Test Cycle 0: I’m Not Built For Analog

I have an admission. A grave admission.

I prefer apps over notebooks.

I tried. I really tried. But no matter how, where, or when I used my bullet journal, it couldn’t beat my tried and true combination of Trello and Workflowy.

I got in some great longform journaling sessions. I performed plenty of paper therapy. But when it comes to staying on top of my work, managing my hobbies, and collecting enough data to have something to crunch, technology wins.

Why The Journal Didn’t Work

I have really shitty spacial reasoning. I can’t draw, I can’t estimate distance reliably, and I can’t draw a straight line. I work well with tools that remove that obstacle, and I love kanban boards like Trello, but the benefits of working in analog are totally outweighed by my inability to fit shit on the page.

That got in the way of me becoming truly comfortable with my journal, as I never hit the point where it felt entirely intuitive. And when I needed to do quick scratch notes or process documentation, I found myself turning to Workflowy instead.

I won’t turn this article into a sales pitch for that particular app, but suffice it to say that the simplicity of a bulleted list combined with the forgivingness of endless visual space makes life really easy for me.

Everyone has a different hassle threshold (and different thresholds for different parts of their lives) and this initial cycle blew straight past mine. There’s a definite benefit that comes from writing things down and getting away from technology, but I haven’t found the best way to fit that into my rhythm.

What I Learned

I can grind through something for three weeks straight and, if it doesn’t fit my basic rhythm, it won’t stick.

This is a really great lesson to pull out of this at this stage of the game, as it establishes a baseline. Hopefully, as time goes on, I will be able to improve my overall adaption rate and start using it for some more wacky and challenging tasks.

At the same time, though, I’m disappointed. This is a margin project, for sure (I’m juggling enough other half-planned projects as it is), but I didn’t account for how easily I’d return to basic behaviors without a strong external pressure to use this particular tool.

Going forward, I think I’ll change the stakes a bit to add that pressure and see if I can pair habits such that one reinforces the other.

The Final Note

Unlike me, Jana does almost everything on paper. She’s strayed away from bullet journals into her own system, but she’s entrenched enough that the habit probably won’t go away.

At some point in the next month or so, she and I will be recording a podcast that’ll cover journal systems and the digital debate in more detail. Keep your ears peeled.

Once March kicks off and I finish onboarding a few clients, Test Cycle 1 will kick off. It’ll be focused on habit replacement, with quite a few of the ideas and experiments being contributed by the /r/simpleliving community.


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