In 7 Hours With, we explore the routines of leading professionals in their space to learn the when, why, where and how they work. In each diary, we will look at what they’re doing at seven different check-ins throughout their day.
Ryder Carroll is the founder of The Bullet Journal Method, the analog method for the digital age that helps you track the past, order the present, and design your future. He is a product designer, teacher, entrepreneur, and a Hive user.
Currently, I set my alarm for 7:30 seven days a week. Sleep is my focus, so it’s the foundation of all my routines. First, I make my bed. It’s a small achievement but it creates momentum. Then, I go to the gym (where I listen to podcasts or books), meditate, and journal before I go online. If I get two of those three things in, it starts the day off well.
Then I start getting ready for my day — I mostly work from home, or from hotel bars. They’re empty and quiet during the day. It also helps me explore New York. I don’t drink coffee or eat breakfast, so I don’t have a food or drink routine in the morning.
I clock in around 9:30, and the first thing I do is email. I limit my emailing to three sessions a day: morning, after lunch, and before I sign off. This keeps email quarantined and focused. The challenge is that sometimes an email requires a lot of thought, work, or more discussion. This sometimes results in things being drowned out by my inbox.
In terms of my full-time job, I’m the creator of The Bullet Journal Method, which is a mindful practice disguised as a productivity system. Using nothing more than pen and paper, it helps us go offline to declutter our mind and organize our thoughts. It originated as a way to help me manage my learning disabilities growing up. I needed a system that was structured, flexible, and adaptable. It also provided the process I needed to get things done, but over the years it’s become much more than that.
Now it keeps me aware of why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s helped me go from a process-driven approach to a purpose-driven approach to life. The irony is that being purpose-driven ends up making you more productive. You stop worrying about how much time something will take. Instead, you start by asking yourself why something should be taking your time…at all. It quickly weeds out a lot of busy work, which means you have more time and energy to invest in the things that actually matter.
I continue working on any projects or towards deadlines for the rest of the morning. In terms of what I actually do, it’s hard to provide an accurate title because I wear many hats running my own business. My go-to is that I’m a teacher. Everything that I work on is about servicing my community through education.
People learn in many different ways, and having grown up with learning disabilities, I appreciate how one size does not fit all. I try to diversify educational content by creating visual, auditory, and kinesthetic resources. It helps me leverage my background as a digital product designer (learn more about the Bullet Journal digital app here). That’s the fun stuff, but then there’s also managing all the logistics and infrastructure of running an online business that sells materials goods (like our physical Bullet Journal). That requires a whole different skill set. So I’m as much a student as I am a teacher.
I usually eat around 12:30-1:30, and I use lunch to catch up on the news. After lunch, I time block. I use time blocking a lot. I set up my calendar in 30-minute blocks, each with a specific task, and set a timer to keep me on point. If I know that one task will take longer, I break that task down into smaller tasks. I also front-load the day with priorities and work towards the things that I enjoy doing. On good days, they are the same thing.
When it comes to longer term planning, each month has a different target. Each project has different sprints, and each sprint usually requires a different skill set. I map out the month accordingly. It works out well, because nothing becomes monotonous.
I do my best to keep meetings contained to specific days and to an absolute minimum. Meetings tend to shatter my ability to focus on other things, because they force me to switch mental gears and present new considerations that may re-prioritize plans. That’s why I try to schedule all my tactical meetings on Mondays. I enter the week with the newest information available, and then I spend the rest of the week working through it. If I have any other meetings, I will also try to stack them on Wednesday, so I can remain in meeting mode.
Today isn’t a Monday or a Wednesday, so I plug along on action items and avoid meetings at all costs.
The worst part about working for yourself is that no matter where you are, you never clock out. I’ve been trying to “leave” work at 6pm. The time restriction gives everything more urgency, and helps me focus.
In terms of dinner, I’ve recently started precooking my food for the week on Sundays for the days I’m eating in. Other nights, I will go out to catch up with friends, which tends to happen between 7-8 PM.