Bullet Journal - Episode 035 - What is the Bullet Journal? ProductivityCast

035 What Is the Bullet Journal? How Does It Work? – ProductivityCast

Do you use paper for your productivity system? Do you use a digital system? Or, a hybrid productivity system? In this episode of ProductivityCast, we highlight the Bullet Journal, an all-paper productivity system developed by a productivity enthusiast, Ryder Carroll. It doesn’t matter what you use, you can learn a thing or two about your own productivity system when you look at how others “on the other side” use their systems to get more done.

(If you’re reading this in a podcast directory, please visit https://productivitycast.net/035 for clickable links and the full show notes and transcript of this cast.)

Enjoy! Give us feedback! And, thanks for listening!

If you’d like to discuss this episode, please click here to leave a comment down below (this jumps you to the bottom of the post).

In this Cast | What is the Bullet Journal?

Ray Sidney-Smith

Augusto Pinaud

Francis Wade

Art Gelwicks

Show Notes | What is the Bullet Journal?

Resources we mention, including links to them will be provided here. Please listen to the episode for context.

Bullet Journal

Bullet Journal – Getting Started

Example of a Bullet Journal – Ryder Carroll – Image

More artistic version – Image

Dash Plus

Bullet Journal Companion (iOS)


MSFT OneNote

MSFT Office Lens (iOS) (Android)

Bullet Journal Resource Center

WTF is a Bullet Journal

Robert’s Rules of Order, 11th Edition

Raw Text Transcript | What is the Bullet Journal?

Raw, unedited and machine-produced text transcript so there may be substantial errors, but you can search for specific points in the episode to jump to, or to reference back to at a later date and time, by keywords or key phrases. The time coding is mm:ss (e.g., 0:04 starts at 4 seconds into the cast’s audio).

[read more=”Read the raw text transcript” less=”Close the raw text transcript”]

Voiceover Artist 0:00
Are you ready to manage your work and personal world better to live a fulfilling, productive life? Then you’ve come to the right place productivity cast, the weekly show about all things productivity, here are your hosts, Ray Sidney-Smith and Augusto Pinaud with Francis Wade and Art Gelwicks. Welcome

Raymond Sidney-Smith 0:17
everybody to productivity cast episode number 35. And I’m Ray Sidney-Smith. I’m joined here today with my co-host, Augusto Pinaud. Good morning, everybody. And I’m also joined by Francis Wade, how’s it going, Francis? Good. And I’m joined by Art Gelwicks. How’s it going? It’s going well. How about you, it’s going really well. I’m excited for this episode, because we’re going to let you kind of take the lead here and talk about something that you know quite a lot more about them than the rest of us here on the productivity cast team. And that is the bullet journal so I’ll give you my couch bullet journaling expertise definition and and then I’m hoping that you can educate listeners on and us about more about what the bullet journal really isn’t how it works. So as I understand it, the bullet journal is a complete handwriting paper and pen productivity system. The mechanism allows you to create a kind of an index at the beginning of an of a journal. And then you have your your monthly calendar and then monthly task list and you track your items that are calendar events and your task items you perpetuate v existing items forward in your journal throughout the course of the journal itself. And obviously throughout the course of time with a monthly review that allows you to transfer things from one month to the next and then from one week to the next as well is that the basics

Art Gelwicks 1:55
it’s it’s part of the basics. Yeah, that’s that’s what some of the core functionality thinks about.

But it’s bullet journal is is become or has become its own, I almost want to say metaphor for productivity, I would put it almost analogous now with getting things done. And the reason why I say that is because it has developed a very rabid following around the benefits of it. Now, let me backtrack a little bit and explain you are absolutely right on target. The bullet journal process was created for all intents and purposes as it stands by a product designer in New York named writer, Carol. And if you have an opportunity, I highly recommend you go up to his website, bullet journal. com has some great background on it. And the great baseline understanding of the principles of what bullet journaling is about. But in a nutshell, it starts off has an analog Well, that’s how it was originally designed paper and pen,

the idea is to capture everything that’s going on. And we all know, with all the different systems that we utilize, whether it’s GTD, whether it’s to do us whether it’s paper, whether whatever, that one of the core principles of productivity is capture


bullet journaling system encourages you to do that. And it mitigates one of the biggest weaknesses of analog systems, which is not only capturing things, but tracking things to execution, being able to follow them through and act on them and know what’s been addressed, what hasn’t and what state it’s at.

So if you think about something at the most basic, if you want to understand how a bullet journal works, you can do this little exercise, take a piece of paper, take a pen,

write a note down on the on the paper, just one line about something that needs to be done

in front of that line draw small circle, you have now created the first step of your bullet journal. Because that little circle now indicates to you that that is a thing that you need to do. It’s like the classic to do checkbox.

But this is where we start to scale it up.

Now, you start to collect lots of those things. If we think about just going through the course of a day, and we’re capturing all these different things we have rattling through our head. Well, some of those lines, we write down our actionable items, they would get circles next to them. Other items aren’t actionable, but we have to remember them. So in those cases, maybe we put a dot next to it indicates it’s a note. But there’s nothing we really need to do with it.

