Bullet Journaling Changed My Life

 

I am not exaggerating, either. Bullet journaling came to my attention because of some Instagram stories Bethany Mandel did toward the end of 2018, and I immediately loved the idea (Editor aka Bethany’s note: You can access the stories on my Instagram account as saved stories). I love to plan, but pre-designed planners just don’t work for me because they’re never exactly right. I had been keeping track of events on my phone calendar, but a bullet journal is so much more than that – it’s whatever you want it to be! 

For those who don’t know, bullet journals are basically day planners that you customize yourself. You use whatever notebook you want, and create your own table of contents at the beginning so you can easily find the many things you’ll keep in it (calendars, lists, notes, etc.). There are infinite ways you can use a bullet journal, but I set mine up to have my yearly goals first, and then “monthlies” containing events, tasks, and goals for each month on a two-page spread. Some people do “dailies,” as well, but I use “weeklies,” because when I set up my to-do lists, I change my mind regularly about what I want to accomplish each day, making it much easier to just have one weekly to-do list. My weeklies also have a small calendar for the week, a habit tracker, and a shopping list. 

So, how did this change my life? Well, it’s hard for me to stick with something for a long period of time, so the fact that I consistently used my bullet journal for the entire year of 2019 (even when I was in Italy for 10 days), should say a lot. Additionally, as I said before, bullet journaling is about so much more than the calendar. In the past, I would make goals and resolutions for the year, and then they would just float away, forgotten. However, my bullet journal gave me a place to keep my lists of goals, and at the beginning of each month, I would revisit my yearly goals to see what I wanted to do that month in an effort to work toward them. I would do the same each week, looking back at my monthly goals. Finally, at the end of each month, I would actually take time to write out a reflection on how I did toward those goals. I also did a year-long reflection at the end of the journal, and some of my 2020 goals were influenced by my progress in 2019! 

Here are some of the things I accomplished in 2019 – things I would NEVER have done if I had not been bullet journaling:

  • Edited a book I wrote in 2018 and started taking steps toward publishing it
  • Actually ate vegetables most days
  • Made great progress toward my punctuality goal (I wrote another post about that)
  • Went to a drive-in theater for the first time
  • Memorized the book of Philippians 
  • Started getting more sleep each night (now I regularly get close to 7.5 hours)
  • Read 16 books of the Bible and 15 other books
  • Worked consistently on learning Italian (even after my trip!)

I have to add that I really appreciate how much more I get done each WEEK now, too, since I actually write my full to-do list down. Here is a picture of one of my weekly spreads so you have a visual for how I set things up:

And here is my bullet journal hanging out with me in Italy – I just happened to be using a notebook I already had with Venice as the cover decoration, and then it turned out that I went to Venice that summer!

My 2020 bullet journal is even more organized than the 2019 one, since I knew in advance this time some of the lists I would want to make and could put them near the beginning. I also have even more goals this year, and I know very well that I may not accomplish them all. But you know what? I’m going to get much more done than I would have if I had not started bullet journaling. And as someone who has a large number of ambitions and dreams both for this year and beyond, that makes me excited for the future. 

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  1. Allie Hahn Coolidge
    Allie Hahn
    @AllieHahn

    @bethanymandel, thank you for introducing me to bullet journaling! 

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Enjoyed the post!

    I use the weekly appointment book made by At-A-Glance. It got me through my career, and I still use it in retirement (most of the entries are blank now, but I gotta dance with who brung me). One year, they brought the Covey training to work. It was interesting, but I kept using the old planner as I watched others walk around with these thick binders with all sorts of colored tabs sticking out. My philosophy was and still is to keep track of everything the simplest way possible. I also use the planner because I can accidently drop it and it won’t break like a smartphone . . .

    • #2
  3. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Stad (View Comment):

    Enjoyed the post!

    I use the weekly appointment book made by At-A-Glance. It got me through my career, and I still use it in retirement (most of the entries are blank now, but I gotta dance with who brung me). One year, they brought the Covey training to work. It was interesting, but I kept using the old planner as I watched others walk around with these thick binders with all sorts of colored tabs sticking out. My philosophy was and still is to keep track of everything the simplest way possible. I also use the planner because I can accidently drop it and it won’t break like a smartphone . . .

    I love the at-a-glance. It works for me so much better than my phone.

    • #3
  4. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    My only yearly goal is to see the next one.

    • #4
  5. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    My only yearly goal is to see the next one.

    And it’s a worthy goal!

    • #5
  6. Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito
    @HankRhody

    Stad (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    My only yearly goal is to see the next one.

    And it’s a worthy goal!

    If you call that living.

    • #6
  7. Allie Hahn Coolidge
    Allie Hahn
    @AllieHahn

    Stad (View Comment):

    Enjoyed the post!

    I use the weekly appointment book made by At-A-Glance. It got me through my career, and I still use it in retirement (most of the entries are blank now, but I gotta dance with who brung me). One year, they brought the Covey training to work. It was interesting, but I kept using the old planner as I watched others walk around with these thick binders with all sorts of colored tabs sticking out. My philosophy was and still is to keep track of everything the simplest way possible. I also use the planner because I can accidently drop it and it won’t break like a smartphone . . .

    Thank you, and that’s a good point, too, about breaking it… even though I back my phone up, you just never know what can go wrong. I’ll have to look up the at-a-glance planner!

    • #7
  8. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Allie Hahn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Enjoyed the post!

