Most of the work I’ve done for the past couple years doesn’t require taking much in the way of notes. One tab in Notepad++ for misc ideas and reminders (auto save is nice), then put the stuff that needs to be tracked into Trello and it’s good enough, though you could make the argument that if you always do it you build the habit for the day when your work situation changes.

I hadn’t really thought much about it until I ran across a post on bullet journaling, also known as bujo. I’ve tried different paper planners over the years with varying degrees of success, the biggest challenge for me is bridging the paper to computer divide. I need my calendar online as a minimum. For serious work I need to be to able to search months of notes to find some thread I only sort of remember and paper isn’t good for that either. So then, why my interest in a paper based system?

Yeah, I don’t know.

It seemed interesting. It’s loosely prescriptive. There’s a pattern to it, but it’s mild one, lots of room to customize, minimize, or maximize as you feel like. As you might have guessed it’s based on capturing todo items, notes, and events as bullets (wait, it’s not Powerpoint?). If you need a lot of structure, this might not work for you, it could be a little daunting to start with blank pages. Maybe the timing was just good because I was thinking about my volunteer time and how I seem to both spend to much time on it and feel like I’m not spending enough time on it (not sure which of those is correct yet) and sometimes you have to go back to basics – track the time.

Rather than go all in on journaling, I decided I’d start by just tracking the time I spend on SQLOrlando. For supplies you need a notebook and a pen or pencil. Any notebook and any pen will work, but mostly you see it done using a bound notebook that opens flat and has a dot grid instead of lines (not much structure I told you!). The gold standard seems to be the Leuchtturm1917 ($20 at Amazon), but I have to be different so I got the Limome ($12 at Amazon). Nice faux leather cover, pen loop, strap to keep it closed, and it has paper in it. The only argument I can make for spending more than a buck or two on a composition notebook is whether it will make it more fun for you. 

I’m about 7 days in at this point so I’m not an expert and don’t know if it will work long term or if I’ll stick with it. I struggle with parts of it, for example the pattern is to line through items that aren’t done and will never get done, which goes against a lifetime of crossing things off when done (instead of not done!). Calendar stuff still goes on my online calendar as soon as I’m connected.

But in terms of logging my effort and getting ideas and notes out of my head into something concrete, it’s satisfying. I like grabbing the notebook just for SQLOrlando, doing a 5 or 10 minute task (today I ordered the food for the Wed meetup), logging the task and the time and putting it back into my backpack where it might get used later today or in a month, whenever I have time to spend on volunteer stuff again.

The value is in the journaling, not the system, unless the system somehow encourages you or rewards you for doing the journaling. Evernote, Onenote, bullet journal, diary, whatever works is good – if you decide it’s worth the time to do it at all.

I’ll try to revisit in a few months to see how it works out.

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