Bullet Ephemeris Public Service Announcement

Ever since mentioning my Bullet Ephemeris (and then blogging about it), I've been seeing masses of directed advertising for custom hardbound planner books. I am frankly stunned at the number and variety of these, to the point that I feel obliged to make sort of a public service announcement.

Each of these ads makes roughly the same claims for their product:

  • It will help you achieve every single goal you've ever even remotely contemplated
  • It will turn you into hyper-achieving accomplishment machines
  • It will banish all stress, wasted time, and bad hair-days from your life
  • It is, each and every one, better than all the others

Sigh. Let's have a little chat.

First of all, writing stuff down and being organized isn't a bad thing. But if a fancy form you fill out was all it took to meet your goals... well, there wouldn't be literally dozens of these out there on the Internet. This is why I don't ever give templates to my private consulting clients. In part because I learn a lot more about how people operate when they free-write and self-organize, which allows me to give them the personalized service that they are paying for. Also, when you write it you own it, which is way more important and useful than me providing some kind of arbitrary structure.

Second, meeting all your goals and accomplish accomplish accomplish isn't the idea! The idea is to use these tools to figure out what's most important, what will get you pointed toward your mission, values, and vision, and what will make you happy. And as anyone suffering from the tyranny of choice in this world can tell you, there are always too many goals / classes / options. Not everything has to be a goal or an accomplishment. Know what? I knit. And I'm absolutely not an accomplished knitter. I'm not even a dedicated amateur. I knit when I feel like it, buy supplies as I want guilt free, and occasionally finish something (or abandon it or screw it up). It is, in the purest form, a trifling hobby. And that's fine! Not everything you do has to be a big deal or in service to your goals.

Third, being disorganized does tend to cause stress, but being organized isn't all it takes to banish it. Try exercise and meditation and kale (always the same fucking three, isn't it?). And wasted time is a precious commodity. Maybe you don't want to fill every minute of your day with tasks and lists and hacks and goal achieving effort. Maybe you want the kind of life where hanging out under a tree thinking long thoughts is a regular part of your week. Maybe that IS your goal.

Finally, I'm as much of a sucker for shiny office supplies as anyone, but no system that someone else makes is going to work better than the system you make and work and, above all, that you make work. It is easy? Again, no. It can be really hard. Odds are that, as adults all of you, you've already achieved the easy goals. The ones you have left are the tough ones, that require more from you than you're used to. Either they take more organization skills than you naturally have (though these skills can be taught and developed -- or I wouldn't have a this site!) or they have bumped up against some limitation or fear that you have to get around, or they mean making hard choices and prioritizing differently, or they mean breaking bad or making good habits.

My hard goal is easy for some people. And my easy goal may be hard for some of you. The way I think and plan and structure data is unique to me -- just like your way is unique to you. The only difference is that I've spent years learning about these different ways as part of my career. You only need to know about one... yours.

I'm always flattered and honored that some people want me to help them directly -- I believe I provide value (and if I ever doubt myself, I remember that corporations aren't sentimental -- if I wasn't bringing it, they'd have gotten rid of me already). But lots of my knowledge is slowing appearing right here for free. So buy an inexpensive spiral or book, grab a pen you already own, and get busy figuring your life out.


  1. Good advice. It is the case that most adults have solved most of the basic challenges, like where to live and how to feed one's self... the bigger things require more planning and organization. No system of organization based on a template is going to solve those sorts of challenges; they have to be hybridized in a way that suits the user.

    That said, one of the things that I noticed in tutoring teenagers for twenty years, is that when an organization system breaks down and important tasks slip through the cracks to the 'not-done' pile, it usually means that the organization system has reached its effective limits — it's the fallen Tower. And that's the point where you need to rethink your system.

    1. Exactly right! And that's where outside information can provide value. Enhancing/expanding/hardening an existing organizational system often requires a new point of view and additional tools that the user doesn't have. But it has to be customized in order to work for the individual.


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