Using a Bullet Journal to Change Your Life: Part 2 – Form Better Habits

using a bullet journal to form better habits
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In this four-part series – Using A Bullet Journal to Change Your Life, we first looked at what a bullet journal is, how to start one, and the benefits of starting with an inexpensive notebook. Today we’re looking at how a bullet journal can change your life by helping you form better habits and routines.

“Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” ~ John Irving

Since a habit is a formula our brain automatically follows, we can use the habit loop components, Cue, Routine and Reward, to create new habits. The Habit Loop

It starts with making choices and establishing a plan. That’s where the bullet journal comes in – planning.

Here are 10 ways a bullet journal can help you form better habits:

1 – Monitoring or Tracking

We manage what we monitor. If you want to establish or break a habit…track it. See how often you are or are not doing the desired behavior. Since you check in with your BuJo at least once per day, the bullet journal is the perfect place to track your habits and be reminded of your intentions. Use a monthly habit tracker and fill it in each night. A habit tracker is a key component in changing your habits. Of all the things I have tried in my BuJo, the habit tracker has been the most transformative.

Bullet Journal Habits Tracker 1
The first habit tracker I used, created with a ruler in a composition notebook.
Bullet Journal Habits Tracker 3
This is more what my habit tracker looks now in my Leuchtturm 1917 dot grid bullet journal.  **Tip: When you’re making a tracker like this, start on the right with the last day of the month (30 or 31) and number backward so you have enough space for all the days of the month.

2 – Clean Slate

There is something so inspiring about a fresh start. In bullet journaling, each month is an opportunity for a new beginning.

When I am making the next monthly log, I also start a new collection of pages in my BuJo behind it. Here I put my habit trackers, 3 gratitudes or another happiness strategy I’m testing out, family memories, monthly goals, financial trackers, etc. Since each month is a fresh set of blank pages, it’s like having a clean slate each and every month.

Stuck in a rut and want to shake things up? Track something new. Inspired to try a new happiness hack? Devote a spread to it. Want to start a new habit? Add it to your habit tracker. Every month is the gift of a new beginning.

Bullet Journal Habits clean slate
Each month is a clean slate full of possibilities.

3. Routines

A routine is made up of individual habits done one after another. Routines are the secret sauce of productivity. But as life is constantly changing, our routines change too. In your Bullet Journal, you can write down your ideal routine for the stage of life you are in now.

Every mom knows that not all days are going to go as planned, but taking the time to think through and write down what your ideal day looks like right now will give you a guide and jumping off point. Think about your morning routine, afternoon routine, cleaning routine, laundry routine, bedtime routine, workout routine, work routine. Write them all down.

Having your routines written down and close at hand in your bullet journal will help you get back on track when you realize you’ve just spent an hour counterproductively searching for productivity ideas on Pinterest.

Bullet Journal Habits Routines 1st
Brainstorming an ideal routine in one of my first bullet journals.
Bullet Journal habits Daily Routine
My ideal routine in my current bullet journal.
Bullet Journal habits Routines - week, month, year
Consider weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and yearly routines too.

4. Scheduling

If it’s on the schedule, it happens. There are several places in the Bullet Journal to schedule things: future log, monthly log, weekly log, daily log. The majority of my scheduling occurs in the monthly and weekly logs. This is where my planning turns into action.Bullet Journal Habits scheduling

5. Foundational habits

There are a few habits that affect all areas of your life. Sleeping, eating and drinking, moving (exercising), and uncluttering. Use your bullet journal to track and plan your foundational habits.

  • Track your sleep with a sleep log.
  • Make a plan for better sleep focusing on the things you can control.
  • Plan what to eat on the weekly log.
  • Record what you actually ate on the daily log.
  • Track water consumption on a daily or weekly log.
  • Monitor your exercise on a habit tracker,
  • Schedule your workouts on the monthly or weekly log.
  • Record your workouts in the daily log.
  • Chart your stats: current weight, body measurements, number of steps taken, etc.
  • Start a collection with 5-minute workout ideas, 15 min, 45 min.
  • Dedicate a page to showcase your exercise goal.
  • Brainstorm why you want to exercise and write it down. Review it when you need a reminder to push through.
  • Consider the loopholes that might get in your way – things that might trip you up and make a plan around them.
  • Plan a reward for exercising 66 days (why 66 days? Read about it here) and create a tracker just for that.
  • Brain dump the clutter from your mind into your BuJo pages.
  • Plan out project details so you can stop overthinking and get to work.
  • Envision your ideal space – draw it out. Write down a decluttering plan.
  • Add quotes to inspire you to leave the stuff behind and take action.

