During the last week of June, I started bullet journaling, getting my “#BUJO” set up for July 1, which inconveniently fell on a Wednesday. I have tried bullet journaling before but have previously gotten to caught up in making it “look pretty” without spending enough time adapting layouts to work for my unique needs (day-to-day and long-term).
This time, I did some research, and while I have yet to read Ryder Carroll’s The Bullet Journal Method, I have reviewed the website of the same name. I was also lucky enough to get some coaching from one of my professional Mentors – Cathy Cummings and her daughter Gill.
Over the past 35-ish days, I have been continuously impressed and fascinated with how much the BUJO has helped me accomplish; while I am sure some (perhaps much) of this would have been accomplished even without this method, I do feel like this month I have moved the bar farther than I have in the previous few months.
Below I have wrapped up my Top 10 biggest accomplishments that were supported by my use of my Bullet Journal; I’m also adding in some additional information about the other tools I use (including my phone and relevant apps), and some of the foundational habits that helped me make good use of my BUJO and contributed to my ability to quickly adapt and leverage a new “keystone” habit – the use of my BUJO.
Accomplishment #1: Weight Loss (-6.8lbs)
To be clear, none of my Goals or Resolutions this year have anything to do with specific numbers on the scale; instead, my goals this year were focused on an overall feeling of health and well-being. BUT, with the shutting down of my Gym, and my go-to Wellness Spa (both now reopened), the habits I was already building around frequency of workouts, sensory deprivation float sessions, and the like, were entirely curtailed. Since January, I had actually GAINED weight (13lbs in fact).
Since July 4 (the day I first started tracking) until today (August 1) I have lost nearly 7lbs (6.8 to be exact); or just over half of the weight I had gained in the first half of 2020. Everyday I tracked my calorie intake (I also use an App to track the calories for each meal and snack), water intake, and workouts (if any – also using an App); a few times a week I check and record my weight.
These habits along with the use of my Fossil Hybrid Smart Watch which track my steps and my sleep, have made me more mindful of my overall health and wellbeing. My BUJO hack, was to highlight every day’s calories that exceeded my recommended Calories (per My Plate), and to use RED ink to show each time my weight went up instead of down. I have also added a line for at least 8 glasses a day to my habit tracker, which helps keep me feeling full throughout the day, and reduces unnecessary snacking.
Accomplishment #2: Reached Rainy Day Fund, Savings Goal
When COVID first sent us all into Self-Isolation, I found it easy to save money, and I found myself motivated by not yet understanding how my own organization – and thus my income – might be impacted. But, as the weeks ticked by, ordering in food and consumer goods became more and more routine, my spending started to creep back up. There have only been two months in 2020 where my spending has outpaced my earnings, and only one month, where that deficit was more than $50, but still the amount I have put aside each month has been a bit inconsistent, and had been dropping significantly in the last few months.
This month I came in under budget on my Groceries by just over $330 (or 39% of my $850 budget); so while my Delivery Meals were over budget by $90 (or 15% of my $600 budget), my food savings contributed a net savings of $240 to my overall budget. A lot of my food savings came from combining some strategies I was already using – pantry inventory tracking, meal planning around sale items, and using an App instead of shopping in-person to reduce impulse purchases – with enhanced food and menu prep by keeping a list in my bullet-journal week-to-week. An additional tip I am using to keep my shopping habits (generally) in check, is using large post-it notes on my shopping list pages so that I don’t use a new BUJO page for every week’s shopping. I have also added a “no spend” line to my habit tracker page.
Carefully tracking and planning healthy meals, and identifying when “treat meals” will be purchased, also contributes to first accomplishment of losing weight and being healthier. Keeping healthy and nutritious foods that I enjoy and that satiate my hunger, in the kitchen contributes to overall better eating habits.
My shopping list section of my BUJO also contains a running list of items to purchase from Costco – including bulk purchases of quality Organic meats that I freeze, which helps keep grocery costs down. Overall, I was able to save $750 this month and put it into my “emergency fund” which is on top of my automatic deductions for my long-term savings; I track all of my expenses in a separate Excel sheet, which also helps keep me aware and accountable for my spending. This month I hit another milestone by saving another $1000, I have now set my next goal of saving an additional $1500, which I should reach in two months if I can keep my saving consistent with July.
Its probably also worth mentioning that in the last couple of years I have worked very hard to address some consumer debt I racked up in my 20s and hadn’t ever really focused on paying off in full; this meant that in 2020 I was able to put my entire tax refund directly into my rainy day fund, which has allowed me to show large gains over December 2019.
Accomplishment #3: Checking an Item (and a half) Off of my Bucket List
In 2019 I developed a Bucket List, a random list of cool things I would like to do before I “kick the bucket” – which I hope will be a long time from now. Many of the items on the list are all but impossible to make happen during an active pandemic – I won’t cross any additional provinces off of my list (my goal being to visit every Province and Territory in Canada), nor will I be “Riding Every Rollercoaster in Las Vegas).
