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Task Migration vs. Procrastination: Do You Know the Difference?

Task migration in a bullet journal is a simple concept that’s also vital to managing your to-do lists. But how can you tell if you’re simply procrastinating? Or (horror of horrors) you could lose track of bullets along the way. Here are my favorite tips to optimize your task migration. 

Task Migration the right way. Better productivity in a bullet journal.

Task migration the right way. Better productivity in a bullet journal.

|Task Migration vs. Procrastination: Do You Know the Difference?|

One of my favorite parts of Bullet Journaling is the ability to manage life’s tasks all in one place.

I used to juggle a digital calendar, a pre-printed planner (because I’m terrible at digital calendars), a blank notebook for note-taking (no index, no system. Scary, right?), and a stack of sticky notes for short to-do lists. I can’t explain what I was thinking at the time.

Here’s how it usually went down:

  • I forgot about tasks that floated into “Digital-land”.
  • Left the sticky note with the grocery list on the kitchen counter.
  • Couldn’t find the page of my notebook that had important notes.
  • Then I tried to cram as many notes as possible into a tiny square of my planner because: I forgot about the tasks in Digital-land, left the sticky notes on the kitchen counter, and the notebook was a blackhole of random thoughts.

See what I mean? Keeping everything in a single notebook made life so much easier. If you’re new to this whole Bullet Journal thing, you can learn the basics >>HERE<<.

Productivity Resources

I started taking an active interest in productivity about a year and a half ago (around the same time I upgraded to my first Leuchtturm1917 notebook). Before we talk about migrating tasks, I feel it’s important to also learn strategies to accomplish tasks. I recommend a few books on the subject:

  • Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy —This one is for my fellow procrastinators out there.
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen — Don’t try to listen to the audiobook. I tried, it was a mess. Then I got the paper version and it was fantastic.
  • You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero — I value humility, but man, I was fired up and ready to tackle the world after I read this book!

Now that you’re learning how to get things done, we can move on to how you can organize and manage your tasks.

The Basics

Most people understand how to migrate from day to day. Just in case, let’s run through the basics. I put together a very simple mockup so you aren’t distracted by the other bells and whistles on my dailies.

I brainstorm my Monday task list, put a star next to my top priorities, and cross things off as I get them done. Easy, huh?

Task migration the right way. Better productivity in a bullet journal.

I took care of my priority tasks, but I have two bullets left: Finishing laundry, and testing Injoy Gel Pens in my journal. Please, don’t be jealous of my glamour-filled life.

On Monday evening, those leftover bullets are migrated to Tuesday. I write them under Tuesday’s daily header, then mark them with the right-facing arrow to show I’ve migrated them.

Task Migration the right way. Better productivity in a bullet journal.

Now, I won’t forget to finish laundry and play with gel pens on Tuesday, and I can get on with the rest of my list. Ta da! You know the basics. This same process applies to moving tasks between different spreads of your journal. That’s where things start getting fuzzy for many folks.

Task Migration vs. Procrastination

There are many good reasons to migrate a task. Maybe something urgent or unexpected happened: A family emergency, complications at work, or extreme weather conditions. Maybe you start a task only to discover you don’t have the resources to complete it. Hey, that’s life! It happens to all of us. Re-prioritize your tasks for the next day and move one.

Let’s take this post for example. I had planned to publish it yesterday (Tuesday is one of my regular posting days). Alas, my tiny human germ factories brought home a virus that knocked me off my feet for 3 days. After 45 minutes of staring blankly at my computer screen, I realized sleep was a much better use of my time. I migrated my bullets for the day and gave my body the rest it needed.

Procrastination is something entirely different. You know how it goes. The bullet is right there at the top of your list, but you jump to the bottom, looking for a bullet that’s an easy kill. Your eyes somehow refuse to look at the bullet that should be your top priority that day. At the end of the day, the task gets pushed. And the next day, and the next day. That my friend, is procrastination.

