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Bullet Journaling

3 January 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Bullet journaling is an organizing strategy developed several years ago by Mr. Carroll [Ryder Carroll, The Bullet Journal Method] that has attracted something of a cult following. It involves writing out tasks and daily events by hand, which helps you think about whether they’re worth doing. A table of contents or index in the front of a bullet journal allows you to include everything from exercise logs to project plans and to find notes quickly. There are different types of “bullets” for events and tasks, and tasks that aren’t completed in one daily log are moved onto the next day’s roster.

All of this can read like “stereo instructions,” as Mr. Carroll jokes. (“When you notice a Master Task is spawning a lot of Subtasks, it can indicate that this Task is growing into a project.”) Yet the point is to de-clutter your mind and make life more organized than it would be with mere to-do lists.

Bullet journaling is a serious system that takes itself a touch too seriously. Mr. Carroll notes that detailing how you spend your time helps you remember that life includes more than daily drudgery: Drinks with old friends, dinners out with spouses and other pleasures are more common than we recall at first. But it’s hard not to laugh when, as an example of the range of bullet journaling, Mr. Carroll tells of a guy who used his journal entries to figure out why things didn’t work out with his girlfriend. (She was distant, apparently.)

A common criticism of bullet journaling is that, with its emphasis on hand-written entries, the journals themselves can begin to look like adult coloring books, and a cursory search online reveals devotees who have spent hours curling bubbly letters and other adornments. What a waste of time for a method aimed at making the most of your time! Credit to Mr. Carroll for assuring his readers that you don’t have to be an artist to reap the benefits of bullet journaling.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG is engaged in an attempt to become more efficient with his time after realizing that some parts of his working day are extremely efficient, but other parts are inefficient.

He’s pretty certain that he’s not going to write anything down on paper because one of his inefficiencies is not processing the paper which enters his life with any pretense of efficiency. He believes he needs less paper, not more.

A bit of online research disclosed that (surprise!) there are a lot of Bullet Journal apps. However, at the moment, PG is deapping his phone and tablet. His winnowing method is very simple – if he doesn’t immediately know what an app is used for by looking at its icon, he’s not going to use it and it’s going into the bitbucket.

However, during his brief look at bullet journaling, PG discovered a couple of articles about using Evernote for bullet journaling (here and here).

Since PG does use Evernote on a regular basis and has done so since the program was in beta, he’s going to go that route.

He thinks.

At present.

Writing Advice, Writing Tools

11 Comments to “Bullet Journaling”

  1. I use EverNote, although in a primitive way. Recommended.

    If I’m working on a problem or project, I’ll start a note for it and put all my musings in that, such as how I’m attacking the problems, what I’ve learned, and where my thoughts are leading.

    I have a pinned “todo” note. Evenote lets you insert checkboxes so it’s easy to make checklists.

    I also find that I run across procedures and such that I’ll need to remember someday – the route to a remote machine, how to use RCP in a specific way, the RCS commands to achieve a certain result, a list of IP addresses, how to build a specific software project. (my life) If they are in evernote, I can search for them. If they’re in some paper journal, they could be anywhere in the book, and good luck.

    It has great embedding and combining features that I don’t use, but others might find useful.

  2. I looked into bullet journaling but got hung up on the “efficiency” of taking a blank notebook and numbering every page and adding pages for each month and week and adding the dates and days and…

    At that point, I decided a paper diary with both week-per-page and month-per-page would work and I wouldn’t have to spend time recreating the wheel. All I had to do was add the to-do list to the diary (in a different colour ink from notes and appointments).

  3. I use OneNote on a Microsoft Surface Pro and I am very satisfied with it. I won’t say it is better than EverNote because I was soured on EverNote when I started to use it when the company issued me an iPad. My experience with iPad was bad– I thought the interface was clumsy and moving material on and off the device was a pain. EverNote was hopeless for me. I imagine both have improved since then, but I am so satisfied with my Surface Pro, I am not likely to look back.

    Why do I like the Surface? Because I do everything on it from writing code, non-fiction, fiction, blog posts, email, and screeds to TPV. I also read on it, browse the network, operate applications like ProjectLibre, Excel, compile code, etc. I’ve worked with these beastly machines since 1967, and my Surface is my favorite since the VAX.

    I do everything with OneNote that PG does with EverNote. During my morning tech reading session, I copy and paste notes that I might use in books I have planned on computing. The fact that OneNote grabs the URI is a great convenience.

    I was indoctrinated on using Balanced Score Cards decades ago and a daily BSC is my first order of business when I get up in the morning. I keep these in OneNote and write them out in long hand with a stylus. Msft does a pretty good job of converting my scribbles to text, but I usually don’t. (I do write with the stylus in Word quite often. The handwriting recognition has gotten much better in the last year or so.)

    My personal BSC is a lot different from the one I used in business.

    I have 4 main divisions: Life, Writing, Platform, and Education.

    Life is for things like doctor’s appointments I have to make, cleaning the garage, visits to friends, self-criticism, etc. Writing has to do with fiction and non-fiction writing tasks and goals. Platform is stuff like maintaining my web sites and writing business. Education is about what ever I am trying to learn something about. I have a template I made for my daily BSC.

    I split the OneNote screen and look at yesterday’s card as I compose today’s card. First, I review yesterday and mark off stuff that is done, ongoing, skipped or obsolete. Then I add any ongoing or skipped items to today’s card, take a moment to think about what I would like to accomplish for the day, perhaps looking at project plans I keep in ProjectLibre (cheap version of Msft Project that I used in business), perhaps looking back on BSCs for a few previous days. I keep old BSCs around for about a week before I delete them.

    By then coffee is ready and I am ready for the day.

    My method is probably not good for everyone and I’ve changed my BSC template over time as my interests change, so my 2019 BSC is not the same as it was in 2015, and far different from the one the HR productivity class recommended when I was indoctrinated in the practice.

    • Sounds like a good system, D.

      One of the real-world factors with all of these types of systems/programs is that after you’ve been using them for a while, you get so much information in them parsed out the way a particular program or approach requires that it’s easy to conclude that your sunk costs, mainly time, in the old system make it better/easier to keep using the current system rather than transition to something new.

      • “your sunk costs, mainly time, in the old system make it better/easier to keep using the current system rather than transition to something new.”

        Agree! If hardware never went out of support, would anyone ever change?

  4. Sounds like something aspiring Supreme Court Justices might find useful.

  5. Bullet journaling is a serious system that takes itself a touch too seriously.
    . . .
    A common criticism of bullet journaling is that…the journals themselves can begin to look like adult coloring books…

    These are really inaccurate characterizations of the system. I’ve been using a bullet journal for several years now, and I find it is the most efficient system I’ve ever used. Why? Because its hallmark is its customizability.

    I wanted something streamlined and designed for my life specifically. So I chose the items from the bullet journal menu that would give me that exactly. And nothing more.

    Some people want an artsy journal/organizer. They can chose items from the menu that generate that. I didn’t want that, so I chose a different selection of tools.

    I blogged about how I went about it. Here’s the link, if you’d like to know more:


  6. Yellow Journaling:
    1. Yellow #2 pencil
    2. Matching yellow pad
    3. Write planned accomplishments for day
    4. Read pad
    5. Forget about it until next day

  7. I just feel the need to say that I love Evernote. *hugs it*

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