Maybe it’s an actionable item that we don’t get to. So we’re going to maybe draw a little arrow in front of it, that indicates that it carries forward to another day. So you can see, instead of just writing stuff down on our legal pads, like we do during meetings, we can apply this bullet journal concept to start to capture what we’re supposed to do with these items. Now, this is where we continue to scale this up. Because now instead of having just this massive list of everything going on in the day, now, we start to create pages within our journal to deal with different topic areas could be home activities, could be work activities could be a particular project. But the technique is always the same. That consistency of notation, and even writer Carol says it himself flat out on his website, there is no correct way to do this. There is no standard structure that you must follow you design this the way work that works best for you. I have a variant that I use, because I use graph paper a lot. That’s completely different to the structures. But it works great for me.

So as we start to build these lists and structures together, you can immediately see again, another place where analog falls down. How do I know what’s where if I have them on separate sheets of paper, I have a list here, I have a list there. I have a list there. But if it’s all in one bound journal, which is one of the operating pieces of this, how do I know what page it’s on? How do I know what list is where. And that’s where you introduce a table of contents, either at the beginning or at the end. So as you add new lists into your bullet journal, you add those pages into your table of contents. And you can then quickly reference from one section to the other. Now, that being said, it sounds fairly basic, and it is very basic. I honestly, anybody can sit down in about a half hour start to do bullet journaling. If they do it that way. I would say they probably have about two weeks of effective time and bullet journaling before they start to run square into all the limitations of things like, hey, this thing does remind me what to do, how do I remember what has to be done. And that’s one of the I have to say is one of the limitations of it, you have to look at it all the time. It is analog, it’s up to you to provide the smarts in the interactivity.

Augusto Pinaud 7:07
There is a writer called Patrick grown and he began talking about something he called a Dodge plus system that I understood when I moved to the wall, the journal that the bullet journal was, in a way, a better way to do that dodge PA system it is it allows to grow more My problem was delivered. There’s two big limitations for me in particular one is my handwriting I have an awful when writing my handwriting is so poorly that while I was in college, I had more than one class where teachers preferred to bring their personal laptop for me to type their my test done for me to hand write test, that’s how great my hand right and he’s so that that’s where my first problem was a bullet journal comes my character rated, but I can read it ever again. So, you know, ways like a mystery productivity. And let’s hope web gets done. Not great. By the way. My second problem comes exactly on what art was coming. That was a part of the reminders, you know, one i’m a i’m an omni focus guy. And I love the fact that I can set reminders by location by time at by many other thing Plus, I can look at the things depending but I don’t want to go and look into a folder of things and try to find the stuff that I need to be remember of. The other thing is, I think this is for a person who requires dot attention, who, you know, basically what he’s out of mind is out of sight out of mine, I think it may be even better than than a different system. That said, My experience was really short with Ebola journal pretty was interesting. But nonetheless,

Francis Wade 9:06
I haven’t have actually tried to implement it but didn’t have read and to get an understanding. And it reminded me a lot of what I tried to do using two separate notebooks back in the 90s Yeah, right before before the Palm Pilot came out, I had a day Renault and I had lots of blank pages in it. And I also had a separate journal that had things like goals and progress towards goals. It’s actually had to two books that I think tried to tried to get to where the bullet john is trying to get my

Raymond Sidney-Smith 9:42
experience with the bullet journal is a brief implementation and today a light use of it in the sense that like art, I took the

originators concept of modifying it to the stream, which is I’m a huge note taker, as most people most know me for about Evernote. And I. And I just really, really love the idea of using signifiers and other kinds of symbols, in order to quickly take take notes. You know, I was, I was an early adopter in in high school of Greg simplified shorthand, I mean, I really love the idea of being able to capture very, very quickly what was happening in a real time event. And, you know, with my, I’m such a geek, but I,

I have my copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, I think, at that time, it was like the sixth or seventh edition. And, and, and now we’re on like, 14 or 15, I think so. And, and, and I really enjoyed the idea of being able to be in a meeting and understand its mechanics and capture at the same time in near real time fashion. So this idea of the bullet journal, I really wanted to use components of it. And so now in my note taking at least my handwriting note taking scenarios, I’m able to use those signifiers in kind of the same, same way. And so while I don’t use the system, I use it in at least the concept, the concept so that when I go from a meeting, and I’ve taken handwriting handwritten notes, I’m now able to translate those back over to my digital world very quickly, right. And so if I, if I don’t have enough time to translate it, I can still quickly look at that page, which I’ve scanned into Evernote. And now it’s it’s very easy for me to interpret. And really anyone you know, who knows my systems, it’s easy to interpret, to be able to say, Okay, these are the things that need to be done, these are the calendar events, and so on, so forth. So I’m going to turn it back over to you are to talk a little bit about what people should do to get started and implementation you covered a little bit about the idea of opening up a journal just basically date and, and page number and then starting to use the system. I know that what’s the name of the originator again, has his name’s escaping, it’s writer Carol writer, Carol, right. So Carol goes ahead. And he gives us this, this set of identifiers, a dot for a task, and x is x over the dot, once you’ve completed it, all of these various things, a dashes is a is a note correct for for reference. And, and then a little circle is for an event record, basically a calendar appointment or something that you need to do in that sense. And, and so I’ve modified that over time to provide me with some, some more meaning to those things. But can you tell us a little bit about what how people should should go about this, who’s never kind of touched the system before and, and are interested in doing something like this? Sure.