    I use the weekly appointment book made by At-A-Glance. It got me through my career, and I still use it in retirement (most of the entries are blank now, but I gotta dance with who brung me). One year, they brought the Covey training to work. It was interesting, but I kept using the old planner as I watched others walk around with these thick binders with all sorts of colored tabs sticking out. My philosophy was and still is to keep track of everything the simplest way possible. I also use the planner because I can accidently drop it and it won’t break like a smartphone . . .

    Thank you, and that’s a good point, too, about breaking it… even though I back my phone up, you just never know what can go wrong. I’ll have to look up the at-a-glance planner!

    Here’s what it looks like:

    • #8
  9. Allie Hahn Coolidge
    Allie Hahn
    @AllieHahn

    Stad (View Comment):

    Allie Hahn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Enjoyed the post!

    I use the weekly appointment book made by At-A-Glance. It got me through my career, and I still use it in retirement (most of the entries are blank now, but I gotta dance with who brung me). One year, they brought the Covey training to work. It was interesting, but I kept using the old planner as I watched others walk around with these thick binders with all sorts of colored tabs sticking out. My philosophy was and still is to keep track of everything the simplest way possible. I also use the planner because I can accidently drop it and it won’t break like a smartphone . . .

    Thank you, and that’s a good point, too, about breaking it… even though I back my phone up, you just never know what can go wrong. I’ll have to look up the at-a-glance planner!

    Here’s what it looks like:

    Very simple; I like it! 

    • #9
  10. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Allie Hahn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Allie Hahn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Enjoyed the post!

    I use the weekly appointment book made by At-A-Glance. It got me through my career, and I still use it in retirement (most of the entries are blank now, but I gotta dance with who brung me). One year, they brought the Covey training to work. It was interesting, but I kept using the old planner as I watched others walk around with these thick binders with all sorts of colored tabs sticking out. My philosophy was and still is to keep track of everything the simplest way possible. I also use the planner because I can accidently drop it and it won’t break like a smartphone . . .

    Thank you, and that’s a good point, too, about breaking it… even though I back my phone up, you just never know what can go wrong. I’ll have to look up the at-a-glance planner!

    Here’s what it looks like:

    Very simple; I like it!

    It’s simple vs. the complex other daily planners out there. I also remember the Coveyites at work spending more time filling out their planners than doing actual work!

    • #10
  11. Bethany Mandel Editor
    Bethany Mandel
    @bethanymandel

    Oh my God, this is amazing!!! 

     

    It’s so funny, because as I pulled this up to edit it, I restarted my Evernote account because I need to have a running to do list I can share with Seth and I felt like I was cheating on my BuJo!

    • #11
  12. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Allie, the most productive period of my career was when I did exactly this, set up annual, monthly, and weekly goals. At the end of each of those time periods I assessed how I did, so that I had a little statistical assessment such as 10/14 accomplished. That way I could keep myself honest.

    I’ve gotten out of that habit since then. I did it for an intense project I was on and the success of that project did propel me to a promotion. But I have gotten lazy. But my mind does still think in terms of goals, plans, accomplishments, assessment. I’m convinced that is the best approach to accomplish projects. You’re definitely on target here.

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Very nice, Allie! As a person who is very structured and organized, it’s been a good practice (since I’m formally retired) to loosen up a bit. When I had my own business, I set goals. And I do have goals, but they are what I call more organic and fluid. So overall, for example, I will continue to write books with @iwe (more on our latest coming up), but we’re not on a formal schedule and although we have topics in mind, we don’t have a precise order. For day-to-day, I love the Google calendar because it’s easy to use and my computer and phone are synced. If I break my phone, the computer is back up.

    • #13
  14. Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito Contributor
    Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito
    @HankRhody

    Bethany Mandel (View Comment):
    BuJo

    Nope. Sorry, I’m done.

    • #14
  15. Allie Hahn Coolidge
    Allie Hahn
    @AllieHahn

    Bethany Mandel (View Comment):

    Oh my God, this is amazing!!!

     

    It’s so funny, because as I pulled this up to edit it, I restarted my Evernote account because I need to have a running to do list I can share with Seth and I felt like I was cheating on my BuJo!

    Thank you so much!!! And haha, I would feel the same way! 

    • #15
  16. Allie Hahn Coolidge
    Allie Hahn
    @AllieHahn

    Manny (View Comment):

    Allie, the most productive period of my career was when I did exactly this, set up annual, monthly, and weekly goals. At the end of each of those time periods I assessed how I did, so that I had a little statistical assessment such as 10/14 accomplished. That way I could keep myself honest.

    I’ve gotten out of that habit since then. I did it for an intense project I was on and the success of that project did propel me to a promotion. But I have gotten lazy. But my mind does still think in terms of goals, plans, accomplishments, assessment. I’m convinced that is the best approach to accomplish projects. You’re definitely on target here.

    Thank you so much – that’s very encouraging! I can’t wait to see what gets accomplished in my life now that I’m being intentional about it!

    • #16
  17. Allie Hahn Coolidge
    Allie Hahn
    @AllieHahn

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Very nice, Allie! As a person who is very structured and organized, it’s been a good practice (since I’m formally retired) to loosen up a bit. When I had my own business, I set goals. And I do have goals, but they are what I call more organic and fluid. So overall, for example, I will continue to write books with @iwe (more on our latest coming up), but we’re not on a formal schedule and although we have topics in mind, we don’t have a precise order. For day-to-day, I love the Google calendar because it’s easy to use and my computer and phone are synced. If I break my phone, the computer is back up.

    Thank you! I also like to keep some things as notes on my phone, which syncs to my computer, as well – particularly if they’re things that would take up too many bullet journal pages or if they’re things I’ll want to access for more than one year. Technology can be so helpful!

    • #17