Why you (and your kids) should give BUJO a go

Blog, On productivity

“What have you done today?”

I ask my 10-year-old son this question at the end of his (at-home) school day.

“Uhm …” he starts, sheepishly. Directly translated, this means “absolutely nothing, except watch YouTube videos about the Nintendo Switch”. I shudder at the thought of hovering over him the following day to make sure he gets things done. 

In a world full of distractions and seemingly endless tasks, it’s not easy for adults to get things done either. I get it.

That’s why I swear by the bullet journal (BUJO) method. 

And so, to avoid the hellish hovering I had envisaged, I share my secret with my son.

His verdict?

“Before my mom showed me the BUJO method, I was a slacker. Now, I’ve finished all my work for the day and I’ve already planned my day for tomorrow.”

Why does this system work so well for kids?

Teaching kids to write down their goals helps them to see their progress and take responsibility for their own productivity. It’s a known fact that if you write your goals down,  you are 42 percent more likely to achieve them. Kids have big dreams – I say encourage this from an early age. 

So what is the BUJO method?

The bullet journal is a planner system devised by Ryder Carrol. There’s a really cool video to explain it in detail, but put simply in the creator’s words, it’s a way to “track the past, order the present and design the future.” 

And what makes it different from other planning systems?

All it is is a simple paper journal. No tech required. Its unique feature is the different types of bullet points used, which indicate tasks, events, notes etc. Also, it has a key and index, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. 

So far, my son is using the BUJO method simply to keep track of his school tasks and events. But the system is so flexible that eventually, he can use it to record the books he reads or create a collection for his big dream to buy a Nintendo Switch console. He can even plan his own birthday party for when lockdown finally ends.

Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance content writer and editor

I help traditional and digital publishers deliver engaging and informative content that resonates with their readers. Internationally qualified writer and editor with 14 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com

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Word for today: Kanban

Blog, On language, On productivity


Those of you who’ve worked with me before will know that I’m a Trello evangelist: I must have my tasks visible at all times in order to see my workflow and I particularly love getting others in on the game. Trello is an app based on a productivity system called Kanban. Taking my process one step further, I recently read Kanban guru Jim Benson’s book, Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life. And so my word for today is, (drum roll please):



(n) A Japanese manufacturing system in which the supply of components is regulated through the use of an instruction card sent along the production line.

The word came into use in the 1950s  when Toyota began using an engineering process based on supermarket shelf-stocking techniques. The Toyota team had noticed that in supermarkets, grocery items were only restocked according to the shop’s inventory and not according to its vendors’ supply; only when an item was almost sold out, did shop clerks order more. This observation made Toyota engineers rethink their own processes and they pioneered a new system – Kanban – which aimed to match inventory with demand and achieve higher levels of quality.

Kanban, which literally means ‘billboard’ or  ‘sign’ in Japanese, allowed Toyota line-workers to visually manage their manufacturing process through the use of Kanban cards. This visual system allowed them to communicate better about the work that needed to be done and most importantly, it eliminated waste thus maximising value.

Essentially, Kanban is a visual system for managing work as it moves through a process. Its goal is to identify potential bottlenecks in work processes and to fix them so that work can flow through the system in a cost-effective and time-efficient way. Today, it’s become a major tool in software development processes, but I find it works just as well in the world of publishing.

Example sentence: Perhaps you’d like to use Kanban to help streamline your own workflow.

Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content. I am an internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience, specialising in education, lifestyle and literacy.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com


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If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t) and you’re passionate about publishing, let’s schedule a meeting to discuss the industry.




The 7 rules of laundry and lists

Blog, On productivity

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Nothing makes my life feel more unmanageable than the sight of our family’s overflowing laundry basket. I just want to drop everything I’m doing to fix the problem.

The same is true of my to-do-list. On a daily basis, it’s bursting at the seams and left unattended, it also has the power to overwhelm. But like my laundry basket, I know that I can’t possibly crack the whole thing in one day.

And so I got to thinking about what I could learn from the way I manage my laundry basket when it comes to keeping my to-do-list in check.

Here are my seven rules:

1. Items must be in one place to be part of the cycle

If dirty clothes are to have a hope of getting washed and returned to their rightful place in the wardrobe, they must be in the laundry basket. This is where the cycle starts. Not on the floor next to the bed, or at the bottom of the kids’ school bags. Dirty clothes all need to be in one place.

