The Military Bullet Journal

The Military Bullet JournalMilitary Bullet Journal

Have you ever looked around the room at a group of NCOs or Officers before a meeting? If you do you will realize that all of the successful ones have something in common. They have a pen in hand and a notebook (usually a Federal Supply Service green notebook). There is a simple reason why a pen and a notebook matter. Even in a digital world, a pen and a notebook are critical gear for any military member that wants to be successful and ensure they make the right impression.

When I joined the Air Force as an officer my grandfather, a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant, told me if I wanted to be successful I needed to find a good NCO to learn from. As a new officer with no prior enlisted experience and whose parents had not served, I had a lot to learn. From how to wear the uniform, how to speak to superior officers and ask the right questions to how to motivate and mentor the people the Air Force was telling me to lead. All of these were things I learned from the outstanding NCOs I had “working for me.”

One of the lessons I learned was never go anywhere without a pen and a notebook, especially not into the boss’s office. I had to learn this lesson the hard way and face the look of utter disappointment of a Colonel when I had to borrow a pen from my NCO during a meeting. Not only was I embarrassed but I had to work hard to overcome a negative early impression that I made on the boss.

Having a pen and notebook on hand may seem like no big deal but as I look back at my years of service now, I realize this simple lesson was critical. It can really make a difference in how you perform and how you are perceived as a Soldier, Airman, Sailor, or Marine.

Here’s how:

  1. It Demonstrates Respect. Having a pen and a notebook in a meeting shows that you respect the speaker and recognize the information they are communicating is important.
  2. It Demonstrates Preparation. Having a pen and a notebook on hand shows your leadership and peers that you show up prepared and are intentional and organized enough to make that happen every day.  As I learned, you want to be the one in the room with a pen handy when the boss needs it or is ready to give specific guidance.
  3. It Fosters Effective Communication.  Taking notes during a meeting or when leadership is providing important guidance forces you to focus and enables you to ask good detailed questions when necessary to get clarification.
  4. It Cuts Down on Mistakes. Writing stuff down makes it easier to remember and helps you avoid making mistakes, that will damage your reputation and hurt your career.  We are all busy, all moving fast, and all want to succeed but mistakes, especially mistakes involving guidance or direction from your military leadership must be avoided.  Having an effective system of writing things down and keeping track of them is one of the best ways to keep your priorities straight and get things done.

After you get into the habit of taking a pen and a notebook with you,you should consider using a simple and consistent system for taking notes and tracking tasks.  My favorite method for taking notes and identifying priorities on a daily basis is to use a simple method called Bullet Journaling.

Once you make that a habit, consider rewarding yourself with a great pen to take notes with.  My new personal favorite is this one from Readyman. It is the one pictured above and has tactical uses.