My Bullet Journal’s Historical Benefits, Summarized
In August 2017 I published an article detailing 12 “aha!” benefits flowing from my Bullet Journal adoption. The skeletal outline:
- digital lunacy discovered & resolved
- brainstorming floods
- more efficient Morning & Evening routines
- dramatically shorter Weekly Review time
- enhanced focus, infecting everything
- increased tidiness, e.g. global organization of stationery items
- decreased electronic crashes (far fewer apps)
- more playtime (more work done in less time)
- elevated respect for Forest Therapy & similar self-care treats, instilling zen-like calm as a general rule
- significant financial savings (no SaaS apps)
- enhanced self-discipline
- minimal procrastination
This article supplements those particulars.
As the two year anniversary of that post approaches, my bullet journal continues to simulate the Energizer bunny. The badBoy keeps on giving, admirably addressing my needs, even those introduced by Life’s wicked aspects.
From killing ornery decades-long habits to cementing appreciation habits deep within my core, the unique prowess of the Bullet Journal continues to astound. Lemme clothe that statement with the flesh of illustrations.
9 additional BuJo Benefits evolved, i.e. intentions realized
1️⃣ Strengthen my physicality: the “quit smoking!” goal, achieved
Throughout my adult life, I’ve tried multiple times to rid myself of cigarettes. That includes joining formal university studies (👋🏽 hi Duke U.!), complete with medical and counseling support. My resulting no-more! phases never lasted beyond a mere 8–12 weeks.
By April 2017, I noticed a critical, change in perspective. No longer cradling what I should do, want now pushed my resolve.
✦︎ First Phase of My Quit Smoking! Mission: Smoke!
I employed a new tactic, beginning with two fresh cigarette packs.
One would remain untouched and within easy reach, an always-present pack honoring by intuition. Prior attempts failed because I started with a defeatist mindset, removing everything remotely relevant to smoking. By hiding the hallmarks of a smoker, I unwittingly told myself the cigs could easily overpower my resolve. Lesson learned.
The second pack, opened immediately, gifted my psychic hammer. I smoked, chimney-style, convinced this was my last pack. As I worked my way through the pack, I commandeered each puff by attaching a mantra: your last hurrah, chump! Childish? Yep. Effective? AbsoFrigginLutely!
✦︎ Phase Two: Turn a Pen into a Hammer, Nailing my Resolve
I am in turn stubborn, arrogant, and determined. That is, I am stubborn in my refusal to quit, despite obstacles knocking my skleeboop to the floor; sufficiently arrogant to believe I can accomplish any goal I set; and, determined enough to try, try, and try again after stumbling.
Using a few pages in the A5 Slim Jibun Idea book (grid), I scribbled month names across the top, then numbered each row 1 through 31. Each day slot hosted that day’s accumulated savings. The Apple Numbers spreadsheet I conjured provided the monetary figures within seconds, which I copied to the analog planner. That too was deliberate. While I typically loathe any hint of duplication activity, in this instance I embraced it. What I handwrite tends to stick. What I write repeatedly engraves itself within my very being. I savored the extra punch!
That daily chart covered May through July 2017. The plan: each day without a cigarette would pull a confirming checkmark. The reality: I stopped the checkmarks in late May. Why? Because I passed a painful unexpected test, proving cigs no longer owned me!
🔸 Surprise Test #1 → My 4-Legged Son
That chimney-smoke deal transpired on April 29, 2017, cementing that day as my quit date.
The third week of May our adorable 4-legged Lil Man, Jag took center stage.
Hubs learned of Jag’s inoperable brain tumors the day before my scheduled pleasure trip —a week of nature photo shoots, from NC to Pennsy and points in between, with a similarly photo obsessed friend. He lives to protect his wife, and thus said nothing. When I returned, deliriously happy per the trip, Hubs still couldn’t bring himself to inform me.
End result: I learned the reality of Jag’s dire condition only 2 days before D-Day, as in Death Day. Our normally Mellow Fellow 12-year-old shelter rescue broke character. Completely housebroken once past his chew-everything-in-sight puppy phase, he now plopped with abandon.
A second clue: rather than curling up at the bottom of the bed at night, he climbed into the shower stall. The furry dude always avoiding lotsa-water locales. I spent the night on the floor, cuddling him, bewildered yet sensing the trauma soon to unfold.
When Hubs returned from his workshift, I vomited a torrent of questions. That’s how I learned the prognosis.
Following delivery of Jag to his final destination, I again heard the siren call of the cigs. I looked, stared in fact. But I literally turned my back.
