I have been using a Bullet Journal from a year now to capture notes and organize my tasks in general. Even though I am not a chaotic person it has helped me a lot, because I no longer found myself (at least not that much as before) thinking all the time about what I have to do tomorrow or next week. It happened to me all the time that if I had something to do one week in the future, let’s say, this task came to my mind several time a day, each day. Although I do not know if that is good for memory or a sign of stress, using a Bullet Journal (which I highly recommend to everybody) helped me to get rid of that kind of thoughts and focus on what I have to do in the present.

In the beginning I tried to set this Bullet Journal in Obsidian, which was the app I started using for the Personal Knowledge Management system, but it did not worked. The main problem was that if I wanted to capture something and had the computer off, I had to turn it on, which is not realistically feasible. For this reason I moved the BuJo to a notebook, and it was the best someone could do. Now I can capture things on the fly, with a pen always on today’s page it is really easy to write things down.

And I don’t mean that digital alternatives are worst or bad, I do have a capture and notes system in Emacs with Org-mode and Denote, which is essential for the organization of my work. What I mean is that once you shutdown the computer you need something else to write things down. Besides, there is another advantage to the BuJo, it marks my TODO tasks as completed by itself.

(In case you do not what to read the whole story, because it is nothing new I came up with and you may have already heard about or experienced it, here’s the trick: passing tasks which were not done from one day to the next, in the end, works like a filter, and I end up completely removing tasks which were not essential for what I am currently doing.)

To explain how that happens, I will start by explaining how that does not happens with Org-Agenda in Emacs. There I capture tasks and ideas into an Inbox headline with org-capture, and once or twice a week I process the inbox, like a Getting Things Done workflow. I came to find very useful to assign a scheduled date to all processed tasks from the inbox, and a deadline in the cases they have one. In this way tasks appear in my agenda some days before their due date, and also on the scheduled day. This is perfect, because it ends up building a plan of the stuffs I have to do everyday, and because everything has been schedule with plenty of time before the deadline, I found myself rushing to finish tasks no more (at least not as much as before, and yes, there are these people who send everything two days after the deadline and want a report for the next day, we just have to deal with it 🙃).

However, the problem I find here is that if I have not met a schedule for a task, it keeps showing up in the agenda view automatically day after day, and I usually re-schedule it to another day. This behavior is important for important tasks, but can pile up superfluous tasks. It is precisely there where appears the key of the situation. With the Bullet Journal I have to manually copy one undone task from one day to the other, and that is definitively harder than just striking out the task if I had to move it more than two or three times, which in fact means that it is probably just noise and unessential. This way I have found myself ditching a lot of tasks which were just product of a circumstance.

Finally, I would also like to record a bonus story which is related to the subject. Although not a good practice because it may end in stressful situations, it is still true that sometimes (most of the time?) it is worth letting a task to be done just at its deadline. Why do I say that?

We had this class during the engineer degree about designing structures. The final project was to build a water tank with certain characteristics of pressure, temperature, wind, etc., and it was assigned to everyone of us a different tank the very first class. It was probably one of those classes which are not hard, but require a lot of time to design the tank, so I decided around class 4 to start building my project, and designing my tank. It happened that within each class, the professor gave away a hidden key tip or data on how to simulate the wind, or the pressure, or the temperature, or the liquid inside, etc. It wasn’t until the last class that we had all the needed data.

It showed me that time will always take its course1, and generally on these kind of subjects, trying to get things done too early is as dangerous as getting them done too late. It has recently happened again to me, but this time I had my lesson learned, and saved a lot of time.

It is interesting how from that class on structures I remember absolutely nothing, but saved that lesson on doing stuff at their right time, not a minute early, not a minute late.

  1. This is the translation I found to the proverb in spanish: “No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano”. ↩︎

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