How to use a bullet journal for effective goal setting

You hear me often advocate on here about the powerful impact of goal setting. One of my favorite ways to create and monitor my goal progress is by using a Bullet Journal. In this post, I’m going to give you some examples of how you can use your bullet journal to set goals.

What is Bullet Journaling?

Bullet Journaling started as one particular concept, but has gradually morphed into something completely different. The original Bullet Journal was quite simple–you use a dotted journal and create your tasks with a bullet point next to them and use a particular marking system that shows what is done, what is put to a different day, etc. BulletJournal.com has a fantastic overview of this on their website.

But the field has progressively moved more towards a form of creative journaling. I’m actually waiting for them to change the name. I personally would love that it be called Sketch Planning. But we shall see! These also use a dotted form of a journal, but everyone does such a creative spin on this (or some people still keep it simple!).

Why do I like Bullet Journaling?

I am ashamed to say that last year I spent over $200 on planners. YIKERS. I just kept trying to find the “perfect planner” that met my specific needs, but nothing ever did it. What I love about the bullet journal is I can keep tweaking it based on the different system that I need.

I also love the creative outlet of it. I know some people like the whole adult coloring thing, but I found myself doing those amazingly intricate designs, shadowing with a colored pencil like a boss, finishing it, and then going, “Now what?” I’m 34, it’s not like I can have my Mom hang it on her fridge.

I feel like with this form of creativity, it’s also still USEFUL. It’s a creative to-do list space that I ENJOY looking at (and ideally that means I look at it more!). It’s also a great tool for family history–I can’t wait to pass down my journal to my kids and hope perhaps future generations can read it and learn from things I’ve learned.

What to Put In Your Bullet Journal

I think one of the scariest things about getting a new bullet journal is knowing what on earth to then put into it. I want to walk you through one of my top pages to get you started, that way you have a starting point:

Map Out Future Months

Just like most planners have the months in the year mapped out at the start, so should a Bullet Journal (in my humble opinion). Actually I think it’s even more imperative to have the year planned out in the bullet journal because it’s not like the dates are paginated with specific dates like planners are. I like to list out future months and leave a space for me to fill in future trips & to put in birthdays.

Goal setting in a bullet journal

Here are some other methods for showing the year:

Check In With Your Life

I love this reflective aspect of the bullet journal. It gives you a chance to tap into who you are right now and where you want to be.

Goal setting in a bullet journal

Goal setting in a bullet journal

I assess where I’m at in each of the big areas of my life, and then set goals for those areas. For a step by step walk-through of that, I highly recommend downloading my Free Piece-Ful Pursuit of Balance E-course.

Create a Personal Mission Statement

I have found that having a personal mission statement has helped to keep me much more focused. I’m working on making sure that I read it daily as a part of my morning routine (Keyword: WORKING).

Goal setting in a bullet journal

I found this template at Joelle Charming to be extremely useful to help me get started.

Record Annual Goals

Now that you have a clear personal mission statement, and a clear sense of where you feel you are currently at with the various areas of your life, now I recommend writing down some specific goals of what you want to accomplish for the year.

Goal setting in a bullet journal

Remember, you want your goals to be specific and you can KNOW once you’ve hit them (for example “organizing the garage” is too vague–you’ll never know when you’re done!). Some examples:

  • Get out of credit card debt
  • Have daily one on one time with each kid
  • Create a weekly meal plan

Create 90-Day Goals

It also helps to break down that big goal into smaller chunks. What could you accomplish in 90 days that gets you towards that annual goal? Write those 90-day goals down and those are the focus for your list. I believe Chalene Johnson has a fantastic system for doing this.

Goal setting in a bullet journal

Brain Dump Page

The Brain Dump page is a fantastic place to take everything floating around in your mind, and put it on paper. I like to create a list for personal things and a list for business things. As I think of something, I write it down. Then, at the start of each week, when I’m creating my weekly spread, I go to this list and review anything that I think should be done this week.

Goal setting in a bullet journal

Weekly Spread

Bullet Journals tend to have what is called a “weekly spread.” This is just an overview of the week. Here are some things that I recommend in it:

  • An overview of each day of the week–including the date
  • Record in any appointments on specific days
  • Create a To-Do list of things that you want to get done this week (your brain dump page could help with this)
  • Record goals for the week (it helps to look at any 90-day or 30-day goals you may have).
  • Notes section
  • Calendar of the month

What I love about bullet journaling is there is so much flexibility to it. Not everything that is in mine will work for you. Not everything you put in yours will work for me. It’s all about trial and error & just this acceptance that you are selecting what is best for you. And I think this applies most strongly to what people put in their weekly spread (or if they even have one at all!).

