Bullet Journaling: A Primer – The ADHD NERD


This year I have dedicated myself to bullet journaling. For those of you unaware, bullet journaling is a way to capture everything in one place. Whether it is a list of projects, school information, packing list or gift ideas, it goes into the bullet journal—an analog warehouse of all of your thoughts and ideas in one place.

Now, you might be wondering, but what about that digital life, the Evernote, this APP, that APP?

Think of bullet journaling as your short term and medium term storage. I only look to digital storage if I’m going to keep something forever like tax information or an article I loved on the internet. (I’m not going to be writing an URLs into my bullet journal.

Here’s a great tutorial on how to use the bullet journal:

Now some habits that I had to integrate that aren’t mentioned are:

I had to carry around that book wherever I went. I just had to lug it around. I’ll keep mine in jacket at all times and pull it out when I need to.

  • I have to look at it and revisit it.
  • I have to draw straight lines sometimes. Not my bag, really, but hey. I have a ruler. Maybe it’s a fancy one.
  • Daily (sometimes 2-4 times a day) I just mind dump into it. And you might, just might think that you don’t have anything to put in there, but oh contrare! There is a ton to dump into there. A ton.

What I have found is that my brain is less and less cluttered. Even though we say, “Make a list” when you want to get something done, you might lose it. You might not look at it. But with a bullet journal I’m able to keep track of so many lists so very well.

I’ve also found that I because it’s analog, I’m using my phone much less often. I’m not getting sucked down the rabbit hole. There’s a clarity that comes with offloading every little thing.

The Collections. . .

Now in bullet journals you have something called collections. This is where you simply make lists and store information that is specialized. So for example I have “trips.”

Under trips, I list the following information:

  • Dates.
  • Airline information: Departure, arrival, airport.
  • Cash I should bring.
  • Tentative packing list.
  • Rental car information.
  • Contact information.

Now I could build a template in Evernote or a simple text document and store it all there. Or I simply write it out by hand, remember it better and have it there for reference. The bullet journal way is simpler.

If I don’t have the bullet journal in front of me and I need to remember something, I grab a stickie and write it there. When I see my bullet journal, I throw the stickie in there and eventually move it to the bullet journal, crushing the stickie in my hand like a tyrant.

My future dear friend, Matt Ragland, has some stellar videos about creating and using a bullet journal. Check these out. And subscribe to his Youtube channel here! HERE!

The analog works a different part of your brain, a slower part of your brain so that you can see the big picture and you can reflect. I don’t usually reflect while looking at my smartphone. I want to know what’s happening now; where your journal is something to think about the past with as well as the future. I can plan my travel; I can look at my goals and how I’m progressing.

The Choice is Yours

I know I’ve included some videos here, but I want to emphasize this: there is no wrong way to do the bullet journal if it serves you and serves you well. The videos here are best practices, and trust me, I’ve tried to do it my way and I tend to revert back to what most people have said about bullet journals: have a calendar, have your tasks, collections, etc.

If I start worrying about “if I’m doing it right” then I tend to not use it; it becomes this perfection nightmare and then it doesn’t serve me. I don’t care about scratching stuff out (the horror!) or not using the coolest pen out there.

Where should you start? I’d start with the videos, and just give the bullet journal a try. The more I delve into it, the more there’s a huge payoff for me in terms of organization and even better, peace of mind.

Throw me a line at ryan@theadhdnerd(dot)com. I’d love to hear what you think.

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