Art Gelwicks 12:59
There, there’s a couple things that I’m going to. And I want to touch back on a couple points that got raised by a good stone, Francis, one thing is, and it is, I don’t want to say it’s a barrier to entry. But the idea that, you know, your handwriting is a big part of this can be a barrier to entry. But it’s not a functional barrier, it’s a perceived barrier. So if you think that it’s just not going to look good, it’s not, I’m not going to be able to work with it, I’m not going to be able to read it, that could be very much an issue for some For others, it may just be, I just don’t like the way my handwriting looks at. That’s also true to what I usually tell people related to that is, the odds of you actually sharing your bullet journal with someone else is pretty small, unless you intentionally go through and participate. And in the bullet journaling communities that are out there and share photos of your layouts and all, which is a whole different thing I’ll talk about a little later on.

But it’s the most part to get started, the easiest thing to start with is to think about just the capture piece put together either using writers definition. And it’s important to understand that this is not new, this is not writer, Carol did not come up with something that is completely new and innovative. This is highly derivative of other systems. This is highly derivative of things that have been around for literally hundreds of years, it’s just continuing evolution of it to deal with some of the issues around using an analog based medium. But the easiest way to get started again, is

cut come up with five at the most basic symbols that you can use to start identifying things in your notes, and then just start writing things down the usually the hesitation and I’ll address this later on. But usually the hesitation is, but I use the digital system, why would I write it down on paper and then read and repurpose it? There are some strong arguments to doing that people get concerned, oh, it’s duplicate work? Not necessarily. I can argue against that pretty strongly. Because it’s consolidation of work. If we think about the notes we take in a common basis, how many of those notes Do you ever actually go back and look at, again, how many of those notes are truly valuable, or when you go back and you look at him, you go, yeah, I didn’t need to know that, or this really wasn’t actionable or those really were condensed together. If you use this as a free flowing method of capture, you can then evolve it into capture and process then ultimately capture and process and report back to yourself. So to get started, start easy, just start writing down the things that are popping into your mind, they’re crossing your desk, crossing your email, and then start noting next to them. Now, this is something I have to act on. This is something I have to remember, this is something that has to go on the calendar

Augusto Pinaud 15:54
that that just said, I think is really, really important. You know, they as much as I love technology, there is something to said about

the impression people have when you getting a meeting with an electronic device, even if you are taking notes, even if you take notes better than them where some of these principles that you just mentioned heart are really interesting, because he when you go to that notebook, and you use those principles of notation, and to the point that then you can go back to those notes on instead of try to decipher what happened to my handwriting. Okay, do you can now go and look at the notes and find out the 567 10

one items, I’d glance and then remember that item, there is a higher probability that you will then if you need to decide for two or three pages of notes. What that’s one of the things that I got out of there. I don’t have the index because I tried to process the notes and disappear them. But I got them a patient. And there is a couple of things, you know, I get one for ideas, I get one for actions I good one for stuff that got delegated. And that allows me to look at the scribbles on the page that are hard to read. But I know exactly what are the three to five points that I need to remember.

Art Gelwicks 17:22
It’s it’s an interesting point when you when you think about the taking of the notes. And and I’m going to tangent a little bit here. If you think about most business meetings, if you bring your laptop into the business meeting, and somebody at the table is sitting there and talking, and you find something that they said, interesting and engaging. And you want to remember that and you type it in the person who said, it doesn’t know if you’re capturing what they said, if you’re responding to an email, if you’re looking up something on Amazon, there is no sense of connection there. However, if you’re sitting there listening, and they say something, and you reach over, open a notebook up pen and write it down immediately, they get a psychological reinforcement that said, Oh, they just took note of what I said,

Unknown 18:08
there’s a connection point there. And it’s something that often gets lost. And

Augusto Pinaud 18:13
I agree with you, regardless of one of the things I’ve been noticing, since I got a diaper Pro is a pencil, I struggle with what you mentioned forever.

So I’m a digital guy. And what I discover when I got the iPad Pro is a pencil is that that electronic barrier, but when you are using the pencil people is Oh, okay. He had a digital notebook. But he says, still a notebook on people don’t feel that rejection towards the laptop or the phone or even they the iPad. Exactly, it’s there is still that connection to the physical world, it separates from the digital. Now, that being said, and I will readily admit,

Art Gelwicks 18:59
I use bullet journaling primarily for capture, I do not typically use it for processing because I

