The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

How the Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll changed my life. 

“When we grant ourselves the opportunity to be rewarded by our courage, powerful things can happen.”

This is the sequel of the Meditation and Mindfulness post.

A little story: Losing a precious thought

Open your eyes, I’ve put a notebook and a pencil in front of you. Write in it. (~Learn More Wizard)

The Read More Warrior picked up the notebook and opened it. He noticed that the pages were filled with little dots. This must be a bullet journal. On the first page, a quote was written:

Why do you show me this, dear Learn More Wizard? The warrior waited for a response, but the wizard was gone and out of his mind. Please come back, I need your wisdom. The wizard was not coming back, the warrior was on his own now. His overwhelming thoughts were still zooming around him like trains. Focussing on his breath had helped him for some minutes, but it was not a long-term solution. So, the warrior decided to listen to the wizard’s last three words.

What am I going to write? The warrior thought for a bit and started to write about how he felt. He wrote about what had happened to him. He wrote about the swirl of lights, the firefly, and the trains. When he was writing it down, it reminded him of a long time ago.

It was one of those nights when he used to lie down on a soft moss carpet in the middle of the forest. The light of the full moon illuminated his face while he was watching the stars. This was his favourite spot to relax and catch fireflies. Suddenly, the most beautiful firefly he had ever seen, flashed by. He got up to his feet to chase it and tried to capture the firefly, but it was an elusive one. He zigzagged between the trees, jumped over the trunks and swayed his net from left to right. In the end, he could finally catch it, YESSSS!, and he put it into a glass jar.

What am I going to do with it now? Will I take it home with me and keep it for myself? Or should I set it free, so that others can enjoy its beauty? The warrior was doubting. Eventually, he decided it would be better to set it free, but he first wanted to ensure that he would never forget the firefly. So he took a post-it and made a drawing of the firefly. He folded it and put it in his pocket.

You can go now. And the warrior opened the lit of the jar.

A blaring horn disrupted his nostalgic thoughts. With the trains still zooming around him, all he wanted was to see the firefly again. He searched for the drawing in his pocket, but it wasn’t there any more, he had lost it somewhere. His heart sank. He promised himself never again to draw or write something important on a post-it. From now on, he would use his bullet journal.

It started with notebooks

When I was still a little boy, I never had a diary. “Diaries are for girls” was what people said. This changed when one day in high school, a good friend of mine gifted me a diary. I liked it a lot, but it took two years before I used her gift. I wrote in it when something happened in my life that I never wanted to forget. Mostly, I wrote for hours and hours when I actually needed to sleep. Later at university, I bought a little notebook, which I could take with me everywhere. That was when it all really started.

One notebook, though, was not enough for me. Even though the previous one was not finished yet, I already bought a new one. After a while, I had a big collection of notebooks, ranging from the ones you get for free at job fairs to the most beautiful ones in bookshops. Some I used for my projects such as learning Spanish, others as a workbook, and still others for my thoughts. I had written down my thoughts in such a fragmented way, that when I wanted to reread a specific thought, I needed to go through all my notebooks, my phone and my laptop in order to find it. Oh yeah, and chances were pretty high that the thought was somewhere on a crumpled post-it at the bottom of a garbage can.

Then I read “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll and it all changed.

The Bullet Journal Method: A Disclaimer

Most people when they hear the word “bullet journal” think of beautifully illustrated notebooks with calligraphy letters. Remove these images from your head! That is not what bullet journaling is about!

The Key Advantages

I like the bullet journal method mainly because of 3 reasons:

  1. Versatility

A bullet journal is kind of like a Swiss army knife. It is designed to collect all kinds of thoughts. Before using the bullet journal method, I wrote down my thoughts in various places. Now I can centralize all of them in one place and never have to wonder where I wrote them again.

2. Writing by hand

The higher effort required to write by hand is actually an advantage. It forces you to distil the idea to its essence. This is an important skill, certainly when you are following a lecture or a meeting. As Ryder Carroll puts it:

“The more content you try to capture during a lecture or a meeting, the less you’re thinking about what’s being said.” *

Moreover, if what you want to write is not worth the seconds it takes to write it, it is probably not that important. Additionally, this distillation process, makes you think more deeply, which in its turn enhances learning.

*I think it’s kinda ironic that I typed over this sentence instead of writing it down by hand XD.

3. Intentionality

While reading the book I realized that the book integrates various concepts, such as digital minimalism, essentialism, meditation & mindfulness, and atomic habits, which I already knew from other places. I really liked that, because it helped me to internalize these concepts on a deeper level. I could internalize them better because of Intentionality.

But what is meant by intentionality? Well….

“Intentionality is the power of the mind to direct itself toward that which it finds meaningful and take action toward that end.”

I’ve noticed that reading inspiring books or watching productivity videos is not enough to make a change. They might be the spark that will set the wood on fire, but we will also have to keep it burning. We have to take action towards our beliefs. Using a bullet journal is the perfect way to do just that. It reminds us what we should do in order to get closer to our beliefs. This, for example, is in the form of daily, monthly and yearly reflections.

“Leading an intentional life is about keeping your actions aligned with your beliefs. It’s about penning a story that you believe in and that you can be proud of.”

How I use my bullet journal

I use my bullet journal…

  • As a diary for the interesting things that happen in my life
  • As a notebook to capture my creative ideas
  • To keep an overview of my tasks
  • To plan and think about my future
  • To keep track of the books I’ve read and still want to read
  • To never forget the most interesting conversations I had

Extra: A tale of two lives

Ryder Carroll proposes to do a little exercise in the book which is called “A tale of two lives”. With this exercise, you should take your bullet journal and start thinking about two different paths: the well-worn path and the path less traveled. Imagine going down the well-worn path. Set a timer of 10 minutes and try to describe the different aspects of this future as detailed as possible. Try to imagine your carreer, where you live and the people around you. After the 10 minutes, do the same for the path less traveled.

When you have written down both tales, let it rest for a while and come back to it some days or weeks later. Read what you have written for both tales and decide which one you like the most. Now, try to live up to that one. It helped me a lot to get a sense of direction in life.

Your Turn

Buy a bullet journal, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Use the following code for taking notes in the bullet journal:

This will get you started. 

“If you don’t do, if you don’t dare, then you rob the world – and yourself – of the chance to contribute something meaningful.”

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All the drawings are self-made. Share them with whoever you want, as long as you refer to this website. For commercial use, however, you need my consent.