an Apple Watch. My husband knows I’d rather have something techy than a piece of jewelry. My parents bought me a Google Home for Christmas and I love it even though I didn’t ask for it. So you may be surprised that I like something so . . . non-digital. 

The reason I love it so much is that when it comes to task management, nothing beats paper. There is something about writing a task down that makes me remember it more, focus on it more, and see it as a priority. There is also something extremely gratifying about crossing a task off a to-do list. I’ve always liked tasks written down on actual paper.

With the bullet journal, I can write things down within a system that makes sense for me. And if I find something that isn’t working, I can tweak it as I go which also makes it awesome. I also love that I can easily track how I’m progressing towards various goals I’ve set for myself. It’s one thing to have goals. It’s another to actually write them down, figure out a plan for how you’re going to reach them, and then track your progress. I don’t know about you but I’m way more motivated to work towards change when I can look back and see incremental improvement, even if it’s just a little bit.

In short, I use my bullet journal to keep on top of daily/weekly tasks and keep an eye on long-term goals.

How a Ton of Other People Use the Bullet Journal

how to start bullet journal

Now, if you were to head to Pinterest and search for bullet journal ideas  you would find loads of blog posts that showcase gorgeous and elaborate drawings on every single page of their journal. Take a look on Instagram by searching the hashtag #bulletjournal.(Go here, here, and here to see the pics above). Do you see what I mean? I swear some people spend an hour a day making their bullet journal look like a piece of artwork. That’s fine for them. But if you’re a busy mom with a job and . . . you know. . . STUFF to do, you’re probably thinking . . .

 . . .”Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

That’s right. I DON’T have time for that. So let’s dive into MY bullet journal. You’ll see that you don’t have to do all those artistic drawings. My daily/weekly log is really quite plain. I add a few flourishes on my other spreads, but overall . . . it’s just meh.

How to Start a Bullet Journal the Simple Way

bullet-journal-2Ok. Now that we have the foundations for a bullet journal laid out, let me show you my actual bullet journal. Obviously, some parts are blurred out. But I hope you get the gist of how I use it so you can decide if it’s the right system for you.

I use a Leuchtturm1917 (pronounced loy-strum) dotted notebook. You can find them on Amazon for around $20. Please note that you don’t have to buy a special notebook to start bullet journaling. In fact, when you first start, I almost don’t recommend you buy anything because it takes a bit to figure out how exactly you’ll use your own bullet journal. I started out with a $5 Wal-Mart notebook that was lined. I switched to the Leuchtturm notebook because I wanted a dotted notebook and it made sense to start a new one in January. Truly. Any notebook will do. Any notebook.

The Indexhow to start a bullet journal

The index is pretty self-explanatory. The Leuttchrum1917 comes with an index and numbered pages all ready to go for you. If you don’t have an index, just designate one of your first pages as your Index, then label each page in your notebook. This goes faster than you think. I had to do this for my first bullet journal.

The purpose of the Index is that you will be adding spreads and logs to your journal throughout the year. It’s useful to have them indexed so that you can easily reference a spread later. For example, I was watching a webinar yesterday and created a spread between my January and February weekly logs so that I could take notes on the webinar. I glanced at the page number I was writing on, then wrote that page number on the index with the appropriate level. Now I can easily reference those notes later by using the index rather than flipping through the entire journal.

The Calendarhow to start a bullet journal

After the Index is my calendar. This is kind of my year-at-a-glance spread. I created a far bigger and more detailed calendar in my first bullet journal and found I never used it. I still use the calendar on my iPhone for all of my events, appointments, and meetings. So this time, I only used two 2-page spreads to create my 2017 calendar. It’s nice to see 6 months all in once place with key work events and various birthdays and holidays.

My Various Spreads

Some bullet journalers call these “collections,” or “lists.” For whatever reason, I’ve settled on the term spread. Each spread takes up at least 2 pages while some repeat that same 2-page look over multiple pages. Think of your spreads as the place where you track long-term projects and goals.

For example, you may have a writing project that involves research, writing an outline, writing chapters, book promotion, etc etc. Each aspect of that project has various deadlines and mini-tasks to get the entire project DONE. If you keep them all on one spread, you can use that spread to drive your weekly tasks. Sometimes we know we need to do X, Y, and Z but X doesn’t need to be done until July while Z has some tasks that need to be accomplished next week.

My spreads are a mixture of projects and goals. Most of them are at the beginning of my bullet journal, between the calendar and my weekly logs.

