Bullet Journal is Dead … Long Live the Bullet Journal!

I love the Bullet Journal method of keeping my life and work in order. I love the idea of going back to an analog way of keeping track of the insane messiness of modern life. The zen nature and sheer mindfulness of it are what attracted me to it.

But it doesn’t work for me. Well, it did, until it didn’t. Let me explain.

I enjoyed it for a full seven months practicing it diligently, using it to keep my work projects on track and my runaway ADD at bay. It worked, it was easy to do, and I was so enthusiastic about it I bought copies of the book and journals for friends and family — and co-workers. I was a bonafide “BuJo” evangelist.

But as time wore on, and I found myself having to flip back through the pages to find things, to reference them, to get details … as the page count grew and grew by the day … my frustration and enthusiasm began to wane. Using analog notes in the digital age has a glaring flaw.

If you think about it, it’s why we went from analog to digital in the first place.

You can’t search. You can’t instantly bring something up.

For those who have really good memory recall this is not a problem, but for an aging gentleman such as myself, with diagnosed ADD, this is close to a deal-breaker.

And then, the final straw … I lost the journal. Only temporarily, thank goodness, but it brought home the fact that if you put everything in writing in a book made of paper, there is no back up. If you lose it, it’s gone.

I am so invested in this Bullet Journal that during the few days without it I was completely lost. By the time I found it, I had made the sad decision:

It’s not going to work for me. At least, not on paper.

So, being that the journal I was using had perforated, removable pages, I pulled them all out, stuck them into a scanner, and scanned them into a PDF file. I dumped that file into a Microsoft OneNote, which I aptly named “Bullet Journal,” and structured it into a modified format which generally follows the same routine as doing it all in analog.

Now, at one point really early on I had kept handwritten notes in OneNote using my iPad and Apple Pencil, but discovered that OneNote has an internal limit on how many handwritten notes it can OCR and use as text. So I have moved away from handwriting, going to typing into the journal itself. This negates part of the mindful benefits of using an analog notebook, but the gains outweigh the losses:

  • Notes are now searchable, so I can find anything instantly.
  • Indexing is now automatic and no need for page numbers.
  • Microsoft OneNote is available free for just about every platform, so I can use it on all devices, and it automatically syncs between them.
  • You can’t lose it. Even if I lose my phone, or my iPad, or my computers — or all of them, all at once — I can log into OneNote.com from any browser on any machine.

I still migrate all my outstanding tasks from month to month, which gives me time and headspace to decide if the task or project is even worth doing.

Also, Microsoft OneNote is not the only software that works well for this. I can see doing it in Apple Notes or Google Keep or Evernote, or any of the other dozens of state-of-the-art syncing note apps out there.

Aside: Here's a list of the Ten Highest Rated Note-Taking Apps.

If you have never heard of Bullet Journaling, I still highly recommend it to anyone who thinks a purely analog method of time-management / project-management / life-management will work for them. I’m still using the method, slightly modified for my own way of working and for optimization on OneNote.

You can see more information and a whole bunch of explainer videos on the Bullet Journal website: BulletJournal.com

And with that, I’m checking off the line “Write blog post about Bullet Journal” in my Bullet Journal.

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