Bullet Journal: The 5-Whys Technique, Polishing Self-Management

Bullet Journal: The 5-Whys Technique: Learning and Polishing 'Me'


Reviews highlight self-management woes. The 5-Whys Technique unearths one’s nitty-gritty essence, paving a polished improvement path. Resulting bullet journal spreads hammer lessons learned.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

The Year’s Last Quarter: Reflection and Analysis

I adhere to several annual rituals, including intense focus on the year about to end. Both work-oriented AND me-as-a-human goals kidnap my attention.

October sees me nailing an analog self-management tool for the upcoming year. A 6-8 weeks “in the trenches” trial run (October through early December) increases the odds of a smooth analog transition into the new year.

November 1st starts a month-long review period. Analysis separates The Plan from The Reality —my 2017 goals and milestones vs the reality of what actually unfolded. December hosts planning for the following year.

The requisite to any success remains a firm knowledge of self.

Learning and Polishing “Me” through the 5-Whys Technique

As a general rule, answers to an initial “why?” fondle only the superficial. (She did xyz, so I’m mad.) Further questioning digs deeper, revealing the true root cause of the dilemma confronted. This forms the essence of the 5-Whys problem-solving method.

Googling confirms the most frequent application of the 5-Whys technique materializes within business settings. However, application within a self-management context likewise yields a plentiful bounty.

Nature’s Ever-Present Clues

Nature + the 5 Whys = the ultimate pill for resolving dilemmas
Nature + the 5 Whys = the ultimate pill for resolving dilemmas

Nature, ever sly, alerts all to two related vital truths in an everyday manner.

  1. The very act of pointing a finger of blame at another forces the three remaining fingers to point back toward self.
  2. The front windshield of motorized highway-ready vehicles dwarfs the size of both the rear and side view mirrors. Have you noticed? Huge trees dot the highway, their majesty overwhelming ego-based concerns. Do you see them? Do you reach beyond the superficial beauty to absorb the lesson they impart?

Bullet Journal Prep, courtesy of the Lessons Instilled by the 5-Whys Process

Progress requires knowledge of self, the bad as well as the good. For this reason, you won’t find me searching for bullet journal spreads created by others. Circumstances confronted and resolved gift the contours for a new list or log. Examples follow.


1️⃣ Paying attention → The Breathing Love List

2017 included resolving the residual effects of discovering an an alleged BFF’s duplicity. Eventually, I managed to scrape something positive from the debacle. I realized every other woman within my inner circle, many since toddler years, never spoke a foul word against absent friends. Neither sneaks nor cowaards, none felt a need for the momentary stature bump following hit-&-run denigration of another. Nestled within a world personifying trust, I forgot the polar opposite also breathed. Asking why, 5 times, coaxed forgiveness, resolution, and a renewed perspective.

Across 2 sets of facing pages, I created a list. The names of beloved lifelong and other friends descend the far left side, forming a margin. Older relatives, as well as premier associates, also populated the list. Across the remaining top of both pages, I scribbled each month name, October 2017 through December 2018. Each name’s slot includes 4 lines. Rulered vertical lines provided two columns per month, including a vertical series of checkboxes.

I added another step to my Weekly Review. Studying that listing, I choose 1-2 folks to contact during the upcoming week. I may send a “just because” gift or a card; or, dial a number. For this mission, social media does not exist. Read: I stick with old-school methods of contact.

My purpose: stop taking the continued breathing of folks I treasure for granted. These folks enjoy the sense of inner security flowing from lives well-lived. As a result, they honor loyalty and its siblings. Because each maintains honor, they leave footprints of joy. Their genuine love proves as consistent and persistent as the sun rising each day. That normality muted my conscious appreciation of the underlying sheer awesome factor. I resolved to show folks they own my heart, through deliberate action, on a regular basis. Asking 5 Whys culminated in that new spread.

The 5 Whys guide the thinking process, yielding a bonanza
The 5 Whys guide the thinking process, yielding a bonanza

The debacle underscored my blessings. My adult life witnessed no trechery until the sting of this discovery. The knife in my back awakened my appreciation for the excellence otherwise surrounding me, for decades. Therefore, rather than nurse and rehearse the pain, I converted it to gain. Funny thing is, karma embraced my choice. Ya know how some days ya wonder: “why’d I get out the %#^#% bed??!” When those days —thankfully rare— hit, my phone rang. Despite the convenience of social media and eMail, folks actually went the extra mile, picking up a phone. I kid you not: it felt like The Universe refused to allow a bad day to settle.

In this instance, the 5-Whys technique reshaped my umbrella perspective, shielding me from the drenching effect following a gut-level cloudburst.

2️⃣ Rushing → The Hit Da Door Checklist

The 5 Whys: Studying me, not thee
The 5 Whys: studying me, not thee

✦︎ Why am I in rush mode on my way to a meeting?
I didn’t allot enough time.

