Less Bullets, More Journal

I started the year 2019 with another respectable bullet journal (bujo), crafted from a Moleskine notebook and made to get things done. Something went awry along the way to filling that notebook, though.

The problems begin when I realized, as in other years, I was going to have far less tasks than notebook. Something seemed slightly tragic about having a perfectly good notebook with so much space going to waste. The bullet journal system doesn’t encourage traditional journaling, so much as it does creating action items and systems to develop habits. Sure, it has built-in support for plain notes, but those feel like they are mostly to be used in conjunction with bullets for actions. With more in my head than just what task I needed to accomplish next, I began to explore more traditional journal entries that in years past might have been done in a digital format such as the Day One app.

I have systems in place to limit my screen time after 9pm, which has proven to be a good thing, so it made more sense to be writing journal entries on good old-fashioned paper. I started off slow, at first. Then, as difficulties in my everyday life mounted, the journal entries became more frequent. Those entries outnumbered the action item bullets. I tend to find that, for me, the notion of productivity for its own sake goes right out of the window in the face of medical problems and unexpected life disruptions. My incomplete todo’s from March still look at me and laugh from the page. The best laid plans (well, maybe not the best) of mice and men…

In fact, it would be pretty easy to look at my journal and determine when introspection became more important than productivity. Gauging how each day was going, whether things were improving and reflecting on overcoming past difficulties took priority over tallying up a list of things I was getting done. It happens. Life occasionally gets in the way of progress and sometimes taking a step back to reflect is more necessary than moving forward on the next goal. Sometimes moving forward is not even possible without that act of reflection. Other times, with various things competing for time and mental energy, forward progress is not even possible until a later, more stable, time.

As I fill my Moleskine, I’m trying to stay mindful of the rightful place of productivity in my thinking, in my life and even in my bujo. My identity is more than just what I can get done in a day. I think it’s fair to say that my effectiveness as a father, husband, teacher, co-worker, or any other hat I wear is greater than simply my productivity. After all, as Austin Kleon explains in this post from last year, productivity is not the same as effectiveness.

I’ve gotten a handful of tweets recently asking me about “productivity systems,” which is funny to me because it assumes I do any thinking at all about productivity. Productivity is pretty low on my list of cares. “Productivity is for machines, not for people,” Jason Fried recently tweeted. “Think about how effective you’re being, not how productive you’re being.”

Robert Rackley @frostedechoes

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