Life in bullet points

A new guide to better living has been published in Chinese, Wang Ru reports.

At a time when people are increasingly dependent on mobile phones, Ryder Carroll is encouraging people to make plans with pen and paper.

The 39-year-old digital-product designer from New York has published the Chinese version of his book, which introduces his “bullet-journal” organizational method to help “people live an intentional, meaningful and productive life”.

According to Carroll, the approach is a combination of schedules, task lists, plans, diaries and other things.

Chinese review site Douban user Arnold says: “This is more than a book about self-management or daily schedule but one that tells you how to think and how to live.”

Adults are constantly bombarded with new information and come up with new thoughts.

Carroll encourages people to put down their thoughts and see their “mental inventory” since “holding thoughts in your mind is like trying to grasp water – it’s nearly impossible”.

“But by writing down our thoughts, we can capture them clearly and they can give you a pretty clear picture as to how you’re investing both your time and your energy in them,” he says.

The next step requires you to check what you have written down and ask yourself questions such as: “Why am I doing these things? Do they matter or are they actually holding me hostage?”

Carroll says he first noticed the importance of such questions when he started his own business in 2012.

“I worked really hard for two years, sacrificed my time, energy, friendships and many other things since people told me having your own company at my age was a great success. The company made money right away, but I didn’t feel happy. At that time, I found it actually didn’t matter to me. I invested so much effort but ended up finding I didn’t care about it.”

He discovered that people usually burden themselves with unnecessary responsibilities. They are distracted by all the things that their peers are doing or that society is pushing them to do.

He urges people to seek the “truly important things to do”. After the process, people can see what they have to do and what they aspire to do in their “mental inventory”.

Carroll provides many tips in his books about further procedures to accomplish them. “Ideas are not reliable since they come and go constantly, but with a system to back you up and supervise you, you can accomplish your goal more easily.”

Carroll was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a youth. It did not mean he could not focus but he focused on too many things at the same time. Since there was not a lot known about the condition back then, Carroll could find few tools to help himself. So, he started to develop his own methods, and shared them with his friends, who found them helpful.

“I designed it for myself. I’d never assumed that it would work for other people. But with that in mind, I built a website and shot some videos to teach the method to others, in hopes that it might help them the way it helped me. I called the method ‘bullet journal’,” he says.

“If I make you live in a house that has already been decorated, you always feel like you are living somebody else’s life. But ‘bullet journal’ enables you to create and design your own tools to face up to the challenges you meet.”

He thinks the approach “becomes what you need at any time you pick it up and can change its role based on your request”.

In 2016, when “bullet journal” was still a “passion project” for him, as he was working for a design agency in New York, he received an email from a woman who used the method in her daily life.

“The mother worked as a volunteer in her child’s school – a school for students with special needs. She happened to see her child have a seizure in front of her and was too shocked and nervous to say a word,” he recalls.

“When paramedics asked her what medicines the child often took, all she could do was to take out her ‘bullet journal’ and make them see a page with all the medication information on. And thus her child was saved according to the information.”

It was also a turning point in his life when he decided to work full time to promote his idea. Over the years, it has been shared on Instagram about 2.8 million times. The tutorial videos have been watched over 5 million times and the book has been published in nearly 20 countries.

“An intentional life is the one that you want to live, not the one that you endure.”


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