Tracking Your Goals with Bullet Journaling

by | Aug 7, 2023 | Personal Development, Professional Development

Have you ever wanted to start a new journal midway through the year, but you didn’t want to carry around the extra six months of unused pages? Or have you purchased a completely customized planner just to realize that your needs have changed by the time it arrives? Bullet journaling is a simple, no-frills way to track new ideas and organize your to-do lists that can be changed as often as you do. There won’t be any unused sections, because if you don’t need them, you simply don’t create them.

Bullet journaling was originated by Ryder Carroll in 2013 as a response to his desire to no longer carry around a large stack of notebooks: one for his thoughts, one for his to-dos, one calendar-specific, etc. He devised a journaling system that’s super functional, efficient, and versatile. Since it’s not necessarily in chronological order, customize the journal in a way that works for you. As your needs evolve, simply add new sections and adjust your index accordingly.

Embrace Analogue

Sure, we could use an app for organizing our lists and schedules, but there’s something so visceral about putting pen to paper. And science has shown that what we read and write on physical paper can be more easily committed to our long-term memory. We get to manually cross items off (which feels amazing) and there is space to switch between lists and reflections as the need arises. Since any simple notebook can double as a bullet journal, they’re inexpensive and easily accessible. Most importantly, they allow you to create achievable goals with actionable steps.

Express Creativity

A glass jar is full of different colored pens.

Bullet journaling encourages you to make lists fun! This can be as simple as writing a bunch of circles ⭕ that you cross ❌ through or boxes 🔲 that you check off ✅. Or it can be as elaborate as you’d like, with fancy calligraphy and hand-drawn pictures throughout. Tap into the nostalgia of doodling and coloring outside of the lines as you write cute and encouraging notes to yourself. Invest in some new pens, pull out your favorite markers, and get to it! Put your personal flair on your journal with unique stickers, too.

Once you get started, adding “signifiers” to the bullets within your journal is another way to express yourself artistically. Put together a quick “signifier key” using symbols that are easy to understand and that you enjoy creating. Common examples include:

  • A star ⭐ when highlighting a note that’s especially important. 
  • An exclamation point “!” to mark something you find inspiring. 
  • A quick drawing of an eye 👁 to remind yourself that an idea needs further research. 
  • A smile 😊 or frown 😞 to represent your mood that day. 
  • A sun ☀️ or moon 🌙 to show what time of day you completed the task.

Get Started

Grab a blank notebook (or dot grid paper) and start by numbering all the pages. Then, reserve the first two pages of your notebook for your index, which you can update as you add new sections to your journal. Next, start making bigger categories that you will then group into collections. Categories might look like:

  • Tasks: Your to-do list (this can be detailed with “x” = complete, “>” = moved to a different category, “<” = scheduled for later).  
  • Notes: Reminders to yourself. Include details of important facts, such as specifics on someone’s food preferences, or a phrase you found powerful.  
  • Events: Your upcoming or past activities. Record what’s coming up under the correct date, like birthdays and soccer games. You might add general notes on what you did that day, for example “listened to a gratitude podcast.” If an upcoming event has subtasks, those can be nested under the corresponding bullet. 

 Lists within your categories might include:

  • Daily, weekly, or monthly to-dos 
  • Meal plans and food logs 
  • Exercise goals and sleep trackers 
  • Personal development reading lists 
  • Short-term and long-term goals 
  • Marketing strategies

Start filling out your journal using “rapid journaling,” which is writing short, abbreviated ideas without elaborating. Staying brief and to the point will save time while you still get the benefits of writing on paper.

Enjoy Your Bullet Journaling Journey!

Bullet journal consistently and see what sections are helpful for you to maintain and which ones you might ditch in the future. Once you fill the notebook up, start fresh again, adapting the contents of your journal based on what worked (and what didn’t) for you. Because you’re able to incorporate personal reflections and memorable quotes alongside your to-do lists and daily habits, you’ll find inspiration and organization in one place. Who knew mindfulness and productivity could be so fun?

If reading more isn’t on your bullet journaling list, it might be time to add it! Visit our other blog post for 15 great books to add to your summer reading list.