Returning to What Works

One of the hazards of writing a personal development blog is that you end up with an embarrassment of riches. If someone stopped me on the street and said “Can you recommend a good to-do list app?” I’d could hook them up. “Tell me the pros & cons of GTD” and we’d have to get coffee to have the time. Recently my partner watched bemusedly as I looked at video after video on YouTube about Bullet Journals.

The question of which is best is kind of an American tradition. “The 10 Best” or “The Ultimate” or “The Only (whatever) You’ll Ever Need!” Maybe it’s my polyamorous nature, but hyperbolic statements like that tend to annoy me.

I’d much rather have something that is effective for what I want to do in the place I am at right now.

“I Want to Be That Organized”

There’s also the danger of feeling like you need to keep up with the things you see online. Never has the “highlight reel” been more evident than in some of those Bullet Journal videos! Every page with flowing labels and color-coded sticky notes and stickers and flair and…

…and then I look at my half-written-in scribbled-cover dog-eared pocket notebook and feel the Imposter Syndrome most sharply. I want to be like them! I think, and make plans for switching from Moleskine to Baron Fig to Leuchturm…except look, OmniFocus has a new update and there’s a video showing how it will break down all of my tasks, remind me of what I need to do when I’m in the place to do it, and in general turn me into the successful entrepreneur Mommy always wanted!

That’s a danger. It’s a form of what I would call “organization porn”, where you see unrealistic performative systems designed to arouse your own desire to organize as well. Followed by “special offers” for the tools that are “best” for everyone.

If it’s not pushing the metaphor too far, the idea that one organization system is best for everyone is as silly as the idea that one form of sex is best for everyone. And really, the true answer is the same: the best form of either sex or organizing is first measured by one question: Do you enjoy it?

Because if you don’t enjoy the organization system you’re trying out, you will not stick with it. Plain and simple. You won’t. I won’t. It changes something that’s supposed to make it possible to do more of what you enjoy into a time-suck doing something you don’t enjoy at all.

Kind of the opposite of what you’re going for, don’t you think?

Back to Fundamentals

And that’s where the embarrassment of riches comes in handy. Rather than have to pick one tool, I can examine where I’m at and then sort through the toolbox to see what looks like fun.

Right now, that’s back to the notebooks. Thanks to a Colors subscription to Field Notes (which I highly recommend, though mine has sadly lapsed) I have plenty of them to choose from, in a variety of layouts (lined, graph, sketch). I purchased an inexpensive leather “Traveler’s Journal” and am using that as my companion to work out the day’s tasks, to take notes, or to put in the odd sketch here and there.

The notebook feels good; the daily pages aren’t quite Bullet Journal worthy, but they are effective, and it feels good to check off the little “Y-M-J” letters after doing yoga, meditating, and journaling.

It’s not my only system — my computer, my phone, and my watch still help me dictate my day. But first it happens on paper, and that feels good. I also spent some time yesterday looking at my old notebooks from years ago, when I first worked on these paper schedules, and finding it nice to remember what I was doing when, and how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished since then.

It’s just not the same, looking at a digital calendar. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it. Next week I’ll show my layout and let you decide if it’s worth a shot.

Meanwhile: what tools do you enjoy using in your day-to-day? Or perhaps more useful: what tools do you NOT enjoy using, and how can that be changed?

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