My Bullet Journal has improved my relationship with time

Over the last few years, I find that my relationship with time — specifically, my ability to find the time to do what I need to get done — has improved significantly.  I make lists of projects and actions that need to be done, the actions get completed, and the projects are accomplished.  And while I’ve been a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) approach for nearly a decade, it was moving to a Bullet Journal approach that took me to the next level of being organized and feeling in control of my time.

The Bullet Journal approach is described at and the four minute video found on the site is worth watching. After I started using the method, I used a succession of Moleskine notebooks for my monthly and daily logs, notes, and lists and over time, my bullet journal has evolved to live in a Midori Traveler’s Notebook.  This approach allows me to keep my lists (e.g., books I want to read, possible future gifts for family and friends, etc.) in a separate section within my Midori and to switch out the section with my monthly and daily logs as needed without having to copy over my ever-evolving lists until that section is full.

While initially I liked the Bullet Journal system because it improved how I organized my “next actions” lists (GTD terminology) and it provided a better approach to tracking projects as well as other aspects of my life (e.g., books read), it has been the Bullet Journal process of migration that over the months and years has helped me clarify my priorities, focus on the actions and projects that are most important to me, and feel a sense of greater calm when it comes to getting things done.

Migration is the process used in the Bullet Journal system for the regular review of your monthly and daily logs.  You start your migration by looking back over the pages in your journal (generally the past week or month or whatever the time frame has been since your last migration) as you set up a new weekly or monthly log.  As you review the earlier pages, you look for  uncompleted actions and projects.  When you find an incomplete action or project, you then have to decide whether that action/project is still relevant.  If it is no longer relevant, you simply cross it out. If the action or project remains relevant, you indicate that the action/project has been moved forward (I do this using a small arrow next to where I listed the action/project) and add the action/project to the new weekly, monthly, or future log of actions that you are creating.  (Migration also occurs on a less frequent basis for my lists, like my “Books to Read” list, and migration of those lists to a new journal is also a time to review and decide whether the items on the lists and/or the lists themselves are still relevant and should be migrated.)

Having kept a Bullet Journal for a number of years, I have found that the migration process has made me aware of decisions that I am delaying, i.e., the actions and projects (or books to be read) that I have not completed or I continue delaying week to week or month to month. While I could simply move these actions/projects to a new list, the migration process shines light on each item and the decision of whether it should be deleted or moved forward.  Over months and years, it has made me more mindful of the actions/projects I choose to complete and those that remain undone.

I find that the process of migration has helped me to think about my priorities and to question why I complete certain actions/projects and delay completing others.  Over time, this has led me to take on fewer projects and to having a greater sense of control over what I chose to do and why. I once read that a common mistake people make in adopting time management systems is to believe that the aim of time management is to be able to get everything accomplished — but each of us only has 24 hours in a day and “everything” is rarely accomplished in our lives. By shedding a light on the decisions I have been making about my time, the Bullet Journal system has helped me understand my own actions (or inactions), to set priorities, and to make better choices about how I spend the time I have.

3 thoughts on “My Bullet Journal has improved my relationship with time

  1. Shannon

    I needed to read this. I’ve been bullet journaling for a few years myself now, but one of the things I forget to do is migration. I was good about doing a monthly review when I first started bullet journaling, and the awareness of how I was spending my time (or not spending it) was empowering. I’m glad you reminded me about this!

  2. rothm Post author

    I use a traveler’s journal with three separate inserts — one insert for yearly planning and my major collections (e.g., books I’d like to read), one insert for daily planning and notes (that insert usually gets filled up in a couple of months so I go through about four a year), and one insert for capturing thoughts and ideas and sketching.

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