Creating Better Structure: My Digital Bullet Journaling

Last year, I spent the time reading The Bullet Journal Method, by Ryder Carroll, and also wrote about digital bankruptcy with analog saving me.

While the principles of this are often a saving grace of augmented focus, I love the advantages of a digital system:

  • I can search and refer back
  • The right metadata surfaces the right things at the right time
  • It is easily re-organized based on changing needs

Of course, aspects like metadata, information architectures, and infinite choice make digital systems complex and nuanced. I need something sustainable through simplicity, particularly to make sure I’m ready for change, like how Rosemary Orchard and I talked about on our Nested Folders podcast  (and, more recently, on Automators episode 49).

Thinking of this, I embarked on a journey to digitally bullet journal. After a few iterations, I came up with a list of interoperating tools, which I think will prove a very effective stack.

The platform consists of five pieces on iOS:

  1. Agenda: This acts as the journal and reference system.
  2. OmniFocus: This is for action management.
  3. Daily Journal Shortcut: I've written about this shortcut before, but to recap, this Shortcut sets up a daily journal (that's why it's named that way) with today's weather, calendar appointments, and OmniFocus due, flagged, and forecast-tagged actions.
  4. Rapid Logger Shortcut: This is the game-changer. When run, it asks for input, where I can Bullet Journal style add multiple items, each thing on a fresh line. Each line then gets appended to today's daily journal in Agenda, timestamped. If a line starts with a dash, it gets treated like an action, and so appears as a checklist item in the Agenda daily journal note, but also gets added to my OmniFocus inbox as an action. As a bonus, the text going in to OmniFocus is treated as TaskPaper, so I can add flags, tags, and dates accordingly, which is awesome, but that metadata is not included in the Agenda note, keeping that list clean and tidy.
  5. Daily Wrap Shortcut: This is the icing on the cake. When run, this Shortcut helps me reflect on the day by asking guiding questions, the answers to which are then appended to the daily journal note in Agenda, along with a list of the tasks I completed today from OmniFocus.

These parts working together are helping to create structure in my life, but even better, it’s sustainable structure, because I can apply the simple notion of rapid-logging from Bullet Journaling combined with the complexities of a nuanced digital system.

Great side effect: I am more disciplined about what I log. A historical problem for me in my collection of actions is overuse of shorthand as a “bookmark” of thinking for later. That’s how I’ve ended up with items in my OmniFocus inbox like “Fifty-four”. I’m sure I knew what I was referring to when I wrote it down, but no idea later. With rapid logging, and thinking of things not just as actions or notes but as journaled facts for future reflection, my capturing is much more robust.

HeyScottyJ @heyscottyj