Raymond Sidney-Smith 19:05
have digital systems that are utilized for processing. So if you balance that out and think about those pieces, you don’t have to fully commit to any one aspect of this to make it work for you. So aren’t I had a couple questions about as we continue on the conversation about implementation. And, and so first, because I’m, I’m a mechanic’s guy, right? I’m really into the, into the nitty gritty here. So So here goes, Mike, my thoughts here are on how do you choose a length of notebook? The type of paper you said you use mostly graph paper, right? So so you like a grid of some kind? How do you choose a pen or pencil or pencils? Or, or colored ink or those kinds of things? And like, how do you how do you what are some of the decision points? What are some of the questions you need to ask yourself in order to get to that point of deciding on some of these fundamental pieces of the actual physical imprint that you’re going to be carrying with you day to day? Well, that’s I want to say that’s almost the secret sauce of something like bullet journaling, there’s there’s a threshold that you cross very quickly,

Art Gelwicks 20:20
a lot of people are very much grabbed the legal pad out of the the common drawer and grab a pencil and just start writing notes down. And that works. That’ll work for anybody. When you have people who have a little bit more of a passion around analog, such as notebooks and pens and things now that becomes the engaging part. It’s not so much the fact that you’re using bullet journaling to capture things but it starts to evolve into a much more personalized system. I said I use graph paper but I’m sitting here right now with a large a five format reporter’s notebook spread out sometimes ballpoint pen, sometimes fountain pen, it does it matter. Well, it matters to me to whatever is going to encourage me at that point, to continue the capture process to continue to utilize the system. And in early days, I wanted consistency. So I was always using the same notebook, same pen, I wanted that visual. And I realized why why restrict and limit and that’s when you start to look at if you search google images, for example, for bullet journaling. You look at some of these bullet journals that people have put together and their works of art. I mean, people are spending hours personalizing and decorating and integrating their own visuals into bullet journals. And for hardcore, you know, pure productivity people and mechanical people like us. We look at that. And we go, good Lord, how much time are you spending on doing that and not getting anything else done. But if we take the step back, we realized that what they’re doing is reinforcing that engagement. So when you asked me what’s the best notebook to use, what’s the right one to use? It took a long time before writer Carol even offered a quote sanctioned notebook, use whatever you want us whatever’s convenient. I do recommend though, if if you’re trying to make this truly capture and process you’re going to want to get a notebook and stick with it for a while. I would say 30 days don’t feel bad about changing notebooks around and if you find a notebook is not working for you don’t struggle through it. Because you’re only making it painful for yourself. And you’re creating resistance to your own system.

But once you find a notebook and a pen combination you like, stick with it, work with it for 30 days. And if you don’t like it, after 30 days, switch out to something else. keep switching out keep it fresh. So unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to the question. But that’s actually the right answer. You find one you work with best was that that was the answer I was expecting.

I mean, if I look at the different things, different variants of of notebooks I have right now I’ve got, like I said, the reporter’s notebook I have a Moleskine notebook, I have a composition notebook, that’s graph paper, and I have a travelers notebook. All of them have different variants of bullet journal in them, right, because they’re what I use at any given time. I know all of those sources of flow into my core systems. So whatever I feel like using that’s the one I’m most likely to use

Raymond Sidney-Smith 23:34
and doubling back on your thoughts about you know, this being an evolution of things. I mean, I I’ve been doing a lot of this stuff thanks to Franklin Covey training many, many years ago. And, and so again, yeah, you’re absolutely right. I mean, as I was talking, as I was thinking of back on my comments about Greg simplified shorthand, you know, learning that was was basically learning how to use signifiers right and and learning how to use symbols ology in order to be able to capture faster and dissimilar to goose Joe, my handwriting is absolutely beautiful,

Unknown 24:11

Unknown 24:12
I’m not

Unknown 24:16
too I may say, it is good that

Raymond Sidney-Smith 24:22
actually I had this amazing I can’t remember his name off the top of my head, but I had a penmanship teacher in I think about third grade and he just ingrained in all of us in I went through the New York City public school systems and remarkable, remarkable teacher. And he just taught us penmanship. And I mean I have always written in longhand when I tried. I mean, I can chicken scratch, you know, like the best of us. But when I when I actually focus on writing, you know, the fluidity of my my script is, is pristine. The real problem with that, though, is that it’s not picked up by OCR technology, optical character recognition technology. And so it’s good as useless to the computer to be able to understand what I’ve written a lot of these systems, I think bullet journals is a good example of them. If you are willing to write, you know, like that, you can actually go ahead and use some of this in an OCR fashion, you know, digitizing some of this data for for capture later. And this brings me to the writer Carol has developed a bullet journal companion iOS application. So if you are on the apple ecosystem, there is an iPhone app that’s available that allows you to archive your notebooks and I just wanted to touch on this point and art you probably have some comments about this once I’m done. But I had a client who isn’t obviously using Evernote and I was helping him implement Evernote and he wanted something like the bullet journal to be able to capture his prior notebooks and to be able to archive them. And so we actually used every note to be able to do that. And and it ended up being very easy to do, what he was what what the bullet journal companion app is and do that in across the Evernote platform. And I’m presume you could do this with one note. And you can do this with many other tools that allow you to capture images tag so that you can create a taxonomy and otherwise. So just keep that in mind that, you know, you’re able to bridge the digital divide from the paper side by just utilizing a little bit of technology. But do you have any experience with the with the bullet journal companion app?