✦︎ Why didn’t I allot enough time?
I didn’t realize hubby ran the tank to near empty, so I had to stop to refuel the tank.

✦︎ Why did I not realize that sooner?
I didn’t check.

✦︎ Why didn’t I check?
Failure of adequate preparation.

✦︎ Why did I fail to indulge adequate preparation?
Absence of a hit-the-door checklist, to be consulted 24-48 hours earlier.

✦︎ Remedy?
Devise/add a related checklist in my bullet journal.

Result: A scenario ripe for pointing a finger of blame toward hubby, defanged —on the spot. Through truth. Bottom-line: I’m a grownup. My meeting. My task to ensure my timely appearance. I could have avoided the hassle. Lesson learned.

3️⃣ Confusion regarding who will appear where during prime holiday periods

✦︎ Why was I annoyed with a trip to a certain location on Thanksgiving Day?
Wanted “us” to target a different location.

Decisions, decisions ... thank you, 5 Whys!
Decisions, decisions … thank you, 5 Whys!

✦︎ Why the different location?
Felt it was overdue.

✦︎ Why did I feel it was overdue?
We don’t visit the second location as frequently as I prefer.


✦︎ Why don’t we visit the two locations on a schedule resembling equality?
Because we didn’t sit down, together, with the year’s calendar to plan well in advance.

✦︎ Why not?
I failed to give this issue the prominence it merits.

✦︎ Remedy?
Create/secure a 2018 calendar to be devoted exclusively to this and similar family matters.

Polishing Self-Management: A Few of the Lessons Instilled by the 5-Whys Technique

Taking the time to drill down to my essence informs, in more ways than one:

  • The easy/quick answer seldom presents the comprehensive truth.
  • Decency and compassion always remain within my grasp. When on my death bed, if footnotes are required to explain actions or speech I’m currently contemplating, I took a wrong turn on Decision Lane. Stop. Regroup. Think.
  • I control me, no one else. Remain mindful of precise steps I can implement today to minimize, if not prevent, tomorrow’s similar dilemma.
  • Genuine change morphs into consistency only when sourced in a realistic assessment of the problem, which means I must learn the nuances of me. Living, as opposed to existing, mandates analysis. ‘Tis true: no pain, no gain.

Using the 5 Whys, withOUT fail, pushes the root causes of an oops! onto my radar. Ultimately, the process induces a strong foundation for erecting a cure.

  • Life involves others. I can’t read anyone’s mind, nor they mine. Because most deserve the best, I want the better part of me on display during interactions. The requisite: in dicey situations, STFU and walk away until my brain pushes emotion out if the driver’s seat. Respond to negative scenarios involving former/current trusted ones by first engaging the difficult task of looking within, rather than engaging in easy finger pointing.
  • I possess no power to change others. My superpower lies in the willingness to confront my own foibles, then fashion a remedy. As always, actions shout longer and louder than the highest decibel megaphone. Read: general rule → more frequently than not —at base— it’s on me, not thee. I pulled a knife from my back, and used it to cut all ties from the source in an efficient, comprehensive, and clean manner. Once I extended forgiveness and accepted an apology never offered, I left all else in the capable hands of Karma.

Call to Action

Query: do your actions reflect your professed principles? You can cheat your way to resultingly short-lived goal achievement (that Karma thing), or you can set yourself up for achievement with legs. Respectful reminder: principles remain on display every day, multiple times a day, through actions responding to circumstance. Principles —by definition— demand adherence, even when emotionally inconvenient. Phonies need not apply:

  • Anybody pretending to be anything other than who you really are, you will never, ever reach your personal potential. You can not do it. —Oprah

Daily news headlines confirm: some folks go out of their way talking and sowing chaos, hatred, and other seeds of discord. Others walk the high road. The common thread: whatever nestles deep within the heart, in time, WILL out. Repeat: phonies need not apply. Authenticity springs from the rumbling hills of self-knowledge and self-mastery, each the natural byproduct of daily mindful self-management. The 5-Whys technique serves as vehicle during such tours of the internal.

Wanna read more about The 5 Whys?

✦︎ Daring to Live Fully: The 5 Whys: How to Get to The Root of Any Problem

✦︎ Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: An Introduction to 5-why

✦︎ Management is a Journey: Five Whys Explained – Act Like a Child and Improve Problem Solving

✦︎ Psychology Today: The 5 Whys to Self-Understanding

✦︎ The 5 Whys in Problem Solving

✦︎ The Start of Happiness: The 5 Whys Template and How You Can Create Sustained Motivation (Free Download)

✦︎ Wikipedia: 5 Whys

Learning yourself fells like … home! Music remains my reliable friend in conveying a point.

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