Have you ever wondered what the fuss about dot paper is about? As a dot paper convert of many years I thought I would share my feelings on dot paper and give my top 3 reasons to switch to dot paper. You should at least give this new-fangled paper style a go. You never know, it may even win you over and leave you wondering how you ever coped with lined or grid paper.
What is dot paper anyway?
First up, a quick explanation for anyone wondering what dot paper even is. If you imagine a sheet of paper with horizontal and vertical lines, and at the point each line crosses another you place a fine mark, or dot. Remove all the lines once you’re done and what you’re left with is a series of regular dots. In almost all cases this will be a dot every 5mm, forming a grid.
Top dot reason number 1 – It’s the best of all worlds
Have you ever wanted your cake and eaten it? Faced with a choice do you ever long to take both? Or all three? Dot paper is just that – it’s three papers rolled up in one.
I’ll assume that everyone know what lined or ruled paper is, and those regular horizontal lines are. Ideal for regular and repetitive writing, but just a bit annoying when you want to draw, or make a table, or stick something in your book.
Grid paper is a bit more unusual but involves regular horizontal and vertical lines. I like grid paper but it makes for a lot of ink on the paper before you even started writing. The final result can be quite heavy and just too busy for my liking.
Plain paper is ideal for drawing or sketching, but with handwriting like mine you don’t want to be let loose on plain paper! My writing needs some guidance to keep it neat and tidy.
So faced with the need for a notebook that lets me write, create structures and draw I use dot paper. It really is the best of all three combined. The dots give enough of a framework to write neatly. They also allow me to make easy tables, and yet if I want to sketch something out they seem to fade into the background.
Top dot reason number 2 – It’s innovative
Maybe I shouldn’t be swayed by fanciful things like fashion and design, but there is a part of my mind that does like to seek out something new, something different. Not accepting the status-quo led us to paper and pens and notebooks in the first place, so dot paper is just one little step further in the advancement, and it’s a good one. So switch to dot because…well, just because it is there and (sort of) new and will make you feel like progress is happening. There is a reason why you will find all the top manufacturers including dot paper in their line up.
Top dot reason number 3 – It’s Bullet Journal friendly
Without getting bogged down in what Bullet Journaling is (see the official website here), I am keen on adapting elements of keeping a Bullet Journal to suit your own needs and style. You can read my explanation on this here on a previous post. The point being that dot paper is ideal because it lends itself so well to keeping a Bullet Journal. From using the dots to create boxes for to-do lists, through to adding tables and charts and logs, the flexible nature of dot paper is perfect. That’s why the official Bullet Journal uses dot paper.
Ultimately it comes down to finding the right paper for what you need and what you like, but I switched over some years back and have never gone back. From Rhodia to Leuchtturm I have been through many dot paper journals and look forward to many more yet. Try one if you haven’t and see for yourself.
It is not often we highlight the corporate work we do here at Bureau, but we recently produced our first order for branded Bullet Journals, and they looked so good we wanted to find out a bit more about the story behind them.
Founded in 2013, the Balance Network is a government-funded research project looking at how digital technologies affect our work/life balance. The pace of digital change is rapid and individuals cope differently; some struggle to adapt, feeling overwhelmed by constant connectivity. For others, technology offers tools and solutions to manage an increasingly demanding lifestyle.
The Balance Network project wanted to send out a ‘thankyou’ to their many collaborators who have helped run events, workshops and activities since the project started. They selected the official Bullet Journal in classic black, and we embossed the Balance Network logo on the front in silver foil.
Receiving an ‘analogue’ product might have seemed surprising to some of the Bullet Journal recipients, but we are finding premium stationery enjoying renewed demand in this digital age, as businesses and individuals see it as complementary to technology. Added to this, the methodology involved in Bullet Journaling has many parallels to digital apps for organising and note-taking, but the act of writing notes is quicker, more efficient and proven to be a better memory aid. Small daily pleasures like using a nice pen on quality paper should not be underestimated.
