A really great post, Mark - a terrific look at the processes and benefits of journalling.

I started using a bullet journal in 2018 after coming across Ryder Carroll's website, and it's had a transformative effect on my life. It's immensely helpful for keeping my head together, and I actually get things done!

I'm not on the wavelength for the decorative approach that many take to bullet journalling, and stick to the basics of the original. I engage with my journal multiple times a day. My daily logs are each on a new page, and they contain all of my to-dos for that day, appointments, notes on how I'm feeling, small essays to myself as a tool to get my head around something I don't understand, reminders to look something up or add something to my wishlist, notes about what might have happened that day; stuff like:

- Heatwave day 2

- Freeze fish

- Robert Gillmor - a Study of Blackbirds

- Write Ben's card - NB Remus

- We weren't at all sure about the wedding but did make it - absolutely lovely! KP v happy. Super to see P & B on superb form. 3 glasses of Pro - wonderful!

On any given day the entries usually appear unrelated and completely random, yet they always have two factors in common: they appear on that specific day's page, and they're all to do with me and what I'm up to/should be doing/thinking about.

And actually - although you're right that 'Journaling is not an INHERENTLY (my capitals) easy way to store information for future retrieval', I find that it absolutely CAN be easy, at least with practice and consistency. I keep an index which contains an entry for any note or occurrence that I will want to refer back to later, and I go back to my shelf of (so far, twelve) filled journals if I want to look something up. I've never yet not been able to find what I've been looking for. :D

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Thanks, Mark!

Actually the day-to-a-page decision is for some quite practical reasons.

- It's much easier to leaf through to find a specific page in the past if each date has its own page.

- I sometimes go back and make a note on a page representing a date that's already passed - either if I'd forgotten to make a note at the time and only remembered it later, or if I've had news of something that had happened on that day but only after the fact.

- Crucially, it's important for me not to feel constrained by space, otherwise I'd find I'd be editing my life and my thoughts! My daily logs always take up between half a page to a page in any case, so it's not as if I'm leaving lots of blank space. If I had smaller writing (or if I weren't so obsessed with writing down every single thing) then it might be different.

Heatwave is back down to what I'd call 'normal hot' for July today! Our high in the shade yesterday was 41 degrees C (105.8 F). Today it's 'only' 25 degrees C (77 F) - which is absolutely hot enough!

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Mark, your post made me wander to the bookshelf to pull a journal out and peek at it. Mine were back-of-the-pocket sized, mostly Moleskines though the one I pulled as a Venetian thing that I got from my wife for Christmas. Nice red leather and blank pages, creamy and with just enough texture to feel good. My entries included date, time, location (sometimes a building/room sometimes a city/building). My entries doubled as note-taking, so they spilled long sometimes over many pages.

The bullet approach seems summative to me, a kind of processed thought that concisely captures some point or activity or thought that took place during the day. I like that discipline. I know exactly what you mean about retrieval -- my notebooks were sometimes difficult to consult, though at least they were organized chronologically. The thing that made it worthwhile for me was the alchemy of writing itself -- a means of sealing thought in memory a little better and a way of returning to a day (usually recent) to see a note to myself like "email Susan re: blah, blah...."

I might have to return to this in a post of my own. I did a journaling experiment in January 2021 that I have yet to mine for goodnesses. (A post as background: https://retooling.us/2020/12/26/preliminaries/ dailies are under the "Journal Entries" tab-thingy)

Keep journaling!

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Jul 20, 2022Liked by Mark Dykeman

Great series that's managed to teach me some things.

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Bullet journaling reminds me in some ways of John Carmack's habit of publishing his .plan file back in the id software days. Part progress tracker but also maybe part journal, there's even an archive of his .plan files on GitHub: https://garbagecollected.org/2017/10/24/the-carmack-plan/

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Very interesting - I like the clarity you’ve brought to the technique, purpose and benefits of journaling. My own practise is intermittent: I get started and keep it up for a time, but then it starts to slack off … until it stops altogether. Until I start it up again - and the whole process repeats itself! Which can be frustrating…

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Great post. I've been journaling since this past New Year's Eve and the main thing I struggle with is consistency. I've been trying to make an entry every day, but it doesn't always work out that way. I've been doing a hybrid of bullet/plain paragraph writing and it's been working so far. I'm sticking with it, though, because I think it will have benefits down the road.

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“Old school pen and paper journaling” 😭😭😭 I yelped reading that.

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This is really helpful info, Mark...thanks for putting it together. I'm going to try the Bullet style; it's more concise format feels less intimidating, so maybe I'll actually stick to it?

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Interesting post! I kept up with a daily journal for a couple of years and it’s something that I really need to get back into. It started out as a bullet journal but morphed into a hybrid of bullet and traditional. My previous journals have actually become a great resource, as I’ve been able to look back at notes I wrote on restaurants we visited or modifications I made to recipes. The problem is that as life gets crazy, journaling always falls by the wayside. I need to carve out some journaling time in my future schedule!

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I've been keeping a proper journal for over a year now. Before I bullet journaled but I then started to write more about my days. I started off only writing the month and date, then the time, then I finally added the weekday recently. Sometimes write multiple entries in a day so it's nice to see how my thoughts or feelings change throughout the day.

Great post!

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