BookNotes Productivity

The Bullet Journal Method

Written by Mark McElroy

By identifying what matters most, you can align your daily activities with meaningful goals, focus less on mere productivity, and achieve more things that really matter.

The Bullet Journal Method teaches a low friction, low-tech process for capturing ideas, recording obligations, and organizing work. The bigger promise of the book is this: by identifying what matters most, you can align your daily activities with meaningful goals, focus less on mere productivity, and achieve more things that really matter.

For years, I tracked personal and professional tasks in an app called Things. It was an effective system. I had to abandon it, though, once I began working with a team, because we needed a system that could coordinate and track the activities of everyone involved.

Our team settled on a service called Asana. It’s fine for complex project and workflow management, but strikes me as too chilly and sterile to be a home for my personal efforts. So, for months, I’ve been struggling on and o! with various systems with mixed results. The best option I’ve found so far: a handwritten journaling system I’ve been keeping in a notebook app called GoodNotes.

For the past week, I’ve integrated Bullet Journal principles into that process — with great success. Regular indexing of content, notes composed exclusively of short bullet points, carrying incomplete to-do items over to new lists by hand … all of these practices have dramatically improved my (admittedly haphazard) original system. So far, so good.

The core content of the book is a distillation of material on Ryder Carrol’s blog, and there’s good supplementary material on his YouTube channel. As powerful as the central ideas are, the book can feel a little padded at times, perhaps in order to reach the publisher’s minimum word count for a trade paperback.

If you’re struggling with organization — or direction — The Bullet Journal Methodis a fine place to start.

Highlights and Useful Quotes


“The Bullet Journal method will help you accomplish more by working on less. It helps you identify and focus on what is meaningful by stripping away what is meaningless … The Bullet Journal is designed to be your ‘source of truth.’”

#time #energy

“Our two most valuable resources in life: our time and our energy.” “We want to be working on the fewest number of things possible.”


  • “You can engage your curiosity by asking yourself questions to spark your imagination. What do i want to do? Why do I want to do it? What small thing can I do right now to get started? … What exactly didn’t work? Why did it not work? What small thing can I improve next time?”
  • Plan/Do/Check/Act cycle


  • “Mindfulness is the process of waking up to see what’s right in front of us.”
  • “The act of writing by hand draws our mind into the present moment on a neurological level unlike any other capturing mechanism.”


  • “Intentionality is the power of the mind to direct itself toward that which it finds meaningful and take action toward that end.”
  • “Leading an intentional life is about keeping your actions aligned with your beliefs.”
  • “Often all it takes to live intentionally is to pause before you proceed.”
  • “We need to reduce the number of decisions we burden ourselves with so we can focus on what matters.”
  • “Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.” – Richie Norton

Featured image by Matt Ragland on Unsplash, a great resource for free images.

About the author

Mark McElroy

I'm a writer and professional facilitator. I'm the author of a dozen or so non-fiction books and hundreds of corporate video scripts. As a professional facilitator, I coach individuals, committees, and teams to change how they meet, make decisions, and plan, so they can get out of their own way and do work that really matters. I use this site to write about writing, adaptive strategy, travel, and spirituality ... and to "learn out loud" by sharing works (and what doesn't).