For any Balance Network collaborators who hadn’t heard of Bullet Journalling (often abbreviated to BuJo), the official Leuchtturm Bullet Journal includes an introduction to the method and a key to symbols. There is a plenty of information online, with websites, blogs and posts devoted to the subject (including the official Bullet Journal website, and our own post about getting started here). You can in fact use any notebook to BuJo (our favourites include Rhodia, Nuuna, Moleskine and of course Leuchtturm), and you can adapt the method to suit you.
You can visit the balance Network website to find out more about their research and sign up for regular news bulletins. Dr. Rosie Robison, senior research fellow at Anglia Ruskin University and co-leader of the Balance Network project, talks about work/life balance in the digital age on The Digital Mindfulness Podcast here.
Like what you see? If this has given you an idea for your company (or you didn’t know we could customise products), have a look at our dedicated corporate website www.bureaubusiness.co.uk, and get in touch!
Or…how I found a way to make bullet journals work for me
I have previously introduced the subject of Bullet Journals and how I personally found the system both appealing as a solution to becoming organised, but also how I found it too much work to actually do in any practical or useful way. Having found a way that works for me, here is a summary of what I do and I present this in the hope that it might inspire people to give it a go, and fine their own solution.
A Bullet Journal is a system for making and managing lists of what needs doing (click here to find out more);
I adapted it to make a more streamlined way of listing what I need to do and keeping on top of it;
I made it work for me because I know what I am like, and so what I am likely to actually follow and keep using.
Why I use a Bullet Journal system
Put simply, I found myself overwhelmed with too much to do and a list that never seemed to get any shorter. Important long-term aims would be lost in the chaos of daily tasks that built up. I wanted a way to:
Have an overall plan of where I wanted to be (or in my case where I wanted the business to be);
Keep track of what I needed to do to achieve this;
Be able to prioritise and ultimately get rid of unwanted tasks, or delay them until another day.
A pen, a notebook, a pen loop and some highlighters. Job done. In fact what I use is:
A Rhodiarama soft-cover dot-grid extra-large notebook – see more here
I set out my plans, from long-term to short-term so that I know what the overall aim is and what I need to do to achieve it. So I started with a list of what I felt we needed to achieve this year, anytime in the year. Big aims. About 20 of them currently. Things like ‘launch new website’. Which we are about to do.
I then set out a monthly to-do list – what I wanted or had to get done in that month. It can be a mix of big and small jobs, but it needs to be realistic. No point shoving everything into the list as it will crowd out what you need to get done. Some of the ‘year’ tasks were added to this list.
You might already be thinking it sounds like too much work, but it’s not hard really, and a bit of effort into the planning now pays off over the year. I am focused on what needs to be done.
After that, I start a new page each day and list what I need to get done, whilst adding new items that crop up.
Each month I do the same – I set out a new to-do list by reviewing the previous month’s list and seeing what I managed to do, or didn’t. I then check the ‘year’ to-do list for any items that I need to start work on, and add them to the monthly list.
I then scan through the daily pages and pick out all incomplete tasks, and either add them to the list (because they still need doing) or tick them off as being no longer needed or important. If it still needs doing but just not for the foreseeable future, just add it to the ‘year’ list.
I start each day and take maybe 2 minutes to plan out what I will do. A quick referral back to the previous list, sort out what still needs to be done, highlight it (see below on this), and then I make a 1-2-3 list. This is something I came across on a blog somewhere and it flicked a switch in my mind. Think of it in terms of saying ‘if I get nothing else done, what are the three most important things I must get done today?’. Of course some days you struggle to get to three, some days it’s impossible to limit it to three but the basic idea works for me. So my daily routine is:
Check previous day and highlight any incomplete tasks
Start a new page, date it at the top
List 1-2-3 and set out the most important tasks to do today
Build a list of to-do items below with tick boxes
Add any useful information such as a great idea and mark this accordingly
That’s it – below I explain the process for how I mark up items to keep on top of it all
Using the tools I set out earlier, I keep this to a minimal process. Each to-do item on any list has a simple square tick box. When the item is done, I tick it. Simple. If it’s not done, it’s not ticked.
