This Bullet Journal for work Q&A features Cory Ann Ellis, a South Dakota marketing professional at Montgomery’s and owner of her own commercial photography business, AC Ellis Photography.

BJP: We are pleased to welcome you, Cory, to our blog. Tell our Pro community a little about yourself, what you do and how long have you been a bullet journalist?

CAE: Thank you for inviting me! Let me start by saying that I am a wife, mother, chronic traveler (I’m currently in Beacon Hill in Boston) and professional.

It may be hard to understand what I do by my title alone. Titles do little to explain responsibilities. As the Brand and Marketing Manager for Montgomery’s, a 5th generation family-owned home fashions business, I am responsible for coordinating all our marketing efforts. Our department consists of me and a marketing assistant. This means that I am personally responsible for doing much of the day-to-day work for Montgomery’s.

Here are some of the things I do: media buys for print, TV and radio as well as graphic design for signage and print materials. I also take care of writing, magazine publishing, direct mail, newspaper inserts, photography, website design and management along with promotion development and training, social media, e-mail, co-op submissions, budgeting, strategic planning and … whew!

In addition to my role at Montgomery’s, I am also an entrepreneur. I’ve run my own photography and marketing business, AC Ellis Inc, since 2004. My company is still rolling strong. I have two excellent employees: a project manager and an associate photographer. In order to do my job well and still have time for my family, I have scaled back my shooting and enjoy training my project manager to manage the business and take on more of our marketing clients. For our marketing clients, we collaborate with them to provide whatever type of marketing they need. For our photography clients, we offer wedding, portrait, food, and different commercial photography services. Oh boy, writing it all down makes me tired!

For years, I have used notebooks, usually Moleskins, to take notes, create lists and reference material. Sometime this past February, I realized that the notebook I was using at that time – a Moleskin Evernote edition – only had about ten open pages remaining. I found myself going back and filling in all of the remaining open space in the journal and I also used Post-it® tabs along the top and side of the notebook. While I always had my reference information in the Moleskin, it was not an efficient process. So I began looking for a different notebook. I ordered about ten different notebooks from a variety of sources. I came across the Leuchtturm1917 and it was like a lightbulb went off when I saw the numbered pages and the index. Shortly after I purchased the Leuchtturm1917, I came across the bullet journal website by Ryder Carroll. And instead of a lightbulb, it was like Times Square! Why was I using numbers? Why was I using lines and not dotted pages? Why didn’t I create a system for my signifiers? It all came together at this point.

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My first entry into my notebook using the bullet journal system was March 23, 2016. This notebook is dedicated solely for my job at Montgomery’s. I have greatly enjoyed the process of bullet journaling and have now created a second notebook for my photography business. 

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BJP: Discuss with us your experience with both analog and digital planning and advantages of the bullet journal.

CAE: There are many tools that I’ve utilized over the years for planning. I designed methods to help me track whatever the job required. Until recently I didn’t realize that many of the systems I created had incredible similarities to some well-known systems like Kanban and GTD. I’ve started to research these methods to help fine-tune what I am currently using.

My system is a mix of a few different methods which are used for different purposes. In other words, I tend to use what works best for the job or project. Software programs I rely on include: Evernote, iCal, Spreadsheets (Numbers & Excel), Custom Content Calendars (InDesign), and OmniFocus.

BJP: You are relatively new to the bullet journal. What features of the bullet journal made it your choice to use as a professional photographer and marketer?

CAE: As I mentioned above, Ryder’s bullet journal system and the index were the features that won me over. These features are ideal for meetings, research and all of the random things that pop up on a regular basis. I know this is silly, but I liked that I didn’t need to jump around my notebook any longer and instead keep everything chronological. This means less wasted notebook space and it’s so easy to find my past notes.

BJP: Discuss how some of the basic principles from Ryder Carroll work or don’t work for professionals.

CAE: The fundamental principle of Ryder Carroll’s system that works for me is the Rapid Logging. The Bullets and Signifiers are excellent! I’ve adapted the Signifiers to work better with my responsibilities. I’ve found that many people using the bullet journal system have a notebook for personal use or perhaps to manage their activities as an entrepreneur. In my situation, with direct reports and coordinating with multiple departments, I required a slightly different approach.

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What doesn’t work for me, however, is the Future Log feature of the bullet journal. If I kept my Future Log in my bullet journal, I wouldn’t be able to share my commitments and tasks with my team. I keep my Future Log/Monthly Log in OmniFocus, Evernote and iCal. I do use the Monthly Log when I have some big events which block out entire days. The basis for my system is the Daily Log.

The migration system is important for many people, but I don’t want to spend time redoing my tasks every month. I’m a bit more strategic about items that go in my daily log and do not migrate tasks.

