Starting a Bullet Journal in 2019 has been the single most impactful thing I’ve done this year. It has transformed the way I organise my life and forced me to spend more time offline. It has integrated journaling, from which I already derive greate value, with the power of a simple organisational system. I feel more in control, less overwhelmed, and clearer than I ever have. It is still early days, but I get the feeling my Bullet Journal is here to stay.

My problem with digital

Digital organisational tools don’t work because of their very digital nature: they’re online, which means distraction. Temptation to check email, blogs, Hacker News, actual news. For example, the moment I clear my email inbox or digital task list my thought process goes something like this:

“It won’t hurt if you spend 5 minutes scanning the first page or two of Hacker News! What’s the big deal? Live a little… weirdo.”

My pleasure driven brain kicks in, and in that moment it’s in complete control. Like when I’ve got my wife’s Lindt chocolate on my mind; there’s no way that chocolate is not going to be eaten. My rational, pre-planning brain is nowhere to be seen. In my online example, 5 minutes turns into 30 down rabbit holes chasing new ideas and rubbish news. I end up with more on the shelves of my cluttered brain than when I started.

Simplicity and reflection

What I like most about the Bullet Journal method is its simplicity. So many digital organisation tools have come and gone from my life because of their complexity or rigidness. With the Bullet Journal, all you need is a pen and a notebook. Once you understand the basic signifiers, collections, and migrations, you’re good to go. And from personal experience, simple things are more likely to stand the test of time.

The Bullet Journal method encourages you to extract yourself from the whirlwind of daily life; to stop and think. As the strapline states “Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future.” I find there is no better way to do this type of reflection than on paper.

I’ve been journaling for years. I love the clarity it brings to my life. But ideas spawned from my journal remain lost on those pages, possibly never to be looked at again. I didn’t have a mechanism to migrate those ideas into a planning or organisation system, and to then act on them. The Bullet Journal method is the missing link between free-form journaling (reflection) and a system to plan and put those ideas into action.

My Bullet Journal has become my single source of truth.

Benefits I’ve noticed

The changes I’ve noticed since starting Bullet Journaling have been remarkable.

I’ve removed so much — A marathon, a two-day SQL conference, a time-draining side project. These are just a few of the things that have bitten the dust after Bullet Journaling for only a month. The method prompts you to ask tough questions about what’s essential, and to remove what is not.

I’m getting way more done — Things don’t slip through the cracks anymore. Daily reflection means I’m working on the most important things and nothing gets missed.

I’m sleeping better — I close out the day by reviewing what I’ve done, and what still needs to be done. I make notes about what happened that day, and what’s on my mind. Then I close my journal with a clear mind and generally sleep like a baby.

I feel clearer — For all of the above reasons I feel much clearer, and less overwhelmed. I feel just a little bit lighter.

If you find yourself feeling a littler overwhelmed grab a pen and some paper and jot down everything on your mind. Then grab yourself a copy of the The Bullet Journal Method and an empty notebook and get to work. It might just change your life.

See my book notes from The Bullet Journal Method here.