The following morning, my mind flipped back and forth between numerous fun Jaggie moments, and that cigarette pack. Like a brick falling onto a bare baby toe, my brain thundered a curt yet eloquent: NO!
🔸 Tests #2 and #3: Hubs on a Gurney, with Me Staring, in an Ambulance
When completing family-history forms , I look atop the No column, check the first item, then draw an arrow through all related Qs. No serious medical problems in my family tree, until advanced age does its thing.
In contrast, Hubs’ family history attacks more Yes checkboxes than it ignores, waaaaay more. No big surprise, then, that my soulmate has several “conditions,” one concerning his heart.
On two occasions, separated by mere weeks, we sat in the living room. As usual, I worked via the iPad, as he enjoyed some weird eyeballs-popping-out bloodfest movie.
My peripheral vision caught him holding one upper arm. Closer inspection noted the blank look in his eyes, dropping my jaw. His failure to respond sent me racing to the phone. The 911’d paramedics ran quick tests, then gave each other looks, heightening my fear. Off we raced, to the nearest emergency room.
I watched Hubs disappearing under an ocean of tubes. Since I’m a card-carrying member of the when in doubt, pass out club, I forced myself to walk outside. Fresh air restores my senses, keeping me upright. As usual, the pack of cigs sat in my bag. I fondled it, and even whipped out my purple Zippo (cuz, ya know, purple!). First surprise: the Zippo worked, despite prolonged non-use. Second surprise: So too did my resolve.
Me to myself:
Within minutes, my I’m glue; how you? HomeGuuuurl appeared. Because she exudes integrity, I knew my trust was safe with her. We sat. We prayed. We talked about nothing and everything.
A week later, back with Hubs, I enjoyed the sight of a tubes-free room. With the physical problem resolved, the docs cleared a return home.
A few weeks later, incredibly: rinse and repeat.
The second time at the hospital, I played it solo, without my Homie. Instead, as I sat in the hospital room I pulled out my BuJo. Creating a new list, I focused on fun times with Hubs and the countless ways he enriches this life. Doing so prevented a worry-fest, ushering Poindexter to points unknown. A little explicit gratitude goes a looooong way in reinvigorating one’s spirit… and attracting miracles.
Throughout both debacles, cigs remained a stubborn stranger to these lips. They no longer succeeded in their coercive false promise of inner peace. Because I took concrete steps, at the outset—to hammer my decision to quit, when crunch time came cigs lost their magnetic grip.
✦︎ And now?
Smoke around me. Don’t. Neither impacts me. I lecture no one, because I remain skilled in the fine art of minding my own business.
Mid-2018, yet another WhaTheFluff death of a member of my core inner circle knocked my spirit to the canvas. But still, no cigarette!
The two year anniversary of my absolute freedom from cigs passed in April 2019. That unopened pack? I planted it on a living room shelf, together with its Significant Other, the purple Zippo. Both remain undisturbed.
2️⃣ Restore productivity: regroup after Death pays a(nother) visit
A post details my quest to cement a positive weekday mindset following a devastating event. Here, I focus on the bottom line.
The loss transpired as the loved one vacationed(!). Result:
- my spirit shrank
- any hint of productivity evaporated
- I didn’t give a whit about another <insert profanity> thing
At some point, I came up for air just long enough to recognize I had crawled into a psychic danger zone.
Following intense research, I fashioned an HCB spread: HeadCheck Bookends. I live with it twice daily, every weekday, to cement a positive mindset. Result: my head clutched the daily steering wheel, pushing out my sporadic AWOL heart.
Baby steps. But I (mostly) recovered, in large part due to that spread.
3️⃣ Grease the wheels of genuine financial intelligence: decrease silly spending
The August 2017 BuJo Benefits article references financial savings, but only insofar as they pertain to digital/app concerns. Today, I revisit that benefit, taking note of its subsequent expansive nature.
✦︎ (deep breath) Killing Amazon Prime & Kindle Unlimited
I knowingly allowed both my Kindle Unlimited and Prime renewal dates to lapse. While with Prime, I purchased, frequently —per week. After Prime died, my purchases dwindled to once or twice per quarter, if that.
My perspective changed. Whim buying (oooo nice → mine! → tap order button) died. Tracking extraneous spending restored my senses. As always, physically writing an event massages brain cells in a manner digital does not.
Planners? I implemented a new rule. Purchase declined unless I FIRST determine a precise use all but one or two sections. Result: I stick with my planners for at least 8 months, if not 12.