If I have a great idea (yes, it does happen) then I note it down in the list and highlight it in green. Any useful information is marked with the orange highlighter. Which leads on to…
I use my trusty pack of Faber Castell highlighters and make good use of all four colours. This is how I can keep on top of everything very easily and I don’t know it would work for me without them.
Each day I look back at the previous day and highlight any incomplete item in yellow
Any completed item that was marked in yellow I go over in pink
Any idea I have (and there are a few!) gets marked in green
Any useful information or data I have noted down gets marked in orange
This means at a glance that I can see which items are still to do, and also scan through ideas I have had over the past few months for inspiration. I also mark off each day in pink at the top when it is fully ticked off, again so I can see what’s done.
So Why Is This Different To Bullet Journaling?
To be honest it probably isn’t that different – I use a system of lists of things that need to be done, day by day and month by month, review them, carry forward the ones I want and lose the rest. The difference as I see it is that a Bullet Journal in its truest form is quite a detailed process that involves marking out pages, using an index, carrying page numbers back and forth, using a detailed language to mark off items at different stages of progress, and more. This may work for you. It doesn’t for me. If you take out the monthly element of what I do you could create a truly streamlined to-do system although the monthly routine does help put regular checks in place. Without that I would drift from day to day and nine months would sail by.
If you, like me, are wishing you could find a way to stay organised and on top of everything you have to do then I would recommend giving this a go and finding a way that suits your personality – avoiding using a way of working that you know you will quit after a few weeks of well-meant endeavour! That’s why I dropped the idea of adding too much in like weather symbols and more which I know would give up on and it might have stopped the whole process.
For me, whatever the book it had to have dot-grid paper. It gives enough structure on the page to let you use it for lines or grids, for writing or for tables. It also allows enough ‘white paper’ to let you draw when the time comes. Most importantly it means I can keep myself to one notebook and not have several on the go for different purposes. All my important notes are in one book.
I did use a Leuchtturm A4 Master Book – gorgeous and serious, but it stayed at work as it was too heavy to carry. I then had a Leuchhtturm A5 medium-size version which I loved, but the new extra-large Rhodiarama books give just that bit more space, which I missed with an A5 book. I should point out that I only recently stopped using the Leuchtturm A5 book and I am still deciding whether I like the Rhodiarama book more or less. Look out for a head-to-head review before the month is out.
The pen loop means no fumbling for a pen when you need it. Sounds obvious until you need a pen. That said, you do need to put your pen back in the loop each time…
Faber Castell Highlighters
These are the glue that binds my system together. Any ones will do, but Faber Castell make really good ones (award winning!) and there is a pack of 4 meaning enough colours for my needs.
I would highly recommend using a new page for each day as it helps stay more organised. I also mark each day as completed so it is easy to see which days are done. It may use up the book faster but I prefer it.
Projects and Other Subjects
If I am working on a specific project or theme then I use a page for that purpose as it really helps to keep all the to-do’s related to it in one place.
Page Numbers and Indexes
The one big advantage of the Leuchtturm notebooks is that they come with an index and page numbers. So if I have made notes on a project I can note the page number in the index and then one day when I am thinking ‘where were those notes on such and such?’ I can find them easily. You could make your own page numbers and index in any notebook, but this is where I get a bit bored with the time the whole process can take.
Another reason to use Leuchtturm books is that they come with stickers for the cover and spine so that you can archive it away, marking up the dates and that way it’s easy to find again.
This little marvel can be useful too. Just use it to mark page edges to act as a permanent page marker – maybe for the start of each month, or ideas or important notes. A huge range covers everything from plain to patterns to designs.