Top 12 “Aha!” Benefits Flowing From My Bullet Journal Adoption

TL;DR

Last year I adopted a bullet journal. While it took a few stabs at that apple to achieve planning peace, the efforts proved worthy time expenditures. Multiple unanticipated benefits continue to flow, as presented in this article.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

The General Benefits of a Bullet Journal

As months passed after hammering out my maiden bullet journal, a few resulting facts loomed large. I grew calmer internally, confident in the trustworthiness of my life-management system. Regardless of container choice, the system remained the same, informing

  • what can be found where
  • precisely how I spent my day vs how I planned to spend that time
  • what’s on my plate this week, day by day

It all cascades into a 20/20 view of progress within the contexts of goals, milestones, plans, and genuine level of productivity.

I learned the physical act of writing cements important data in my head. Both concentration and clarity blossom as thoughts move from head to pen. Undisturbed by digital distractions, focus escalates.

But those esoteric statements cry out for concrete examples. Hence, this list of unanticipated benefits, glowing in the wake of embracing a Bullet Journal lifestyle.

Specific Unanticipated Benefits Flowing from my Bullet Journal Adoption

✧︎︎︎1✧︎︎︎ Discovering my digital lunacy smacked me, hard; I cured it.

Creating a Weekly Review spreadsheet, to be printed and taped into the bullet journal, unearthed my reliance on 18 “live” digital inboxes. “Live” refers to apps requiring regular periodic checks, to prevent the “fell through the cracks” syndrome. I’ve since sliced the number to 2 (Google Drive & PinBoard). Losing the digital noise killed the harried feeling once my shadow.

✧︎︎︎2✧︎︎︎ I enjoy brainstorming floods.

A soaring ring-billed gull. Lake Lynn, Raleigh, NC

A soaring ring-billed gull. Lake Lynn, Raleigh, NC

When I used apps to note events and list tasks, I’d typically flush all mentally as I walked away. I knew a notification would pop up at the required time. Because the item was deemed “handled,” I seldom revisited it before the notification sparked. Yes, I’d toss a glance in that direction during daily review sessions. No additional ideas popped, because of the minimal attention I paid to the entries.

With a bullet journal, I’m on a daily prowl for still-open checkboxes. Everything is before me, fostering a more comprehensive view. Like a pinball machine, my eyeballs dart across pages, flipping among the nooks and crannies. As I hone in on targets, ideas blast into prominence. Bottom-line: a full body engaged in planning/reviewing lends wings to brainstorming.

✧︎︎︎3✧︎︎︎ Routines no longer simulate approaching vampires.

One needs more than good intentions to instill faithfulness to routines. Self-discipline may put you in the chair, but a feeling of forced compliance hobbles creativity. Add: reviewing digitally scattered items drained me, leading to rationales for avoidance.

Little tricks embedded into the analog review process encourage increased fidelity to routine planning & review. Bullet journaling in a Leuchtturm felt like pain-in-the-skleeboop work; changing to a Hobonichi planner unleashed the joy of anticipation. I relish an opportunity to use certain pens, knowing the Hobonichi’s Tamoe River paper will induce no gotcha’s. Creating color-coded timeBlocks relaxes me; it signals mastery of my day. Selecting MITs (Most Important Task) delights; I realize most push me closer to a defined goal.

I revel in the entire scenario: coffee or lemon water in hand; head bent over, focused on plotting and planning; pen connecting the dots of my life. The nickname I’ve awarded this dedicated physical area reflects my perspective: The Chill Zone.

✧︎︎︎4✧︎︎︎ The time absorbed by Weekly Review sessions dramatically decreased.

When you review on a daily basis, the actual Weekly Review period shrinks substantially. It becomes more about polishing and tweaking than reinventing the wheel. Pre-bullet journal, a Weekly Review spanned the days comprising a weekend. After, I complete that chore within two hours, tops.

✧︎︎︎5✧︎︎︎ Enhanced focus infects everything, including writing sessions.

Focus spreads like a (good guy) virus. It worms its way into dang near every facet of your life (hey, “nuffin” converts mundane housework into fun). Words materialize on screen in machine-gun fashion, as my hands rush to accommodate the gushing thoughts. I’m even more attuned to sounds while in a park, armed with my 83x optical zoom camera as I scour for birds. I don’t know why it is; I only know that it is.

