My exploration into analog productivity, including the Bullet Journal Method

Paul Alvarez

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I have dabbled in several different workflows to help keep track of the things I want to get done. For work, I have tried Todoist, Notion, Trello, and Omnifocus. I have used these tools, including Things and Reminders, for personal, non-work related task but overall, like many, I find it challenging to stick with one solution.

It isn’t so much the tool that is the problem but my struggle with to-do lists where I feel I am putting more effort into keeping track of things that need to get done instead of a tool helping guide me on what needs to get done.

Too many tags, projects, filters, reminders, and dates to keep track of. My Things app looks cool after following the All The Things walkthrough by Shawn Blanc at The Sweet Setup — everything is organized and has a place — the problem is it is too much work for me to maintain.

Often, I put things on a to-do list just so that I don’t forget them. It isn’t something that is needed right away. But it is something that I need to do, and I don’t want to lose it. The problem is the items that sit in a Things list for weeks. I do finally get to them, but after seeing it repeat in my Today list over and over again it can be frustrating and a reminder that I am constantly behind.

So what am I looking for in a ToDo list or Task Management system? I don’t know. Like many who jump around to different methods, the problem, I think, is that how we do the things we want or need to do are different for all of us. Some find a tool, and it just clicks, and they use it for years without thinking about it. Like myself, others loathe task managers and find it challenging to stay on top of them.

After listening to and epsiode of Focused a few months ago, I was reminded of Ryder Carrol and the Bullet Journal Method. It intrigued me to try the Bullet Journal again and see if it was something worth investing in. I bought the book, read it, bought a cheap Moleskin Notebook, and pulled out one of my favorite Sharpie Pens.

I began following the bullet journal method for about two months before falling behind. My work fluctuates quite a bit in how busy I can get, and sometimes when this happens, other things have to be put to the side. The problem with Bullet Journaling is that it works best when you are consistent with it, I am sure you could do it more casually, but the point is to use it every day.

While using the Bullet Journal initially, I loved it; it made me think more intentionally about what I needed to get done and if it was something I could knock out right away or something I could plan for a future day. I didn’t want to rewrite a task repeatedly, so I made a conscious decision on where that task lived. If I couldn’t get it done today, I would not put it in today’s daily task list.

The problem for me with any task management system, though, is a lack of consistency. I have to use something that allows me to step away for a while and lets me pick up where I left off when I come back. Things, Todoist, and other digital tools do this well, unlike Trello, Notion, or Bullet Journaling. Some of these tools require constant upkeep that I can’t stay on top of.

So Bullet Journaling, sadly, is not for me. I have been enjoying what Ben Brooks has to say about the Reminders app in his Member Journal for 11/30/2020 and like the idea of using something that doesn’t require much upkeep. Since Reminders is so integrated with Siri and iOS, it may be the tool I am looking for that stays out of my way unless I need it. App

Reminding me of something when I get home, or to a particular place, when I am on the phone with someone or texting them, and doing all this with my voice and never having to look at the app sounds very appealing. The idea of having a digital tool that doesn’t require you to enter its UI every single day is something I think I can get into very quickly.

I went back to Things when I tried Reminders a few months ago because I like the UI of Things better. Funny because now I don’t care how these apps look, I instead need a tool that fits my needs. If anything, I would prefer to be in the app as little as possible. With Reminder’s deep integration with the iPhone, I think this might be the direction I should go in.

I love the feeling of writing my tasks down each day in a notebook. The intention you bring to each task is something you feel when you handwrite things you need to do in a day. Bullet Journaling has reminded me of this, and I find it useful still even if I don’t follow all the entire Method. So I always carry around my notebook and still use it from time to time in meetings or keeping track of things that come during my workday.

But the whole Bullet Journaling system includes moving tasks each day, keeping a monthly view and weekly view, and an index with page numbers I am not longer following. I can understand why some like it and enjoy its method and workflow, but in the end, it just wasn’t for me.

Now that the new year is coming up, I am considering going back to The Theme System Journal. I reviewed it last year and used it for quite a while before my job caused me to drop many of my habits during that time.

My job has slowed down a bit to rethink some of my habits, like going back to journaling regularly and exercising. So I purchased the new Theme System Journal Version 2 and am currently thinking through the themes I want to implement going into 2021. System Journal Version 2

The Themes System Journal will probably be the notebook I keep with me at all times, at least as we go into the year’s start. I plan not to use it too structured so I can replace it with my current notebook to take into meetings and jotting down any random thoughts or ideas to but also keep track of my yearly theme(s).

We will see how this coming year goes and if I can stick to my themes, but overall I believe Analog Productivity has its place; it is just so niche for me that it has to fit in areas that technology doesn’t make sense. As for task management and notes, I think I will stick with my iPhone, but for journaling, habit tracking, or thinking through ideas and thoughts, a pen and paper is hard to beat.

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My passion is in technology. I write reviews about gadgets that interest me but also provide some kind of value in my toolset to achieve my goals. Most of my writing is surrounded by technology and how it plays a role as a tool, help with productivity, and also provide mindfulness for a more fulfilled life.

Turlock, CA

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