How to declutter your mind when you have Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety, or just a bad case of life.

If you see me for therapy, you know that I am a huge fan of the Bullet Journal system. Bullet Journal is a method for keeping on task and decreasing the clutter in your mind – and the anxiety that goes along with it.

What is the system?

Just watch the video below. It is about 4 minutes long, and can explain quicker than I could in person.

In the next 12:50 minute video below, the creator of the system explains why it works to reduce anxiety and help with attention deficit issues (the creator himself has lived with attention deficit disorder):

Why am I a huge fan of this system?

  1. It is very simple, and well put together.
  2. You can’t beat the price. Get a pencil or pen, and buy a 200 page composition notebook like this one. At $2.99, it is so cheap that you can’t get it at Amazon alone, you have to get it as an add-on item at Amazon. Of course, you can always get another notebook (I prefer Moleskine style), but I just wanted to point out how cheap it is.
  3. It is a one stop calendar, task manager, contact book, project management, lecture note taking and personal journal tool.
  4. You can take it everywhere and it does not fail when you run out of battery juice.
  5. There is nothing quite as gratifying as saying, “I actually don’t need to write this down” when selecting tasks, marking tasks as done, or crossing off items you wrote down that you decided don’t matter after all.

I start my day with a list of no more than 5 things to do. That makes my life much more manageable and less anxiety-stricken.

i have some best practices that I use with the system, which I have developed over the past 2 years of using it.

  1. Just start it. It takes about 45 minutes to set up the first time, and less time after that the next time you make a notebook. The video really explains it simply.
  2. If you have to think about something for more than 2 minutes and you can’t solve it, it goes in the Bullet Journal.
  3. If you have a goal that will take more than 1 month to accomplish, break it into smaller tasks and put it in on a monthly basis in the Bullet Journal (you’ll understand after you watch the 4 minute video about the system).
  4. Keep it really simple. I have toyed with variations off of the video, and there are thousands of YouTube videos to make it color coded, origamied, etc. That stuff is just crazy. Stay with the simple. I’d suggest staying with the video above and then experimenting later.
  5. Always keep it at arm’s reach and in sight. If it isn’t, you won’t use it.
  6. Use it daily. Plan your day in the morning, review it at night.
  7. Personally, I integrate a Livescribe 3 pen system with my iPhone into the system. I have a further backup on Evernote. That way I can have a computerized backup, which is open to audio recordings that are synchronized with it, as well as photos. Note that I do not use audio recordings or pictures of my clients or material associated with my clients to protect confidentiality. When I go to lectures or workshops in the community is when I use these features. Make a point, where applicable, of asking for permission to record audio or pictures.
  8. You may want to use it as well to take notes of lectures or to do personal journaling.
  9. Tell others about how you use it. This will keep you using it.
  10. Use the 43 Folders system for things that are on pieces of paper that y0u can’t just copy easily into a notebook. See my blog article on this system for details. In the Bullet Journal system, I would just make a note to refer to the 43 folders system, so you know where the information is.

BUT I HATE PAPER AND PENCIL! CAN’T I DO IT DIGITALLY?

Yes, you can. You will gain a lot of advantages by doing it digitally, however, it is important to note that there is one major disadvantage. With the Bullet Journal, you can simply put a line through things you don’t care about anymore, and you aren’t faced with the question of whether or not you want to make the effort to copy forward a task into the next month by hand. If you really don’t see the need to put the effort into copying something by hand at the end of the month (when you review your tasks for the month to make sure they are done), then you really probably don’t need to copy it because it isn’t a worthwhile task. Therefore, by copying and pasting, you merely carry leftover anxiety into the next month.

That being said, then, there is a way I would suggest. At present, there is no completely digital version of the Bullet Journal. In my opinion, there really shouldn’t be. But, there are ways to work around it.

One is Evernote. Evernote is a very customizable site that has the ability to do all this, but it would take a lot to set it up, and you would be reliant on electronics. I’ve tried this, and it is clunky. As you can gather, I like simple.

A promising alternative for those in the Google Universe is a combination of Google Calendar and Google Keep. There is not enough space to go into how these work, but I will say that the way I would use these is to point out that if some task or thing you want to record has a date, use Calendar. If it doesn’t, use Keep. Objects in both Calendar and Keep will integrate into other Google products, e.g. Inbox and Google’s Microsoft Office clone products, e.g. Docs. It is well worth exploring, although I prefer paper and pencil, and I’m not convinced it will actually reduce stress. There is also the fact that they say that on the Internet, if the product is free, then you are the product–meaning that what you put there can be analyzed and is by no means confidential.

Regardless of the method you choose, the idea behind Bullet Journal is a wonderful method for reducing anxiety and enhancing concentration and intention. Try it out for a month, and let me know what you think.

About Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW, CAS-PC

Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Pastoral Counselor who maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Drexel Hill, PA.
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