As part of preparing my Bullet Journal I added a page (ok to two page spread) to help me track my bucket list and record any new entries – Thanks to the YouTube Channel Downie Live, I’ve added “Ride a Train Across Canada” to my list this year. Despite being in lock-down, I did see an item that could easily be done from the comfort of home: this month I earned my “Pleasure Craft Operator Card” and with that – check – “get a boat license” is crossed off the list. I also kept notes in my Journal as I made my way through the modules and keeping an action item in my weekly log helped me prioritize the hours I needed to take the course.
Its important to note that I do not schedule hour-by-hour in my BUJO, I use a combination of my Google Calendar (and linked account on my phone) and my Outlook Calendar through my work email account; “inviting” my personal calendar to important work events and vise-versa. In my personal calendar I keep blocks marked off for the hours I generally work each day at my “day job” to avoid scheduling errands and such at times when I need to be zoned in on those tasks I get paid to perform each day.
I’ve also started work on a second – less specific – bucket list item – to make money off of The Lighter Life, which is not to say I am specifically looking to make money off of my blog and related social media (although I’m not opposed to making money that way), but to find a way to leverage the idea of the lighter life and the broader brand. This month I used my BUJO to keep me on track with the Certified Organizational Specialist™ course, and to keep important notes on the next steps required to leverage my new knowledge to help people life an organized and less cluttered – lighter – life.
Accomplishment # 4: Sticking to a Resolution (Vacation Time)
In December of 2019 I was burnt out, I barely made it to Christmas, and was GRUMPY in the weeks leading up to it; when I sat down a week later to make my resolutions for the year, I knew that I needed to focus on using the time off that I have available to me. As an Executive Director, my contract comes with the sort of volume of vacation days I need to stay sharp and engaged – and I wasn’t using them, mostly because I have spent more time working in environments that did not value downtime, than the opposite. With notable mention to my former boss Ruth Abrahamson, who tried her best to get me to take vacations.
I had already started to use some of my time off, but creating the Bullet Journal has really helped me to not only carve out time – I am working half-day Fridays this summer – but to make the most of the extra time I have found for myself. And, sometimes “making the most” of those extra hours just means knowing that I can “afford” to take a nap, or read a book, without worrying that there is “something urgent I should be doing instead”.
Of course, I have more to do in this regard, I have started to use my BUJO along with my personal and professional calendars to look for larger blocks of time where I can power down and relax. Of course, the irony is, that I won’t be crossing travel-related items off the Bucket List, and with a robust rainy-day fund, I could afford to “borrow” from myself to fund a really nice vacation this year.
So much of this accomplishment, is tied to the better time management and prioritizing that my BUJO allows for, and feeds my goal of feeling healthier and focusing on my own wellbeing.
Accomplishment #5: Read More Books (2018 Resolution continuance)
In 2018 I set a goal to read 25 books, and despite some significant personal challenges, I met my goal – even if I did read a lot of 100 or so page books in December. In 2019 I stopped tracking how much I was reading, and really stopped holding myself accountable for my goals; then late in 2019 I injured my back and there were several months where I had a hard time finding a comfortable position in which to read. In 2020, I set a goal to read more, but it was not until I set up a tracker in my BUJO that I really started to see the results.
During the month of July, I finished three books, and started a fourth. I read 1063 pages, or an average of 35 pages a day. I also set a goal to read for half an hour a day, which I put into my calendar and tracked in my overall habit tracker for the month.
My book tracker has also contributed to controlling my spending, I am keeping a running list of books I want to read, and intend to add all of the books I have already purchased for the “to read” pile, so that I am only really buying additional books that will add value to my life right now; and not worrying that I will “forget” to buy a book that a friend recommends, because there is always an easy reference point.
I am currently reading Antifragile, for a book club meeting in a couple of weeks, and my tracker is helping to keep me reading daily so that I have a fighting chance of making it through 450+ pages in the next 10 days or so.
Accomplishment #6: Community Engagement
As an Introvert, I have to sometimes remind myself to engage with others. Its not that I don’t miss my friends and family, but those feelings often hit when I don’t have the capacity (mental, or timewise) to engage with others. For a few years, I have been keeping a running list of the people I want to schedule time with BEFORE I realise one morning that I’ve missed seeing, talking, texting them for months at a time.
Using my Bullet Journal to prioritize my time, and to see the bigger picture weeks into the future (not just the “must dos” of work and commitments, but the can dos of the “whitespaces”; is helping me to find those times where I am available, and where the context of the day is unlikely to have exhausted me to the point where I am not showing up as my best self.
