Ryder Carroll on The Bullet Journal Method

Ryder Carroll on The Bullet Journal Method


Ryder, welcome to the UK and
welcome to Waterstones Thank you for having me. I don’t have a
diary or a journal or anything like that and before we get to whether this is
gonna sort of change my life I want to talk a little bit about you because you
were the man who invented bullet journaling effectively and this is
something that a lot of people do and they found it has made a huge difference
to their lives but I was really intrigued when reading your book to know
about the origins of it. So that for you it was your ADD, your attention
deficit disorder that sort of helped shape this way of journaling. Could you tell
us a little bit more about that…? Yeah it became
evident very early on in my educational career that I had challenges that my
other classmates didn’t have. So after I was diagnosed I had a kind of conundrum in that yes, you have a condition, but we don’t really have a lot
of solutions or tools that you can, that could help you out. So I was left to my
own devices and I started actually designing my own tools, my own tips and
techniques, one little piece at a time. Trying to figure out ways that I could
focus better, become more organised and more productive. Because these
skills seemed to elude me. I have in my hand here, this is a bullet journal, it’s
a really beautiful journal actually and this is a very analog way of doing
things in a very digital age. And of course there are just gazillions of apps
out there that claim to be able to organize your life and make things
easier for you. Why is this approach more effective as far as you’re concerned
than the digital alternatives that are out there? I mean I guess it
depends on what you need, right? I would never say that the analog is the
solution, right? For me it’s not digital versus analog, it’s digital and analog.
They’re all just tools and I think tools need to be judged by how effective they
are in helping you move towards where you’re going, help you accomplish your
goals. And for me I found that using only digital tools was not in fact making me
more productive. And I think a lot of that came
down to the fact that I spent so much time organising everything just so
that I actually wouldn’t do anything. And the second part is that it lends itself
to too many distractions, you know? On the one hand I’m like planning a meeting and
all of a sudden I’m buying shoes and I don’t really know how that transition
happened. And I found that in the analog space I can actually take a moment and
think about what I’m working on, ask myself why am I doing this? What is the
value here? And these might seem like very obvious questions but I don’t think
it’s clear that we are asking ourselves those questions enough, and on an ongoing
basis. And the process of journaling, a) makes me go offline and b) has helped me
form a habit of actually checking in with myself to make sure that I
understand why I’m working on what I’m working on.
See if I’m actually doing this the best way possible and just all these small
tiny adjustments that over time compounded in making quite a difference. This is one of the sort of myths that you explode quite early on in the book
which is this idea of being ‘busy’. In the modern world we all feel that we’re very
busy all the time, we’ve got a lot to contend with. But actually you point out
that it’s not really that we’re any busier than we used to be but there’s
just a lot more competing for our attention, there are a lot of
distractions. Is there anything that we can do about that through the day or is
it simply, as you say, by taking those moments with the journal for reflection
and to take stock of things that really help you to kind of get rid of those
distractions? For me that’s proven to be a very powerful technique. Sure, there are
other ways of doing this, maybe go for a walk, you know, or carve out the time that
you need to detach. And what’s interesting is if you know that that
time is coming then you also start behaving differently because generally
speaking, at least for me, when I went online I’d just be like okay I’ll
work until I’m not working anymore. But if all of a sudden I start time-boxing my
day more effectively then I know it’s like okay I only have three hours to get
this done. Because after that I’m gonna go for a walk or I’m gonna sit down with
my book and I dedicated myself to allowing myself to have that time.
Make sure that I always did do X Y or Z and I found
that with journaling was nice because I could actually think. As
opposed to taking a walk, I might think of something but then I forget it. So
being with a notebook immediately allowed me to capture my thoughts and
clarify my time and thereby I became less and less busy. The interesting
result was that I realized that I was working on so many things that didn’t
matter or add value to my life. And I think that we’re all guilty of that. In
the sense of like we hoard our tasks and our ‘to dos’ because the busier we are the more important we become, quote unquote. Because like
look I’m so busy I can’t do anything, that must mean I’m meaningful or
desirable or whatever it is. But in fact what you’re doing is you’re just letting
a lot of noise into your life and I feel like true productivity’s about working
on less but having more focus to invest in the things that are meaningful. We’re not going to talk about how bullets journalling really works because there’s a brilliant
video that you’ve made that actually sort of shows really clearly how the journal
can actually work. And what I’ve been intrigued by through reading the book is that
it’s so much more than just simply a way of making a better ‘to do’ list and
being more productive with your time. That there are these elements of as you
say stripping away the stuff that’s unnecessary but therefore leading a
better life and actually being far more effective at doing what you want to do
in the future and that there’s almost of I hesitate to use the word but there’s
this sort of mindfulness aspect to it where if you give yourself the time to
really think about who you are, what you want to achieve it becomes way more than
just a journal doesn’t it? Certainly I mean the idea is not that we’re trying
to run faster in the hamster wheel, right? I find that bullet journaling encourages
people to actually think about what it is that they’re doing, you know, not just
about how to become more effective and how to get more crammed into your day.
But actually understand what value these things add to your life. And you’re doing
it every day so it’s not that every time you’re sitting down with your notebook you’re
having like an existential meltdown! You’re just asking yourself why am I
doing this, is this vital, does this matter? What would happen if I never did
this, ever? And all of a sudden you start realizing that a lot of these
things don’t pass that test. But you also are getting in touch
with yourself by asking that. It’s like okay why does this matter?
You need an answer for that. And if you don’t then all of a sudden that’s
something you can explore. And in that process you just become more familiar
with the way that you think and the things that you respond to, the things
that you don’t. And you start creating more of a framework of self learning on
an ongoing basis. And through that process you can make much more informed
decisions. Now you know when an opportunity arises, is this an
opportunity that I’m just going to go on autopilot and sure I’ll to say yes to
everything? Or am I gonna say no to this because I know that it’s gonna take too
much of my time and energy and really not provide the value that I need for my
investment. That kind of thing. So you just become significantly more mindful
about how you’re investing your time and your energy which are really the only
two resources that ultimately matter. One of the things that’s sort of unique about
this I suppose as a system of organising your life is that there’s this community
that you allow to sort of help shape how it works. So that it’s changed a lot
since you first came up with your version of it and it continues to adapt
and evolve. Have you been surprised by anything that’s come from the community
that’s taken it off in a completely different direction? Constantly. Absolutely. I mean the way I designed the bullet journal method was to be very
flexible because I thought in different ways so it would be my sketchbook it
would be my you know tracker or to-do list or class notes and I never found a
system that could do all these things in one place and I always found that really
irritating that I needed a different notebook for all these things. So I
designed the methodology to be able to essentially house whatever your thought
looked like and that was just for my own mind. And it never occurred to me that
that flexibility would lend itself for other people in different use cases to
so seamlessly adapt my methodology. Like I’m never going to be a mother, I’m never
gonna be a doctor. I don’t know what that experience is like. But because it’s so
flexible they were able to map that on to their experience
and I’m constantly surprised by how that flexibility ends up, you know, ends up
being used for such specific things that I have absolutely zero awareness of. You
know it’s like wow that that works perfectly for this thing I’ve never even
heard about before! So for me that’s one of the more exciting parts of all;
that the community constantly shows me the potential of the thing that I designed.
And that was unexpected and kind of like a really happy accident. Well I have as I
said earlier, I’ve never really kept a diary or a journal and I know that I
need to get better at sort of organizing my time so I have a fresh bullet
journal, I have your guide here to get me through it. It appears to have already had an effect. I appear to have picked a shirt today which seems to be covered in symbols from the
journal. But it was great to get a bit more insight from you about how it works
and how developed so, Ryder, thank you so much for this. Thank you for having me.

