Bullet journaling is a new, old-school way to get organized.
If you feel like all the apps in the world couldn’t keep you on track these days, you might want to kick back to an old-school method that sounds too easy (and too obvious) to be true: writing in a notebook.
Over the past few years, the phenomenon known as “bullet journaling” has taken social media by storm: the art of a well-crafted grocery list, the clean lines drawn by ruler and pencil, and the aesthetics of beautiful handwriting are all back in style. And, if the rumors are true, using a paper-and-pen journal—rather than a phone full of apps to get organized—can also take your stress levels down a few notches:
If we take such information as truth, it appears that abandoning a few digital calendar or to-do lists in favor of a well-loved journal, Moleskine, or notebook can have stellar results on your memory, your time management, and your stress levels. But is there any proof?
“When we write something down, research suggests that as far as our brain is concerned, it’s as if we were doing that thing. Writing seems to act as a kind of mini-rehearsal for doing.”
The act of writing is a physical one—and it certainly takes more time to handwrite a letter in your best penmanship than type it up, just as it takes more time to write down and manage your to-do list manually than click a few buttons in an app.
But does putting in the time really make a difference? How does a life on paper compare to a life in the digital? And do you have to choose one or the other?
For more research into the difference between a digital app and a paper-based approach, The Scientific American has provided a write-up that summarizes a brief history of research into that exact topic.
“In a 2011 experiment at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, college students took multiple-choice exams about expository texts either on computers or on paper. Researchers limited half the volunteers to a meager seven minutes of study time; the other half could review the text for as long as they liked. When under pressure to read quickly, students using computers and paper performed equally well. When managing their own study time, however, volunteers using paper scored about 10 percentage points higher. Presumably, students using paper approached the exam with a more studious frame of mind than their screen-reading peers, and more effectively directed their attention and working memory.”
From studies like this, it’s clear that, as this article concludes, “paper and ink may still have the advantage.” But such an approach, as the article points out, only addresses one way of reading. Indeed, it seems we’re all still striving to find the right balance between the old ways and the possibilities of the new. Could it be that new technology simply shouldn’t be measured in the same way old technologies have been? Put more simply: are we doing something other than reading when we read on an app? Are we organizing in a new way when we use digital to-do lists or planners?
Time will tell. For now, while it seems overly simplistic, going back to paper-and-pen might unlock more productivity. Maybe the question is not whether we should all “out with the old,” but, instead, “how can I use the old while embracing the new?” What do you think?