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Marrying mindfulness with productivity

Somak Ghoshal
As an analogue organizer in a digital age, the Bullet Journal continues to stand out for its elegance and effectiveness

As a young boy, Ryder Carroll, who invented the Bullet Journal system, was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). He found it difficult to engage in any one task for long. “In my experience, it wasn't that I couldn't focus,” he says in a 2017 Tedx Talk. “But I was focusing on too many things at the same time.”

The symptom Carroll describes may be specific to his ADD, but it sums up the condition of modern life. Whether you are a student, professional, homemaker, or living a retired life, the need to multi-task eventually catches up on all of us. We need to remember, execute and keep track of several tasks at all hours. Some of us make to-do lists in notebooks or plaster our desks and counters with sticky notes. Others opt for electronic organizers that come with laptops and mobile phones. Digital calendars, alarms, virtual sticky notes, apps: there are endless aides to memory in the 21st century. But what if a notebook and a pen are all you need to put the whirlwind of your life into harmony?

Carroll offered the Bullet Journal, fondly called BuJo, as the answer to the question above. He described it as “a mindfulness practice that is disguised as a productivity system” in an interview to podcaster Matt D'Avello.

Although BuJos may be purchased in customized templates, any notebook of your choice will do (Carroll emphasizes this point time and again). That and a pen, and you are good to go. The organizing principle is logical and gets easier to grapple with over time. You start with an index, where you note down the different topics featured in your journal and the page number on which each appears. It's the key to tracking information quickly.

The Future Log, usually a six-monthly overview of your life, is the next element. Gradually, you break it down to monthly and daily logs. The tasks you that have to accomplish go into these sections. And as you keep ticking big and small goals off your list, you decide which of the incomplete jobs are worth migrating to a future log or if they are really distractions that are no longer important-in which case, you scratch them out.

The innate elegance of the system is tied to its utility. A BuJo will help you step away from the information overload that an internet-enabled electronic organizer offers and write down exactly what you absolutely must. Keeping with the free-flowing character of any system of journaling, a BuJo allows you to scribble, doodle, draw, express yourself in any form. Gadgets with their impersonal electronic screens can never match the visceral release of venting your deepest, darkest secrets, your most lingering frustrations, or the simple whoop of joy that a pen moving on paper can offer.

For a tutorial on using the Bullet Journal, visit Bulletjournal.com.