Ed - bullet journaling

The Revenge of Analog. 

Sometimes tech gets in the way - managing to-dos the old fashioned way.

by Christopher Lomax, Founder, Mantle.

If you are like me, trying to keep up with the craziness of things that will happen in the future or need to get done everyday at a startup or business, not to mention the whole clowder of them we deal with in our incubator (here), is like herding cats. Tech options for managing workflow are a dime a dozen these days though a few are really, really good - namely Asana, Basecamp, and Evernote.

Those options are great in dealing with teams, but what about when you need to just manage your wild, fast-paced day? That's where bullet journaling steps in!

While Bullet Journaling is not super high-tech (it is pen and paper after all), the analog nature of the technique drills the ideas a little bit more into your head. However, the flexible nature of the journal also allows for those that use technology tools like Evernote or Asana in their daily task management to bolster those digital tools with the old fashioned one through the concept of migration (watch the video below).

I have been bullet journaling on and off for a little over a year. I say on and off because in order for this hack to really work for you, the journaling has to become second nature. If you haven't made your new journal your new best friend, it's very easy to lose track of the benefits of bullet journaling. If you are not keeping up, your to-do list stagnates, you don't log your life, and you are not reflecting on your inner being.

You are back to being lost and overwhelmed.

Second nature means that you have to tap into the Power of Habit. In Charles Duhigg's book that spent 60 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, Duhigg notes that up to 40% of actions performed every day are based on habit and not conscious decisions. Things like backing out of the driveway initially take lots of concentration and reminder on turns or obstacles, but eventually become effortless. The key is to get a habit into your basal ganglia, a deep part of your brain that holds habits and can function even if the rest of your brain is damaged!

Another "Key" to making any new habit stick is making a keystone habit. A keystone habit is the creation of really small steps and small wins. Don't aim to lose 20 pounds - try just losing the first one - and then the next one. Wins create reward and keep you motivated for the next small win. Don't hit a big target and you feel let down and give up.

I found that when I really got into my bullet journaling, one of bullet journaling's biggest strengths was also one of its biggest distractions. Using a blank journal allows for uber flexibility. This is great because you are not tied into any particular structure. If you want to start keeping a list of your favorite books, like The Power or Habit or The Revenge of Analog, all you have to do is turn the next page into a booklist. However, this flexibility can allow you to turn a very simple tool into an overly complex filing system.

That's what I did.

I found the benefits of the bullet journaling system so great that I tried to apply it to every part of my life and business. I went as far as creating a second journal to keep notes and ideas for every different project I was working on at the time. I over complicated things and this made keeping notes and journaling difficult. When journaling became difficult, when I lost the keystone habit of small quick entries, I did it less. Eventually, I fell out of habit and stopped journaling completely.

At the turn of this year, I decided to give it another go. I learned from my mistakes and I returned to the simplistic version of bullet journaling. I would keep a running to-do list from week to week. I would note my meetings and neat things that happened. In between the weeks, I would write my daily thoughts - though - to keep from getting burned out, I would not try to write an entry everyday. I kept things small and doable.

I picked it back up and things are working out pretty great.

I have stayed on top of my to-dos better than I ever have and find that my life is organized. I also have managed to make a pretty strong habit of reflective journaling. Something that I have tried to do in the past and have usually failed miserably in persisting. Mentally and spiritually, my latest foray into journaling has me feeling great. Plus, carrying around that little black Moleskine makes me feel like I got it together and it signals to the outside world that I am at least trying!

You can buy an actual, physical bullet journal (here) or you can apply the system as shown in the video below into any old blank notebook too! Shinola makes several different hardback sizes that you can find at our Sandbox Retail Partner Great Scott (here) in Jackson (Medium $17.95 or Small $12). Or, grab Hemingway's favorite journal and my journal of choice, a Moleskine, from Lemuria Books (here).

If you are tied to digital, you can use a cool Moleskine-Evernote Journal to connect the two worlds seamlessly. Basically, by migrating tasks and notes from the journal to the digital versions, any entrepreneur can use the efficient benefits of the digital tools with the tangible benefits of the pen and paper.

Analog's revenge is a real thing, but it's not total. Finding the right combination of tech and analog is tricky, but we think that bullet journaling provides the flexibility and accessiblity to help you form a new habit of organization and reflection.


Christopher Lomax is the Founder of Mantle., a company that provides the space and the tools for starting and growing your life's great work.


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