I’ve been a fan of Bullet Journal® for a number of years. In fact, multiple years spent using and improving the system contributed to ZenJo’s development.
About 10 days ago, in a post that was long overdue, Ryder Carroll acknowledged that his original model had become overshadowed by (and synonymous with, in my opinion) the colorful, artistic collections and spreads that are so prevalent in social media.
In the post, Ryder wrote that during his tour to promote The Bullet Journal Method, his book that tells the story of Bullet Journal® and its applications, he heard numerous times how users had abandoned their BuJo practice because they felt pressured to conform their notebooks to the standards created by more artistic spread designers and Washi tape fans.
There is a growing number of Bullet Journalists struggling to develop their practice in the quicksand of social validation. They design increasingly elaborate or complex collections, investing ever more time, for “likes”. This is problematic for several reasons, but primarily the more you focus on the needs of others, the less you’re paying attention to your own. It shifts the Bullet Journal method from a personal practice into a performance.” -Ryder Carroll
It’s a bit ironic that a few years back I wrote about this as an example of how, in my opinion, Bullet Journal® had “lost its way” and had become synonymous with Instagram photos of pastel-colored charts and habit trackers while losing sight of its purpose.
I received no small amount of hate mail and derogatory comments for suggesting this and now it seems that the creator of Bullet Journal® feels the same way.
Back to Basics
Ryder addresses this in his post and suggests that his system is like an empty house and that it needs to be furnished with whatever the resident feels comfortable with (extended metaphor, mine). He suggests that users feeling out of touch with their notebook should get back to basics and focus on what works for their situation.
Strip away everything that doesn’t support your purpose. Start simple. Build slowly. Your practice doesn’t need to be profound, or beautiful. It needs to be real, relevant, and effective. Most of all, it needs to be yours.” -Ryder Carroll
I whole-heartedly agree with Ryder on this last point and that’s exactly why Zen-Journal™ has always been a minimally-designed analog system focused primarily on handwritten entries, emphasizing organization, efficiency, and mindfulness over artistic content. In fact, both Bullet Journal® and Zen-Journal™ have this in common.
Serving the higher purposes
It doesn’t matter how attractive your notebook is; what matters is whether or not it serves its purpose: helping you get tasks completed; moving you toward your goals; reflecting what’s most important in your life; helping you become more mindful in your daily planning.
These are what I call the higher purposes. The lower, more superficial purposes are those aimed at simply attracting attention and self-gratification, a fleeting satisfaction at best.
The reason we use an analog planning system like Bullet Journal® or Zen-Journal™ is that they allow us to reflect our personalities within the pages, explore ideas, plan our lives, and confront the deeper issues we face with journal entries in the length we choose without running out of space.
They serve our higher purposes and in doing so, they help us become more present, more mindful, and more whole.