This January I renewed my commitment to bullet journaling after reading Ryder Carroll’s definitive book on the subject. Being that it was written by the creator of the bullet journal, it helped me to unpack the reasons behind some of the many colorful images I’d seen online. It also made more sense from an organizational standpoint than anything I’d read to date. I hoped to learn more about putting into practice a more “analog” version of myself that would replace time spent on digital devices. I expected to find a way to capture all of my wayward thoughts all into one simple, streamlined, cross-threaded book of genius.
What I didn’t expect was the incredibly nuanced and well-thought-out life coaching wisdom contained within its constructively illustrated pages. I took copious notes. I bought a brand new bullet journal and became more determined than ever to make this infinitesimally adaptable method my own.
I set up my spreads and rapid logging notes and making lists. This way, nothing falls out of my brain unattended, which can be useful when you juggle as many sticky note reminders as I do on a daily basis. Unattended thoughts tend to get lost in the tidal wave of ideas my overactive brain seems destined to produce. Having a way to catalog and cross-reference them is a bold and vital step toward true organization, which is a bit terrifying, considering my history of folders within folders within nested folders on my hard drive. Maybe some of you can relate.
All in all, it’s a great system. I’m more on top of my tasks and my finances than I’ve ever been before, and that’s no small feat.
There’s only one problem: Being hyper-focused on tasks and organization has the unfortunate side-effect of feeding my already driven personality, and I have to be careful not to let it sabotage my entire day.
I’m not the first to point this out, of course. In all things we should strive for balance, right? Still, having a task bullet related to meditation and actually having a decent meditation session are two completely different things.
Sure, I can sit down and try to focus my mind for fifteen minutes a day and then happily record my success in my habit tracker, but if all I’m doing is ticking the boxes I’m not creating any lasting habits.
Performed in this manner, I’m only as good at meditating as I am about making my monthly trackers and my daily to-do lists, and then actually looking at them during morning and evening reflections. The habit I’m reinforcing is the bullet journaling. The habit of organizing and cataloging my habits.
What my bullet journal is doing for me is getting me away from a reliance on digital tools and devices and helping to calm and center my mind and heart on the things that I can control, providing a satisfying sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. This is no small victory, and I’m not suggesting that any of us abandon this incredible tool. It has changed my life for the better and for that I am so very grateful.
What it’s not able to do is connect me directly to my own source of inner peace.
To the wisdom and understanding that comes from time spent actively engaging in my day-to-day life. With the people that mean the most to me. Those things can only ever be “suggestions” on a daily task list. No offense to those enlightened individuals who are farther along the path than me, but let’s face it, how many of us actually put things on their task list like: connect with my source, spend time contemplating my place in the universe, or be intentional with my friendships?
If you read Ryder Carroll’s perspective-altering book, you’ll see that his “method” is designed to do just that, in a round-about way. During the entire second half of the book, he begs us to dive deeper into the questions that drive our goals and our behaviors. He asks us to open our hearts to new possibilities and to use this method to help us truly achieve the things we are looking for out of life.
My bullet journal can’t do this for me. Unless I let it.
Unless I stop going through the motions of making a list, checking it twice, constantly migrating my to-do lists and calling that productivity. Unless I actively engage with scraping off the hard truths calcified onto the surface of my soul. The habits that have not been so fruitful. The beliefs that have damaged my sense of self.
I encourage you to take your bullet journal a step further. Do your life a favor. Make it even more meaningful. Do the hard work. Engage. Explore. Dive deep. Discover the truth of who you are and what you want out of these terribly short years on planet earth.
Your bullet journal can’t do it for you, it can only point you in the right direction. I can’t do it for you. Hell, I can barely do it for myself.
But it is doable. Make no mistake about it. It is. You can successfully disconnect from the digital world if that’s what you need to do. You can discover the truth of who you are and what your purpose is and then go after it with gusto (with your trusty Bullet Journal by your side of course).
What you can’t do is keep doing what you’re doing and expect a different result. I challenge you to go even deeper.
Make it count. Make this year a worthwhile trip around the sun. Make mistakes. Cross things out. Start over again and again. Just don’t stop trying.
You’ve got this, friends! Don’t let the bad guy spewing lies into your head win. Fight to the death.
Fight for your life!