(2019-09-21) Can Bullet Journaling Save You

Can Bullet Journaling Save You? Devotees of the Bullet Journal, a cultish notebook-organization system tagged in more than eight million posts on Instagram, will tell you that there are two kinds of notebook people: those who keep multiple notebooks and those who keep just one. Most of us are multiple-notebook people, living our lives haphazardly, writing things down as we go: a notebook for the office, another for groceries and appointments, one for dreams and doodles, one for furtive rants.

Ryder Carroll, the thirty-nine-year-old digital designer who invented the Bullet Journal, used to be a multiple-notebook person. Born in Vienna to American teachers, he was a squirmy, distracted child, constantly behind and anxious in school. As a teen-ager, he was given a diagnosis of attention-deficit disorder, and he began to develop small journaling tricks to get through his classes

He started writing down his thoughts in short bursts throughout the day and found that it calmed him, allowing him to see past his anxieties to their root causes. “When there’s a barking dog outside, you can’t hear anything else,” he told me recently, by way of analogy. “But when you go to the window you realize there might be something wrong, you think about it, you get the context. It’s barking at something. You actually get up and look. And, for me, writing is that process.”

Basically, you take a journal, number the pages, and create an index so you can find everything. From there, you can list tasks, write diary entries, and build out a minimalist calendar.

There’s a daily log, a monthly log, and something called a future log. There are symbols for notes, events, and tasks, and additional symbols to indicate when a task has been completed, scheduled, moved to another section, or deemed irrelevant.

There are trackers for anything you feel compelled to track: sleep, workouts, mood, alcohol. Each day, you practice “rapid logging.” Each month, you review everything you wrote down and move only what is meaningful to the next monthly spread, in a spine-straightening process called migration.

Carroll released a book, last October, called “The Bullet Journal Method,” which is now a best-seller. He no longer uses multiple notebooks

He said that in his own notebook he switches among four or five different handwriting scripts, depending on his mood (block letters for information, cursive for emotions).

As with many social-media trends, there’s a performative aspect to Bullet Journaling. You get the sense, in some of the more beautiful posts, that it took more time to make the to-do list than it would have to complete the to-dos

But, in the BuJo community, authenticity is prized

had chosen a new theme for her monthly spread. “I’m thinking progress,” she said. She had included an original poem at the bottom of the left-hand page, secured with washi tape

Carroll pulled out his own battered notebook, a special-edition BuJo Leuchtturm in black. It was covered in stickers from his recent book tour

“People would be, like, ‘What is a meaningful goal?’

We made a meta page with my intentions for the journal and a “brain dump” for anything on my mind

“Only add what serves you, and be patient with yourself, because it’s a new thing. You’re not doing it right, you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just figuring it out as you go along.” He paused. “It’s another reason why I love the notebook,” he said. “It’s like every day is another chance.”


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