The Gestalt's Garden

The Bullet Journal Method: a holistic reflection on your life

| 5 min (1164 words)
#productivity #bullet-journal #getting-things-done

I now manage my tasks with a notebook!

In the first year of my PhD, I discovered a method for managing tasks that allowed me to cope with the chaos and intensity of the following years. This method was Getting Things Done1 (GTD) and one of its advantages is that you can implement it using the tool of your choice. In my case, I chose a digital tool, Taskwarrior, because it was the one that best suited my work environment.

I loved the combination of Getting Things Done and Taskwarrior.

However, I stopped using this combination to use, instead, the Bullet Journal2 method and… a physical notebook!

Why do I no longer use Getting Things Done and Taskwarrior?

This change was thanks to Richard Mújica.

I met Richard at the first informal Gestalt’s Garden talk. Since then, we have had more meetings where we talked about what methods and tools we use to work. Inevitably, the topic of task management came up. Richard explained to me that the Bullet Journal method worked better for him than Getting Things Done, because the Bullet Journal method—in addition to being a task manager—is a way to reflect holistically (work and personal) on your life.

This last feature—an holistic reflection—is what resonated with me.

Since the beginning of this year, I have been looking for a way to integrate a diary into my workflow. In my opinion, journaling is an ideal way to discover what you really want to do in your life. And, as you can guess from previous posts, I’m in an active process of discovering just that :-)

The Bullet Journal method meets just this need, it’s a way to integrate a journal into your life to:

Once I understood this, there was no turning back, I started reading the book “The Bullet Journal method” and started writing in my own physical notebook:

Photo of my Bullet Journal

Currently, I have finished the book and have been using my own Bullet Journal for a full month. My intention is to go deeper into this method, so I have already started to process the book with my Zettelkasten.

In the remainder of this post, I will explain how my first «monthly migration» went so that you can see:

My first monthly migration

The Bullet Journal method is based on writing in a physical notebook, so it’s inevitable that you have to “deal” with the limitations of writing on physical paper.

One of these limitations is that what you write on a page, stays on that page (there is no “copy and paste” as there is in digital tools). So if you write a task in your daily log, but don’t complete it that day, you need to rewrite it by hand in the next day’s daily log to make sure you don’t forget to do it.

This process of moving and rewriting information is called “migration”. Migrations happen on different time scales: daily, monthly, yearly and every time you finish a notebook.

On Friday 29 March I did my first «monthly migration».

The monthly migration consists of migrating all the pending tasks (that you still want to do) from the last month to the new month. So, in order to do this migration, you have to read all the pages you wrote in the previous month. This way, you make sure you don’t leave any loose ends.

However, this is a superficial description.

The monthly migration is also a monthly reflection. As you are “forced” to read all the pages of the previous month, what ends up happening is that you relive all the tasks, decisions, ideas, notes, events and emotions you had during the whole month. This gives you an accurate overview of:

In addition, this monthly reflection benefits from all the daily reflections you did during the month.

In the daily reflection you highlight with an exclamation mark ("!") the best moves you made that day (tasks accomplished, ideas, events, etc.). This way, during the monthly review, you remember them again and have a golden opportunity to integrate them definitively into your life.

A personal example

Here is a personal example of mine that shows the kind of reflections you can have during the monthly migration:

On 16 March, I had an online meeting with a good friend of mine, Nathan Fawaz. In these meetings we usually share our progress on the Zettelkasten method. However, in the last meeting, Nathan proposed me to do a joint working session using the Pomodoro technique. It was a really nice experience: we each worked separately, but, in the Pomodoros breaks, we made a short talk to explain how it went and what we planned to do in the next working session.

During the daily review, I wrote in my Bullet Journal a note that it was really fun (and useful) to work this way with him. In addition, I marked that note with an exclamation mark ("!"). After that, I had the following question: “How can I make this situation happen more often in my life?. The first idea was to continue doing (and prioritising) these meetings with Nathan, and the second idea was to start organising these kinds of meetings online through the Gestalt’s Garden. I marked both ideas with a double exclamation mark (”!!").

During the monthly migration, I read all the notes from before and finally created two tasks: “Prioritise meetings with Nathan” and “Organise joint work sessions for the Gestalt’s Garden” :-)

Conclusion: A holistic reflection on your life

The Bullet Journal method does not bring new ideas about task management or how to reflect on your life. In fact, most of the tips and ideas in this method come from:

What the Bullet Journal method does really well is to pack all the tips, ideas and habits—that its author knows work—into a practical, easy-to-use tool: a physical notebook. In this way, the whole workflow of the Bullet Journal method is oriented towards one goal: “discover what you want to do and align your actions to what you want to do”.

That is the power of the Bullet Journal method.

An holistic reflection of your life.

And you, do you know what you really want in your life?

PS: I am starting to organise the next informal talk and the first working session in the Gestalt’s Garden. No dates have been decided yet, but if you want to be the first to know, you can join this Telegram group ;-)


  1. “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen. ↩︎

  2. “The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future” by Ryder Carroll. ↩︎

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