The limitations of paper free my thinking

One of the most persistent aberrations I have in my thinking about my tools is that I keep looking for that electronic equivalent of a bullet journal. To date, I have not been able to find that solution. Let’s examine what I have been looking for …

Simple convenience

I’m looking for a tool that offers the accessibility of the bullet journal but in a digital format, allowing for easy export of the information captured to other, shared repositories, such as OneNote. Yes, I am aware of solutions such as Notability and GoodNotes 5 on the iPad, or the handwriting recognition on OneNote on a Surface, and the possibility of exporting said handwriting to text to a task manager such as Things, but they really don’t work like paper does. No surface nor iPad application has to date been capable of offering me the level of simple convenience and unobtrusiveness that a bullet journal and a pen offer.

The Bullet Journal is very limiting

The Bullet Journal is a system of continuous entry. I just write. I indicate in a very minimalistic manner what type of writing I am doing, simple logging, longer ideas or articles (such as this one) or to do’s. And make no mistake, the Bullet Journal is very limiting when compared to electronic tools. It is one tool, not multiple applications I can interchange data entered just one time between. My options are simple: writing or not writing. I could choose to use another pen, to make a drawing, to mind map, all in the comfort of a single A5 page. More complex things are, well, more complex. If I want to link to another document, I can make a cross-reference to the appropriate page, provided the information is captured in my journal. If the information sits somewhere outside of my journal, I will have to make an explicit reference to it. If I want pictures, I will need a printer and glue … again, in pretty much every aspect, the tool Bullet Journal is way more limiting and way less efficient than an electronic solution.

A direct connection between my hand and my head

And yet, and yet, it works so much better with my head than any other solution would. Yes, I do spend more time (re)typing certain meeting minutes. However, those minutes, while they may not allow me to literally replay what was said during the meeting, are actually quite an accurate reflection of what I was thinking about during the meeting … of where my head actually was during that discussion.

Capturing your inner dialogue

My notes give me a unique perspective not on what was said of of my inner dialogue, of my observations during the proceedings. And there is quite some value in that , because in those notes I often find the first inkling of a creative idea; not for a book – not yet at least – but for where we want to go with some of our solutions, with my work for university, with things I want to do with my family … it is an accurate record of what happens in my head in the space between stimulus and response.

Still waiting …

I have more difficulty to reach that space with an electronic tool, if I even get there at all. Taking notes on an iPad or a Surface is just too big a canvas, with too many possibilities none of which are natural, intuitive enough. So I’m sticking with my Bullet Journal and I keep hoping for a system that one day will offer all of the limitations of a paper product while allowing me to easily export to other repositories … but I think I’ll be writing in my bullet journal with my trusted fountain pen for the foreseeable future.