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Modern Journaling for Productivity

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

Dot journaling isn't the journaling of the past. While plenty of people still use journals to say "dear diary," modern journaling is much more than that - it's a method to get and stay organized.

Draw, create, plan, map, doodle, track - there are limitless ways to apply dot journaling.

Bullet and dot journaling have been around for nearly a decade, but it has been gaining traction over the past year thanks to its flexibility and user-friendly nature.

While there are strict forms of such journaling, the concepts behind it can be applied to so many jobs, hobbies and fields. Creatives, project managers, app developers, calligraphers and hand letterers, students and artists alike can find value in this new(er) style of journaling.

Design and use range from simple to complex, fully utilitarian to artfully crafted, here are just a few ways that dot journaling can can be used or structured:

Don't know where to start? We have a "How to start and stay with it" section that will walk you through some of the details.

Remember that nothing is permanent and if you're not using one aspect - get rid of it! If all you need is a line down the center to separate AM tasks from PM tasks, you do you.

Don't feel artistic enough? While there are some incredible, ornate, beautiful journals out there.. do not be intimidated by them! There is no artistic ability required. Remember this notebook is to help you accomplish whatever goal(s) you create.

Do you want to get and stay organized?

Do you want to create more structure during the work day?

Do you want an outlet for creativity?

Do you want to a space to create all sorts of to-do lists?

Do you want to work on hand writing or hand lettering skills?

Don't get bogged down with aesthetics, especially at the beginning. Also, if adding color isn't your jam, you don't need to make things colorful.


Basics of what you'll need:

Dot, grid or plain notebook - this is up to your preference. The dot style offers a great amount of flexibility in creating bounding boxes, spacing for lettering, and the ability to create grids for precision drawing. If you like to work 100% freely, a plain paper notebook might be the best option for you.

Most notebooks you will find come in three sizes:

B5: 176x250mm (6.9x9.8in)

A5: 148x210mm (5-7/8 x 8.25in)

A4: 210x297mm (8.3x11.7in)

Sticky notes: Sticky notes are one of our favorite ways to dress up any space with some color and also to help separate out information that needs to be highlighted. They are also great for those that get nervous about the permanent nature of putting pen to paper.

There are lots of different styles of sticky notes out there - lined, unlined, checklist inspired, grid-lined etc.

Markers and pens: Longing for the days of gel pens and scented markers? While we don't condone huffing markers, there are tons of versatile and beautiful markers out there. And we love to report that gel pens are BACK.

Our favorite markers are the Tombow Twintones. They are dual-tipped: one side is a thin marker and the other side is closer to a pen, which is perfect for fine line work and lettering.

We love Zebra's Sarasa Clip Gel pens. They are fun and can be used on both dark and light colored paper.

For creating crisp, deep black lines and lettering, the Zig Fude brush pen is elite. The brush-like tip has the ability to produce a variety of line thicknesses.

Highlighters: Great for adding accents, creating titles, sections and not shockingly - highlighting areas of attention.

Pro tip: for creating titles, lay the highlighter or background color down first and write on top of it. It will help prevent smudging if you are impatient.

Ruler: Free-handing is of course acceptable but for those that love crisp lines, having a ruler is a must.

Washi tape: Japanese colored or patterned paper tape is a great way to dress up or create sections on the page. It's also a great way to stick notes and pictures onto your pages.

You can also find functional washi tape that has numbers, months, activities etc. pre-printed on them so just unroll and stick for instant planning.

Stencils: There are a plethora of ways that stencils can be used in journaling. They can be used to create backgrounds, letters, lists, bounding boxes etc. They can also be used with several mediums including pens, markers and ink depending on the application.


How to start and stay with it:

We recommend you spend 15 mins at the beginning of every day setting up your sheet. It's a great way to get your to-do list in order and start your day in an organized and colorful (if you choose) way.

Over time you'll start to learn what works best for you.

