One of the first steps I took after launching my commitment to pursue a minimalist lifestyle was to start a bullet journal.
What is a bullet journal? How does it work?
A bullet journal is a means to sorting the various notes, lists, and reflections you make over time, all condensed into one place. Like a personal planner, just less rigid.
The following is how I specifically constructed and use my bullet journal. If this method works for you, great! Otherwise, remember this: You are not limited to one method of bullet journaling!
This is the outline of my bullet journal, which consists of three primary elements. Feel free to construct your journal in the same way:
- A definition of myself. I took the first two pages of my journal (any journal lined or unlined will do, large enough to carry around comfortably) and assigned specific tasks to each.
- The first page is a list of goals. The key for this one is to determine your top goals. Long term or short term does not matter, but you should not clutter the list with too many goals. The only thing more leads to is more…and more…and more. That becomes overwhelming. Keep the list no more than 10 points. Use bullet points to write your goals.
- The second page is a spider chart. This exercise will help you sort your priorities in a easy to see format. Draw a circle in the middle of the page and write your name in it. Now add a line projecting out from your circle. Add another circle. Do this up to 5 times around your name. These circles are now your top priorities in life. Of course they are bound to change, but we will get to that soon. Write the word or two that are your top priorities. Examples are: adventure, study, faith, or a characteristic you want to build. Now repeat the same process for each of the priority bubbles, giving 1 to 5 very short thoughts, elaboration, or examples of how you will act on that priority. Congratulations! You completed your chart. You will refer back to this chart for reference, reflection, or progress reports throughout your use of the journal.
- Lists. The next few pages are designated for the most frequent information you find yourself writing notes for. Need help? Gather all of your sticky notes, scraps of paper, etc. and see what shows up. My lists fall into these categories: books to read, songs to purchase, and movies to watch. Designate a single page to each list and transfer each little note to it’s respective place. Whenever you need to write something down that fits into those categories, you have a place to go!
- Daily Pages. This category is really 3-in-1.
- Part One: At the top of the next blank page, write the date. The next line down, make an asterisk (*) and write, “Today I will…” This space is used for creative planning. Consider your goals. What ways might one simple thought help you take one step closer to your goals? How can you act on your priorities? For example: One of my goals is to explore. Similarly, one of my priorities is adventure. So, one day, my answer is, “Today I will do one thing outside my comfort zone.” It may be a broad answer like that. But for the rest of the day, I will seek out some way to achieve that.
- Part Two: The To Do List. Unlike most to-do lists we write, this one is a list with the end in sight. Limit yourself to a few things each day. Remember: simple is key. The more you write, the more you commit yourself to complete. The last thing we need is to spread ourselves thin like butter on toast. Keep your list from 1 to 5 tasks, big or small. Write these on the next lines using bullet points.
- Part Three: Reflections. Skip a line and write, “Reflections.” The rest of the space you need is to make reflections throughout the day. Note that these are not “end of the day” reflections. They are meant to be recorded any time! I like to put asterisks in the margins if I write something that should be acted on. If you are ever in need of a task for your To Do list, you can refer to these. Finally, I like to write a “Progress Report” at the end of the week. This is simply a tool to look back at the tasks you accomplished, check your reflections against your goals and priorities, and to gather your thoughts for the coming week. Did you do something to take a step closer to a goal? Did you commit to your creative plan each day? Were there items you did not complete? By writing a Progress Report, you create an action plan for the next week, along with reminding yourself to tie up loose ends.
During the first week of bullet journaling, I found that I was more productive with my time. I found free time I did not have before (thanks to limiting my tasks) and uncluttered the miscellaneous papers piling up on my desk.
I feel more fulfilled when I use my bullet journal (daily) because I have time for family, to relax, and to pursue my priorities. I recommend at least trying a bullet journaling method for 21 days, though I would guess that if you are like me, you would love it immediately and not stop!
Do you see value in bullet journaling? Pass it on!