✧︎︎︎6✧︎︎︎ I gained a new super-power: taming long-term grrrrr’s.

Case in point: stationery nerds possess lotsa notebooks and pens. I’ve been that nerd since grade school. Decades. Writing tools. Do the math.

Over the years, I tried assorted organizational schemes. None gelled. All attempts were either seat-of-the-pants, or hammered out using a digital tool. Then I plotted on paper. The ideas surged, while the needed logic (will this work from a functional perspective?) jumped out at me from the page. Implemented several months ago, the proof is in the pudding: I return every tool to its discrete home, simply because it’s so very easy to do so. The need to declutter now lives only in my rear-view mirror.

✧︎︎︎7✧︎︎︎ Daily iPad crashes ceased, likely due to a paucity of apps.

A much smaller iPad apps footprint induced mechanical stability. Perhaps this was to be expected. But this former digital demon never saw this gem coming.

✧︎︎︎8✧︎︎︎ Getting more done in less time yields more playtime.

More frequently than not, I tackle tasks quicker than anticipated. I treat it like found money. Sometimes I hit my wishlist of things to do; other times I invest it in more work. A win-win.

✧︎︎︎9✧︎︎︎ Minimizing petty irritants ushered in increased “forest therapy.”

Computing presents positives and negatives, the latter in the form of glitches. Self-employment with a home office thrills, but it has its downside. Chief among them: a failure to get outside on a regular basis. To defeat the problem, I make it a point to indulge Forest Therapy at least weekly. Nature lovers have long believed trees, large bodies of water, and animals coerce relaxation. I concur, as do multiple studies. Gas fuels my car. “FT” rejuvenates my spirit. I didn’t truly appreciate that fact until my analog planning approach banished computing irritants. Once on speaking terms with peace, I craved more.

✧︎︎︎10✧︎︎︎ The bullet journal caused significant financial savings.

I had no thoughts of reduced digital involvement during my initial bullet journal foray. But as the zen feeling sourced in planning-on-paper escalated, my app demands changed. ROI (return on investment) replaced features as my #1 concern. When analyzed, many apps offer no more value than the programs provided by the OS powering the machine. There are exceptions (👋🏽 Hi, iOS Notes, you little Windows Vista wannabe). Couple that reality with the mantra of third-party devs flipping overnight to an SaaS model, spouting untimed promises to provide features “after” $ign-up. The law calls that puffery. I dub it donkey dust. End result: Bye Felicia!

✧︎︎︎11✧︎︎︎ My self-discipline increased.

It’s tempting to indulge live color-coding, that is, during initial data entry. Problem: ideas can disappear as I dawdle in a search for the appropriately inked pen. Therefore, I confine ALL color-coding to dedicated review/ planning sessions.

Likewise, skipping my lights-out mandate at the designated time invites disappointment the following day. My compromise: embrace Audible books, via Alexa. I’m in bed. Lights are out as scheduled. Bonus: I fall asleep listening to something positive, insightful, and helpful.

Small things, but muscles expand with continued workouts.

✧︎︎︎12✧︎︎︎ Procrastination tendencies slunk away.

When resolve alone flounders, I remind myself of the why giving birth to my goals, individual milestones, and related matters. I know my weaknesses. So I made a pact with myself: it’s ok to switch timeslots from one day to another. The overall mission is to tackle what I put on my plate during the course of the week, not so much a single day. That twist stifles wholesale procrastination. And I’ve learned: the more “intelligent freedom” I permit myself, the more I step up to the plate. It’s that muscle thing again. Exercising the “what I will not permit myself to do” (e.g. chump completely) muscle strengthens motivation, strengthens me, and strengthens my resolve.

Call to Action

A Japanese planner forms my weapon of choice, in the war of staying on the productivity path. You may choose a Quo Vadis Habana, Leuchtturm, Filofax, OneNote, or another thoughts container. The tool itself is important only in terms of its inherent power to pull you, daily, for planning purposes. The pull solidifies when you establish comfort with that tool.

Select a tool you enjoy, tweak as required (few of us hit a planning-tool homerun in the early innings), establish a schedule, and plan. Machines break down from time to time; humans falter. It happens. Just remember your why, elevate it to shrine status, and try again.