Do you need to create time blocks for your schedule?

Do you need to separate to-do lists between personal and work? AM and PM?

Do you like to keep a tally of water intake?

Do you like to track your habits?

Do you like plenty of free space to draw, doodle, sketch?

Are you frozen by the permanency of journaling?

Start by using post it notes or taping in paper so that you can freely move around ideas, lists etc.

Are you lost by the openness of an entire notebook?

If you're someone who wants to do daily checklists and scheduling but also want separate pages for sketching, keeping a monthly calendar, or running lists for things like social media posts or product development, use page markers to section off your notebook.

Our biggest piece of advice: This is something that should add value to your life and help you be more productive. If there's an aspect that you dread - drop it. If there's something that is missing, look for inspiration from others on blogs, Instagram etc. for how you can achieve what you're looking for. Stick with it and those 15 minutes might become one of your favorite times of the day.


Ready to get started?

The Activity Hive offers two bundle types that are designed get you started. For those that want to test the water with the necessities for beginner journaling and planning, we have our Journaling and Planning Essentials Kit.

Essentials Kit includes:

  • One Rhodia 6x8" dot pad (Kit with a plain paper notebook)

  • Zig Fudegokochi Brush Pen

  • Tombow Twintone Marker Set 12/pkg - Brights

  • Marvy Uchida Pastel Liner Highlighter pack (6/pkg)

  • Alphabet Stencil Ruler in an assorted color (approximately 9" long)

  • 3 Lined Post-It Sticky Note pads (3x3")

  • 2 Full Stick Post-It Note pads in various colors

  • Day-to-Day Icons Stencil

  • Late Afternoon Calendar Washi Tape Set (5/pkg)

For the full experience, we also offer a Deluxe Planning and Journaling Kit. This includes everything found in the essentials kit plus a ton of other great items including an additional large format (A4) notebook, gel pens, stickers, designer sticky notes and grid paper.

Deluxe Kit includes:

  • Rhodia 8x12" dot pad

  • Rhodia 6x8" dot pad (Kit with a plain 8x5.5" plain paper pad)

  • Zig Fudegokochi Brush Pen

  • Tombow Twintone Marker Set 12/pkg - Brights

  • Marvy Uchida Pastel Liner Highlighter pack (6/pkg)

  • Alphabet Stencil Ruler in an assorted color (approximately 9" long)

  • 3 Lined Post-It Sticky Note pads (3x3")

  • 2 Full Stick Post-It Note pads in various colors

  • Day-to-Day Icons Stencil

  • Late Afternoon Calendar Washi Tape Set (5/pkg)

  • Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.5mm Fine Point Gel Ink Pens 8/pkg

  • Happy Planner Sticky Notes (160/pkg)

  • Grid Post-It Note pad (50 sheets)

  • Day-to-Day Planner Mini Sticker Book (166/pkg)


Helpful Productivity Tip:

If you're the type of person that likes to cross things off on to-do lists (as we are), long to-do lists can be both anxiety-inducing as well as super satisfying. Taking a tip from Scrum, a great way to use to-do lists is to create a master to-do list of big ticket items or overarching goals close to the front of your notebook. If you are familiar with Scrum, this is your personal "backlog."

Each day, bring over only one to two of those goals and break them down into specific tasks. For example, if your goal is "to connect with 5 new clients," break this down into:

1. Identify 5 new clients

2. Gather contact information for clients

3. Write form email

4. Send email to prospective clients

Not only do these major tasks become less intimidating, but the sense of accomplishment is much greater when you get to check things off on a list. Plus it provides a great roadmap of how to get from point A to point B.

Doing this also gives you a better grasp on time management. It's much easier to quantify how long it might take to perform each step than than it is to make a blanket statement on something that can be slightly more abstract such as "connect with 5 new clients."

At the end of each day or beginning of the next, reference your master list and check things off as needed and pull over any remaining tasks to the next day. Then repeat!


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