Goal setting in a bullet journal

Other things I’ve seen in a weekly spread:

  • Cleaning Checklist
  • Meals for the week
  • Money tracking
  • Weather
  • Habit tracking

Daily Spread

The daily spread allows you to take a moment to give yourself a brief overview of your day. My daily spread is very reflective. Here are the key components:

Goal setting in a bullet journal

Gratitude

Each day, I open up my journal and write the date and 3 things I’m grateful for. As a go-getter, I’ve learned this is important, otherwise I can get stuck in this trap of never feeling like anything is good enough. It’s extremely important for me to take that moment to realize what I have and feel grateful for it.

Agenda

I make sure to include any appointments and times I need to know for the day. I do have these in a digital calendar on my phone (and swear by that because I need that alarm reminder!), but I put it here just so I can plan for those appointments and plan my day accordingly.

Daily Tasks

It’s important to only pick THREE tasks. This is something I’ve learned from Chalene Johnson and it’s so true. When you only have 3, you are more likely to get more done. It’s less overwhelming. To determine what 3, I look at the tasks I put on my weekly spread and determine which ones are the highest priority items for that day. I also take into account my agenda for the day–obviously I don’t want to put big tasks for that day if I am going to be running errands all day!

Dinner Plan

I like to write down what we are having for dinner–just so I can mentally make note of whether I need to pull food out to thaw or something. I also find that if it’s in the journal, it’s closer to being “set in stone” and I’m less likely to deviate. Ok fine, I deviate, but this lessens the odds 😉

Recap of Previous Day

Some people update their journal at night, honestly, I’m so exhausted from a full day with the kiddos and just LIFE that my brain is mush at night. So in the morning, I quickly recap the previous day. Sometimes it’s just a quick list–sometimes I want to write more. I sometimes like to just write a quick note of something cute one of the kids has said. But this part is important to me–i don’t remember any of the first 2 years of my son’s life because I was an exhausted Mom of 2 and full time grad student. I really wish I had a journal to remember even a sentence or two from the day. I don’t want these days to slip by and leave nothing behind. It’s also a nice chance to reflect on how things are going.

Scripture Study

I then take some time to study my scriptures, but first, I write in BIG CAPS letters a question that’s on my heart for the day. No matter what, I pick a question and write it down. And if I don’t have one, I come up with one. Heck, the other day my question was as mundane as “How can I want to do the dishes more”–and I’ll tell you what, that was one of my more powerful scripture study experiences!!! I then pray for the answer to that prayer and start reading and taking notes.

At the end of my scripture study, I re-write the question and record what I feel an answer was. It amazes me how much I get out of using this method.

Decisions

I always have in my head this idea of a perfect to-do list app (kind of like I have an idea in my head of the perfect planner). And every few months I go through a ton of apps to see which one COULD work, only to find there is no perfect app. Then a few months later, I re-visit the “perfect app crusade” and totally forget why I ruled out the other apps.

This happens all the time in the decisions I make. Should I workout in the morning or at night? When should I have the kids do homework? I spend so much mental energy deciding, and then when I re-visit the decision, I have to re-run that mental track to try and determine how I got to that previous conclusion. It’s mentally exhausting.

One practice I’ve started is that whenever I have a decision to make, I write out my thoughts on it. It allows me to analyze the pros & cons. I also find that through that process, I can usually come to a very easy conclusion. But what’s even better is if I re-visit that decision, I can see what got me to that mental place, and then revise that if necessary. Instead of starting at Square 1, I can start at Square 2!

Goal setting in a bullet journal

Reflection

I’m going to be honest–I could really improve at this. I get really excited about a new week & new adventure that I kind of want to say “Bye Felicia” to the previous week. but that’s not an effective method to use. Taking the moment to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go so well is important to learn how to tweak things. My pal Kim at Sublime Reflection is amazing at doing this.

Here are some of my favorite tools for Bullet Journaling:

One More Note on Bullet Journaling

Remember that there’s no “perfect journal.” Also, remember that it’s ok to mess up–yes, you are hearing this from a perfectionist!!! Honestly, I found that the process of bullet journaling has been a therapeutic way for me to learn to embrace my imperfections.

Want Extra Help With Goal Setting?

I highly recommend my Piece-ful Pursuit of Balance eCourse. I walk you step by step through how to set goals for you life. Fill in your info below to join this free course:

 

How to use a bullet journal for effective goal setting