Here are my GOAL spreads:


My Reading List is where I write down books I’m reading or want to read. I color them in on the bookshelf once it’s completed. On the left side of this spread, I have a space to write book recommendations. There are 3 different categories of books I’ll read this year: Business/Marketing, Spiritual/Health, and Fiction. I read fiction before I go to bed each night but want to read various non-fiction books throughout my week. I have a very low goal to read 12 non-fiction books this year. Don’t judge me. It’s a recent discovery of how much I enjoy reading non-fiction.

how to start a bullet journal

My Financial Goals spread is what we used to do some fun dreaming for the future. At the beginning of this year, Jesse and I discussed some practical 2017 goals (pay off debt, save for a vacation etc) as well as some life-long/long-term goals we would like to shoot for. I use Google Sheets to manage our monthly budget and an app to manage our monthly spending. So this is really a “dream” page. It was fun to write down our goals and it’s gratifying to color in the goal trackers on the right page. In my last bullet journal, I drew 2 different “cones” like you would see in a fundraising poster. Each of these cones represented 2 different debts we were working on paying off in 2016. I was seriously giddy to color both of them in all the way to the top as we knocked those out last year.

how to start a bullet journal

My Fitness Goals spread is where I laid out 2 different fitness goals, and how I was going to get there. I’m tracking both my weight and inches this year. I’ll record those measurements at the beginning of each month. I gave myself 3 different levels of goals: gold, silver, and bronze. If I reach the gold goal that would be amazing (and would mean I would look almost as good as I did on my wedding day 12.5 years ago) If I reach silver, I was even more successful than I thought I could be. If I reach bronze, that means I did what I’d set out to do. I laid out a basic plan for how I’m going to work towards those goals on a daily basis on this spread as well.

how to start a bullet journal

My Family spread is a new spread this time around. I haven’t filled it out yet because this one also involves Jesse. We are going to sit down and talk about each child, what their strengths and witnesses are, and some areas we want to really work on with them this year. I’m not talking about their own areas to work on, I’m talking about things we need to work on with each child as it relates to our relationship.

For example, I relate better to our middle child and struggle with our oldest. Jesse is the opposite. (The youngest is pretty easy for both of us to relate to.) So there are certain things we can do to work on that with each kid. This is where I’ll lay those ideas out for reference later and also because once we talk about something and write it down, it’s easy to remember that we have a goal we are working towards with those relationsips.

I have some things I want to work on as a wife too, this year and I’ll fill that last square out soon.

Here are my PROJECT spreads:

I won’t go into a ton of detail on these since they are super specific to me and my job. But I wanted to show them to you so you can get an idea for how to create your own spreads based on what projects you have. I have already added a few more since starting this blog post a few days ago. I simply made sure they didn’t divide up a month of weekly logs by counting out the pages I hadn’t yet made.

how to start a bullet journal


After all of the goal spreads and a few project spreads comes the bullet journal’s sweet spot: the weekly log.

The Bullet Journal’s Sweet Spot: The Weekly Log

I begin my weekly logs with a month spread. Below you can see that I have a January spread where I listed a few tasks. I will add to it as the month goes on. Sometimes, I simply need to quickly write down a task from a meeting and I don’t have a specific day in mind yet that it needs to get done so I’ll write it here. It will get moved to a weekly log later. As I add more tasks here, it will help drive my weekly log.

In my last bullet journal, I used this place to write down each day of the month per the recommendation of Ryder Carroll. However, I found I never used it or referenced it so I turned it from a calendar function to a task function. I also added a new feature by including a spot to write down memories and celebrations. I thought it would be fun to be able to look back over the year and see what cool things happened both at work and personally. This may be anything from “Sammy lost a tooth!” to “That one campaign totally bombed and I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.”

how to start a bullet journal

Next, comes the actual weekly log:how to start a bullet journal

A few components of my weekly log are unique to me. Before I get into those, let me explain the basic gist of my weekly log.

You can see I have a day for each day of the week (Mon-Fri). The top portion of the page is for work related tasks. The bottom is for personal tasks. In those personal boxes, I also have a place to track 3 things each day: weight, calorie burn and if I’ve done 50 push-ups or not (Again, don’t judge me for my weak arms.) I’ve seen some people track the amount of water drunk, steps taken, etc.