23 thoughts on “Ryder Carroll on The Bullet Journal Method

  1. I've been skeptical about bullet journals till now. maybe I will give it a go. If it works, it would be much more neat than the simple A4 papers that I use 😅

  2. Question: Why is this approach more effective as far as you’re concerned than the digital alternatives (Notion, Things 3 etc.) that are out there?
    Answer: I would never say that my analog system is the solution, right?
    Me: Whaaatttt? I have bought your book? 😳😳🥺😡😡😡🚽

  3. I got the book, to better understand the method and hopefully I will look at things anew and manage my time for even more better results and actions. Keep on learning

  4. Started my Bullet Journal last year and my life has become so much better in every possible way! My granddaughter sets hers up on Instagram and helped me from the start. My bullet journal is like having an extra part in my brain to help me deal with life. I didn't know Waterstones sold BJ's. Think I will buy Ryder's book and maybe the app for when I go for walks!

  5. I find it a great framework to focus myself on what I need to plan and do. It is so flexible depending on how busy I am and everyone tweaks it for themselves to suit their life. Mine is not beautiful and colourful like some but it is a working tool which really helps me.

  6. Im an avid writer and journaler…i keep a dream journal, a day to day journal, a poetry journal, a prose journal, a date book… i write to do lists on top of to do lists. Bullet journals look fascinating to me… but looking at all of these artsy, hand drawn calendars, pages and pages and pages full of artwork and doodles- it seems like bullet journaling would take A TON of your time, just drawing and sketching everything.

    Any BuJo people here that can weigh in on this?

  7. The Houston visit was informative and just overall terrific, Ryder. Please come back!!  I love the methodology and recommend/ hand sell the book frequently! And thank you, Waterstones, for posting this interview.

  8. I’m so glad Ryder shared this concept with the world! It has revolutionised planning and journaling. Thank you Ryder!

  9. Been doing it for years. Ryder's book is not just about the method. He touches upon and provides insight into so many aspects of organizing your life…and hence life itself. Brilliant.

  10. I think “being busy” and “letting a lot of noise into your life,” (~5 min, 10 second mark) may be interpreted as having an excuse to escape from being more connected with more important tasks and thoughts. In my own personal experience, those things are a distraction and cause for dissociating, which keeps me stuck and spinning my wheels. Super grateful to have just learned about bullet journaling! Waiting for book to arrive, so I can process this procedure more thoroughly.

  11. Check this out guys : The Journal Creator V2 is an online software system allowing you to create an unlimited number of journals and other low content books in just a few short minutes. https://warriorplus.com/o2/a/v2ldt/0

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