Learning – Through Output!

Advertisement for the detailed Weekly Reflection from a systemic perspective

The owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the falling dusk.1

Thus wrote the famous philosopher G.F.W. Hegel in the 19th century: Only when a story has been told to the end can we learn something from it.

Looking back, I recognize the truth of this sentence: In preparing for my first theological examination, many individual pieces came together that I had gathered in terms of information and understanding in the years before.

And a text like the present one also forms a new level of understanding of the information processed in it.

This applies to all end products such as books, essays or blog posts: Only in the creation of these texts does knowledge arise from previously collected information.

My assertion: Exactly this also happens in the Bullet Journal through the long form of the Weekly Reflection, one of the new building blocks of the BuJo system: The individual observations of the Daily Logs, which were collected by rapid logging during the week, are given shape here through the lenses of the annual, monthly and weekly intentions. And only through this creative act of writing does knowledge emerge about what is currently happening in my life. That is why the Reflection in its long form is so important.

In the following I describe the individual processes of knowledge generation in the Bullet Journal from a systemic perspective, to make it clear that only through the weekly reflection new knowledge arises that helps me to understand myself and my life better. For this I use the systemic three-step:

Complexity to Simplicity to Complexity2

Complexity to Simplicity: From the amorphous complexity of everyday life to simplifying first-order observations

Systems observe – and choose:

The printing press invented the reader by raising the book author to authority through his reception3: Who reads, selects what he reads – and what not.

What I write in my Daily Logs is a selection of possibilities.

I decide which information I collect in my Bullet Journal or my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) system or Slip Box and which not!

So that we don't run the risk of collecting everything possible, handwriting is a good help: The slowness of handwriting and the limited space of the BuJo or the DIN A6 card forces me to select.

It is also helpful if I know what is important to me:

Capture – Keep What Resonates4

Tiago Forte compares information with food for the brain: I eat what tastes good to me. That's why PKM systems are just "personal": Their content relates to me, my life themes and guiding questions5:

This also automatically determines which information I do not collect!

Daily Log: My selection of relevant information over the course of the week

Like the slips in a slip box, I collect in the Daily Log every day relevant information for me based on my weekly, monthly and annual planning – my intentions.

The more aware I am of my life themes and intentions, the better I can distinguish between relevant and non-relevant information. But I only notice this over time and not during the collection process, because during the week I hardly process this information: The daily morning reflection serves me to keep an eye on the new tasks that have arisen during the week. But primarily I want to implement my intentional weekly planning during the week and get as much important things done as possible. In normal everyday life, it would also be overwhelming to update one's own story every day. This happens in the detailed form of the weekly reflection:

Simplicity to Complexity: how second-order observation leads to intention and meaning.

Through the act of writing, the first-order observations, which are picked up here and there and collected, become more complex texts that lift the information linked in them to a new level – results of second-order observation, of reflection:

At the end of the week, I read my Dailys and write a text based on this about the course of my life themes and goals in the last week: Only through the networking of the individual entries does knowledge arise, from which the planning for the next week results, and over the course of the weeks a story of my intentional life throughout the year.

"Writing is like thinking with the hand," writes a well-known notebook manufacturer rightly: Knowledge is only created through the product, which is why this detailed weekly reflection is so important. And that's why both Tiago Forte and Scott Schepper recommend that the creation of a "Second Brain" or a PKM or a "Slip Box" must be guided intentionally – a goal is necessary for which information is collected. The intention helps with the selection of information (=simplification). The output builds complexity from these simple building blocks and helps the author to gain insights through the new construction of complexity that occurs during writing:

Without harvest, you don't know what you've sown!

Learning means creating something new with an intentional review. That's why reflection phases are so important: This is the only way new knowledge is created – and maybe even wisdom someday …

Learning through Output: Coming Home

Hopefully, it has become clear what an important function the detailed narrative form of the Weekly Reflection has: Most of us are not book authors and do not write texts regularly. And even if I run a blog, I don't get to a new post every week. But understanding my life retrospectively in my Bullet Journal at the end of the week, in order to get a planning platform for the following week, this opportunity is offered by Bullet Journaling to everyone. At the end of the week and the year, we then hold not a book full of information, but a book full of memories and knowledge in our hands – like a photo album, in which we arrange our individual impressions after a journey, with headings and annotations:

You have to visit some place where you can remember, you understand? The point is to end the journey at some point. Actually, you've been nowhere until you return.6

Buch voller Wunder.

  1. G.F.W.Hegel(1821), W7, 28. ↩︎
  2. Scheper, Scott P. (2022): Ancient Zettelkasten: A Knowledge System That Will Turn You Into a Prolific Reader, Researcher and Writer, p. 374. ↩︎
  3. Cf. Berghaus, M. (2022): Luhmann leicht gemacht, pp.169-173). ↩︎
  4. Forte, T. (2022): Building a Second Brain. A Proven Method to Organise Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential, pp. 53-79. ↩︎
  5. 1. What inspires me?

    2. Is it useful?

    3. Is it personal?

    4. Is it surprising?

    When we externalize our thoughts, my future-me can be surprised by them – exactly as Niklas Luhmann describes the "communication with slip boxes" (Luhmann, N.: Kommunikation mit Zettelkästen, 1981).

  6. Pratchett, Terry (1989), The Light of Fantasy. ↩︎