On any given day, I create a task with a bullet point. When the task is done, I make an X through the bullet point. If I don’t get it done, I write a > over the bullet point which means I’m migrating it to another date. I then re-write the task on another day. If I find myself migrating the same task over and over again I have to stop and ask myself, is this really worth my time? Or I ask myself if I’m prioritizing my tasks appropriately. This method is all explained in the original bullet journal video by Ryder Carroll.

I also have a slot for “Memoires.” This is another place to write down something I want to remember from the week. I may migrate these to the monthly memories/celebrations or I may leave them as they are and flip through it occasionally to remember the year’s happenings.

One aspect unique to me in my weekly log is that I track our various social media channel’s growth. That’s what that extra box is on my Monday work column.  I also have this info online but I do it here simply because it forces me to pay attention to that each week and helps me focus on where I want to take our social media as we continue to improve.

I build out my weekly logs a month at a time. So I currently have all of January’s weekly logs created AND I went ahead and made the February month spread and the first week of February just because I was feeling ambitious one day. Towards the end of January, I’ll make the rest of February’s weekly logs. This takes me maybe 30 minutes each month.

So that’s my bullet journal. 

I told you it would be a doozy of a blog post, didn’t I? If you made it here I congratulate you! Like I’ve said, what makes the bullet journal so great is that every single person can make it work for their unique needs. And . . . you can tweak as you go! In my last bullet journal, I did that often. I found myself changing my weekly log as I realized I didn’t need or want to track certain things.

It really is a great system. However, I will say it’s probably not for everyone. My husband is NOT a planner. So I figured this would be a great system for him. He tried it and couldn’t really get into it. He and I are about as different as they come when it comes to how we get things done. I’m a feeler and a doer. He’s a thinker and a processor (which is why he’s a great a counselor). I think that if you’re goal-driven, task-driven, and like long-term planning, it can be a really useful tool.

So that’s a wrap! I’d love to hear how YOU use a bullet journal. If you have any questions please comment and I’ll try and answer them as best I can. Happy bullet journaling!

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Get your children to do chores this summer without going broke

Allow me to introduce my system.

Hey, all you parents out there about ready to embark upon a long summer of kids at their feet . . . this blog post is for you!

If you want to get your children to do chores this summer, you will need a good system in place. For the past 2 summers, I have tried to implement one. Both years, my system was a bit of a flop. 

We tried a system that involved a folder and a dollar bill for each day they completed their set list of chores. We tried a daily checklist and a weekly allowance. Both systems involved us needing cash on hand and it cost us more than we thought it was worth. Another reason these systems probably didn’t work was because of the ages of our kids.

But this summer . . . .

I was determined to find a system that worked!

And I think I did it. I finally developed the (almost) perfect system to get my kids helping around the house and doing it (mostly) on their own. Which is one of the most important parts of a good system, amiright??

You see, I’ve worked from home almost my entire motherhood and once the kids started going to school, working from home got a lot easier. However, that meant summers also became quite a challenge. I needed my kids to be more independent in the summer so that I didn’t have to micromanage their work or time. Of course on the front end, it’s required a lot of time and effort from me, but a week into it, I’m seeing this system manage itself.

So what is this “system” I keep talking about? I’ll go into way more detail in the rest of this blog post but here is the basic gist of it:

Each day there are “jobs” available for our kids. We post these on our Job Board. Each job is worth a certain amount of tickets. If they complete the job and do it well, we pay them in tickets. These tickets can be cashed in for certain privileges (special treats or screen time).

It costs us basically nothing.

Our kids help around the house.

Their screen time is limited.

What’s not to love??

Ok. So now you know the basics of our summer job system. I’ll take some time to explain in detail how we make it work. Stick with me. I know it’s a doozy of a blog post! If you just want the downloadable PDF, scroll to the end of this blog post.

The nitty gritty of the system.

First of all, you need to know the ages of my kids. They are 8, 6, and 4. This system is really designed for the 8 and 6-year-old. We’ve modified it for our 4-year-old and I’ll explain that in the Appendix. Overall though, if you have children between the ages of 6 and 12, I think my system will work for you.

**Anything in bold below is part of my free PDF.

Step One: Prepare your children.

A week before we began jobs, I posted the Job Board along with the various jobs and the Job Shop on the hallway wall. Of course, the kids were curious so we began talking about what jobs they’ll be able to do and how many tickets they will earn for each job.

Get your children to do chores

We explained how they would have to pay for certain privileges with the tickets they earn doing jobs. 

