As a tween, whenever my dad wanted me to do something for him, like deposit a check or write a letter or call customer service, he’d stop mid-instruction, give me a stern look and ask, “Are you writing this down?” Imagine a 12-year-old eye roll here. To my mind, I had an airtight system in place, relying on made-up medleys with a simple beat: check, letter, call Time Warner; check, letter, call Time Warner. If this sounds like a terrible strategy: You’re right, and it rarely worked.
My dad’s instincts were on point. We now know that the brain truly can’t be trusted to hold or remember more than a few thoughts at a time. That’s why I decided to pick up bullet journaling, a system created by Ryder Carroll that organizes your to-do list, your schedule and your journal in one notebook while giving you free rein to design it according to your lifestyle. It has become a social media sensation over the last few years, with more than three million related posts on Instagram alone and a dedicated following inspired to create blogs and innovations to the original system. I was drawn in by its flexibility and the beautiful spreads created by others, but in practice, I couldn’t keep up the momentum.
In his new book, “The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future,” Carroll goes back to basics, explaining the practice and his reasoning behind each element, which include an index or table of contents, a future log for upcoming events or tasks, and daily and monthly logs for more granular planning. One can create custom collections, blank pages that can take any form, even just a simple list. “It’s not about how your journal looks, it’s about how it makes you feel and how effective it is,” writes Carroll in “The Bullet Journal Method.”
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