Art Gelwicks 26:38
Haven’t I haven’t worked with it. And honestly, that’s been a conscious thing because it’s going to sound a little bizarre. I have found that apps built around existing systems tend to diminish the flexibility of the system themselves. So when you look at something like GTD, you look something like bullet journaling, they have an open architecture to them. And by its very nature, a tool that’s defined to implement that architecture puts restrictions on it, I’m sure it has some fantastic capabilities. But it’s the adaptation of that architecture that I find makes the system’s most powerful. So honestly, I have not consciously looked at it as of yet. some point I may, and I’m sure it has some great strengths. I mean writer would not have attached his name to it if it did not, but I I would caution anyone that you don’t need to use the app to be able to do this. And you’re absolutely right. Talking about the archiving process. That’s one of the default things that I do when a notebook fills up and they all fill up you. We always have the eternal question, what do I do with it? I mean, I’ve got a bunch of stuff in there. How do I get to it? What do I use it? Do I keep it on a bookshelf, do I throw it away? What I normally do is I use one note, I will go through and use Office Lens and I will scan every page in the notebook. And then I put the notebook on a shelf, do I need to keep it? No, will I probably ever look at again? Probably not. But I can count 20 times where I’ve gone back and said, You know what, there was something I remember there was something and turns out I didn’t get it into my digital system. But I could go back through my notes and go through my notebooks and flip through the times and say, Oh, there it is. That was the code number I needed. This was the phone number I was looking for. I don’t know why I didn’t put it in there. But it was in there about the OCR technology. You’re absolutely right. If you want to take the analog and make it truly digitally manipulative, then you have to be able to read the characters. So nice cursive writing a script writing like I have as well, OCR doesn’t like that it won’t work with it well, because it can’t read it. So if you know you’re going to be going down that path, you have to work with the limitations of the technology. So honestly, you’re going to have to print

Augusto Pinaud 28:55
I agree on that I I have also use Evernote that’s actually for when I use Evernote, I have never used Evernote for any other, you know, I know race super active on Evernote. For me, Evernote is a digital file cabinet. And what is cool, so I can throw stuff at died. And don’t worry too much. And sometimes I get lucky. And then if there is text on on a keyboard than I did, OCR will find it eventually. But that’s what I do with those, you know, a lot of those notes when I’m done with them. If they have, you know, their notes for a meeting or notes on our critical I just select them on my little notebook, I’m forward them to Evernote or in a PDF format. And then that way I can go back and find it. And I agree with you

that old and notes I have taken maybe has been five to 10 that I have needed to go back to Evernote and find that a critical piece of information. But those five to 10 times I have been so grateful that I put notes in there, that is worth it to keep sending the notes there.

Art Gelwicks 30:04
We keep talking about this being you know, task items. And to do items and punch list type of things. bullet journaling is broader than that as you have thoughts during a day you come across across quotes, you come across whatever. It’s an open architecture system. And that’s one of the benefits of keeping the notebooks I’ll go through during a day. And if I hear a quote on something, or somebody says something, or I read an article somewhere, and I’ll make a note of it. My notebook, could I go throw it in the one note? Absolutely, it probably happened just as quickly. But I may not see a value for

Raymond Sidney-Smith 30:36
but I still capture it. So don’t think it’s limited to just hardcore productivity stuff. This is literally your external brain on paper. And many times what you capture in digital because it’s so easy to capture becomes a junk drawer, right? You could just capture anything. And when you write it down, there’s kind of a gravitas to spending time and effort to write that down.

Francis Wade 31:03
Yes, yeah, sort of sitting back listening a bit. Because I know that there are there are core principles that are work at work, whether you’re using paper or digital analog of core principles around capturing, and the ones that are has been emphasizing is that it the core principle is that if you have a piece of information that you need to use later, he defined a very fast way to grab ahold of it, and at least fix it in some place that’s outside of your memory. And then the other parts that wouldn’t join, it also addresses the scheduling the action items of tasks that kind under and so forth. Also follow first principles, because it What I love about the system is that it allows you to customize your layout. So that you’re you can follow the first principles in a way that meets your specific needs. At the same time, there is a piece of paper of people of people, which is that people feeds burns, it gets when it gets lost, it gets stolen, it’s it’s an unstable medium compared to the cloud, for example,

say works really well, you guys probably remember the time is when we used to have full notebook of phone numbers. And, you know, maybe had a diary in the front, but you at least have a little black book, and it worked fine, you know, maybe 400, 100

entries, and then you ran out of the ears, and then the essays and, and the T’s. And then gradually, you had to a bigger Blackboard bigger black book, or you had to get a new one and cross ultimately will addresses. But the problem with a little black book because that doesn’t scale, it works fine for small numbers.

But when you get up to really big numbers, it stops working as well as a for example, a calendar on Google Calendar that’s cross platform on all your devices. And available everywhere was to find some which to find solution for that scale. And my sense of, of any people people be a system is that it’s fine for a certain scale. But once you need to go above that scale, like for example, once you need to assure an absolutely have your information with you wants you need reminders, which are an indication that you’re you have a film at a dumb at a very high premium. So you have to use your mind is

when you when you when it becomes too cumbersome. To transfer information from one book, be a system to another

Unknown 33:50
or, or.