Spending a week talking about the summer jobs that were coming up got them excited. They asked questions and began dreaming about how they would spend their tickets. Our 6-year-old was determined to earn enough tickets to buy ALL the privileges in one day. He’s the ambitious one while the 8-year-old is the diligent one. So we’ll see how that pans out . . .

Get your children to do chores

The night before our training day, we actually had interviews. It was hilarious. I let the kids go into the oldest’s room and work on them together. My daughter (age 8) helped the 4-year-old with his application. Once they were done, I brought them out one by one and gave them some interview pointers like looking the “boss” (my husband) in the eye, smiling, and answering the questions clearly. I recorded the entire interview for the 4-year-old and I definitely caught some nose picking. He was still hired, though.

Step Two: Train your children.

Get your children to do chores

On the first full day of summer, I set aside almost an entire day to train my kids on each job on the Job Board. Here is how I ran my training day:

  • 9:00am-Kids gather around dining room table for part 1 of training
  • Pass out the Job Procedures Worksheet, Reading Log, and journals
    • Explain journals and Reading Log and where those will be kept. (I keep mine in a drawer in our dining room so all 3 kids can easily access them at any time they want to read or journal for 30 min.)
    • Teach kids how to set the timer for 30min using the microwave timer.
    • Show them how to fill out the reading log after they read for 30 min.
  • Work through the Job Procedure Worksheet.Get your children to do chores
    • Have kids cut out the pictures of the supplies from the bottom of the worksheet.
    • Glue the appropriate supplies to the corresponding job. (ie: to clean the toilet they cut out a paper towel, toilet cleaner and sponge.)
    • After they cut out and glued all of the supplies on the worksheet, we took a dance break! We cranked up Justin Timberlake’s new song “Just Dance” and danced our way around the house. I ended our break time with a cookie. This is an optional step. 🙂
    • After the break, we filled out the worksheet step-by-step until we’d explained how to do each job.
    • Then it was time to actually DO the jobs.

I’ll be honest . . . this next part took longer than I thought it would. In fact, I had to put the 2 boys to bed for a nap after we cleaned the bathroom because I realized they’d had a late night, were over tired and we were all low on patience. I made an executive decision to move the rest of training to the next day.

At the beginning of our Training Day, I told the kids they would get paid 5 tickets if they worked hard during training. That gave them motivation and was leverage I could use when they were losing interest.

Now that the kids were trained, it was time to see if this system actually would work.


Step Three:  Put your children to work!

Get your children to do chores

I created pictures of the jobs using clipart found on Google and PicMonkey. They sit on my kitchen counter near the “cash register” I made out of a cardboard yogurt box. Shortly after I wake up each morning, I grab some of the jobs that I want/need completed that day and place them on the Job Board. I’m using paper clips to attach them to the edges of my Job Board but you could use sticky tack or something else.

Around breakfast time, I usually announce to the kids that new jobs are up. One day this week I had all of the bathroom jobs available (toilet, mirror, sinks, bathtub) and only one kid claimed one job (the mirror.) While that meant I had to clean the bathroom myself, it also meant the kids saw that they earned hardly any tickets that day which meant they didn’t have much to spend the next day.

But guess what . . . . they spent that day playing outside, pretending in their rooms, and they earned tickets other ways by reading and writing in their journals. This is still ultimately a win for me.


Step Four: Pay your children.

Get your children to do chores

Our currency includes the faces of their cousins.

For us, we decided that a job has to be approved before they can get paid. This might not be the case in a few weeks when they are better at their jobs, but for now, I feel like I need to come in and check their work when they say they’ve cleaned a toilet.

Once I can see that a job is completed to my satisfaction (please note-that doesn’t mean it looks perfect),  I go get the appropriate amount of tickets from the cash register and pay them. I remind them to go put the tickets away in their ticket bank that they decorated after interview night.

Get your children to do chores

This is how the youngest decorated his ticket bank.


Step Five: Allow them to spend their tickets!

Here is our Job Shop. These are what we have as privileges in our house and how much they “cost.” (T=1 ticket)

get your children to do chores

The way we do this is that they can cash in their tickets any time of the day as long as their daily chores (see Appendix) and their chosen jobs are done. So far, the oldest is best at saving her tickets for the bigger items like Wii time and Netflix time, and the youngest wants to buy a special treat each day. 🙂

Now, one of my concerns was that I’d have kids coming to me every 5 minutes asking to buy something from the shop. I thought I may end up spending a lot of time organizing their screen time they’d paid for.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Really, they didn’t spend many tickets each day-only enough to buy a treat. It wasn’t until Friday when they cashed in most of their tickets for screen time. I think, all in all, we had the iPad on for 30 minutes once this week and the Wii on for an hour. That’s it! The rest of the time the kids were busy reading and writing to earn tickets, or pretending and making up their own fun since they knew they didn’t have enough tickets to have screen time.

