I’ve spent years trying to organize my life through various apps, notebooks and calendars. I think I’ve tried nearly every method out there. The Passion Planner, the “keep everything in one massive notebook” method, iCal only, Omnifocus, Wunderlist, Fantastical, To-Doist, Apple’s Reminders, Sunrise Calendar (RIP), Moleskine planners and more. I appreciated all of these methods, but I could never stick with any of them (clearly).
Now, this dilemma might sound like a really pitiful, first-world complaint…boo-hoo you can’t find a planner that works for you? Why should I care?
If you really look at the research, however, some of the most important keys to success lie in prioritizing your day, laying out your goals and steps to get there, reminding yourself of mantras, important to-dos, etc.
Writing things down is crucial to consistent growth and improvement in life.
I recently started a Bullet Journal — been going about a month and a half strong so far and haven’t missed a SINGLE day. That’s right. I have written in this thing for nearly 45 days straight. Even on days when I’m too busy to take a breath. I think that’s a record in any serial to-do list maker’s life.
I was skeptical when I came across the method. It seemed like a lot of work. Designing your own planner as you go along? Memorizing a key of symbols? Isn’t my calendar/to-do list/life bible supposed to make my life less work rather than add to it? This seemed like I had to put forth that ugly word…effort.
But — something intrigued me enough try it…the community. Thousands of people sharing pages from their notebooks, Youtubers posting flip throughs, reviews and “plan with me challenges.” Outside of the Passion Planner I had never seen such a following of a planner method.
But what made this community different than any other is that it was completely individualized. All of these people were coming together to share new ideas — sparking other people to improve their planners, and sharing tips on productivity, meditation, goal prioritization, habit tracking, and so much more. These people weren’t only writing things down, they were getting things done. No one had to fit into a mold on a piece of paper. They created their own, and I loved that. Although I didn’t realize that’s what drew me in until later…
At first, I thought I would despise setting up my planner. It would take time, I would need to draw straight lines, what about that key of symbols again? What if I don’t like it and I just spent an hour drawing a stupid box…that seems like a waste of time.
But, in the first week, as I added new modules and figured out what worked for me, I realized something. The act of physically defining my own planning space made me more involved in the process. I wasn’t just writing down a to-do list that I’d refer to once or twice a day or creating an arbitrary map of my 3, 6, 12 month goals. I was actively releasing my brain onto the page in the best way for me. I was getting it all down on paper, yet somehow keeping it organized and internalizing the information.
That’s what makes it sticky. The involvement and the effort put in the process is what makes it so hard to go astray. Even better, if you do miss a day or two, you never look down at an empty pre-printed template and think, “well clearly this isn’t working.” All you see is an inviting blank page, waiting for you to fill it with bits from your brain without any judgement. The method actively beckons you to keep working at it.
The Bullet Journal is a living document, an ever evolving life organizer that can transform and change at a moments notice. There’s something freeing in that. It’s a planner, calendar, life coach, accountability partner, journal and therapist all in one. Yet, if I don’t want to write in it for a day — I feel no remorse, because it’s my space, I define it.
It is, by far, the best productivity tool I’ve ever used: even if I spend 10 minutes setting up my daily log each morning. But that’s the beauty of it: rather than haphazardly jotting down the list of mental dribble rumbling around in my head, I take 10 minutes to myself to thoughtfully plan my day. At the end of each day? I take 10 minutes before bed time to fill in my habit tracker — did I workout today? Meditate? Work on my goals? Practice gratitude? I can actively see how productive I’ve been that month. If I’m noticing a downward trend, I’m aware, and it motivates me to get my butt back in gear. As Aristotle put it:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
The Bullet Journal facilitates an intentional, thoughtful life, but leaves room for creativity, spontaneity, and individualism. If we are what we repeatedly do, I see no better method than the Bullet Journal to help aid the habit of excellence and self improvement.
I’ll be posting more on my BuJo journey in the future. But for now, if you’re interested in testing out this tool for yourself, all you need is a notebook and a pen, and a little bit of time (which, come on, you deserve to give yourself anyways). Helpful resources below!
About the Bullet Journal Method
A helpful Bullet Journal Method diagram
Great habit tracker example — scroll towards the end of the article
Notebook suggestion #2 — this is what I currently use, but will be switching to a hardback notebook for my next BuJo, the soft cover is difficult to use on your lap when you’re on the go!
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