The idea that you could have a Digital BuJo still makes my brain hurt a bit.
Yes: I switched my analog BuJo to digital and I still use an analog notebook daily. I still write in the rain (link), use some odd discoveries (link) and broke a habit or two using the anti-bad habit notebook (link).
As much as I like writing I ultimately need a digital BuJo to help me better manage my day to day. I could go back to paper if required but it’s outside my needs and capabilities at this time. The digital setup I put together is designed around its ability to adapt to paper, not to worry.
Below are the actual needs I have day to day.
- Heavy churn of “daily to do items”
- Clear separation of habit tracking
- A distinction between to do’s that are “today’s problem” and “something to eventually accomplish”
- A clear spot for “projects” that will take long periods of time to complete and need a lot of supporting information
- Ties into my long running personal knowledge base (digital)
The core of my setup is simply a set of folders, text files with markup (org-mode or markdown) and any supporting files and information included alongside the text files. It’s a very basic org-mode (link) filesystem layout and all the text files and notes are cross lined.
The setup is divided into 3 major ‘areas’
Area 1 - Daily To Dos
The first area of this setup is a single spot for just today’s to do items. This list is designed to churn. These are the things you need to get done that you note as you go about your day. This is also fed straight from other areas of the setup such that this is the place you start, always. Once the list is empty I pull from the longer-term areas forward.
Area 2 - Long Term To Dos and Habits
The second area I setup to hold all my longer running to do items like ’take car in for oil change’ that are important but not ’today’ important. This area also contains a section of all habits I need to track over time. Habits like taking my morning meds, getting the mail, giving the cat his meds every 3rd day, etc.
This area of my setup is where I pull daily to do items from the most.
Area 3 - Personal Knowledge Base and Projects
The third area I setup was pre-existing. I’ve kept a personal knowledge base as plain text files + attachments for something like 20 years now. This area of my digital BuJo got some updates when I shifted to org-mode but it was cleanup I had planned prior to using org-mode. This can be a lot of different things in practice. For me it’s a set of “zones” dedicated to things like photography, open source, technology, culinary adventures and more.
It’s very much a memory augmentation for me. See here (link) for more detail.
A few key points that helped inform the way I laid out my information digitally.
- I need the to do list that I need to actually accomplish today as a dedicated and visually separate zone. My ADHD tendencies make this a very hard requirement for me.
- I need habit tracking as a dedicated “zone” that’s independent of my calendar and primary “churning” to do list. Without this distinction I cannot track my habits and suffer from a form of work paralysis.
- I need my calendar to be just the blocked time when I’m supposed to be 100% focused. Like attending a birthday party or visiting friends. Anything more than this and I have trouble using a calendar remotely effectively.
- I discovered I need long running projects inside my knowledge base with to do items being pulled out as I have time to work on the larger projects. Long-term they land in my knowledge base anyhow, why not put them there at the start so the mental model is smoother?
- I discovered that a lot of my “to do list” is stuff that I need or want to get done but they certainly aren’t going to happen “today”. If I tease these out to a non-focused point of entry I can better manage my day to day without being overwhelmed by extra shit that can wait until later.
As you can tell this is basically a set of digital zones that track varied information for me. It’s all backed by plain text files and org-mode. I use emacs for org-mode but there are other implementations. Even better is that I can use a simple text editor and do the same thing as if I was using paper or not emacs + org-mode.
Early in my day, every day, I check the main daily to do list, longer term to do list and habit tracking. I push anything off my daily to do over to the longer term to do list that will have to be accomplished at a later time. I also pull forward anything from the longer to do list to the daily list. This helps me set the tone of my day and help me sort out how I may want to manage my time. I also check my calendar(s) at this point in the day to ensure I have a rough idea what I’m going to be doing.
About halfway through my day, and again at night, I check on the status of my habits and update accordingly. If I’m concerned about my memory at any point in the day I will bring some habits forward onto my daily to do list to ensure they are accomplished.
I really run this system like I would a paper BuJo…
My emacs code is here (link) for the curious.
If I hadn’t run into very real and necessary concerns with my focus, I’d still be using my original paper BuJo right now. Unfortunately I have memory and executive function issues that necessitate approaches that aren’t amenable to paper for me.
If this sounds interesting I strongly recommend reading all the links at the start of this post as well. I tried to make them more generalized guides on what to look for in your own setup and needs, not what I’m doing for myself.
Journals are for you to manage your stuff. Don’t let folk tell you that you’re doing it wrong. There is no wrong for this stuff.