Posted in Techniques

Building a Bullet Journal using Microsoft Word

When working on putting together a productivity solution we often go looking for a preconstructed application that does everything. Well, we go looking…we don’t often succeed. With that in mind, I decided it was worth trying to use one of the most common tools in our arsenal, Microsoft Word, to implement a version of the Bullet Journal system.

As usual, I placed some strict requirements on my solution:

  • The implementation had to work on the desktop as well as the web version of Microsoft Word

  • It had to allow for tracking tasks as well as general notes

  • It had to support collections

  • It needed to be able to be set up on the fly (no pre-downloaded templates required)

  • It had to be simple enough for anyone to implement

Based on those requirements, I was able to create a very serviceable version of the Bullet Journal methodology using Word.

Step 1 – A blank page

There aren’t any special features that need to be enabled in Word for this implementation, but you do need to turn on the Navigation Pane view. This can be done from View > Navigation Pane. The Navigation Pane creates a dynamic table of contents based on the use of the header styles in Word. We’ll talk more about header styles in a bit.

Step 2 – Create a Heading

For my first heading, I added a Section for Daily Notes for today. Nothing fancy here…just type it in. The trick is once you’re done keying, press Ctrl-Alt-1 on your keyboard (sorry Mac users, I don’t know what your keyboard shortcut is so you may have to use the ribbon bar to apply the Header 1 style). Ctrl-Alt-1 applies the Heading 1 style to the text. 

The visual style changes making it easy to call out on the page AND the line now shows up in the Navigation View. Skipping one line I pressed Ctrl-Enter to insert a page break and I was done my first section.

Step 3 – Create a Collection

Since I have a number of projects in flight it made sense to add a Collection for the project information. After the page break I added in step 2 I entered a title for the collection and applied the Heading 1 style again. Next, I started to add some of my notes for the project.

Step 4 – Dealing with Tasks

Some of the notes I captured were actual tasks so I needed a way to not only identify them as such but also be able to mark when they were completed as well as find them in the journal. The simple solution was to begin each task with a [] (double square bracket). This way they were easy to pick out visually on the page. You can see from the image below what this wound up looking like.

Putting it to use

Now that the basic structure was in place, could start using the Navigation Pane to move from section to section in the document by just clicking on the title in the Navigation Pane.

TIP – This part works even better on the desktop in Print View because Word scrolls right to the Header making each section look and act as truly separate pages.

Where this started to come into its own is when I used the search box in the Navigation Pane to locate all the tasks in the document by searching for “[]”. You can see what happens below:

The search term not only finds the items in the document, but Word highlights them AND shows them specifically in the Navigation Pane making access to the tasks quick and easy.

This is just the beginning of a Bullet Journal style implementation in Word. I’m going to keep working with this to refine and add features but you can see within a few minutes you can be up and running with your own Word Journal.

Posted in Uncategorized

Building a Bullet Journal using Microsoft Word


When working on putting together a productivity solution we often go looking for a preconstructed application that does everything. Well, we go looking…we don’t often succeed. With that in mind, I decided it was worth trying to use one of the most common tools in our arsenal, Microsoft Word, to implement a version of the Bullet Journal system.

As usual, I placed some strict requirements on my solution:

  • The implementation had to work on the desktop as well as the web version of Microsoft Word
  • It had to allow for tracking tasks as well as general notes
  • It had to support collections
  • It needed to be able to be set up on the fly (no pre-downloaded templates required)
  • It had to be simple enough for anyone to implement

Based on those requirements, I was able to create a very serviceable version of the Bullet Journal methodology using Word.

Step 1 – A blank page
There aren’t any special features that need to be enabled in Word for this implementation, but you do need to turn on the Navigation Pane view. This can be done from View > Navigation Pane. The Navigation Pane creates a dynamic table of contents based on the use of the header styles in Word. We’ll talk more about header styles in a bit.
Step 2 – Create a Heading
For my first heading, I added a Section for Daily Notes for today. Nothing fancy here…just type it in. The trick is once you’re done keying, press Ctrl-Alt-1 on your keyboard (sorry Mac users, I don’t know what your keyboard shortcut is so you may have to use the ribbon bar to apply the Header 1 style). Ctrl-Alt-1 applies the Heading 1 style to the text. 
The visual style changes making it easy to call out on the page AND the line now shows up in the Navigation View. Skipping one line I pressed Ctrl-Enter to insert a page break and I was done my first section.
Step 3 – Create a Collection
Since I have a number of projects in flight it made sense to add a Collection for the project information. After the page break I added in step 2 I entered a title for the collection and applied the Heading 1 style again. Next, I started to add some of my notes for the project.
Step 4 – Dealing with Tasks
Some of the notes I captured were actual tasks so I needed a way to not only identify them as such but also be able to mark when they were completed as well as find them in the journal. The simple solution was to begin each task with a [] (double square bracket). This way they were easy to pick out visually on the page. You can see from the image below what this wound up looking like.

Putting it to use

Now that the basic structure was in place, could start using the Navigation Pane to move from section to section in the document by just clicking on the title in the Navigation Pane.

TIP – This part works even better on the desktop in Print View because Word scrolls right to the Header making each section look and act as truly separate pages.

Where this started to come into its own is when I used the search box in the Navigation Pane to locate all the tasks in the document by searching for “[]”. You can see what happens below:

The search term not only finds the items in the document, but Word highlights them AND shows them specifically in the Navigation Pane making access to the tasks quick and easy.