BJP: Tell us about some of the collections in your bullet journal or pages that are meaningful to you.

CAE: Oh boy, collections are one of my favorite aspects of the bullet journal. I’m often researching a topic and I love how I can just start making my research notes right there on the next page in my notebook. I transferred some my collections from my last Moleskin notebook and those are all lumped together at the front of my Leuchturrm1917. I’ve also extended my Indexes to include a unique Index especially for projects, article topics, etc.

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BJP: Where do you get your inspirations for your bullet journal?

CAE: I’ve looked for inspiration online, and, honestly so much out there is beautiful and colorful but not helpful for me in a professional/business setting. Journaling is not my hobby; it is a tool to help increase my efficiency with work so I can spend more time relaxing with my family. Although, I do admit to a recent obsession with fountain pens and I do enjoy writing with them in my notebook. My favorite blog is Kim Alvarez’s Tiny Ray of Sunshine. Her spreads tend to be clean and functional.

BJP: What would you like to see from this community of professionals?

CAE: I’d love to see how other people are hacking the system to make it work for them. Specifically those in positions/jobs that have employees or large teams. It might also be fun to see how people are integrating their systems with their digital world, like I do with my other programs.

Thank you so much Cory for your insights and beautiful photographs of your bullet journal. You are indeed a very busy and productive woman. I think I can hear your supervisors now telling you to “Get Back To Work!”

For more information on Cory, please follow her on Instagram or check out her photography work for your next project at www.acellisinc.com

About Todd Foutz

Hello Pros! I’m Todd Foutz, head of marketing and business development for an advertising agency. I write about people, like me, who use their Bullet Journal on the job, planning their busy days and nights and meeting their career goals and job requirements. My mission here is to unite and bring ideas to a community of professionals who use their Bullet Journals to be more successful on the job. Let’s go, Pros!
  • Really useful insights in to the mix of analog and digital for busy marketing professional. Thanks.

    • Hey thanks Paul! Very nice of you to say. Keep on reading. Lots of exciting articles come soon on Pros and the Bullet Journal.

  • Lauren P.

    I am following the professional bujo Facebook page and loving some of the ideas there. I am still struggling with the combination of personal/business/student role in the same notebook but I think it really detracts from the simplicity of this method if I had multiple notebooks. This way, if I’m in a work meeting and I think of something personal (don’t forget to pull chicken out to thaw when you get home), I can write it in the notebook I have with me. And if I’m at school and my mind shouts “don’t forget to call so and so about approving that final version” I just log it on my work to-do list in the same book. It’s only my 2nd month combining all of it and school just got added last week so we’ll see. Thanks for the inspiration and simplicity of design here. 🙂

    • I like your ideas, Lauren. I know that I’ve seen some Pros who have tabs on one notebook – dividing it into sections for Work, Home, Personal. Maybe that is an option for you as well. Appreciate your point of view and hope you will continue coming back for more ideas and networking!

  • Susan N.

    I started using the bullet journal in July, when I first discovered it. Got a black Moleskin at a local Barnes and Noble, with dots, and have been assiduously using it since.

    I love it so much, that I arranged to get one for work. It is a red Sigel Conceptum, and I carry both with me always. I work with technology, have many projects, lots of locations, lots of people, and lots of different groups to juggle.

    I don’t like mixing my work and home life. If I retired tomorrow, I can leave the bullet journal for whoever replaces me, and they’d start off with at least a good idea of what I’ve been doing. And because my job is so intense and takes up all the

    • Hi Susan and thanks for your comments. I love that like to keep it simple. You should check out some of the minimalist Bullet Journals that I’ve seen on Instagram and Facebook. You might like what some Pros are doing with their Bullet Journals. Enjoy!

  • Nancy Denzler Oglesby

    I keep personal and professional together and have a simple color tab system that quickly identifies projects, notes and collections. I color the previous day’s pages when I set up he current day. I do not carry anything other than my black Zebra 301 regularly. I also keep an index and have a daily/weekly routine task list I track. I appreciate the utter simplicity and don’t want to spend my time on making my journal fancy, just practical. I work from home, am a health coach, Juice Plus rep, writer and artist with ADHD (whew!). Bullet Journal has changed my life by uncluttering my mind and allowing for creativity.
    Oh, and I keep my calendar on my laptop and phone but use the Monthly page for events I might want to attend or notes for regular meetings coming up. I’ll clip something to share with a colleague there until the day of when I move it to the day. I use the Future log in the same way.

    • This looks really nice, Nancy. I like your comment about the simplicity of the Bullet Journal. That’s the big part of the appeal for Pros. Appreciate your comment!