The Ultimate Lab Bullet Journal

In today’s blog post, I am presenting you the ultimate lab bullet journal. Perhaps you have already stumbled across the term bullet journal or maybe not. Either way, I will quickly introduce you to this term so that you can get a clear picture of what does it mean. A bullet journal is a personal analoge method composed of short-sentences and minimalistic figures that help you journal the past, the present, and the future. The organizational method was developed by Ryder Carroll.

I have started bullet journaling quite a long time ago and since I have seen many immediate improvements of keeping track of my personal life, I have designed one for laboratory purposes exlusively. As many of you know, my masters’ thesis consists of experimental studies on the adaptation of microalgae to different light intensities and photoperiods. Every day I go to the laboratory and track literally everything going on in there. I have definitely seen a change and, most importanly, a progress in keeping my notes, thoughts and doubts organised this way.

Throughout the whole experience, I have slightly re-designed the layouts of my bullet journal from month to month and finally found what best works for me. Therefore, it might not be the same for and you are welcomed to twist it as much as you want – either through adding stuff or taking out some layouts. Now, are you ready?

I am going to guide you through the month of December, represented down below.

1. Monthly log. I like to have a clear picture of the up-coming days. It helps me see all my plans from a more general perspective. I usually write words like: seminar, exam, experiment, meeting, project (start or finish), etc.. For instance, I already know that my university closes for the Christmas holidays on Wednesday 23th, so I will write “uni closed” in that box and trace a line going though all the following boxes up to the end of closure.

2. Brain dump & Rolling log. On the following two pages, I often make a brain dump section, in which I write all the ideas for my experiments and the relative questions. In order to keep it odd and funny, I like to make schemes with sketches, crosswords, use different fonts to distinguish the ideas, etc.. In a few words, the brain dump is literally a depository for everything going on in my head (related to lab work).

The rolling log section is made up of a more detailed monthly log that I update week after week. With my selective memory, I prefer to use a simple figure legend at the bottom of the page so that I differentiate among different things. I use a dot (.) for the task, which I cross when the task is complete, line through when the task is deleted or add an arrow (>) when the task is moved either to the next week or month. I keep a minus (-) for notes, a circle for an event, a triangle to memorize something and an exclamation point (!) for the important stuff. I have made a quick example below. As much as it seems stupid, the rolling log helps me get a finer perspective of each week of that month and also helps me keep it real, so that I do not forget what I have done and what still awaits to be checked.

3. Weekly log. Next is the weekly log, which is an even more detailed picture of what is going on throughout a specific week. I divide it into the five days (from Monday to Friday), when I go to the lab and then I leave a plus section for the up-coming weekly log. I write short notes under each day. For example, I would write the experiments I have done during the day and the file names of the data analyses I have obtained. If I have a meeting with my supervisior and they want me to do something in the next week, I write it down in the plus section.

4. Daily notes, observations, ideas, results. These blank pages serve me as a proper laboratory notebook. I simply write the day and date, highlight with a glowy colour and then write all the details of experiments, data obtained, data analysed, calculations, double-write the file names saved on my computer, as well as observations (whether an experiment went wrong or not with different hypotheses), additional ideas that pop into my mind instantly and doubts that I might have about a certain experiment outcome. I usually leave as much space as needed for this section because I know that there are some more intense weeks than others. When I finish the week days, I do again the weekly log for the next week of the month.

I also used to have a conclusions log but as it turns out, science cannot be compressed into separate months, as some experiments might take longer than others. Numerating the pages might also help, but I found it to be too irrelevant for me, and also if you numerate the pages, it is nice to have an index at the beginning of your bullet journal and therefore, you might need more time to update it constantly. Some people like to use different colours too. I have tried it myself because I have a more “photographic” memory but with me going back and forth from one place to another, I used to leave my colour pens precisely where I wasn’t present physically, so I switched to the black n’ white alternative, using only two pens that I carry with me everywhere.

Here you have it – your ultimate lab bullet journal that will not only help you organise your laboratory progress but will allow you to concentrate quicker. I hope I have been clear enough. However, if you have any questions, write me in the comments and I will gladly reply.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s