It has been a couple of months since I first heard of Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system. Even if you have no interest at all in productivity, you should check out the website. It is a perfect example of how to do things.
So, the bullet journal system may not contain anything earth-shatteringly new, but it does pull a lot of concepts together that renders them really effective. It is done in a way that makes the use of pen and paper appear creative and vibrant again, rather than archaic in comparison to the gazillion apps there are out there.
For someone trying to manage multiple business projects, it won’t work as a complete system. However, Ryder is completely transparent about this: that is not what bullet journaling is meant to do. I have been using David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology for several years now and I’ve found that bullet journaling has allowed me to successfully work one key element: capturing.
Confession: I am a notepad junkie. Sure, I love a good pen too, but notepads for me are where it’s at. I generally have at least two on the go at any one time. There is my writing notepad, where I flesh out characters and plot outlines. Then there is a handbag size notepad that I will always have with me, to capture ideas on the go, note the names of restaurants, shopping lists etc etc. Over the years, I have accumulated quite the collection. This is precisely the point where it has previously all fallen down.
If something has been actioned more or less straight away, then fine. It is when I know I jotted down the seed of an idea somewhere and now want to find it again, maybe a couple of years later. Previously this has led to me going through all the journals that seem in the right time range and trying to find it. The bullet journal system eliminates this is two simple but hugely effective steps.
Instead of opening the shiny new notepad and straight away creating content, using the bullet journal theory, I set aside about ten pages to create a contents page (or index, as Ryder calls it). Then I number the pages as instructed and make sure that whenever I create an entry, I update the contents page with a brief description and corresponding page numbers. I generally preface with a context (e.g. ‘writing’, ‘list’, ‘journal’ etc) to make it even easier to skim search.
Yes, the initial setup takes a bit of time and the whole thing falls apart if you don’t remember to update the index. However, the rewards of getting into the habit of doing so are amazing if you have a lot of creative elements of your life. I can update spontaneously when I need to, rather than having to wait until I get home to find my travel journal, writing notebook or any other specific analogue device.
Go on, give it a try. For anyone trying a tech diet, it is also a great way to let go of the apps for a while without the fear of everything falling into a void.