Organization Hacks: Bullet Journaling and The Notecard System (Plus, My Hybrid)

It’s a new year and people are once again zazzed about organization, getting in shape, and being fitter/happier/more productive (Radiohead anyone?). I’m a big fan of optimism and efficiency, and have a wicked Organization Fetish so I LOVE this time of year for the inspiring content alone.

We’re developing an attention span problem…

The age of tech has given us a baffling and sometimes debilitating amount of information at our finger tips. Yet as our access to information increases, it seems as if the benefits of all that information are lacking. In fact…

  • Tech, apps, and gadgets are awesome, but all those screens and notifications can lead to distraction instead of productivity.
  • We read tons of blogs, websites, white papers, books, videos,  etc but it’s becoming harder and harder to retain, digest, and truly think about what we consume.
  • Many people learn by doing &/or think by jotting things down, but technology has made many forms of note-taking obsolete or redundant.

Organization Hacks-Bullet Journaling +Solutions exist…

There are systems and thought leaders out there paving the way to making us more thoughtful in 2015. In fact, I’ve come across two analog solutions for our digital productivity woes in the past two months alone:

Bullet Journaling

Bullet Journal: Monthly Calendar & Tasks

Check out this video by Ryder Carroll. Bullet journalling is a quick, analog way to track tasks, events, notes, thoughts and ideas in one  journal. No apps or software required. 

The ritual in a nutshell: At the beginning of each month, create a monthly calendar and task list using the prescribed bulleting system. Use the monthly calendar and tasks to guide daily tracking on subsequent dates and pages. Create categories to track big ideas. Make an index page at the beginning of your notebook to track and find entries.

The Notecard System aka “The System 

The Notecard “System”

First brought to my attention by @RyanHoliday who learned it from Robert Greene. It’s another analog way to track tasks, notes, thoughts and ideas. The slowness of this system is actually a benefit in that it forces the user to stop, think, and distill information. 

The ritual in a nutshell: Write thoughts and ideas on a 4×6 notecard and identify them with a theme or category at the top of the card. Use a filing system to keep track and turn category cards into content generators for blog posts and book chapters.

…I’d like to add a thought:

Both of the above systems are exciting for Type A nerds like myself. I like the quickness & organization of bullet journaling & the deep ritual/slowness of the notecard system.

What if we combined the two?

The problem for me is that I write too much to be a devout user of a single system. My journals fill up way too quickly for Bullet Journaling (I write at least 3 pages a day, and the whole index and page numbering thing would just end up pissing me off). Plus, I don’t think I need to store, track and record everything I write. Sometimes I write just to think out ideas which can be condensed into smaller, usable bits of information. Discardable shopping lists don’t need to be kept along with ideas for my next blog post and/or evergreen inspirational quotes.

I’ve come up with my own hybrid version of both systems that incorporates my favorite parts.

Bullet Journaling: Signifiers

My favorite parts of Bullet Journaling:

  • Monthly Calendar
  • Daily Calendar
  • Bullets/Signifiers
  • Migration (moving unfinished tasks forward which forces prioritization and reflection).

My favorite parts of The Notecard System:

  • Long Term Categories (Filing system)
  • Deep habit/ritual
  • Distilling information from what I’ve read into useable, bite-sized, organized cards

A New Ritual?

In 2015 I’d like to start thinking of my journal as a place to store short term information. Things like a monthly/daily task lists fit perfectly there. The Notecard System makes more sense as a long term idea storage and organization system. A place to keep & track big ideas to be used for subsequent blog posts, books, or whatever.

My Funky Little Hybrid: Daily Bullets + Notecards

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Daily Journaling: Use my journal to flesh out a daily calendar and to write my morning pages (at least three handwritten pages).
  • Monthly Journaling: Keep two pages in my journal as a monthly calendar and migrate important, unfinished tasks forward. Fill it in as I complete stuff.
  • Daily Notecards: Keep a notecard in the book I’m reading to jot down ideas and quotes for later research and reflection. Make a habit of saving quotes and sticking them in proper categories.

Do you use a note-taking and/or journaling system? What do you use and how is your system working out? Share it — I’d love to see how you’re working.

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