Bul­let Jour­nal­ing is a sim­ple, sus­tain­able so­lu­tion for fix­ing your daily dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion

An ana­log ap­proach to track­ing your to-do list that’s bet­ter than any app. By Janet Paskin

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENT -

Ry­der Car­roll is a bike-shar­ing, glasses-wear­ing prod­uct de­signer from Brook­lyn, N.Y. Early in March, we met in a crowded cof­fee shop. No one rec­og­nized the 35-year-old, even though he’s a cult In­ter­net celebrity: Car­roll in­vented the Bul­let Jour­nal sys­tem, a method for note­tak­ing and day-plan­ning that peo­ple who love pa­per and pens swear by.

Bul­let Jour­nal­ing is, ac­cord­ing to its of­fi­cial slo­gan, “an ana­log sys­tem for the dig­i­tal age,” and thou­sands of young, ur­ban pro­fes­sion­als are adopt­ing it as a way to or­ga­nize their busy lives. Car­roll’s How to Bul­let Jour­nal in­struc­tional videos have been viewed more than 2 mil­lion times on YouTube. Devo­tees make their own videos and post jour­nal photos to In­sta­gram, where a search for #bul­letjour­nal re­turns more than 66,000 re­sults. A hand­ful of fans write off­shoot blogs, and a Red­dit group formed to dis­cuss and ap­pre­ci­ate Car­roll’s in­ven­tion. “This tech­nique is a gold mine,” one com­menter posted on YouTube. “I track ev­ery­thing more ac­cu­rately than my col­leagues that don’t use a Bul­let Jour­nal. It’s saved my ass time and time again.”

Car­roll’s ass- sav­ing model grew out of prac­tices he de­vel­oped as the child of Amer­i­can ex­pats in Vi­enna. He suf­fered from at­ten­tion deficit disor­der, and tu­tors and teach­ers tried to teach him how to take notes. “They didn’t help,” he says. “I wasn’t do­ing the work. I was spend­ing all my time try­ing to be or­ga­nized.” In time, he fig­ured out a setup that worked well enough to get him through Skid­more Col­lege with a dou­ble ma­jor in cre­ative writ­ing and graphic de­sign.

Car­roll didn’t con­sider pro­mot­ing his method—or even nam­ing it—un­til he of­fered help to a co-worker over­whelmed by plan­ning her wed­ding. “Her note­book was in­sane. There was no struc­ture what­so­ever,” he says. Im­pressed, she en­cour­aged him to tell oth­ers. His first YouTube video ap­peared in Au­gust 2013; in Septem­ber 2014 he launched a Kick­starter cam­paign to fund bul­letjour­nal.com. He asked for $10,000, met his goal in eight hours, and wound up with about $80,000 from al­most 3,000 back­ers.

I’ve been Bul­let Jour­nal­ing for a cou­ple of weeks now. I was skep­ti­cal, partly be­cause I didn’t feel ter­ri­bly dis­or­ga­nized to be­gin with—even though my “sys­tem” re­lies on three pro­duc­tiv­ity apps, e-mail, a wall calendar, a note­book, and lit­tle scraps of pa­per—and partly be­cause note­books are ter­ri­ble for col­lab­o­ra­tion. They don’t back up to the cloud. You can’t cut and paste, ex­cept in the most literal sense.

But there’s a lot to like. The il­lus­tra­tions here show how I’ve been in­ter­pret­ing Car­roll’s sys­tem, which is based on var­i­ous “mo­d­ules.” (It’s not revo­lu­tion­ary so much as it is a sim­ple and sus­tain­able so­lu­tion.) I can re­port that I’ve done all but one of the tasks I set out to do about a month ago. I feel more fo­cused and, de­spite the ex­tra time I spend main­tain­ing my jour­nal, less busy. And isn’t that the point of be­ing or­ga­nized? <BW>

The Lamy Sa­fari ($28.50; jet­pens.com), a good in­tro­duc­tory foun­tain pen, is durable and light­weight If you re­ally want to get into it, you can color-code dif­fer­ent types of en­tries This page can get crowded; peo­ple ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent lay­outs

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