Francis Wade 33:52
And when the threat of losing the information becomes too too high, or it becomes too too hard to keep transplant a prayer we’re still on a prayer on a prayer podcasts that he has 900 tasks managing 900 task by people and I think is really an option that feeling of scaling issue that we haven’t really talked about,

Art Gelwicks 34:14
because I’m gonna take it from the exact opposite side of the equation. You’re right, there is a scaling issue when it comes to paper, when you have 1000 contacts, you’re not going to manage them all in a notebook, then you have to say, Why do I have 1000 contacts out of that thousand contacts? How many do I actually need to interact with on a frequent basis, because scale and immediacy are tied together,

our digital systems allow us to deal with volumes of information.

But a lot of that information is not have immediate urgent need, it doesn’t need to be directly accessible. And the challenge of information being more secure in the cloud I’ve lost just as easily in the cloud as I have on paper. And if I go somewhere, and I know I’m going to need something critically, the potential of it not being accessible on my phone due to connectivity or whatever, I will write it down just because it’s being it’s the being prepared. So I wouldn’t go exclusive one side or the other, there are clearly limitations. But there are clearly strengths. And I would say you will you want to balance the spheres of access

with the scale of what you’re trying to manage. I

Francis Wade 35:36
agree, I agree that that that there is a balance for many. However, at the high end, the person who is the 900 task person, there’s, there’s not really much of a balance on my point of view,

Art Gelwicks 35:56
right? Okay, let’s, let’s look at it. Realistically, though, if we take the 900 task example, who truly has 900 tasks, what they have is they have multiple projects with sub collections of tasks. If they don’t, they’re not managing their tasks properly. I mean, I think we can agree to that. And nobody should have 900 tasks and a single task list. So if you sub divide them down into truly executable sets, you’re now falling into sub lists within a larger collection. Well, those sub lists within a larger collection, if I throw the analog peace out and do something straightforward. Like one note, those are all pages within a section that have to do tags on the items, 900 tasks all sub set it up, but it works the same way. It’s the same methodology, whether it’s digital or analog, it’s how can I manage that it’s not as fast it’s not as easy to manipulate as the digital space because those are ephemeral.

But it does give us the same capabilities.

Francis Wade 37:03
I don’t want to put too fine a point on it.

Art Gelwicks 37:08
This is this is the convert it is the struggle point that people have. And it’s good that we go through and talk through this because when people look at these two types of things, analog and digital at the higher end, they say, Where is this going to fall apart for me, and as soon as it’s going to fall apart for me, I don’t even want to start going down that path. So they have to know how far down can they go before they’re going to hit issues of meeting some things I’m resorts on with it. And the mention of scale, it doesn’t it didn’t come into any of the videos I was watching or anything I read sort of that that yes, this

Francis Wade 37:42
will work for you up to a point. And even just a danger of losing the information is a whole nother if you’re working on something mission critical, then having it on paper is so this is in the discussion. I don’t I don’t hear the here’s the point at which is that you need to consider a transition. And I think that transition is a is a bit like going from going from a little black book to going into something more robust. I think it’s a it’s a continuous everyone has to bring into the Python, which I think you’re saying,

Art Gelwicks 38:15
Yeah, I’ll give you two to clear delineation lines for transition one

anytime there’s more than one person involved.

The one thing but bullet journaling does not do well, in my experience is collaborate in any way, shape, or form. Because it’s your notebook, you’re not passed around, you have one copy of it.

Second, and probably the,

the less tangible, but the more impactful, our highly dynamic activities, if you’re dealing with something that is in flux,

it becomes difficult because you’re constantly rewriting and changing what’s in the journal itself. There’s a, there’s a third one that I’ll throw on top of the list that I’ve actually come up with a solution for, for me, but it’s not part of the native bullet journaling structure. And that’s tracking process, not just action, we think about a lot of things that we have to do and we’re capturing a lot of times, it’s not just Is it done, or is it not done, it’s in various stages of completion. The bullet journal itself, by definition, doesn’t really handle that particularly well. Because if we think about just our little circle, indicating status, there’s only so many things you can do with a circle. So you have those transitive states now, where digital systems lend themselves to that flexibility. So you’re absolutely right there is there are scalability caps, there are implementation caps that you have, there’s actually a another cap, and since it’s four guys on the podcast, it’s what I call pocket cap, because we don’t have purchases to carry these in. So if we’re talking about something at work we carry going around in a briefcase and things like that. But what if you’re running going out for a run? What if you’re just going to the store are you carrying your a five reporters notebook with you all everywhere? Well, if you have a bag, sure, but I don’t carry a bag. If it doesn’t fit my pockets. It doesn’t go with me. So how do you scale it down as well as up these are all decisions that you have to make if you’re going to use an analog based system, but I don’t want people to get discouraged and say, well, because it can’t do everything. I can’t use it. That is absolutely not the case. There is

Augusto Pinaud 40:44
two things one is as we were talking on on the black book, I was laughing because it remind me of my grandmother who has you know, that was my first experience was that black book that Francis was referring to where you will ask around my worries art phone number I know is you know i i already look for art IRA. Look for Gilbert’s Where is Oh, look at him the P on the P Yes, because he will be on the PO productivity podcast. So that was the first thing that I that I thought about that.

