Combining org-mode and bullet journals: what works?

Hey y’all!

This isn’t directly beeminder related but I thought I’d ask anyway since I presume that organizational nerds are over-represented among us beeminder folks.

So, yeah, over the years I’ve shifted back and forth between bullet journals and org-mode files as my primary organization. They both have their pros and cons and I was wondering if anyone around here actually has a workflow combining both written notes and org-mode files?

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I’m not totally sure I understand the question, but has a smart scanner app that OCRs the stuff from your notebook and you pre-configure it to know how to upload to N different places (e.g. Dropbox, Drive, etc.) and then it will upload to whichever places you had circled at the bottom of the page you scanned.

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@clarissalittler is talking about, a glorified to-do-list and whatnot in emacs.

Er, yeah, I thought we were talking about how to get notes from a physical journal into an electronic form.

not wanting to derail this thread but I’m a fellow rocket book owner myself and being frustrated with the optical quality of the “scans” I cobbled together something that takes that photo and vectorises your hand written notes and then outputs it as either SVG or PDF I think. But I never made it into some polished app or anything. It did work though.

Yeah so my question was less on things like ocr than hearing what workflows work for people who use both.

Like has anybody tried keeping a master index org file for the contents of physical notes? Use the agenda view to populate hand drawn calendars? Things like that.

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Bump! It’s a good question, one that I’ve not cracked either. How to combine digital and analog productivity/reference systems…

I’m not an emacs user, but certainly my most successful productivity systems have been on paper, with the ever-present seduction of going digital. Somehow, for me, electronic lists have never stuck, devolving until they become write-only systems. Conversely, I keep notes almost entirely electronically these days, and have a stack of must-index-one-day notebooks gathering dust.

My best integration so far has been to use electronic systems to manage periodic reminders, recurring tasks, actual deadlines, etc. For a long while, these reminders took the form of “add X to the list”, rather than needing me to actually work from the electronic copy.

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Very relatable! I used to love using org-mode but there ended up being two problems: after a few years the files became, as you said, write-only systems. I couldn’t easily go back through them and look over old ideas or take stock of what I’d been doing. The other problem is that I’d have a lot of ideas or do writing away from the computer and it’d be a pain to keep it synchronized with my org-files. The latter wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the former hadn’t meant that I kept getting losing track of where I wanted things.

I’ll update this thread after I’ve tried some workflows to report back what it was like.


Raises hand for analog / digital hybrid.

Like most people working in the 21st Century, I have plenty of digital references for work. But for the things that come up in a day and tend to slip away just as quickly, paper seems to be the fastest, easiest way for me to grab important information and slow it down enough to be intentional. One paper-based tool I use to keep it organized is an index. Even the messiest notes can become searchable with a good index.

When it comes to productivity and to dos, I do like digital tools, which provide a kind of feedback that I find motivating.

I have been experimenting with a bullet journal for a few months now, and I’m quite enthusiastic about it.

I still use my smart phone and emacs org – I love those 2 too! – but for me it all evolves around attention: that scarce commodity that’s so easily squandered. Automated tools make it far too easy to add items, cut & paste… ending quickly in a unoverseeable mess. I simply don’t have the discipline to organize my org-notes, or to follow up on all those maybe interesting book marks.

So everything for which I want to spend time in a conscious manner, I delegate it to my bullet journal. Thinking, agenda, to-do lists. The extra friction of taking the journal and writing things down, slowly, carefully choosing the words and expressing my thoughts because only that many words fit on a page… it forces me to focus on the essence, to wonder whether this is what I really want or mean. The blank page also allows me to express myself in a non-linear way when needed, like mind maps, drawings.

I use my phone and org-mode mainly for things that I want to go effortlessly, as automated as possible. Like alarms, reading my newspaper… but taking notes while I’m reading is again for my journal.

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