How I Came Upon Bullet Journaling
I came across bullet journaling when I had just decided to focus again on writing. I have heard about it before (I think from author and entrepreneur Joanna Pen), and decided to to check out a couple of videos after YouTube recommended — around the first week of January — a video about it. The impression I got was that bullet journaling was a bit elaborate, and you needed artistic skills to do it. But when the second video mentioned the inventor of bullet journaling, Ryder Carroll, and I checked out his introduction to bullet journaling, that’s when I finally got it. Bullet journaling is actually minimalist, and is not really about the stickers or the washi tapes or the calligraphy, and the rest of the frills (it’s okay though if these things motivate you to bullet journal), but it is about organizing your thoughts in a mindful manner.
The more I watched Ryder’s videos including his TedX talk, the more I understood the system. I also bought the e-book version of his book The Bullet Journal Method (TBJM), and I swiftly read through the first chapters, and felt a surge of excitement, especially when he said that as you got deeper into the practice, you would see the interconnectedness of things. I have since finished reading the book, and learned a lot from the practice of bullet journaling, and its accompanying philosophy as laid out by Ryder.
So What is a Bullet Journal?
Ryder Carroll says, in his book, that bullet journaling is an analog way of organizing to “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”
It is many things, including: decluttering the mind, cultivating your curiosity, and keeping you focused.
It declutters the mind by putting down your thoughts — we have as much as 500 thousand thoughts a day — on paper. As one thought crosses your mind like a task, or an event, or a note, you write it on your Daily Log putting a symbol or bullet before each entry — thus the term “bullet journal” — to indicate what kind of thought or note it is.
You can also add other symbols called signifiers to further describe what kind of a thought it is, You aim to be as concise as possible. Hopefully, the act of writing down improves your memory and forces you to prioritize and ask why you want to do something, and then decide whether it is something worth doing or just distracts you from your priority goals.
How Do You Bullet Journal?
Ryder Carroll’s book The Bullet Journal Method is an excellent guide on how to bullet journal since it is written from the man who invented bullet journaling himself. Carroll, who has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), developed his system of organizing over time to address his disability. In his TedX Talk, he explained that ADD is not about not being able to focus, but about focusing on too many things. Bullet Journaling is a way of prioritizing your goals, and focusing on things that matter to you the most.
It is a process of unloading your mind of your thoughts, decluttering it so you may have more space and energy to devote your brain to other tasks.
You put whatever important thought or note in a Daily Log in a process called Rapid Logging. You use bullets to indicate whether these thoughts/ are tasks, events, or notes, whether they have been completed, scheduled on your calendar or migrated to another collecton (more on collections and migration later) or whether you have decided to cancel a task or an event because you decided that that particular item is a distraction.
You can also use signifiers to further describe or categorize these Daily Log items. There are signifiers to indicate if these items are important, has a fast-approaching deadline, are ideas, something to explore, or whether you love an item or are inspired by it.
You can see the bullets and signifiers — collectively called as Key — in Matthew Kent’s video (3:06) of his Bullet Journal Walkthrough:
Aside from a daily log, your Bullet Journal (BuJo for short) contains Collections. A Monthly Log (or Monthly Calendar) and A Future Log are examples of collections. A task or a goal which is composed of many tasks can be gathered in a single project. One project is an example of a collection. Other forms of collections could be Habit Trackers, Lists (e.g. reading list, movie list, etc), Progress Trackers, etc. Only your imagination or your objectives/goals limit the kind of collections you may include in your bullet journal pages. Some of your entries can be transferred to these collections in a process called migration, which you can do daily, weekly, or monthly.
Speaking of pages, one of the brilliant ideas of bullet journaling, and a key feature, is the way you keep track of your collections. For easy access, you put page numbers in your BuJo pages, and then indicate the location of your Topics — that is, the titles of your collections — in your Index, which is actually your Table of Contents.
As you may have inferred by now, one strength of bullet journaling is it’s flexibility. The form and nature of your bullet journaling will depend on your needs and what works for you.
My Bullet Journaling So Far
I have been bullet journaling for more than a month now (I started January 9), and I can attest that it has made a huge impact in my life. Even after just a couple of days of bullet journaling, I already felt the difference. I was more calm, more focused (my BuJo’s word for the year is FOCUS), and more organized. Now, I rarely watch the news, limited my time on social media, especially Facebook, regularly meditate 10-minutes daily, and brisk walk daily. I have also clarified my goals and have read at least a book a week on writing and self-growth. I now watch more personal development and writing videos than sports videos on youtube, eat healthier, have started this blog, and have started outlining a novel. I have also started taking care of the plants, watering them daily, and the wilted ones have started to thrive again.
If you are experiencing some sort of life challenge, embarking on a new project, or want to reinvent yourself, I highly suggest you start bullet journaling, and/or buy Ryder Carroll’s book. Dotted notebooks are preferred, but any old-fashioned ruled notebook will do. You will discover that bullet journaling is not just about organizing, but is about a philosophy of life: it is about intentionality and mindfulness, it is also about minimalism (for me, at least), and about gratitude, and how to achieve happiness and fulfillment. It is about being able to review your life regularly, reminding you of the lessons, and what is important, and thus how to move forward. It is also about going offline and analog, to discover the power and magic of your handwriting and/or writing in cursive. It is about seeing the connections in your daily actions and interactions, thus enhancing your creativity. It’s like watering the plants in front of my house — concrete, specific, and the nurturing of a habit — so that the plant’s stem may rise up once more, straightening towards the sun, the leaves opening up again.
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