This is what I love most about this system.

My kids know their parameters.

They know what is expected of them if they want screen time or a special treat.

They know what their options are for keeping busy during the long summer days.

In so many ways, it’s a self-managing system! I love that the kids can make independent choices. They don’t HAVE to do any of the jobs. But they chose to do a few so they can earn privileges. Then they get to choose how they spend their tickets on those privileges.

I love that my kids are learning independence.

I love that they are learning the value of work.

I really love that it’s not costing us hardly anything and it helps me with household chores. I really love that one. 🙂

That is the basic gist of my system. I’m going to go live on my Facebook page tomorrow at 2pm CST (on June 7th) if you want to jump on and ask me questions about all of this. It may seem a little overwhelming, but I promise it’s actually pretty straightforward once you get it up and running.

OK, are you ready for the FREE downloadable PDF?? 

In my FREE downloadable PDF you will get:

  1. The Job Board (what I use to post available jobs)
  2. The Job Shop (with my rewards and ticket prices)
  3. The Job Procedures (what I use for Training Day)
  4. The Job List and Instructions for Finding Clip Art 
  5. The Job Application (for your kids to complete before an interview
  6. The Reading Log 
  7. The Tickets 

Get the PDF here. You’ll have to enter your email to get it but don’t worry . . . I hate spam. Your email address is safe with me. I’ll never sell your email address and I won’t bombard you with emails. Promise.

Here is what’s NOT included in the FREE PDF:

  1. No clipart/images for the jobs or supplies. Sorry folks, but I don’t own the images I used for my own jobs and I can’t distribute those. You will need to find your own pictures/clip art or take your own. This is better for you, though. I’m all about the super powerful cleaning supplies that are laden with chemicals. If you prefer more natural cleaning supplies, you’ll want pictures of those things to show your kids. But don’t worry . . . included in the PDF are instructions for finding clipart.
  2. Personalized tickets. I made tickets with pictures of my nieces and nephews on them. These are the cousins my kids hardly every see because they live all over the world. If you’d like me to personalize your tickets with pictures of your kids, family, dog, whatever . . . go here.
  3. Fun and creative tickets. I also created a bunch of fun themed tickets (animals, aliens, flowers, etc). I’ll be adding more in over the next few days.

That’s it, folks! Below I have an Appendix that tells you a few miscellaneous tips to make sure this works well for you and your family. If you want to read another popular blog post read my guide for creating a safe and secure Gmail account for your child.

If you are someone who wants to learn the fundamentals of blogging, join my Blogging Facebook group or get my Blogging 101 Course! 


  • For kids younger than 6, this is what I recommend:
    • Many of the jobs on our job board require some prep work. We call this the Picker-Upper job. This entails picking things up off the floor before vacuuming, clearing off the sink to be cleaned, taking things out of the shower before cleaning, etc. While our 4-year-old can sort of clean a sink or mirror, it’s not the greatest job and it’s a little bit above his capabilities. So we told him that his job is to be the helper. If one of the kids chooses to do a job that needs the Picker-Upper, that’s his job and we usually pay him about the same as the person that does the actual job.
  • Rules for the day:
    • All daily chores must be done before any jobs are done and before they can play. “Chores” include picking up their room, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, making their bed, etc.
    • In general, all jobs must be completed by lunch time.
    • They can only buy one of each special treat per day. We have not had to enforce this one yet but they may eventually have enough to buy 2 ice cream sandwiches and 2 popsicles in a day and we don’t want that, now do we? 🙂
  • Sharing privileges
    • If one child pays for 30 minutes of Wii time, he/she is welcome to invite siblings to play with, but it is not required. Same for Netflix or movie time. If one child wants to play/watch alone, the others cannot watch.
    • Children can combine their tickets to pay for a bigger ticket item like a movie in the basement.
  • We only use this system on Monday-Friday. Though if we find it would be useful to run it on the weekends we may adjust and do that.

get your kids to do chores

How to manage your email inbox without going crazy

Last week, I talked a little about my blogging goals for 2016. One of them is to blog once a week. Eek! To put that out there is a little scary. What if I fall short? Well since you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, I’m taking a shot and starting off the new year with a simple blog post. I hope to publish a new one each Monday. Enjoy the post and I hope you come back next week or subscribe here!