When I stopped willy nilly buying, clarity blossomed, full throttle: I need nothing new. Back in 2017, I vowed not to purchase any clothing item until I’ve donned every item in my closet, at least twice, over the course of the year. Ditto accessories. 2017. 2018. Midway through 2019. I ain’t met that threshold yet. 🤣 Clearly, that vow will keep Da Kidd outta stores for quite some time. LoL
4️⃣ Read print books & listen to Audible books: exploit my ignored stash
Books hide behind apps populating my devices. Hidden simulates forgotten.
I forced myself, over a string of evenings, to list the books I wanted to tackle within the then-upcoming quarter of the year.
I Netflix binge when self-care suggests the need for non-thinking escapism. Otherwise, I read via the Kindle iPad app, listen to Audible, or enjoy a book in hand via my local library.
When I left reading books to chance, I didn’t have time for the endeavor. I changed my ‘tude, elevating books to a higher priority, with predictable results. How? Wrote ’em down, in my trusty BuJo. And, reviewed the list during each Weekly Review, noting my progress or lack thereof.
Where tracking lives, accountability mushrooms. So too does respect for one’s goals.
✦︎ Bonus: early rising, sans alarm
When I approach my bed, I know which Audible book will lull me to sleep. Killing my prior habit —iPad-based whatever— led to richer sleep. The enhanced sleep quality eliminated the need for an alarm.
Most mornings, I awaken naturally between 4 and 5am. By 5 I’ve tweeted my Motown-era tune to coax writing juices among my #5amWritersClub Twitter peeps. By high noon, I’ve accomplished more than I even attempted during my 9-5 digital days.
Tracking. Productivity’s BFF.
5️⃣ Toss the tedium of ToDo Lists: Time Blocking
I imagine there’s an app for that, but I doubt employing it —day after day— rivals the ease and convenience of analog time blocking and logging, with associated activity notes.
Why kill the traditional todo list? Because it encourages silly time expenditures —move Tuesday’s todo to Wednesday … Friday; copy from one master list to a day’s list. Rinse. Repeat. Further, a toDo list offers nothing regarding patterns, e.g. hidden fears.
Dual timeblocks tell me my Plan, while reflecting The Reality unfolding as the day progresses. Comparing plan with reality unveils patterns. Applying the 5-Whys Technique empowers me to unmask otherwise elusive fear triggers.
6️⃣ Promote clarity: one (global color-coded) calendar
Understand: when it comes to calendars, I’m not an either-or woman. Net-based events such as webinars —a vital tool in my Skills Mastery category— typically provide a one-tap mechanism to add the event to one’s digital calendar.
Me like easy. Me use Google Calendar insofar as it gobbles scheduled online events. But I also make a related notation in my Jibun Techo calendar. Why? I know everything lives within my BuJo, confirming the reliability of that comprehensive system.
Betrayal unveiled, alerting me to an egregious mistake. I trusted one who did not merit that trust.
After promptly evicting the fake, I focused on my remarkably blessed life. One bad apple highlighted the magnificence long surrounding me. In many cases, the friendships blossomed during toddler years. These folks know me —my essence, my strengths, my foibles— and unfailingly remain in my corner elevating, always and in all ways. And ya better believe it’s a two-way street.
Because I’ve long relished these quality women, I forgot about the fake friend vibe “out there.” I pulled out the Self-Care component of my bullet journal, turned to an empty page in its Idea grid book, and created a new list/Log. I wrote the names of my beloveds, descending down the left margin, each assigned multiple rows. Across the balance of the facing pages, I rulered sufficient vertical lines to cover a year.
My Weekly Reviews gained an extra step. I study that list, ascertaining who to contact during the upcoming week. I may send a surprise, just because. I may dial a phone number, just because. I may text, just because. Regardless of contact method, my intent remains the same: tell folks, explicitly and through my actions, how much I value them in my life. Geography’s hundreds of miles, creating distance, coerces extra effort to ameliorate that distance spiritually. I’ve learned: karma adores this.
Invariably, someone reaches out to me, on a day I can use the psychic boost. It’s like the Universe has banished bad days, always thrusting a loved one into my sphere as a surprise, ensuring a heartfelt smile.
8️⃣ Master fear: tame Poindexter
Goals, worthy of the name, require leaving one’s comfort zone. Poindexter, my inner critic, stands ready, willing, and able to shove me right back into that zone. His weapons: denigration and fear.
