Bullet Journal: An ADHD Introduction

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Why should you care?

You have a bunch of tasks/appointments/ideas in your life/mind (what’s the difference really? They all just end up being thoughts and stressors that float around your brain keeping you from focusing!). You would like to get them organized and even better, be able to temporarily forget about most of them so you can do one thing at a time. See the thing is, unless you know you can refer back to them later, have a place to dump them and process them so they’re still around, your mind will keep trying to remind you about them everywhere you go.

Say you have to do laundry in the afternoon. You wake up? Alright, gotta remember laundry. In a lecture? “… I’m bored. OH LAUNDRY. DON’T FORGET.” On the bus? “What station is- LAUNDRY!” If you relate to this, then I think you’re like the rest of us. If you don’t, well, teach me your secrets. Point is, unless you have a place for stuff like that you won’t feel confident that you’ll actually get to it, and if you don’t feel confident, your brain will nag you. So then you make to-do lists. If you’ve ever tried to get organized, that’s probably the first thing you make. And if that’s enough for you, then you’re on a waaaaay ahead of me and should probably be productivity-blogging for us laymen. If you’re here, it’s probably not everything you hoped it would be. This post is all about the system that claims to, and actually does a decent job at solving this exact problem.

If you’re wondering why I’m putting the cart before the horse and writing this first before you even know what it is, it’s because, that part’s complicated. But this part is simple. And enticing.

What is it?

There’s no better introduction than the creator’s very own, really. So I present to you, his YouTube video: 

And secondly, his website.

I know we have ADHD, so I’ll also do a short summary, to see if I can’t entice you into watching the video:

  • It’s a system to dump all your brain stuff. To-do’s, ideas, movies, schedules, etc.
  • It uses an easy shorthand, called “bullets” to signify what they are. Is it: A task? Random thought? Idea? Movie you want to watch? Appointment?
  • You have monthly and daily logs, where you dump all the relevant info and tasks you might want to associate with the day. Tasks, notes to self, reminders, whatever.
  • You also have a future log where you dump all your appointments.
  • That’s it! Then you can migrate, schedule or delete your tasks as you see fit.

Really, if you’re still interested after this list, please do check out the website. Ryder explains much better than I ever could.

Why this system?

That’s the million dollar question and I’ll summarize it thusly:

  • It’s cheap and easy to implement. I know there are very fancy journals out there, but to use it to achieve your goals, all you need is a notebook and a pen. It’s also simple and customizable.
  • I swear by it. I wouldn’t recommend it if I don’t. I’ve been using it for almost two years now, which is more than I can say for any productivity system I’ve ever used. And if you have ADHD, sticking by a system is probably not your strong suit.
  • It combines a lot of insights from other noted systems such as GTD and many experts (such as the esteemed Cal Newport) I admire use something to this effect.
  • I will go so far as to claim there’s science behind this method. Perhaps I will summarize the relevant results and studies in a separate post if there’s interest.

What are the drawbacks?

No system is perfect, so here are my difficulties with it:

  • As ADHD people, we struggle with routine. Using this system daily or nearly daily, then reviewing on a regular basis, say, a weekly or monthly basis, is crucial to getting the most out of it.
  • If you miss days, it will be obvious. The pages will obviously be blank. Your last entry will be a couple of days ago. It can be demoralizing. And if your ADHD experience is like mine, your whole life was sort of demoralizing at many points. This makes us want to give up. I will make a separate post addressing being demoralized.
  • Depending on the size of your journal, it can be hard to keep with you at all times. But if you use it heavily, it contains a lot of information you might want at your fingertips, such as your daily schedule or task list or brain dump. After all, I just advertised this method as a way to empty our brains so it can be used most efficiently, so it’s sort of a bummer if it’s not there when we need to brain dump. And believe me, I was very tempted to make scatological jokes, but I refrained. Be grateful.

How do I get started without needing to think?

Notebook: Leuchtturm1917 Dotted or the one closest to you

Pen: Any pen you don’t hate.

Fountain Pen (if that’s your thing): Lamy Safari.

Instructions:

1. Turn on Ryder’s video

2. Pen. To paper. Now.

3. A MIRACLE HAPPENS. YOUR LIFE IS PERFECT. UNICORNS FART RAINBOWS.

(I’m kidding about the miracle. You know that, right?) GOGOGOGOGO. Life is short. Time flies. Memento mori.

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You know what this says? Ya gonna to die one day. Mark my words. It might happen to me, but it’ll definitely happen to you.

Summary/Verdict

Should you still use the system now that you know the drawbacks? If you ask me, the answer is emphatically YES. For people whose medication is only moderately or slightly helpful, having a productivity system you trust can be your lifeline to sanity and escape from constant low grade anxiety. And as to the drawbacks I mentioned, I do not believe that any other productivity system is free from those problems as long as the user has ADHD, and even if the user is neurotypical. Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and all. And it really is outrageous. Come to think of it, has anyone ever told you life is hard? No? Well, then you learned it from me. 😀

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