I am a communicator. I’m an over communicator. One of my mentors once said, “you can never over communicate.” As I grow older and wiser, I’ve found that to be true, much to the chagrin of the non-communicators in my life.

Folks, email is your friend, not your enemy. Email can help you stay on top of tasks assigned to you in an office and email can help you stay connected to your peers and colleagues. But your email inbox can swallow you whole if you don’t have a system in place to manage it. Here is the system I use to stay (mostly) on top of email:

1. Use multiple email addresses as needed. This may sound like more work, but it’s actually not. I treat my inbox like a filing cabinet. Each email addresses that I use is a folder within that filing cabinet. For me, that means I have 3 email acounts:

  • Shared email account-Both Jesse and I use this one. Honestly, it’s like our physical mail box. We mostly get email there from family and it’s the email address we use when signing up for any kind of email list, as well as all of our shared online accounts (bank accounts, credit cards, budgeting apps, insurance websites, etc). Signing up for that random new app I just downloaded? This is the email address I’ll give them.
  • Work email account-I was given an email account for my current role and I make sure I use that email address and only that email address to communicate about work related issues. At one point I was working for 2 different entities, but both were within the same larger organization. I had 2 seperate email addresses and yes, I used them accordinglty.
  • Personal account-This is the email address I use to manage my own consultant work and other things I’m involved with that don’t relate to Jesse. Voluntering at school with the kids’ classrooms, girlfriend email chats etc. Jesse does however have the password for that account and can access it at any time if he chooses. That’s for our own protection which is something I’ll cover in another post.

[Tweet “Check email 1-2 times a day and no more. -@juliermasson”]

Check email 1-2 times a day and no more.  I’ve recently fallen out of this habit and it’s caused me to be less efficient. I’ve wasted more time. This is the aspect of email management that has helped the most over the years. I generally try and check my email once or twice a day, but I only check it when I have time to handle it. This means that I’m sitting down with my computer in front of me and the only task at hand is reading my email. I’m not emailing and on Facebook. I’m not emailing and scheduling social media posts. I’m only doing email.

Once I’ve sat down to handle my email, I open up all unread emails one at a time and do do 1 of 3 things:

  • If I’ve been asked to do a task in the email, I determine if I can finish that task within the next 5 minutes and do it. If I can’t, I add it to my to-do list in my planner to do later, post-email time. Remember, all I’m doing at this moment is email.
  • If I’ve been asked a specific question, I respond to the email before moving onto another one. I don’t move onto another email until that email has been resolved. If an email requires a much longer response that will require quite a bit of thought and writing, I mark it as unread, and come back to it after I’ve completed my simple tasks.
  • I do nothing. Yes, sometimes you get an email that is simply informative. I try and follow appropriate email etiquette so if I’ve not been directly asked a question in a group email or if someone is just sending me an “FYI” email, I often do nothing. Unless of course someone sends me an FYI email that shows me they’ve done a lot of work and the appropriate thing to do is to write back and at least say “thanks” for all of the work they did in getting me that information.

Mark emails as unread if you don’t have time to deal with the contents. This is a big deal. If you open up an email, and realize you need to come back to it later (perhaps you added it to your to-do list for tomorrow), don’t leave it as “read.” Mark it as unread so you can come back to it later.

That’s my system. At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily have an empty inbox. But that’s not my goal. My goal is to manage my inbox. If I check my email multiple times a day in order to have an empty inbox, I’m actually creating more work for myself. When I only check my email in the morning and then again in the afternoon, there is a good chance that I’ll get more email that evening. But I can respond to those emails the next day during 1 of my email sessions. Speaking of responding . . . I try and make it a goal to respond within 24 hours during the work week, unless the email requires a more lengthy response. This shows the person emailing me that I value them and their work, and I want to stay connected to them.

[Tweet “If I check my email multiple times a day, I’m actually creating more work for myself.”]

What systems do you use to stay on top of email? Here’s one bonus tip-if you read email on your phone, be sure you make it as unread when you’re done so that when you sit down to manage your email, it doesn’t get lost in the “already read email pile.” Don’t let an email be marked as “read” unless you’ve resolved that email.