Of course, the COVID reality is that many of those interactions are video chats, and phone calls, with the occasional physically distant interaction. I also keep a “Friends and Family” line in my habit tracker to help me visually see if I am staying accountable to myself to push myself out of my own bubble in ways that are of benefit to me – engaging with loved ones – instead of letting it happen haphazardly at times that might not be as good for my own energy level management.
By the same token, I recently joined the Be Better Community, a beta trial of a group concept offered by Our Better Selves; in order to really participate to the fullest, there is work that must be done in solitude in order to be more informed while engaging the group – and to get the most personal benefit from the exercise. Keeping those items not only in my calendar, but in my weekly log, and tracking my progress has been helpful in showing up and engaging to the level I expect from myself.
Accomplishment #7: Making Progress (Organization and Home Improvement)
This month I used my BUJO to help keep track of some home improvement and organization projects. Creating an organized environment gives me a sense of calm and control, that provides me with a platform to do bigger and better things.
I identified what I needed to improve my Home Office Space – actually, the space in the room that isn’t part of the “office” – I measured spaces, identified products I needed to get the project done, purchased those projects online (tracked in my shopping list section); and priorized time to do the work. Having a functional home office space, gives me the mental space to not only perform my job at a high level, but also to create and to plan, and to work on my passion projects.
I have also used this same process of a project that is “in progress”, I am making over my clothes closets and storage, both in-season and out-of-season. While I am not really using most of my wardrobe this summer – as my work from home uniform is Zoom ready (business on top, shorts on the bottom) – I know that a tidy wardroom will make it easier to get ready for work in the morning, and will help me reduce future spending by being able to easily see and identify gaps in my wardrobe. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again, it’ll be years before I need to purchase another pair of black dress pants.
As part of this process, I am also working to kit out my tool box – I bought a new cordless drill; and to sort through my Dad’s tools that I inherited, in order to understand not only what I have, but what can be donated to worthy causes like Habitat for Humanity.
Accomplishment #8: The Lighter Life Updates (website and social)
I have wanted to update my websites (this blog and my personal website www.daniellerussell.ca) for several months (nay, years) and haven’t been able to find the time to really dig in. I knew that while spending more time at home, this was a task I really wanted to tackle.
The nudge I needed came when I received a passing grade on the Certified Organizational Specialist™ Course and was granted the right to use the “badge” on my social media and related sites. I wanted to ensure that the Lighter Life Website (www.thelighterlife.ca), and Social Channels – Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn – all reflected this value add that I bring to my work in helping spread the message of the Lighter Life and help others to lighten the loads they carry (both physical weight and the stuff in their spaces).
I was able to prioritize times (which I then put into my Google Calendar) to work on not only my platforms but the underlying messaging, so that they are clean, consistent, and match my other personal branding (still under construction) on my personal website and personal LinkedIn profile. I hope that you will take the time to Subscribe to my Newsletter (still under construction), Like and Share my Facebook and LinkedIn pages, follow my Instagram, and check back often for new content.
*Shameless Plug: I am available for virtual consultations for those spaces in your home (or life – i.e. your car, your office, your shed) that need some organization, and am happy to connect you with other great people I know who can help you to address other areas of your life.*
Accomplishment #9: Knowing When to Treat Myself (and My Mom)
Long-time readers will know that we lost my Dad last year due to injuries sustained in a Catastrophic Car Accident in late 2018. This month when looking at my key-dates for the month, I noticed that my Parents 47th Wedding Anniversary would be falling on a Tuesday. We usually eat our “treat” meals (aka food delivery) on Saturday Nights and Wednesdays at Noon, but I knew we would probably feel drained by dinner hour on the 14th; so I amended our meal plans and grocery shopping to reflect this additional mid-week treat.
Had I not been working a few weeks ahead in my life, I probably would have gotten up that Tuesday morning, been hit with the sense of loss, and not had a treat waiting for me at the end of the day, because I would have instead had a meal that needed eating. Similarly, looking ahead, allows me to see other pinch points in my life, none as stark as this, and to plan to give myself a bit of grace for a moment, an hour, or a large chunk of the day.
Accomplishment #10: Getting the “Hard Stuff” Done
There are still a pile of tasks left to sort out my Dad’s “stuff” some are large tasks, most are small, but with unpleasant feelings attached. One of my Resolutions for 2020 is to get most of these remaining tasks sorted, but motivation has been a huge problem.
This month, I didn’t do everything, or even everything I hoped I would, but I did move the bar more than I have in the previous 6 months of the year. Keeping these tasks front and centre in my Monthly and Weekly Logs, and making time for them in my Google Calendar, helps make it seem manageable, and helps keeping me moving forward.
The BUJO not only helps me find time to do the fun stuff, it helps me make time for the important stuff. I never thought that a single month of using my Bullet Journal would show such incredible results.