This is just the beginning of a Bullet Journal style implementation in Word. I’m going to keep working with this to refine and add features but you can see within a few minutes you can be up and running with your own Word Journal.

Posted in Techniques

Using OneNote for Bullet Journaling

There’s a lot of interest in using digital tools for bullet journaling and OneNote is one of the more flexibly designed ones on the market. I thought I’d challenge myself to see if I could apply bullet journal methods to OneNote to organize a project I am working on. Here’s what happened…

Setting the requirements

First, let’s look at the requirements. I decided for this experiment I would use only OneNote on my Android (LG G4) phone and a Bluetooth keyboard. The same results could be obtained without the keyboard, but I found it lent itself to longer and more complete note-taking.

To begin, I created a note for the project as an overall capture point. As I entered text I used a bulleted structure with tabs to create an organizational outline for my notes as I proceeded. The process was simple enough and I was able to capture all the information I needed quickly and efficiently as I moved through the first steps of my effort.

Making decisions on how to manage tasks

When I encountered my first recordable task is also where I hit my first decision point. Should I create a separate list for all the tasks to make them easier to track or should I embed them in the outline I had already been creating? You can make arguments on both sides of the equation, but I decided to go with the one that created the minimum amount of work and rework. By tapping on the To Do icon at the top I was able to create a task right on the bulleted item I was working with and then track it’s execution by tapping on the checkbox when it was complete. Quick and simple.

As my work progressed I did encounter some problems. Since you cannot collapse outlines in Android I wound up with a lot of vertical scrolling to keep track of all the items I had marked for completion. Also because of the odd way OneNote handles the horizontal scrolling of pages I found it wasn’t quite as smooth as I would like when it came to moving around the page.

Reviewing work done and yet to be done

In looking back at my notes today from yesterday, it is very easy to see what was accomplished and what remains to be accomplished. The mechanism works well for recording and tracking items to be done though I do have my doubts about the embedded tasks when it comes to future reference of outstanding items.

The work will continue with OneNote today for reference and tracking and I’ll see if it can hold up to multiple parallel projects without my losing track of any of the information I capture. In the back of my mind I know I always have the web safety valve to access the content, but I’m curious to see just how far I can take the Android only approach for now.

Posted in Uncategorized

Using OneNote for Bullet Journaling

There’s a lot of interest in using digital tools for bullet journaling and OneNote is one of the more flexibly designed ones on the market. I thought I’d challenge myself to see if I could apply bullet journal methods to OneNote to organize a project I am working on. Here’s what happened…

Setting the requirements

First, let’s look at the requirements. I decided for this experiment I would use only OneNote on my Android (LG G4) phone and a Bluetooth keyboard. The same results could be obtained without the keyboard, but I found it lent itself to longer and more complete note-taking.

To begin, I created a note for the project as an overall capture point. As I entered text I used a bulleted structure with tabs to create an organizational outline for my notes as I proceeded. The process was simple enough and I was able to capture all the information I needed quickly and efficiently as I moved through the first steps of my effort.

Making decisions on how to manage tasks

When I encountered my first recordable task is also where I hit my first decision point. Should I create a separate list for all the tasks to make them easier to track or should I embed them in the outline I had already been creating? You can make arguments on both sides of the equation, but I decided to go with the one that created the minimum amount of work and rework. By tapping on the To Do icon at the top I was able to create a task right on the bulleted item I was working with and then track it’s execution by tapping on the checkbox when it was complete. Quick and simple.

As my work progressed I did encounter some problems. Since you cannot collapse outlines in Android I wound up with a lot of vertical scrolling to keep track of all the items I had marked for completion. Also because of the odd way OneNote handles the horizontal scrolling of pages I found it wasn’t quite as smooth as I would like when it came to moving around the page.

Reviewing work done and yet to be done

In looking back at my notes today from yesterday, it is very easy to see what was accomplished and what remains to be accomplished. The mechanism works well for recording and tracking items to be done though I do have my doubts about the embedded tasks when it comes to future reference of outstanding items.

The work will continue with OneNote today for reference and tracking and I’ll see if it can hold up to multiple parallel projects without my losing track of any of the information I capture. In the back of my mind I know I always have the web safety valve to access the content, but I’m curious to see just how far I can take the Android only approach for now.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Midori Travelers Notebook, Bullet Journaling, and Back to School

Here’s some ideas as we head back to the new school year for ways you can apply bullet journaling and a Midori Traveler’s Notebook to keep things under control.

Collections and More Collections

There are literally dozens of things we need to keep track of when it comes to a child in school. Create a collection for each of those areas (sport, extra-curricular, scholastic, etc.) to keep vital information at easy reach. 

Weekly Bullet Lists

Take some time at the end of the week to update your bullet journal with the things you need to take action on over the next week.  Yes, they can be put into your phone / digital device of choice but when it comes down to it demonstrating good habits of organization and follow-up are as important for our children.

Monkey see, monkey do

Show your children how they can use a bullet journal style system to keep track of their work and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Committees everywhere

We so often get volunteered onto committees at school. Using your Traveler’s notebook and collections for each committee, you can keep track of details and what needs to be done when, such as those six-dozen cupcakes you now have to bake.

Go big

A Midori Traveler’s notebook can handle up to five inserts so if you use one for each child (if you have more, you may wind up with two…bless your heart) you can keep things sorted but still together.

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook and the Bullet Journal system or derivatives are a great way to get the year started off right and keep it on track week in and week out.