Andy Van Slaars

Andy Van Slaars

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Coming back to the Bullet Journal

November 10, 2019

A while back, I wrote about my use of a Bullet Journal. I reached a point, shortly after starting my current architecture role, where I felt like the use of an analog notebook wasn’t the best approach for me. I was in all the meetings and taking in a ton of information (that hasn’t really changed).

I started looking at alternative approaches for keeping a handle on everything. I moved my tasks into an app (then another, and yet another). I started trying to capture notes in OneNote, Evernote, and InkDrop. None of those felt great. I got an Apple Pencil and started writing on my iPad. The Apple pencil is great when paired with the right app(s). When I made the move to “digital ink”, I imagined a world where all of my notes would be available to me at all times, searchable and completely organized. The reality (for me) was that notes were in a bunch of folders and essentially out of site and out of mind. Digital things tend to slip away from my mind. That’s awesome when I just want to archive things, less so when I want to be reminded of things.

I put myself in a position where I took a lot of notes and those notes provided no value for me. I decided to take a step back and think about why I switched in the first place and how I might fix my situation. I reaffirmed that I prefer writing on paper. I also realized that I was being entirely too “precious” with my notebooks. If something didn’t fit the neat, organized structure I had fallen into, I would avoid “ruining” my pretty notebook. How ridiculous is that?

I decided to go back to the Bullet Journal, but in a way that would make it really work for me. After all, the whole point of the bullet journal system is to adapt to your own needs and style. It’s intentionally not overly prescriptive.

In August, in an attempt to put myself through note-taking immersion therapy, I committed to opening a brand new, hard cover notebook and filling it by the end of the calendar year. The goal wasn’t to have the prettiest notebook in the world. The goal was to write down anything and everything in whatever format struck me in the moment. I filled the first couple pages with some free-form writing about what I was doing. It was sloppy. A few more pages of haphazard notes about ongoing projects later and I was no longer worried about messing it up. It kind of started that way.

This notebooks is now loaded with my thoughts on various topics. I didn’t skip capturing things to maintain the sanctity of a notebook, I’m not worried about the mispellings, the crossed out statements, the sloppy handwriting, and markings. For the most part, those thoughts are partially formed and disorganized, but they have been captured and will be a great jumping off point for more thoughtful notes and future blog posts. It’s not quite full today, but it will be soon. I’d be surprised if I don’t have to open a new one before the tear is out.