To-do-lists are much the same. There’s no point having a hundred lists all over the place, or a multitude of colourful sticky notes on the wall that seem to drift away and find shelter behind bookshelves and in bins. They have to live in one safe place. This is why I like Trello. I get to have all my task boards neatly confined to a tab on my computer screen, accessible from my phone and other devices when I’m not at my desk.

2. Items must be grouped for clarity

Clothes need to be sorted before they get washed. Dark and light colours shouldn’t be washed together; some clothes must be washed at lower temperatures; others need the delicate cycle. The same is true of to-do-lists and tasks. Work tasks are not the same as the things I need to do at home.

Being a work-from-home mom, I’m often guilty of blurring the lines between home and work, but if I categorise my lists accordingly, it goes some way to keeping the boundaries intact. I’m either working on a work to-do-list or my at-home one, never both at the same time – it’s confusing. And when it comes to laundry, I wouldn’t want the colours to run…

3. There must be a clear meaning of ‘done’ for each item

From laundry basket to wardrobe, there is a clear cycle of events. Clothes get sorted, washed, hung out to dry, folded or ironed and packed away. When I stick something onto my to-do-list, I need to think about its life cycle too. It’s a way for me to consider what it will take to complete that task. If I don’t get clear about what ‘done’ means for this task, it could lurk on my list forever, cluttering the space, threatening overflow and that inevitable feeling of overwhelm that accompanies it.

4. Part of the sorting process requires prioritisation

Usually, if there are so many darks in the basket that they won’t all fit in the washing machine at once, I have to choose what will go in first. So I must think about what needs to be washed as a priority. Can these jeans wait another day or will I need to wear them again this week? And also, do my son’s worn-once pyjamas really need to be washed again?

Seriously, these are the kinds of questions I ask about my laundry – I need to have the same dogged focus with my tasks. Some tasks shouldn’t even be there – they’re not important today, maybe ever. Do I really need to go grocery shopping today since I have a  work deadline? Actually, that brings me to my next rule, often harder to achieve than any of the others …

5. It’s okay to delegate

With two children, a husband, a home and a steady stream of publishing clients, I have a lot to do. So here’s the thing: I have help. I have a cleaner who comes twice a week to clean my house AND help with the laundry. It’s a necessary part of my work-from-home lifestyle, otherwise I would spend most of my precious time while the kids are at school distracted by the housework, and then have to claw back the hours late at night when the kids are in bed. It’s a very bleak alternative.

Very slowly, I’m learning to apply the same rule to other tasks on my to-do-list and asking for help more often. It’s hard to let go of the controls and accept that I can’t do it all, but over the years I’ve come to realise that I’m only one person and there are only so many balls I can juggle without dropping a few.

6. Don’t ignore it. Just keep going

Because I have help with the laundry, it doesn’t mean I don’t have to worry about it on the five days that our cleaner isn’t here. As the days go by and clothes get worn and towels get wet, the laundry pile gets higher. If just one day goes by and a laundry load hasn’t been done, things can get horribly out of hand. Laundry waits for no one. And this is true of my to-do-list too. Every day I have to tackle some of my tasks. With one done, I can move on to the next. I have to just keep going, one task at a time.

7. Have a limit

Though I have an outdoor washline and a clothes horse for hanging laundry indoors, I have only so much space to hang washing. There is also only so much time I can devote to laundry on any given day. That’s why I’ve set a daily laundry limit for myself, especially when it’s just me on the job. One load. That’s my limit. With my to-do-list, a limit means that I allocate no more than three major tasks and three minor ones for the day and once I’ve completed those, I stop, I do a little something for me, spend time with my family and just connect with my life, the real reason why I do all this stuff in the first place.

So tomorrow when I sort the laundry, I’ll give a thought to my day’s to-do-list. I’ll remind myself that just as I might only ever get a fleeting glimpse of the bottom of our laundry basket, my work as a mom will never be done; there will always be something on the to-do list still to do. And that if a job hasn’t been earmarked for today’s load… well, there’s always tomorrow’s.


Written by Melissa Fagan, freelance non-fiction editor

I help non-fiction publishers deliver award-winning content using a creative and flawless approach to editing. Internationally qualified non-fiction editor with 11 years’ publishing experience.

Email me: melissa.fagan@mfedit.com


If you liked this post (or even if you didn’t) and you’re passionate about publishing, let me treat you to a coffee so we can discuss the industry. Contact me at melissa.fagan@mfedit.com or 082 5002612