Get cre­ative to max­imise your or­gan­i­sa­tional skills

In an age of dig­i­tal di­aries and on­line as­sis­tants, bul­let jour­nal­ing is a re­fresh­ingly tech­free way to or­gan­ise your busi­ness and per­sonal life

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CONTENTS - WORDS GEORGINA WIL­SON-POW­ELL

Bul­let jour­nal­ing is a note­book or­gan­is­ing sys­tem orig­i­nally de­vised by an Aus­trian teenager that has swept across the world in re­cent times, spawn­ing an en­tire in­dus­try (and boost­ing sta­tionery sales no end in the process). Ry­der Car­roll came up with the bul­let jour­nal sys­tem as a way to or­gan­ise his thoughts while at school, us­ing metic­u­lous lists and an in­dex to record and track to-do tasks, goals and notes. To­day, this anti-dig­i­tal for­mat has gar­nered a cult-like fol­low­ing.

Car­roll, the spi­der at the web of the bul­let jour­nal­ing move­ment (now a dig­i­tal prod­uct de­signer liv­ing in New York), is hum­ble about what he’s started: “I’ve al­ways found be­ing able to fo­cus a chal­lenge, so I de­signed the sys­tem ac­cord­ingly,” he says. “It’s al­lowed me to suc­cess­fully run teams of peo­ple over long stretches and start mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies. I shared the sys­tem be­cause it helped me.”

Small busi­ness on­line magazine Inc. rec­om­mends bul­let jour­nal­ing for ev­ery en­tre­pre­neur worth their salt. Jour­nal­ists from Vogue and The New York Times have waxed lyri­cal about it, and some par­ents tout it as be­ing ben­e­fi­cial for home-school­ing. Its uses are nearly as var­ied as the jour­nals them­selves.

Key to its suc­cess is the flex­i­bil­ity of the sys­tem. Peo­ple can adapt the cen­tral method to fit their lives, and the ba­sic for­mula is the same whether you’re writ­ing a shop­ping list or launch­ing a start-up. Jot­ting down tasks in a struc­tured way and mov­ing them on or tick­ing them off, gives keen jour­nal keep­ers a sense of achieve­ment and helps peo­ple stay on track.

The bul­let jour­nal­ing method has in­spired hun­dreds of blogs (such as tinyray­of­sun­shine. com) com­par­ing note­books, sta­tionery and time man­age­ment ideas – al­though, spend too long dec­o­rat­ing your “spreads” (the pages used for bul­let jour­nal­ing) and you might not ac­tu­ally tick off any­thing on your list. There are now “how-to” books de­voted to bul­let jour­nal­ing (Car­roll is in the process of writ­ing his own, but also check out The 365 Bul­let Book: How to Or­ga­nize Your Life Cre­atively, One Day at a Time by Zen­nor Comp­ton).

The hash­tag “#bul­letjour­nal” ap­pears nearly 1.5 mil­lion times on In­sta­gram, a medium that lends it­self to show­cas­ing spreads. And there are thou­sands of pins on Pin­ter­est ded­i­cated to the acro­nym “BuJo” – from ideas for keep­ing track of things to watch on Net­flix to how to make monthly goal maps. It’s not just about the lists, but in­spir­ing you to reach goals, tick off to-dos and feel hap­pier about what’s go­ing on in your life. Users have em­braced their cre­ative side and re­port that log­ging their tasks in this for­mat is calm­ing, med­i­ta­tive and even life-al­ter­ing.

At the heart of its ap­peal is that it can be glo­ri­ously low-main­te­nance – all you need is paper and a pen. In a world of screens and on­line clam­our­ing for our at­ten­tion, tak­ing half an hour to or­gan­ise thoughts on paper makes many peo­ple feel lighter and more in con­trol. The process of writ­ing down tasks frees up space in our brains, en­abling us to take on more in­for­ma­tion and cope bet­ter. The fact that we re­mem­ber in­com­plete tasks more read­ily than com­pleted ones is called the Zeigar­nik ef­fect. And mem­ory de­clut­ter­ing works bet­ter with a pen than with a touch­screen.

“Be­cause it’s prac­tised in a paper note­book, it al­lows users to un­plug, to process their thoughts and de­clut­ter their mind,” ex­plains Caroll. “We un­der­es­ti­mate the power of in­tro­spec­tion.”

Mind­ful­ness cer­tainly has a role to play in the suc­cess of the bul­let jour­nal phe­nom­e­non. It’s not of­ten nowa­days we have ev­ery­thing we’re jug­gling writ­ten down in one track­able place.

Tempted to pick up a pen and give it a go? Car­roll has some tips for new starters who want to find them­selves in con­trol of their time. “Start sim­ple and be pa­tient with your­self,” he ad­vises. “There are a lot of in­tim­i­dat­ingly elab­o­rate in­ter­pre­ta­tions out there. At its core, the sys­tem is very lean. It’s de­signed to not get in your way and be flex­i­ble. It’s de­signed to be­come what­ever you need it to be. Fig­ur­ing out what use the Bul­let Jour­nal can serve in your life is part of the prac­tice. The key is to re­mem­ber to make it work for you. It’s not about how it looks, it’s about the im­pact it has on your life.”

And for peo­ple who have tried it once, he urges them to try again and stick with it: “Start with the free tu­to­ri­als on bul­letjour­ Stick with the ba­sics for at least two months, and then start to cus­tomise it. Start small (don’t try and bul­let jour­nal ev­ery­thing in your life at once) and see if it keeps you on track to make pos­i­tive changes for a cou­ple of months.”

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