Unknown 41:22
But the other thing

Augusto Pinaud 41:24
I agreed was the limitations that you are saying, Francis, I think one of the things that

the bullet journal does to address that is the part of the future. One of the things that I think the bullet journal and the reason I look into it does really well is the current notebook is not designed to cover the rest of your life that the digital version in a way is, hey, you can throw anything at here, make a million projects, 9 million task and I will handle it the idea of the bullet journal. As I understand it, at least it’s more of a focus tool. So yes, you may have a million projects, but the reality is on the next 30 days, you only may be able to do this, that’s part one. And Part two is while you are doing only the things you’re really going to be able to realistically you know, make sure you’re capturing everything else so when you go and recalibrate you can have all that information in there you know, for me my

my sister my 900 a task proverbial 900 a task lived in Germany focus that said, I have a piece of paper, digital, oh, you know, where goes that top most important things that I need to make sure move forward today. And, and I try to limit the amount of information I put in there, not with great success. But I try and and what that thing does is it gives me the ability to focus what I think

our proper implementation of bullet journal can do, if you’re willing to carry that notebook is allows you to give a lot more focus than a digital thing that, you know, then it doesn’t have any limits. I as much as the limitations, we can look at all the negative of those limitations. I think those limitations also play for the positive because, you know, in digital, if we print all our digital systems react realistically, there is no way we’re going to finish that, okay. But the bullet what the bullet journal allows you to do to do is to limit where you are going to focus what you’re going to do to move forward. And I think that’s really positive.

Francis Wade 43:59
I agree, I think that the limitations can be designed in the

with, with sort of enough creativity or with of understanding and appreciation of the poem bullet journal, I think it could be translated into software by someone who understands these limitations and build them into the software so that you don’t end up throwing everything in the kitchen sink, and then therefore not managing your it’s a design problem, as opposed to a benefit of people.

Unknown 44:36

Art Gelwicks 44:37
let’s see, here’s the thing that though, we look at designing software tools to implement these systems, and I go back to what I mentioned earlier, it’s the infinite flexibility of this type of an analog based system that is its greatest strength and software by its very nature has rails on it, it has to fall within specific criteria. So one of the things that you’ll see when you start looking at and i have i’ve written articles on on implementing bullet journal in tools, such as one note, and Evernote and other systems, there’s always accommodations that have to be made, there’s always adjustments that have to be compensated for yet you can mitigate some of the limitations, but you’re also giving up something in the same equation. For example, if I take to do as my absolute favorite task tool, if I use that to implement a bullet journal based system, which I can do, one of the things I’m going to give up is the ability to draw a picture I can’t do an illustration in to do is it just won’t do it. So then I have to look at a different tool, could I do it in one note, yes, I could do it if I have the right pieces. So there’s always that given take. And if we always look at the consideration of what is the underlying principle of this type of a system, and that is to make it your own, I have yet to find a software based solution that is that open of an architecture that it works for everybody without an issue. And,

Augusto Pinaud 46:09
and you know, and to to add to that because I green was hard hundred percent on this. The problem is not Can you can you make a piece of software that will fit all Francis needs? Yes? Can you make a piece of software that will work for everybody? No. And if you think about getting things done, okay. Asa principles, okay, I read the first getting things done the first book, that book The first time I think was around 2001 or two. Okay, so it’s been 16 years and for 16 years, I’ve been reading about the perfect piece of software that is coming or the perfect piece of software the perfect implementation how the software does better while I have been sticking with with Omni focus, so many focus the perfect No, it’s perfect for the way I have implemented or I have implemented getting things done are better software out there probably if you change the way you see implemented Yes, if I will need to start adding PCs on Android tablets to my equation Omni focus is broken immediately because you can only use it on Mac and iOS platforms. So I think for a good bullet journal is exactly the same thing you know,

this software will be perfect for your implementation but I don’t think you can make while on paper you have such an incredible flexibility that then you can make almost anything work now I’ll flip around let me take Francis aside for a second I just wanted

Art Gelwicks 47:58
incredible flexibility connection derail the entire system and no time at all. Because if you look like I said, look up the images. A lot of people won’t even start with the system because they realize they will never make it as pretty as what they see on Pinterest. It will never look as good they can they don’t feel they are artistic enough, which has nothing to do with bullet journaling. But they can completely derail it because there isn’t that structure. So yeah, Francis you’re dead on with the fact that a lot of people like the structure of a digitally based system and that’s what makes them productive and an analog system that is basically a pen and a blank piece of paper is completely out of their wheelhouse. They just Weiss start to you guys are supposed to be experts show me what I’m supposed to do. And this is not going to do that. This puts a lot of the onus on the person using the system either way. I don’t journal anymore on people

Francis Wade 48:53
I mentioned on our prayer pad podcast. So I left my beautiful journal on a plane once and that was the written after that. I said never again, will I ever have that happen in my entire life.

