Published: December 18, 2020
Reading Time: 17 min
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Each time I re-read The Bullet Journal Method, I come away with something new that resonates with me.
This book has inspired a pen and paper revolution among those of us that were previously slaves to our digital devices.
I now have a bullet journal that accompanies me everywhere and is part of my productivity/task management/mental health toolkits.
I think this book is suitable for a wide range of people. The main type of person I can think of is someone that is just overwhelmed by each day.
Someone who has a lot of tasks, reminders, events to keep track of and doesn’t have a single source of truth for that information.
I also don’t think it matters if you are a solely digital person either as there are some concepts in this book that would make you think twice about a simple pen and paper to take your notes.
Additionally, if you are suffering from anxiety or depression, the concept of bullet journaling is certainly something that can provide some assistance, even if it’s just tracking your thoughts.
“This freedom of choice is a double-edged privilege. Every decision requires you to focus, and focus is an investment of your time and energy. Both are limited—and therefore exceptionally valuable—resources.”
The Bullet Journal Method – Page 37
“If we forfeit the opportunity to learn from our experiences, as the saying (sort of) goes, we condemn ourselves to repeat our mistakes.”
The Bullet Journal Method – Page 59
“The significance of what we’re doing, or how we’re doing it, pales in comparison to why we’re doing it in the first place.”
The Bullet Journal Method – Page 143
By bullet journaling, you’ll be able to define what’s important, why it’s important, and how to work on those things.
We need to be able to understand our motivations behind why we’re doing what we’re doing in order to succeed.
Pay attention to what you enjoy, become self-aware in this regard and you’ll also find out what you don’t enjoy. Then you can remove that stuff and focus on the good stuff that provides value and meaning to your life.
By keeping track of your thoughts and actions, you’ll be able to develop the habit of learning from your experiences.
“If each thought were a word, that means our minds are generating enough content to produce a book, Every. Single. Day.”
Unfortunately our minds are crazy and can be full of unorganized thoughts which can be hard to process.
Over the course of the day, we become inundated by all of the choices and decisions we need to make. What clothes should I wear today? What should I work on first? Which task is more important? This can become draining and leads to Decision Fatigue.
This results in us becoming much less effective at making good decisions i.e. decisions that actually matter.
The simple way around decision fatigue is to reduce the amount of decisions we need to make in any given day. This allows us to focus on the important things.
Writing things down is the first step in reducing decision fatigue. If we can get our thoughts out of our head we can start to free up brain space which will make us noticeably happier and free from brain fog.
This concept of clearing our mind by writing down our thoughts is the key message in Getting Things Done.
David Allen says “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
This book certainly seems to be the cornerstone of all productivity books as a lot of other books draw from it.
Writing with pen and paper is more effective than digital note-taking as it allows you to slow down and think carefully about what you write.
It also activates multiple regions of your brain which allows you to learn more effectively.
Being able to write notes in your own words is a key way to understand something better.
Your bullet journal will evolve and change over time as you develop and learn new things.
“All tools, whether digital or analog, are only as valuable as their ability to help you accomplish the task at hand.”
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) uses scripts to treat people obsessing over intrusive thoughts. A distressing thought is detailed in a short paragraph. This script is then written over and over again until the thought begins to lose its death grip on the person’s mind, granting some much-needed perspective and distance—something we all struggle to find when dealing with challenging situations.
Look at the bullet journal as a modular system that you can pick and choose from to create an effective toolkit.
“Often all it takes to live intentionally is to pause before you proceed.”
Constant reflection is an important step in becoming a better person.
It allows us to be intentional with how we are spending our time by helping us to clarify the things that are important to us.
Goals can provide structure, direction, focus, and purpose.
Create a Goals collection – this serves as a menu, listing your potential futures.
It’s easy to collect goals and never act upon them. There is never a right time to get started
Try the 5,4,3,2,1 exercise to contextualize your goals:
Break your long-term goals into shorter sprints. This helps to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by large projects.
A sprint should:
Break your sprint down into various tasks etc.
block them out on your calendar to dedicate time to working on these tasks.
Whether they were successful or not, sprints provide an opportunity for reflection:
focusing on opportunities for incremental improvement.
what little thing can we change to improve things
what could be done better next time
when you run into issues take a step back and ask yourself:
Framework for improvement:
Relativity – our perception of time changes relative to what we’re doing
We can’t make time, we can only take time.
Time boxing – adds structure and urgency to tasks you’ve been putting off
If there’s something you’ve been putting off put it first on your list – eat the frog. Getting the worst tasks out of the way first make the rest of the day feel a lot easier.
Memento Mori – remember death – death reminds you of the value to rime
we remember death so we don’t forget to make the most of our time alive.
The next time you complete a task, reflect on the impact of your accomplishment
Appreciate your accomplishments and celebrate the small wins
Keep a gratitude log to help with this. Try not to repeat things. This will motivate you to think about the positives of your day.
Knowing what we can change begins with defining what’s in our control.
We can control how we respond to what happens to us
Worry has a way of holding our attention, especially on things we can’t control
By identifying what’s out of our control, we can reclaim our attention and focus on things that are worth our attention.
Be mindful of the people you surround yourself with – they will shape you
Try to keep company with those you find inspiring, motivating and constructively challenging.
Make deliberate learning an ongoing focus in your life
Being intentional with your pursuit of knowledge will help you to engage with the world
The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, but they make the most of everything. A powerful way to begin this process is to re-frame the mundane in our minds.
Buying groceries will put a tasty meal on your table and allow you to spend quality time with your family.
Analyze your efforts to define their purpose.
This allows us to become more mindful of why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Connecting your tasks to the people you love can give them more meaning
Use the five whys to uncover the root issue of something.
This breaks down a large problem into its individual components.
This works in lots of different contexts
A custom collection is designed to serve a specific need
Ask yourself is this valuable to ensure you don’t hoard useless information.
Plan to do something constructive with the information
If there’s nothing to learn from a collection then it provides little value to you and isn’t worth having.
Your collections should be as useful in retrospect as they are in real time
the only think that matters in a bullet journal is the content, not the presentation
Start with less and work on that. you can always add more later.
Maintaining collections takes time and energy so it’s important to make sure they are worth the effort.
It’s not about how your journal looks; it’s about how it makes you feel and how effective it is.
Don’t be intimidated by what you see online.
The longer you use your bullet journal, the more helpful it should become.
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