Bullet Journal® is a methodology. It’s best described as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system. It’s designed to help you organize your what while you remain mindful of your why. The goal of the Bullet Journal is to help its practitioners (Bullet Journalists) live intentional lives, ones that are both productive and meaningful.
Towards the end of 2018, I needed an organisation method as I was struggling to have a clear vision of my current projects and deadlines as well as personal stuff. I used a planner, had a proper to-do list and my appointments were under control but I was missing on my previous achievements, important memories, and ups & downs in the past months and years.
I was not mindful of my medium and long term goals. They were at the back of my mind. My daily to-do list contained:
- Important and urgent things
- Important but non-urgent things
- Trivial things
- If time things
- Someday things
At the end of the day I crossed many items out but did not stop to think: ‘where do these individual tasks lead me?’ or ‘are they steps towards that dream job?’ When I found out about Bullet Journal, the phrase ‘live an intentional life’ resonated with me. Although I believed I was an efficient person, only a small percentage of the tasks were contributing to my goals. At times, I remembered what I wanted one or two years earlier and then I realised I was quite far from achieving that. Pointless, disappointing. The truth is, I had not applied myself as much as I could had because I lacked clear goals and a plan to reach them.
So, I got the book and read it in record time, I also used the blog and other people’s experiences. I started journaling on the 1st of January 2019. Thinking about my goals was really hard, perhaps my only clear goals in life had been to finish secondary school, then to get a degree and a job. Once I got past that stage, I got into an automatic pilot, I think the fuel just run out for me. I wanted to focus on this new job and to relax a bit after 4 hectic university years.
Everyone needs a break from time to time, I think it is like allowing yourself some chocolate ice cream after an extensive diet. However, life can become too comfortable and it may just happen for you. Thinking about goals took time, it was a bit painful, I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do next, I felt like I went back to the end of secondary school when I was anxious about what career to choose and how to be a grown up. It was just ridiculous! But things developed, things started to make more sense and I could establish some short, medium and long term goals as well as the necessary habits I needed to implement to get there. Not every day was a success, I tried to change all my habits at once and obviously failed.
When doing my daily and weekly revisions, I realised that I was trying to change everything in one go and I did not have the ability to do it. I then started with baby steps, something that required effort but that I was willing to keep with no excuses. As days and weeks went by, I started to consolidate these habits and could stick to them most of the time. This was very rewarding and I became more determined towards the goals I had set for myself and could begin to take my targets to the next level.
I have learnt valuable things while using the method and I would like to share them with you:
Use of the Time
I thought that time management was a bit like doing lists and ticking off boxes in an efficient manner. The initial pages of my Bullet Journal are filled with long lists and postponed tasks, which really frustrated me. However, when I aligned my activities to my priorities and goals, I noticed a shift in the way I spent my time. I understood that quantity isn’t necessarily quality. Tasks became meaningful and manageable, I knew where I was heading and was motivated, I got into a nice workflow in different areas of my life.
Within a few months, I could accomplish some of my short and medium term goals. Some goals were not realistic at the time but I could think about them again in the future. I also gave up some goals which did not interest me anymore. This was difficult at times but totally worth it. It gave me more time to focus on what was relevant!
Ups and Downs
I can definitely be lazy and have different reasons not to take projects further. I was aware of the importance of structure, discipline and resilience when it comes to goals. However, I would set an exercise goal and abandon it in less than 3 weeks. Unfortunately, this was a tendency in other areas of my life.
When I defined my priorities and goals, it was easier to align my habits and routine to them. Things like waking up early, reading, exercising, developing professional skills became part of my life and I tracked them daily or weekly.
Actually, the habit tracker page is one of my favourite things about Bullet Journal. It may seem silly but it is very exciting to count the check marks at the end of the month and see the progress. For example:
- By reading 3 or 4 chapters every day, I read the Bible in one year. I had tried to do this in the past but I left it.
