Changing habits painlessly: a Bullet Journal experiment

A couple of weeks ago I stated my intention of using a Bullet Journal to improve not just my work productivity but to keep me on track with all the events I have throughout the year in my personal life.

Thank you to all of you who took the time to comment and to encourage me. The two most common suggestions were to customize and to take care not to get sucked into all the extras, and that advice has been duly noted and absorbed.

Fortunately I am a lazy person and my artistic interests lie in textiles not scrapbooking, so I won’t get drawn into forums or into making my journal pretty. My goal for using the Bullet Journal is to make sure that I use my time productively at work (so as to avoid chaos) and to not get into trouble at home by forgetting to plan special moments in our lives (something that happens quite often given my head-in-the-clouds personality). If at any point I find using a Bullet Journal takes more time than any of my other productivity systems in the past, out the window it will go.

As for customizing the system, I’ve already done that. According to the website, I was “supposed to” set up a Future Planning section where events and tasks for more than the current month and then a Monthly Calendar/To Do List at the beginning of each month.

This didn’t work for me. Given the nature of my job, and the way I tend to leave personal tasks to the last minute, I need to have the Monthly Calendars/To Do Lists laid out from the start. The Future Planning section will likely get ignored or will be used to put general topics only. And maybe next year it will disappear altogether. Time and use will tell.

I can see the benefit of using a Bullet Journal already, and I haven’t even started using the day-to-day lists (I’m waiting until after my vacation to get started on those). As I’ve repeatedly said, I’m horrible at remembering to plan for anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and so on. It’s like they suddenly jump out at me out of nowhere, like October 8th (our wedding anniversary) happens at some random point in the year and I never know exactly when it will show up.

By just setting up the Monthly Calendars and giving myself a full page beside each calendar for the To Do Lists, I’ve already started to think about special events that are going to happen between now and next August and have even started planning them.

For example, in 2018 the Eurovision Song Contest will be happening in Lisbon (and will likely never be so close or so affordable in many years again). This is a very popular event and will not just sell out quickly, but Lisbon itself will fill up and soon there will be no place to stay. Taking past habits into account, my normal mode of acting on this desire to go would be to wait until April 2018 to start organizing everything, or to wait until my husband brought up the topic. However, by marking the date in the Monthly Calendar and in the Future Planning section of the journal, I’ve made myself doubly aware of the need to plan. May 2018 is not really that far away. I added a note in the November section of the Future Planning to say that we need to start organizing the trip by then or it’s not going to happen.

That’s one habit changed, without any fuss or struggle. Yay me!

I can’t wait to see how else using the Bullet Journal will bring about changes in habits and productivity.

For those of you who do use Bullet Journals, how has the system changed things for you?

4 Comments for “Changing habits painlessly: a Bullet Journal experiment”

  1. posted by Rena Anderson on

    You mean you have the monthly event lists already filled out altogether in one place rather than one at the beginning of each new month of daily lists? If so, I think that’s a great idea!

  2. posted by Maryann Aguilar on

    I have used a Franklin Planner for more than 25 years. It looks like it has all the features you list for the bullet journal, but it has the advantage of being in a ring binder so you can add/subtract/move around the pages. You can get extra customized pages depending on your needs. There are various formats – e.g. 1 or 2-page daily, week at a glance, 1-page month, 2-page month, etc. I can keep medical info, gift lists, car-care info, addresses, etc., and it’s no bigger than a thick library book. I can take previous month daily pages out and just leave the month page for reference. Everyone in our family knows that my Franklin has schedules and important info that’s vital to keep us all on track daily, weekly, and in the future. I wouldn’t use any other system.

  3. posted by Cagesjamtoo on

    I started bullet journaling last October. I use Office Depot’s Tul notebook. I find it very helpful for planning my week and month. It gives me a place to consolidate my various reminders and calendar in one place to get things done. I still get overwhelmed by my eternal to do list, but breaking it down to manageable monthly, weekly, and daily tasks helps tremendously.

  4. posted by Sam on

    I love bullet journalling, because it is flexible. Every days list can be as long as you need it to be, no trying to squish information in tiny boxes i just keep writing until I’m finished. I also love just being able to brain dump information on a page. I tend to use the page opposite the days for keeping notes of things things I was doing through those days. Phone calls made are marked done with notes about the call on the opposite page. I have a terrible memory & having all this info in one place is super handy for me. I too do the whole monthly list in one place as I get a lot of appointments months out, doing a separate one for each month AND the tracker seemed too much work so I just combined them. I do a master goals page for each month though at the start, subdivided by category, so Home, personal, work, creative. I find it helps me balance my life more.

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