So, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of bullet journaling. I’m finding it to be a great way to organize myself in analog, which so far seems far more effective than any digital approach I’ve taken. It was actually some of my students last year who introduced me to the concept of bullet journaling, as this was the approach they took to helping people at their field site get their stress under control by getting their schedules under control.
If you’re interested in learning more about the topic, here are a few links:
A couple of bullet journalists that I follow on YouTube shared the way they use the bullet journal system as educators/academics. As someone newish to having to plan out and balance the “three legs of the academic stool” (teaching, scholarship, and service), I decided this might be a very good thing to explore.
As I’ve been brainstorming how I want to set up my shiny new A4 Academic Bullet Journal, one idea that I had was to create a collection page for those things you tend to run across as you’re researching one thing that aren’t quite what you need but you reallyreallyreally want to chase them down and just can’t right now. I decided I was going to call this my “Recycle Bin.” And then I watched the last video linked above, the 2017 Plan with Me, and was introduced to the concept of “academic otters.”
If you’re familiar with the phrase “plot bunny,” well, this is the academic equivalent. It’s that idea that takes up residence in your brain, running around and demanding all your attention until you at least give it something to keep it quiet for now while you focus on what you currently need to be doing. In the world of fiction, particularly fan fiction, these persistent (often to the point of annoying) ideas are called “plot bunnies.” Liz Gloyn over at Classically Inclined coined the parallel term, “academic otters,” which is absolutely perfect. She also gives some suggestions on how to keep said otters relatively tame and controlled so they do not take over and derail what you are working on, aka “The Care and Feeding of Academic Otters.”
My current thought is that I’ll probably stick with the collection idea. Collections, as a bullet journal tool, are perfect for exactly this sort of thing. Stuff needs a home? Give it a page, label it and index it so you can find it later, and you’re golden! No more sorting or organizing needed. Yet. Then, when it comes time to review what I have in the works and what I want to take on next (and have forgotten all about these otters who are now merrily chasing each other around in their collection river) I can see which
otters are ready to come out and play ideas are most viable to move into the pipeline.
Have you used a bullet journal or similar approach to organize your academic pursuits? Do you have a different way of handling your academic otters? (Can we get everyone to please start using the phrase “academic otters” throughout academia?) Let me know in the comments!