The Bullet Journal Method: A Book Review
The Physical Book
This is a hardback book was published by Penguin and features a black and gold cover design by the author, Ryder Carroll. Carroll created the Bullet Journal method. The book is 5.6” x 1 x 8.2”. For comparison, a Kindle Paperwhite is 6.7” X 5.4”. The book fits nicely in the hand. The book is 310 pages plus the fore pages with publication information. The sewn binding is sturdy and has withstood the spine cracking and rough handling I gave it while reading it. The attractively patterned end pages are Bullet Journaling symbols in gold on a black background.
The uniqueness of the book begins almost immediately on the first pages. The Table of Contents normally found at the beginning of a book here is called the Index, and the Index normally found at the back of the book is called Content. Notes, or references, are called Notes!
The book pages are creamy white with black and grey type. Some handwritten sketches and drawings are found throughout the book to illustrate sample Bullet Journal entries.
Part 1 presents motivation and rationale for keeping a paper journal. Several studies are cited related to memory, attention, and information organization. The studies were familiar to me and they support the claim that keeping handwritten notes is beneficial to memory, including retention and recall. A few personal narrative experiences are also presented indicating that, for some, the Bullet Journal Method is helpful in real life.
Part 2 includes an in-depth discussion of the key components of rapid logging, collections, and migration. The book provides ample, good discussion of when and how to use the components and their associated parts such as bullets, tasks, and daily, monthly, and future logs. The importance and function of creating and keeping an index, and how to migrate tasks are explained in-depth. Illustrations of a typical bullet journal set up are provided for visual reference. I love that throughout the text, the author refers back to earlier descriptions and explanations and provide the page number for reference. It made the book so easy to read and actually reinforced how to use the components and parts of the bullet journal system.
Part 3 is putting the bullet journal to work. In this section, you learn the practice of bullet journaling. Along with describing the system, the author uses quotes, metaphors, and stories to explain how he sees the cognitive processes behind the bullet journal system. Part 3 begins with reflection, an important concept to the bullet journal method. AM and PM reflection leads to a discussion about meaning in life in general and your life in particular. Here again, the author makes reference to studies and articles, this time related to motivation and productivity. There is some light philosophical discussion of what productivity means and how individual beliefs influence that.
This section dives into the arrangement of the bullet journal parts and how to relate projects to goals, and then to break projects into tasks. The system considers time and place and how those two constraints figure into the bullet journal method. The method discourages striving for perfection in planning. Rather, mistakes and imperfections, the wabi-sabi, are to be celebrated in everyday life and recorded in the journal.
To shore up the connection between bullet journal method of planning and everyday life, the system includes a place to record gratitude. A discussion of gratitude and its knock-on effects. Methods for gaining clarity through deconstruction, such as the 5 Whys, are introduced to help with figuring out what is blocking productivity.
This section was my favorite part.
# Part 4
Part 4 is the art of bullet journaling. Here the author explains how to customize components to meet individual needs. Customization includes planners, lists, trackers, and community interactions. The book ends with advice to just get on with it, to reflect, adjust and revise, then start again. Advice is given throughout the book to stop worrying about how your bullet journal looks and to get on with making it work for you. An FAQ section that addresses questions about getting started, what to do if you lose your BuJo, recurring tasks, apps, and managing multiple projects.
# My Personal Response
In 310 pages plus the fore pages, Carroll explains the Bullet Journal method for journaling, task management, and planning. The book is the perfect size and weight to hold in your hands while reading on the couch or in bed. I often read on a Kindle Paperwhite, so books that are too bulky or heavy tend to annoy me. Even though this is a hardback, I did not find it awkward to hold. I do most of my reading for pleasure on a Kindle, (and I read a lot!) so I notice when I pick up a physical book and often find it uncomfortable to read. The design. layout, sections, content, and illustrations are evidence of Carroll’s double-major degrees in graphic design and creative writing. He is a gifted storyteller and designer. This book is evidence of that.
I really liked the references to studies and published articles to support claims about memory, motivation, and productivity. The system and components are very well explained, something that I think was sorely needed. I’ve tried reading the website but found that its nonlinear layout confused me and I couldn’t see how the parts related to one another. The book clarifies all of my questions. The writing is clear, brief (for the most part) and engaging. The illustrations come at just the right time and Carroll’s custom of referring to parts of the system and providing a page number for reference to that part made the book particularly user-friendly. In a way, he “hyperlinked” the parts together with the use of referring page numbers. I am very familiar with the studies he refers to I felt very much in my comfort zone as I read, took notes, and imagined my own bullet journal being put together. It may be that I love the book so much because I’m familiar with the references he uses.
The book does not stop at describing a system for journaling or planning. it encourages the reader to reflect on the purpose and meaning for keeping the journal and for life! Do not expect this book to be merely a how-to on bullet journaling. Rather, it is the administration, motivation, rationalization, psychology, and cognitive principles incorporated into the system that makes bullet journaling worthwhile.
For more information and a full review, please see my The Booktician