Thankfully I have a minuscule readership so I don’t have to worry about upsetting the hoards of bullet journalists out there with that title. The whole bullet journal thing has turned a bit culty in my not so humble opinion and I spent two years with them always within reach. I’m not going into a whole explanation of the system because a simple search will tell you way more than I ever could. Let me sum up by saying its an easy way to keep track of stuff to do, and get said same stuff done.
When I first started using the system to complete daily tasks it was a game changer. I watched a YouTube video in 2014 twice and I was up and running. Things went great for the first year. I was almost finished with my third book so I decided to look back at my first two. I have to say it was depressing. A ton of my tasks repeat and a job with reoccurring appointments and similar workload does not compelling reading make. I turned to the internet to step up my game and found that the whole thing had grown legs and lapped me a couple of times. There were entire sites dedicated to customizing your journal. People exchanged ideas on different calendars and list making. Crafting had entered the picture as well as specific recommended implements. Some folks even sell custom stamps that you can use inside to keep certain items consistent. And I succumbed to the pressure of nonexistent peers.
I began to pretty up my pages. Everything started to line up perfectly and had fancy headings. I tried every specialty page out there even transferring some lists from my always nearby phone to a hand written notebook. (the website aint called smarttom) It was like I was crafting the thing not for my own personal productivity but to show off in some insane notebook beauty contest. I even stepped up the overall amount of content. If I thought it – ON THE LIST. Then a while back I lost a three quarter full book on a train and it sent me on a spiral. Things I had written knowing those ideas would be with me forever were now lost. This really screwed me up.
I hate the feeling of losing something important. (like anyone loves that you nitwit) I got burned by a couple of mixed up appointments and I had to recreate some relatively important content ideas. I even started another Bullet Journal but gave up after one day. I really started thinking about how much time I was burning making the damn thing pretty for no good reason at all. And days where I had just the normal grind at work or home for that matter I felt a weird pressure to have at least a couple things written under every day. When I was flipping through the old books I called bullshit on myself a couple times for fluffing up a weekend with nonsensical tasks. I decided that I was trapped by the system and I was getting out.
So I shelved the whole thing and started working with the tools I touch every day. My current system is a Frankenstein’s Monster of parts. It mixes GTD with Kanban with apple notes, reminders, calendar, mail, and Outlook for work only email and calendar. If it seems like I am speaking an exhausting other language then you my friend are not an organizational geek and that is probably for the best. I have stumbled on a system that works for me and the biggest positive is its all backed up all over the place. Plus I have no desire to show or explain it to anyone as it will confirm my should be a full on mental patient status.
The final act of separation came yesterday when I dumped the seven surviving journals in the recycle bin. As I watched the can get tilted into the truck I felt a little relieved. No more weird pressure to get back to hand writing my daily grind under a colorful doodle of the day. Back to just making sure I get the important stuff done every day and anything I don’t gets priority tomorrow. If you are a Bullet Journal fanatic don’t take this as a condemnation of your beloved. I am better off without a notebook always in hand. But I would ask you one favor; Next time you are decorating a page ask yourself who you are doing it for. Is it because you like pretty things or could it be for the next time someone asks to see what you are writing?