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Book:  The Bullet Journal Method

Author:  Ryder Carroll

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Carroll, R. (2018). The Bullet Journal method : track the past, order the present, design the future. New York, New York: Portfolio/Penguin.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Holding on to thoughts (as opposed to writing them down) is like trying to catch fish with your bare hands: They easily slip from your grasp and disappear back into the muddy depths of your mind. Writing things down allows us to capture our thoughts and examine them in the light of day. By externalizing our thoughts, we begin to declutter our minds. Each item we write down we begin to declutter our mind. We're creating a mental inventory of all the choices consuming our attention. It's the first step to taking back control over our lives. (pg. 37)

  2. By recording our lives, we're simultaneously creating a rich archive of our choices and our actions for future reference. We can study our mistakes and learn from them. Studying our failures and our victories can provide tremendous Insight, guidance, and motivation as we plot our way forward. (pg. 45)

  3. The next time you cross off a task, slow down. Take a moment to pause and reflect on the impact of your accomplishment. celebrating small wins can produce dramatic improvements in our self-perception and attitude. We tend to ruminate over all the things we got wrong, unaware of our ignoring all the things we got right. By celebrating our accomplishments, we are forcing ourselves to acknowledge our abilities and witness the proof that we can contribute. A simple yet meaningful way to begin appreciating your accomplishments is to write them down. Committing them to paper makes you pause and honor a good moment with your attention. (pg. 184)


Other Key Ideas:

Studies have suggested that we have 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. If each thought were a word, our minds would be generating enough content to produce a book every day. Unlike a book, our thoughts are not neatly composed. This leaves our mind perpetually struggling to sort this gray matter. We find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. This is commonly referred to as "being busy." Being busy, however, is not the same thing as being productive. (pg. 34)

Barak Obama said, "You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. Mark Zuckerberg only wears gray hoodies, and Steve Jobs only wears black turtlenecks and jeans. Acutely aware of how taxing and deliberating our options can be, they sought every opportunity to limit choice in their lives. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can't make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It's different from ordinary physical fatigue - you've not consciously aware of being tired - but you're low on mental energy. This state is known as decision fatigue. The more decisions you have to make, the hard it becomes to make them well. (pg. 36)

In 2016, the average American spent nearly eleven hours in front of digital screens each day. Factoring in six to eight hour of sleep, we're left with around six hours of non-screen time per day. Now consider the time spent commuting, cooking, and running errands: We're steadily decreasing the amount of time we have to stop and think. Sitting down to write in a journal grants you a personal space, free from distraction, where you can get to know yourself better. This is one of the reasons to journal: it forces us to go offline. (pg. 43)

Our memories are unreliable. We often trick ourselves into believing things about her experiences that are biased and inaccurate. Studies suggest that our recollection of how we felt can greatly differ from the way and experience actually made us feel. We can remember wonderful events in a negative way, and negative events in a positive way. It's important to keep an accurate record of how things actually happened, because we often make decisions based on our past experiences. If we operate entirely on memory, we're apt to repeat our mistakes by fooling ourselves into believing that something had an effect it actually did not. (pg. 74)

When you are journaling, keep your future self in mind. Your notes will be useless if they cannot be deciphered and a week, month, or a year from now. Do your future self a kindness and don't sacrifice clarity for brevity. It will keep your journal valuable for years to come. (pg. 79)

In the morning take a few minutes to sit down and write in your journal. If you're one of those people who wakes with a mind swelling with thoughts, now's the time to relieve that pressure. Offload anything that's bubbled up overnight. Clear your mind to make room for the day ahead. (pg. 136)​

Studies show that we need about five compliments to balance out every negative remark made towards us. That's because we remember negative events more intensely than positive ones. Introducing a gratitude practice - a simple process of regularly taking stock of what you're grateful for - is a good way to counteract your negativity bias by fostering an awareness of the positive things in your life. As you actively examine your experience to find the good, you become better at locating it and appreciating it. (pg. 186)

Mark Twain once wrote, “I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Worry has a way of holding our attention hostage. This is especially true for things we can't control due to the elevated level of uncertainty. We burn through a lot of resources obsessing over possible outcomes and forming contingency plans, but in reality we’re just feeling our anxiety. Trying to think our way out of situations beyond our control may feel productive, but it's nothing more than a powerful distraction. (pg. 193)

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