How I Use Roam as a Digital Bullet Journal

January 25, 2020
Productivity

Outline

1. How does Roam work?
2. How I use Roam for as a bullet journal
3. Conclusion

How does Roam work?

I’ve been using Notion for managing pretty much everything in my life. I use it for writing my journal, storing blog/Youtube ideas, keeping all the articles I liked, maintaining my personal CRM, etc.

But I’ve recently discovered an innovative note-taking app — Roam.
I came across this app while reading one of the blog posts by Nat Eliason, where he talks about how he uses Roam for researching and writing.

Roam essentially has similar functions as other note-taking apps like Evernote, OneNote and Notion.

But what makes Roam stand out from the crowd is how it organises notes. Unlike Evernote or Notion where you have rigid structures (e.g. Stacks, Notebooks and Notes), Roam has a very fluid structure.

So, how does Roam organise notes?

Roam starts from Daily Notes which is the primary section of the app.
When you want to make a new page, just type in [[page name]]from your Daily Notes.

For example, let’s say you want to make a new page about critical thinking. Simply type [[critical thinking]] on your Daily Notes.

This will create a new page titled “critical thinking”. You can then go on and add anything about critical thinking to this page just like you do in other apps.

But what I love about Roam is that you don’t have to be on this page to add content to it.

For example, if I want to add something to the critical thinking page, I can just type [[critical thinking]], from my Daily Notes and then start typing the new content below.

Then when you come back to the critical thinking page, that new content has been automatically added because Roam curates all the contents with the link [[critical thinking]] in them. Pretty cool, no?

This means you don’t have to frantically look for the right page to add new information. You can just type the page name on Daily Notes and then start adding whatever you like from there.

Here’s a screenshot of how my Daily Notes looks like from January 21st.

You can see I have various links to pages such as “My favourite quotes”, “Marcus Aurelius”, “Thoughts”, “statistics”, “habits”…

And when I want to see all of my “Thoughts” in the past, for example, I can just click the “Thoughts” link:

Roam automatically gathers all the contents that contain “Thoughts”.

I think this feature that lets you see all the relevant contents on one page is very useful. The problem I often had with other apps like Evernote was that I found it hard to see the connections among ideas since they are scattered in different Notes or Notebooks.

Roam for Bullet Journaling

Roam, in my opinion, is perfect for digital bullet journaling.

I used to use a paper journal like Moleskin to keep my bullet journal. But I’ve lost it a few times, and it was hard to keep track of things I wrote in it.

For example, when I had a great idea about my blog and wrote it down on my bullet journal, it got buried among other stuff. And it could take a while to find that idea later. This was always a source of frustration for me.

Roam, on the other hand, makes it easy for you to keep track of your ideas and thoughts.

Whenever I had a new idea, I can just type “ideas” and then start writing down the idea. Later when I want to review that idea, I just go to the “idea” page where Roam automatically gathers all the “ideas” for me.

Anyways, this is how I use Roam for my bullet journal:

This is my Daily Notes from January 22nd.

My morning routine involves 15–20 minutes of journaling. I like starting my day by asking myself a few questions:

1. What am I grateful for?
2. What do I want today’s highlight to be?
3. Daily affirmations
4. What am I thinking of? (Brain dumping)
5. What am I worried about?

The first question is for cultivating gratitude. The benefits of practising gratitude are underrated. Gratitude makes you happier, calmer and friendlier. It makes others like you more. It improves your relationships with others. The list goes on.

The second question is to determine that ONE THING that makes me content at the end of the day even if I failed to complete other tasks. That day, it was to publish a Youtube video about how the Stoics trained to become more emotionally resilient.

The third question is not really a question, but I love having a daily affirmation because it reminds me of the values or principles I want to live by. For me, it’s important to remain positive, kind, cheerful, and disciplined. Additionally, I remind myself to focus on only what I can control.

The fourth question is based on the idea of the brain dump. Personally, this is the best way to declutter my mind so I can focus on work. We usually have many nagging thoughts flying around in our mind. They come and go, but it’s hard to keep concentrated with them constantly popping up in your mind. So, that’s why you ‘dump’ them onto your journal. Once you wrote them down, your mind becomes clearer.

The fifth question is actually a part of the fourth question. It’s hard to concentrate when you have worries in your mind. So, just get them out by writing them down. Then you might realise they aren’t really a big deal.

To finish my morning routine, I write my daily goals. Some of them fall into the ‘Top priority” bucket and the others fall into the ‘other tasks’ bucket.

As I go about my daily activities, I write down ideas, thoughts or inspirations on my Daily Notes. For example, “My favourite quotes” is one of them. When I come across quotes that I like, I simply copy and paste them to Roam under the link “My favourite quotes”.

Similarly, “Thoughts” are things I don’t want to forget. For instance, I wrote about an episode of the Knowledge Project where Shane Parrish interviews Esther Perel. She shares lots of great relationship advice in this episode. And I wanted to remember them so I can review them later and share in my blog or newsletter.

(Shameless plug: Join my weekly newsletter — Bitesize info about productivity, lifestyle, Stoicism, personal finance, etc…)

At the end of the day, I always have 15 minutes for evening reflection.

My evening reflection includes:

1. Daily log
2. What I’ve learned
3. Positivity Score

The daily log is exactly what it sounds like. It’s simply writing down each event that happened in the day. It just feels really nice to remember what you did, who you talked to, what you talked about, and how you felt.

Asking myself “what did I learn today?” has been a game-changer for me. It helps me so much to retain the information I learned more clearly and longer. This question is so effective because it forces you to perform an active recall — one of the most powerful memorisation techniques.

Try to recall what articles, books or podcast you consumed, and write down what you learned from them. This is vital because if you can’t remember what you learned, how can you apply it to your life?

For example, I read a fantastic article by David Perell about why writing improves many aspects of your life significantly. The article had so many good bits such as how distribution channels (e.g. emails) are critical for writers, and why writing is the best form of learning.

It can take some time to recall these things, but this process of recalling is precisely what strengthens your retention.

10 Minutes A Day Active Recall — How to Remember What You’ve Learned

The Power of Active Recalling

medium.com

Finally, positivity score is something I’ve been keeping for the last few months. Since Roam lets you make a slider like in the picture above, I rate how well I followed my principles on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being perfect.

To be more specific, I ask myself whether I was able to express the highest version of myself in every moment in terms of my values — positivity, kindness, cheerfulness, patience, etc.

Yes, I know it sounds silly. But seeing the score of how I behaved makes me feel like I want to score higher next day. And in order to do that, I must behave better. That means I have to:
- stay positive (e.g. no complaining, bitching, or whining)
- listen to others rather talking about myself
- be more disciplined (i.e. no procrastination)
- act on reason and logic, instead of emotions or feelings
- focus on only what I can control
and numerous other things…

Conclusion

Roam isn’t as polished as Evernote or Notion just yet, but it has great functions. For now, I’m using it primarily for journaling, but I can see myself switching to Roam fully in the future when they add more features.

If you’re interested in Roam, you should read the article by Nat Eliason. He’s probably the master of Roam. He also announced he’s working on an online course about how to use Roam. So, that’ll be exciting!


Shu Omi

Hi! I'm a writer/videographer. I make videos on Youtube and write articles about productivity, lifestyle, Stoicism, passive income, data science and education.

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