- I am following an exercise programme called Insanity MAX30. I am on the second month now. If you know the programme, you know what I am talking about: 30 minutes in awe and pain, 5 times a week.
- I will start a new job in September. I applied to the same position in 2019 and failed. It was a good try but I wasn’t ready at the time. The positive side is that I could identify areas of development and worked on them for several months. I am sure that I am much more prepared to do the job now.
Identify when you are genuinely being lazy or making excuses and do something about it. Rest assured: every day counts, consistency renders great results. BUT be kind to yourself when things don’t go as planned. Reflect upon them, be flexible, adjust and move on. It is better to make a slow but steady progress than to start with intensity, lose your breath quickly and do nothing at all. Note: this does NOT apply to Insanity MAX30.
Do not to get caught by personal and professional goals only, this takes your attention away from important people in your life. It doesn’t matter how much you love or appreciate someone, if you don’t demonstrate it then it is hard to believe it exists. Living in London made it difficult for me to maintain close contact with my family, the distance and time differences are hard to manage. I used to call them whenever I had ‘spare time’ but calling your family every two months is not good enough is it?
Currently, I make sure I call my parents or sisters regularly. Me and my husband set time aside every week to do something nice together without external distractions. This reminds us of the commitment we have to each other and strengthens our marriage. I also call my friends and catch up with them much more than I used to.
Routine, work or personal ambitions might catch us unaware and cause us to lose unique moments with our loved ones. I am happy to say that there are plenty of notes about my family and friends in my Bullet Journal.
There are tons of things to talk about but I will leave it for another occasion. I am still improving in many areas of my life but at this point of my life, I am more similar to the person I always wanted to be than I was 15 months ago.
What My Journal Looks Like
My first habit tracker had about 20 daily habits. My current habit tracker has only 4 habits, they are pillars in my life. Keeping track of my habits and selecting them carefully has had a massive impact. It has helped me to put first things first and as a result, I am very happy and uplifted. That encourages me to carry on with work or personal responsibilities which follow in my own priority scale.
Note: You determine what success means. For daily habits, my success rate is 24/30.
I split a page into 4 or 5 depending on the number of weeks and just leave it blank to add things I must do that week but I do not have a specific day to do them. This is similar to a suggestion in the book where you can have a page to visualise the whole month and add your future appointments. I found it easier to split it into weeks and add the tasks as the days go by.
On Saturday afternoon, I review the daily and weekly tasks. If possible, I finish what is pending, if not, I move it to the next week and try to set up a specific day to get it done. It may be that this is a trivial thing you tasked yourself with and you no longer want to do it on the second week. Just cross it out, this is okay. Your priorities become clearer as you practise this.
I am always encouraged when it comes to this review. April 2020 was an awesome month: I was focused and engaged with all my habits and my life in general. I wish at least 10 out of 12 months were like this. However, there have been faulty, mediocre months as well. January 2020 was dark, cold, I had no energy, I felt miserable several days I think because of the weather and I couldn’t help it. Looking back and knowing your self in all the seasons of your life is great, just learn from it as much as possible. Notice what went well and be grateful, notice what went wrong and act upon it.
Reading is one of my daily habits now, I have read 18 books since I started journaling. The most significant has been the Bible and it always be. It has been a real blessing to my life!
Some books aren’t coloured, that means I started reading them but did not continue.
I am not good at drawing at all but gave it a try one day. I still haven’t visited most places, it has been a busy year. At the moment, we are in lockdown and nobody knows when public places will be open. Sad thing. I regret not sparing at least one day every month to visit some places in London. It is good to have these experiences so that we never take time for granted.
13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. James 4:13-15
I set very serious goals for myself on the 1st of January 2020. I have been living super intentionally every day of 2020. I look forward to look at that page at the beginning of June and see what I achieved. I will definitely share it! I encourage you to have a look at the Bullet Journal method website and to get started. You do not need to be an expert in doodles or a super designer to start, give the journal your personality and most importantly: live every day of your life intentionally!