6. Accountability partner

Your bullet journal can be used, to an extent, as an outer accountability partner. Obligers especially need outer accountability. As an Obliger myself I’ve found that to be true. But honestly, there are some things that I want to do without having someone else check up on me. The Bullet Journal is a perfect accountability partner for stuff like that. For many simple things, like washing my face at night, or learning something new each day, the habit tracker in my BuJo is my accountability partner.

7. Reward

The real reward for a habit is the habit itself, but man, checking off that little box on the habit tracker gives an awesome little boost of “atta-girl”! Especially if it’s in a fun color!

Bullet Journal Habits rewards
A bright pop of color. Habit tracker created as a table in a word document and printed on full sheet sticker paper.

8. Treats

Treats are motivating but treating yourself for doing a good habit shouldn’t be anything to make that good habit harder. For instance, if you want to cut back on sugar, the reward for going 30 days without sugar should not be a chocolate chip cookie. But what to use for a treat instead? Start a spread in your BuJo where you list all the things you love.

  • The smell of rain
  • Mixing paint colors on a palette
  • A massage
  • Knock knock jokes
  • Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
  • 5 minutes alone in the bathroom

Then when you need a little motivation to keep going or a little reward for sticking with your good habits, you can treat yourself to one of your healthy treats.

9. Clarity

One of the strategies of habit formation is clarity. If you have a clear plan, it’s more easily implemented. You can make a plan for habit change in your bullet journal. What do you want the habit to accomplish? What might get in your way of doing the new habit? When will you do the new habit? Why will the new habit be beneficial, etc.? Do a mind map or a brainstorming session of just jotting down notes. When you have a clear idea of what the new habit will look like, it’s easier to start and continue.

10. Identity

A strategy for habit creation that works especially well for Rebels is the strategy of Identity. Who are you? Who do you want to become? Since Rebels do what they want to do, and resist all expectations, Rebels can benefit from reframing a task-based habit tracker – which they might bristle at – into an identity tracker. Instead of tracking “exercise” a Rebel might write “I am strong” and mark the box if they did something to increase their strength that day. Instead of “make the bed”, they might write “I am clean and tidy.” Or I am kind, a true friend, a person who can be counted on, prompt, a runner, etc.

Another way to use the strategy of identity is to use affirmations – write them in the bullet journal and then review them frequently to remind yourself of who you are and who you want to become.

Finally, a third way to use Identity in the BuJo is to write quotes, mottos, mantras or reminders about how the habit you are forming will shape you. For example, when I was working at having a more positive outlook and writing 3 gratitudes each night, I also wrote: “See the Good”, at the top of my weekly spreads for a more frequent reminder that I wanted to have the habit of being positive. Other mottos or mantras might be “Only love today” “Be Grateful, “You Got This”, “Do It Scared”, etc.Bullet Journal Habits - identity reminders

A Bullet Journal is an awesome tool for helping you form better habits and routines.

Easily one of my favorite things about bullet journaling is how it’s helped me to have better habits and know that I am working on the things most important to me. As I fill in my habit tracker each night, I feel encouraged and motivated to keep trying and push through the hard days. And it can do the same for you too!

Forming better habits is just one way that a bullet journal can help make your life better. In part 3, we’ll explore how using a bullet journal can help you get the right things done.

Try This Small Thing Today:

  • Make or print off a habit tracker (see tip and links below). Put it in your bullet journal and start monitoring your habits today.

It’s amazing how doing just that one simple thing – tracking each day – has a domino effect and the power to transform your life over time.

Here are a few links to free printable habit trackers in a variety of sizes, and some ideas of what to track if you need a little inspiration:

**Tip: print the tracker on sticker paper (affiliate link), trim off the margins, and stick it in your BuJo.**

An editable printable tracker in 3 sizes
A free tracker with a list of 40 things you can track
List of 60 things to track (Scroll to the bottom, there’s a pinnable image of all 60 things on one page.)

 

Let’s Chat!

Do you use a Bullet Journal? What habits are you tracking? What’s your best tip for forming better habits? Let us know in the comments.

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Other articles you might enjoy:

Using a Bullet Journal to Change Your Life – Part 1: First Things First

Using a Bullet Journal to Change Your Life – Part 3: Get the Right Things Done (using GTD)

Is it Possible to Have Good Habits in the Midst of Mom Life?

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