If you see wherever you’re at the store it as you’re unwilling to put up with it ever being lost, then you have to migrate to to Mirabelle solutions. It’s just a matter of course. And that’s one of the

again I in my mind, it’s not a matter of taste, whether someone likes something or not, I believe that it’s a matter of volume, that as the volumes as the volumes increase as the volume of information and trying to manage increases, there is a it’s a bit like, like the example that I gave, but it’s also a bit like trying to dig a hole, you could use a shovel for a really small It’s fine, it’s a perfect implement. But if you’re going to build a you know, something that’s a mile wide, you need heavy duty lifting equipment that you need tractors and whatnot have to have redundancy you’re dead on with that, there’s no question about it. I mean, if I like I said, if I look at my system, the

Art Gelwicks 50:06
the paper part of it is a kind, I want to say it’s the piece that plays with the right half of my brain. It’s the one that allows me to free flowing Lee creatively come up with whatever I need to do tasks, sketch things through, put those pieces together

actual execution, I move into a digital system, because I know the digital system has its strengths and doesn’t have the weaknesses of the analog piece.

Can you do one or the other exclusively? Absolutely. I mean, we’ve all said this numerous times, try it, see if it works for you. If it doesn’t work, change it,

give yourself the option. But don’t think that, like I said, Don’t get scared about bullet journaling when you look it up online. Because it is this massive community of what can be very expensive purchases, we think about online solutions. And we started this Oh man, that’s $2 a month. That’s $3 a month. We’re talking notebooks here that are $20 a notebook. In some cases, travelers notebooks that are leather bound that are way beyond I mean, this can completely blow itself out of proportions when we talk about an investment into a system. But as Ray mentioned, this goes back to the old days with things like date timers, and Franklin pennant planners. You know, whoever had the nicest leather daytime are sitting at the meeting table was the person in charge, it is some old school thinking at times,

Raymond Sidney-Smith 51:38
what I’m hearing from the discussion is that bullet journal is kind of a double edged sword like anything else that is, you know, that has to toggle the digital paper world today that we live in, right, some people are digital, some people are our paper. And so the bullet journal allows for really great amounts of focus, you can really filter down and boil down the most important things by using paper and pen. This is a personal productivity system. And I think a lot of people misrepresent that, which is a team productivity solution or group productivity solution. This is a, an individual productivity system, very similar to getting things done. I mean, you know, the reality is, is that getting things done is about personal productivity, how you manage your own productivity, not others, it’s very difficult to even implement GTD in a in a in a team environment. Unless you have a quite a massive amount of influence over that team. Volume matters, the dynamism of projects and the movement of tasks matter if you need reminders, this is not the probably a system for you, if you if you don’t check in with your bullet journal. And then of course, backup redundancy and access, right, you know, a, a paper book, you know, like a novel is great because it doesn’t need a battery. But if you lose, your book is gone, right. It’s it’s not really something that you can replaced very easily and you can’t access it from anywhere as you can with things in the cloud. So I think I think this is this has been a really great discussion on the bullet journal, but also how paper digital hybrid productivity really needs to be addressed. and looked at any final thoughts before we close out.

Art Gelwicks 53:19
This is one of those excuse me, those perpetual things that I’m always fascinated with. So over at the idea pump, which is my site there’s a bullet journaling resource page which has links to various things across the web articles I’ve written things that are interest that will help think through the process I’ve lumped it all into that page so it’s all over at the idea pump calm and just look in the navigation for bullet journal reference and will include it in the show notes as well.

Raymond Sidney-Smith 53:49
Very cool. Very cool.

Do you have a question or comment about this cast something we discussed in this cast or otherwise about personal productivity go ahead and visit productivity cast dot net forward slash contact and let us know we’ll be happy to talk to you or talk about it on a future cast thanks to August Francis and Art for joining me here on productivity cast. You can find this episode show notes with all the links to the things we talked about and how to subscribe to the show at productivity cast dot net forward slash 035 the episode number 035 and if you could head over to iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you are and give us a rating a review it helps us open up to a new community of listeners. So thank you for that. That brings us to the clothes or productivity cast the weekly show about all things personal productivity, here’s your productive life.

Voiceover Artist 54:41
And that’s it for this productivitycast the weekly show about all things productivity with your host Ray Sidney-Smith, and Augusto Pinaud with Francis Wade and Art Gelwicks.



  1. The question in my mind is this: “Where do I write a task I want to do a week from Thursday?” With the Day-Timer or Franklin Planner, you flip open to the two-page spread for that day. With the Bullet Journal, there are no pages dedicated to future days. The classic (and loose-leaf) planners of old made so much more sense.

    As was stated in the podcast, things may go well for a short period of time before it all comes crashing down.

    1. Good point, Frank! Ryder Carroll has the future log for such things, but it can get cluttered pretty easily if you have many items or changes.

      I’ve seen BuJo’ers use post-it notes for the ability to move those future tasks to a specific future time, then transpose them when that day arrives. It’s too cumbersome for me. But I see the appeal of managing it all on paper, if your life is suited to BuJo.

      Thanks for your perspective, as always! ??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.