The unexamined life is not worth living.Socrates
If I could point out one thing that changed my life this year, it would be Journaling.
I had kept journals and diaries before, but they were never structured or consistent.
I would go to a stationary store, find a notebook that had a nice-looking cover, buy it, proceed to fill in only the first few pages, abandon it, and repeat.
In the end, I figured that keeping a diary wasn’t meant for me, that it would remain the exclusive domain of moody teenage girls.
Then near the end of last year, I stumbled across the Bullet Journal Method.
At first I was skeptical. Lots of glowing praise, comments from people saying how it “changed my life”, a constant stream on social media… all red flags for another scam to separate a fool from their money.
But I was curious enough to look deeper. The method itself was free; there were instructional videos online, written descriptions, and tips from various sources. The only investment you really needed was a notebook and pen.
“Try it for a month”, they all suggested. Classic sales technique, but I guess it worked. I shrugged, found a tiny, unloved notebook that was lying around, and created my first Bullet Journal for December 2018.
Keeping Track Of Life
Immediately, things got easier.
The Bullet Journal was the perfect way for me to keep my day-to-day tasks in order:
- Grocery shopping
- Dry cleaning
- Work outs
- Holiday planning
- Blood donations
- Ongoing payments
- Work scheduling
- Shopping wishlists
- Reading wishlists
After the December 2018 experiment, I immediately went out and bought four more notebooks.
The first notebook was filled out in six months, from January to June 2019.
If you asked me what I did on any particular day during this period, I would be able to flip through the journal and tell you exactly what happened.
There were two periods, in February and April, where I was in Japan on holiday.
More than photos, seeing what I had written in my journal helped to bring back memories of my time overseas:
- Buying 3 bottles of Nikka from the Barrel for a total AU$90… bargain!
- Waking up early to take a bus to Mt Fuji
- Breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market
- Eating MaPo Tofu Ramen
- Hiking up frozen stairs at Yamadere
- Visiting Yamazaki distillery
- Eating at Nakajima, a Michelin-starred sardine restaurant
- Tasting Butterbeer at Universal Studios Japan
- Visiting the A-Bomb dome at Hiroshima
- Wearing a Kimono and attending a tea ceremony
- Climbing the 1000+ stairs of Fushimi-Inari Shrine
- Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea
All of these moments would have been lost in the ether of day-to-day drudgery.
But with my journal I could flip back and say “oh yeah, I did do that, didn’t I?”
At some point, I realised that this method of journaling could be uniquely effective for my wine studies.
In fact, looking back, I can tell you exactly when that revelation hit me: Tuesday, 19 February 2019.
I was still in Japan; evidently I was so concerned with my studies that I couldn’t wholeheartedly enjoy my holiday.
Keeping Track Of Studies
As I mentioned in my previous article, I was only able to get into a groove for studying around 5 months before the exam.
I know this because it was in my journal.
For May 2019, I listed out a number of weaknesses in my theory.
As you can see, I was able to cover four topics.
Another reason why the Bullet Journal is uniquely effective is blank space.
A blank space represents a period where I did not study.
If I could see that I had not studied, then I would feel guilt.
To assuage this guilt, I would study more.
Fast forward to July 2019 and I had covered 12 topics in the same amount of time, a 200% increase.
I was also able to uncover new weaknesses, which I would continue to attack in August.
By the beginning of September, two weeks before the exam, I could look back and feel justifiably proud of the work I had done.
But probably the most powerful feature of the Bullet Journal Method is the ability to locate something quickly and efficiently.
What where the subs of St-Chinian again? I know I wrote it down somewhere! Where is it?!
With traditional note taking I would be rummaging through a pile of notebooks and flipping through pages randomly.
With the Bullet Journal Method I only need to flip back to the Index, pick out the topic I want and flip forward to the correct page number.
As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.
While I had failed Theory in August 2018, I passed in September 2019.
I believe the Bullet Journal Method deserves a lot of credit for that.
But even if I were not preparing for an exam, it showed me that I could take control of my life, rather than letting it tick by one moment at a time.
I am more able to look back and reflect on past events.
I am more able to plan for the future.
That in itself represents an immeasurable return on my minimal investment.
More To Come
As much as I have learned about wine, I have discovered more about myself and which methods were most effective for learning and recall.
This is just the first thing I wanted to share that I believe helped me to conquer my studies.
I will be sharing more of my discoveries in future articles.
In the meantime, if you also happen to be studying any form of sommelier certification, I can confidently recommend this thread on Guildsomm by Jaime Pinedo: Green Pin Manifesto: Advanced Exam Playbook.