Learning from failure: a Bullet Journal experiment update

After starting my Bullet Journal experiment, I wrote down my worries concerning maintaining the experiment. One worry was boredom, one was letting things slide because success would lead to overconfidence, and the third concern was getting distracted. Specifically I said:

Good habits aren’t easy to form, but so simple to break. Think about a gym-commitment. How many times do you start some exercise program only to stop because for two days in a row, you are too busy to go to the gym? This happens to me all the time at work. My best intentions get trashed because I arrive and have to solve any number of mini (or not so mini) crises.

I promised myself that I would spend at least five minutes a day updating my various Bullet Journals, but in November, things fell apart. I managed to keep up some semblance of lists until mid-November, but after the 20th, I added one entry on the 30th and nothing since then. In my home-related journal, the abandonment happened well before that. And other than medical appointments, I haven’t added anything to my agenda in a long time.

Since things aren’t working, I need to step back and examine what went wrong and I need to go back to my root reasons for creating the Bullet Journal in the first place. Those are simple:

  • to create a record of everything I do at work so that I can plan better each year (as almost everything is repeated annually),
  • to make sure I don’t forget any task or activity due to being busy or distracted, and
  • to learn to blend work-Alex with home-Alex to create better balance.

Okay, so if those are the three objectives, what went wrong?

I got distracted by technology. Remember how I moved from iPad Pro? It allowed me to create an infinite number of journals. Bad idea! I’m a minimalist and need everything in one place.

Each day more than half of my workday was taken up with covering the tasks of an employee on sick leave. When I had time to do my own work, I ran around putting out all the mini fires that were popping up because I wasn’t keeping a watchful eye on the whole bonfire.

By separating out work and home journal, I complete negated the third objective and went back to my comfort zone which is to put my focus and energies into work.

Does that mean the Bullet Journal experiment has been a failure? Only if I let it.

The good thing about calling the project an experiment is that failure is built into the name. Most discoveries are made through systematic trial and error and each failure is considered progress towards the desired result rather than proof that the project isn’t worth pursuing.

J.K. Rowling gave a speech years ago about the power of failure (included in this great list of her successes). Failure is part of the learning process. If we let failure stop us from moving forward then the failure and any related suffering has served us for nothing. Of course, the result may be  abandoning the project. It’s madness and soul-destroying to continue something when it’s obvious that the originally desired result is not possible.

But that is not my case.

With the holiday season upon us, now more than ever, I need to refocus and go back to my original plan — one journal with all my information together. I will stay with the digital version instead of going all the way back to my physical journal (although they are so nice to touch and feel) because the digital version allows me to move pages around and insert images and with ease.

How have you used failure to refocus your projects and find new and better ways to create progress?

One Comment for “Learning from failure: a Bullet Journal experiment update”

  1. posted by Michelle T Ross on

    Personalization, it really is the beauty of the Bullet Journal concept. You can fashion it to work for you, it’s a journey. For me, it’s been three years and I’m still evolving. Technology is really the problem, I’m a paper/writing instrument lover, becoming dependent on my phone has hampered my bullet journal journey. It is particularly freeing having the ability to grab my phone (in a case with card slots) and hit the store (without a purse). This year I’m thinking I need to either keep my journal at home and get used to it or commit to carrying a purse that will hold it. It’s a process, isn’t it? My two cents worth of advice, try not to succumb to the pressure of “decorating” your journal, if you naturally head in that direction, great! Otherwise, let it happen for you, it’s your journal, your journey, enjoy the process. I no longer work outside of the home, having said that I have more things to keep track of than ever (multiple professional organization, grandchildren, Scottish Festival schedules, etc.) I wanted the bullet journal to keep them all together. If you can keep up with more than one bullet journal, you go girl! As far as format, I love the A5 format, but frankly, I do better with a composition notebook (more room to write), but I’d need to carry a briefcase again to haul it around. Hang in there and just keep working at it! Merry Christmas and best wishes for a New Year!

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