Using a Zettelkasten in a Bullet Journal

In my last post I explained the concept of the Zettelkasten. Many of the articles that I linked to in that post suggest using digital tools to implement the Zettelkasten.

Zettelkasten. Image Credit: Kai Schreiber via Wikimedia Commons.
What the bullets in a bullet journal stand for. Image Credit: BulletJournal.com

I have had a history of not trusting digital tools. This is because I have used many of them and move to the shiny new object when I find one. This has led to my information being stuck in various digital tools like Evernote, Notion and now some on Roam Research.

The idea of a second brain requires something that we would trust we would use. Else, we just keep our ideas and thoughts in our head.

I needed something that I would trust I would use and would be analog.

This is where the Bullet Journal comes in. I have used this analog tool for the past six months. I am starting to build enough trust in entering information there knowing that I will use it. The physical presence of the written word also dispels fear about losing ideas in various silos.

Moving a Zettelkasten into a Bullet Journal reduces the clutter of index cards that it leaves behind. While, Zettelkasten enriches the practice of reflection in the Bullet Journal. It pushes us to link the ideas we jot down in the Bullet Journal with each other in a way that our brain does. This also helps us remember these ideas better.

Zettelkasten in its original avatar is analog. It uses a sort of threading system using boxes and alphanumeric references to each idea. The word threading reminded me of the practice of threading used in Bullet Journal.

Zettelkasten in it’s original avatar is analog. BuJo is also analog. I thought there must be a way to tie both these practices together. Threading is used to refer to a previous section as a way to provide continuity to a post. The video explains threading:

I want to extend the concept of threading to use it more than just for providing continuity of a collection or notes within the Bullet Journal.

A latitude or longitude is expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds. Similarly, a bullet can be referred to as volume, page number and line number. This means that each bullet in your notebook can be linked to another bullet within the same notebook or even another notebook.

This threads similar ideas together in the course of writing your bullet journal. I would suggest using the Index to collect tags related to a similar idea together. This would give you an index that would collect the page numbers on which ideas are being discussed. You can take a minute to go through these tags during your weekly or monthly reflection. You can also refer to the index when you are struggling with an idea related to the tag.

Why journal?

I have been keeping a bullet journal (BuJo) again since I moved to Pune in July. Although, I still have not completely migrated from mind to BuJo, I have been lately trying to figure out how to keep a diary within my BuJo.

Ryder Carroll posted an online tutorial today on YouTube about how to do this. From the website, where there is a companion blog post, Ryder goes into why he thinks we should journal, that I think is worth sharing here:

It’s often hard to understand what we’re feeling, or why we feel the way we do. Though we can’t  will  ourselves to change the way we feel, we can change the way we think. Journaling provides a powerful way to unpack our mind and our hearts. There, with it all laid out on the page, we’re granted the clarity, context, and distance that we often lack when things get rough. It can shift our perspective enough to change our mind, and with it, the way we feel.

Journaling can also be a great way for you to explore ideas, and deepen your appreciation for the good things that come and go so quickly. By putting pen to paper, you get to relive the good times and preserve them in loving detail so that you may revisit them for years to come. 

Ryder Carroll, Long-form Journalling, bulletjournal.com

If you do not write a diary or keep a journal, I think this is a good reason to keep one and maybe to begin today.

Bullet Journal

I used to keep a Bullet Journal way back in September 2015. By November 2015, I was writing so much work related stuff that I didn’t want to open it again. I abandoned it. I found it while surfing Evernote related help videos, in the YouTube suggested videos for you.

I found inspiration here and here and instructions here to dust off the old bullet journal from my diaries rack and use it again. Have kept it ready for use. Haven’t seen too many guys using it here in India, though. Examples welcome.