Time blocking shoots bullets, thwarting Poindexter’s rush forward. But he’s determined, and sneaky. Unable to succeed with a full frontal assault, he coaxes fear from the mundane. I can’t defeat fear unless I’m aware it exists.
By tracking, I’m able to discern otherwise elusive patterns. Patterns suggest an underlying “quiet” fear. Once acknowledged, a plan to defeat the fear can, and will, be conjured.
Lesson learned: like backstabbers, Poindexter relies on darkness. The very act of acknowledging him goes a looooong way in defanging the fool. I repeat aloud what he whispers. I ask how I’d respond if those words were uttered to a friend in my presence. That depersonalizes the attack.
I also track Poindexter’s more energetic attacks in the Self-Care BuJo. Brief notes appear within a list view. By comparing these notes with the time blocking/ logging info, I discern patterns. Long story short, with few exceptions, each step away from my comfort zone effectively launched a sustained Poindexter attack.
Example: I’m working in the background at the server, TRYing to figure out a WordPress snafu impacting the blog. Typically, I’m convinced I’ll blow up the net if I make one wrong move. So I gamify the chore, giving myself brownie points for every 30 minutes the net retains its vitality.
Silly? Yeppie! But here’s the deal. I relish and respect the kid within. She finds humor in dang near everything, while her adult counterpart gets caught up in seriousness. Playing to my inner munchkin relieves pressure and stress, at least for the moment. But that small breather proves a launch pad to succeed re the objective in focus.
9️⃣ Fuel a spirit free for increased productivity: include fear in my daily 3 MITs
Whether I run or walk each day will not determine achievement of ultimate goals. But it will exercise my self-discipline muscle, thereby warranting tracking.
Unchecked fear will jack an intention in a heartbeat. Owning up to fear allows me to defeat it, before it derails me. Fears must be tamed to conquer goals’ milestones.
The accountability methods described throughout this article unmask fear’s handiwork. Recognition whispers next steps to my self-dscipline muscle. Tracking serves as my can of Raid, chasing out ants and roaches committed to spoiling the day’s picnic.
✦︎ Illustration: Taming Fear
The week’s Plan allotted 5 hours for skills mastery; The Reality confirmed a paltry 3 hours. This pattern slapped me twice in as many weeks. It left me perplexed as I was simply trying to learn something new. By myself. No one watching.
Each of the missed hours involved a similar subject. I turned to the next week’s section of the monthly calendar, yellow highlighting (caution signifier) one Monday through Friday row, the grid provided by my Japanese planner. The yellowed row soon housed a new entry on each day: 🔲 30m 😡
Intention: for a mere 30 minutes each day, hone in on the subject spooking me, the thing causing my hand-drawn frowny face. History assures I can force myself to deal with dang near anything, bits at a time. 30 minutes is just enough to get my feet wet, without risking full-blown drowning.
There’s nothing inherent in OneNote and comparable digital tools to coerce a smile. The bullet journal, on the other hand, sees me
- grasping a favorite pen
- studying other aspects of the system, withOUT distractions
- conjuring new ideas from glancing through old ideas
I prefer to tackle a negative against a background of enjoyable positives. Because I enjoy the bullet journaling process, that system encourages wrestling with an item threatening to defeat me.
Here, I focused on conjuring a path to squirrel Poindexter into a time-out corner. I stumbled a few times, but soon succeeded in my quest. Because I tried, I beat the blipblop outta the specific fear sparking my stumbles.
The common thread running through each of the described benefits: I acknowledged a weakness, resolved to counteract it, and employed my bullet journal as primary defeat-it weapon.
- Usher a productivity perspective back into my brain, in the wake of a loved one’s death? ✅
- Discover the reality, and source, of fear quietly hobbling my planned activities? ✅
- Wrestle a life-long addiction to the mat, skipping away in glorious victory? ✅
And when I plan, I focus on both fears and goals. Paper planning thrusts my fear-sourced oops to the forefront. Important. Matters. Take. Center. Stage. And I’m a better human being as a direct result.
All this and more, accomplished — courtesy of the bullet journal. Call it a snazzy notebook, a hyper-sectionalized form of journaling, or whatever. The beauty of the system lies in a superb combo: unrivaled flexibility, genuine love of pens and paper comprising the analog system, and an overall wanna-use-it vibe precluding reluctance to effect cures as needed.
I can’t predict the future. But I can and do assure you: some version of a bullet journal will continue to rock my world for years to come. 2016 through the current year strongly suggest a Jibun Techo or Hobonichi Weeks will continue to rule my BuJo world. Time will tell.