Be on the lookout as you migrate tasks through your journal.

Task Migration the right way. Better productivity in a bullet journal.

My “Big to Small” Approach

Whenever I move tasks around in my journal, I try to move tasks from big to small. What do I mean by that? The photo above shows how I migrate through my core pages.

I like to think I’m zooming in on life as I move through the journal. I go from “Big Look” Future Planning pages to “Small Look” Daily planning pages. My regular migration order goes Future Planning –> Monthly Spread –> Weekly Spread –> Daily Task List. Each time I move to a smaller level, the task list becomes more detailed.

If you find migration stressful, I encourage you to make a spread like this one. You can use it as a kind of checklist to keep yourself on track.

Task migration the right way. Better productivity in a bullet journal.

Daily Migration

Each night, I review my progress on the day’s tasks and make my list for the next day. Most likely, I have some bullets left over that need attention.

I follow Ryder Carroll’s advice (bulletjournal.com). Look at each bullet and ask, “Is this worth my time?” If your answer is “Yes,” migrate the task to the next day. Prioritize it against the other things you need to do that day.

If the task doesn’t do anything for you, it’s clutter. Get rid of it. Scram. Adios. Get outta my life. Dead bullet walking. Now, to be completely honest, this is the part I struggle with. Somehow, I’ve conditioned myself to believe that I have to accomplish everything on the list. But it’s not mindful or productive to allow busywork to control me.

If that sounds like you, make sure you give yourself permission to get rid of tasks. Your time is better spent on the bullets that will make an impact on your life. I need that reminder for myself, also.

Tips to Optimize Task Migration in Your Bullet Journal

Task migration the right way. Better productivity in a bullet journal.

  • Be consistent when marking bullets: There’s no right or wrong way to mark your bullets. Some people draw squares and color them in, some people use an “X” or check mark. I stay pretty close to the original Bullet Journal method. If that doesn’t float your boat, develop a way of marking bullets that works for you.The only thing that matters is being consistent. It will help you understand your own notes.  It’s a a good idea to keep a key in your journal outlining your system.

Sign up for my newsletter and grab the printable key above (and many more free resources in the Page Flutter Vault).

  • Migrate in the same order each time: This goes hand-in-hand with what I was talking about with the “Big to Small” approach. I’m much less likely to lose track of tasks if I move them in a consistent manner. The habit keeps me organized.
  • Ask yourself “Why?”: Why does this bullet matter? Really take a moment to think about whether it is still worth your time. I struggle with this one, but getting rid of useless tasks is as important as accomplishing them.
  • Experiment with timing: When I first started bullet journaling, I migrated every bullet each day. There are advantages to this approach because it forces you to “sanitize” your bullets each day. If they’re not important enough to write down again, they’re not worth keeping. After my first few months of bullet journaling, I began abbreviating my migration. Rather than moving bullets every single night, I leave them in place and add new tasks to the next day’s list. That way I can quickly see which Monday tasks I still haven’t done on Thursday. I can migrate and compile remaining bullets when I flip to the next page.  You’ll find the migration method that works for you as you settle into the practice of writing out tasks lists each day.
  • Crush the “Lurkers”: If you’ve migrated the bullet day after day, week after week, you’ve got a lurker. These sinister little bullets remind you of what you’re NOT getting done. Get rid of them. Either do it, or take it off your list. If it were really that important, you would have done it by now.

**Above all, remember that migration is about actively engaging with the tasks in your life, not brushing them aside. Moving a task to a new day means re-affirming its importance. By eliminating trivial tasks you also make time for the things that really matter.

Did I miss your top task migration pitfalls? When it comes to missing tasks, lurking bullets, or never-ending tasks lists, I want to know what ails you! 

Brainstorm with me!

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Megan Rutell
Megan Rutell
Writer & Creative Blogger
Megan Rutell is the blogger behind Page Flutter. She's also a writer, stationery lover, Air Force veteran, and homesick Colorado girl.