Having discovered journaling a couple of years ago, I was very interested to hear about the new book from Ryder Carroll: The Bullet Journal Method, published on 23rd October. Like most people who are intrigued by bullet journaling, I'd looked at his site and taken on board some of his techniques to help me control my workload. When I read that one of the missions of Carroll's book is to ' …help us to become mindful about how we spend our two most valuable resources in life: our time and our energy' - two things I feel I am very short of - I was the first to volunteer to read one of the proof copies we received.
What did I expect from The Bullet Journal Method? Well, I anticipated quite a textbook approach with definitions of symbols, instructions on how to set up a journal, details about spreads, indexes and logs. And yes, it is all this, but there's also so much more.
The book is split into sections. The first concentrates on 'The System' and shows you how to use principles to organise your notebook so that it transforms into a powerful organisation tool. Carroll talks in detail about how he came to develop the system that helped him deal with issues he was experiencing in his own life. You hear about how he shared this system, initially just with close friends, and how it has since grown. He talks about why bullet journaling can help us overcome phenomena such as 'decision fatigue' and how you can use his techniques to lead a more purposeful life.
While I was expecting the guidance on how to better control my life, what was new to me was how I could use bullet journaling to reflect more on my current life and habits, and question my approach to certain situations. Carroll's question 'Why am I doing what I'm doing?' has been a phrase which I now repeat to myself on an almost daily basis… with some interesting results and changes in behaviour! As Carroll says, 'reflection is the nursery of intentionality' and in today's society, we spend so much time 'doing' we often don't spend enough time reflecting on what we've done, why we've done it and what we're going to do next. We're just on autopilot. One of the aims of this book is to help people 'slow down, tune in, explore their potential'.
If you've dipped your toe into the journaling world, you'll probably have seen on social media a group of incredibly creative journalers, our good friend Helen @journalwithpurpose being one of them. If, like me, you're somewhat lacking in the artistic talent department, this can be intimidating. It was therefore music to my ears to hear that whilst Carroll believes that there is nothing wrong in being creative and artistic in your journals, this certainly isn't what bullet journaling is all about and was never intended to be. The message that Carroll repeats is that you should not be intimidated by other creative journalers: your journal is for you, not for anyone else. He even suggests doing some writing in your non-dominant hand to prove the point, and adds 'the only thing that matters is the content, not the presentation.'
The book is jam-packed with exercises to help you step back and reflect, and therefore understand more about yourself. It even suggests writing potential obituaries dependent upon which direction in life you choose (somewhat frightening but certainly enlightening!) I was initially reluctant to participate in this level of self-reflection but, as Carroll reminds us: '…don't worry, reflection is not an invitation to flagellate yourself for past failures. It's an opportunity to harvest the rich information embedded in your life experiences and use it to fertilise your future.'
As well as exercises, Carroll helpfully works through lots of examples on what you should be working towards. He emphasises the importance of ensuring that our goals have substance. Aiming 'to make a million' has no purpose, so it would need translating instead to 'I want to make enough money to pay off my student loans, buy a two-bedroom house for my parents to retire in, and cover my kids' education'.
The importance of goals being achievable is also discussed and how big goals can be split into more achievable 'sprints' that help maintain momentum. If one sprint fails, it's not the end of the world. As Carroll says 'momentum helps you cultivate patience.'
Another theme is that of continual improvement, something that we always strive to do here at Cult Pens. Carroll emphasises the importance of this with some interesting insights into Japanese philosophy. Japanese 'Kaizen' focuses on 'surfacing opportunity for incremental improvement'. Again, this could sound daunting but Carroll encourages you to ask 'smaller questions' and to push yourself every day to think about 'what tiny thing could I do tomorrow that would make my life a bit better?' as well as looking for any win. This and other techniques throughout the book all help encourage a positive attitude to mental health. Why shouldn't we celebrate victories, however small? @journalwithpurpose talked about having a page for 'Reasons to be Proud', so that whenever you feel you're underachieving you can go back and read that page and maybe feel not quite so bad about yourself! As Carroll puts it: 'Embracing our imperfections puts the emphasis back where it should be: continual improvement. This mind-set turns mistakes from land mines into street signs, pointing us toward where we need to go.'
When I started reading this book, I used a pack of page markers to highlight areas of the book I wanted to return to at a later stage to use for myself and to include in this review. As you'll see from the pictures, there is a lot in this book that I found interesting and useful. Read it for yourself or give it as a gift that will surely be appreciated.
Quotes are used by many journalers to help focus on goals, inspire creativity and lift spirits, and Carroll has many words of wisdom.
Here are some of my favourites:
'Rather than aiming for perfection or striving to be better than others, find opportunities to improve yourself.'
Ernest Hemingway: 'There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.'
'Your bullet journal can become whatever you need it to be. Figuring out what you need it to be, how it can best serve you, is part of the practice, and it will change over time.'
'Every action is a step up from where you were. It doesn't matter how small the steps are, or if you stumble along the way. What matters is that you continue to step up.'
The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll is available 23rd October, priced at £13.59.
The Bullet Journal Method Limited Edition Box Set, which includes a deluxe edition of the Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal notebook and is supplied with a free set of Staedtler pens, will also be available, priced at £30. You can order it here.
12 October 2018