Making & Keeping Goals with Your Bullet Journal

Let’s talk goals. We get especially ambitious at the beginning of each year and have great resolutions, but how many resolutions have you made and actually kept? If you’re like me, I’m willing to bet not many. Let’s change that this year, shall we? Here are some of the best ways I’ve found to actually achieve my big goals and stay consistent throughout the year. Spoiler – your bullet journal is an invaluable tool to help you do this!

Last year, my husband and I pulled permits to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park in October 2020. It is a 15 mile, beautiful but grueling hike, and then a palms-sweating, adrenaline inducing climb up 400 feet of cables on the rock face to summit. We are crazy like that. Needless to say, training took planning and was intense. I used these exact steps to get ready for this huge, once-in-a-lifetime hike and it WORKED! I’ve implemented it in so many things since and have made every one of those goals, too. I know this can work for you!

Pick 3 Goals

In my experience, two things are almost guaranteed to cause you overwhelm and burnout with new goals. The first is having too many things you want to work on; the second is perfectionism (which I discuss in a couple sections). Especially at the beginning of the year, it seems like I’d be working on 10 things all at once and got frustrated I couldn’t keep up this mad pace I’d started for like a week at the beginning of January. I suggest working on 3 big goals at a time. I know, I know… some of you will tell me you have ALL THE THINGS you want to do. You will get to all of them, maybe even this year! But master 3 first instead of 10 that never end up with any traction.

“Without a goal, you will continue creating yourself in the manner you have been doing it so far. And obtaining the same expected results, more often, unconsciously.”

Helena Angel

Preparing for Half Dome was one of three goals I set for myself in 2020. I wrote all three down in the front of my journal and referenced them every time I was planning my week in my bullet journal so that I could make actionable stretch goals throughout the year, which leads me to to the next step:

Write Down Goals & Look at Them

It’s true what they say, that a goal not written down is just a wish. I write my yearly goals down in the front of my Cloudberry Journal (before the premade monthly/weekly section) and refer back to them every time I plan out a month or a week. I know other people who write on a sticky note and move it from week to week so they see it every time they open their journal! Do what works for you – just make sure it’s somewhere you can remind yourself of your goals. It’s not helpful to write them down and never look at them again!

Small Steps, Not Big Leaps

Okay, we are getting to the nitty gritty here. THIS right here is what’s taken me a long time to understand – I thought that making a new goal (especially at the beginning of the year) meant I had to jump to expert level in a week or two using sheer willpower. Think about it though. Lots of little steps take less energy and seem way more doable than one gigantic leap! With the Half Dome goal, I wanted to start out working out an hour a day, 7 days a week. But I had a year-old baby, a full time corporate job, a side hustle, and hadn’t already had exercise in my routine. So that wasn’t realistic. It takes time to learn the new things that relate to your goals. Pick a lofty goal, pick something that’s exciting to you, but do not expect to jump to expert level in a week!

Make a Plan

This is where you bujo (bullet journal) can really come in handy. I list my weekly to-do list in the weekly section of my Cloudberry Journal, and I always include the little stretch-goal I’m working on in there.

Here’s what you do: somewhere in your weekly spread, write down your stretch goals with a check box next to them. I started my Half Dome prep with a line that said “Work out 20 minutes” and it had 2 checkboxes next to it, indicating I wanted to do that twice a week. Once you are able to check your boxes off for a few weeks in row without missing, increase your goal a little more. I eventually added checkboxes until I was working out consistently 5 days a week! Give yourself a year to get there, and baby step it so you can maintain for the long term.

REMEMBER an unchecked box is OK! This is just to gauge where you are and help you course-correct if your goal is a little to much too fast, or too easy and you need to push yourself more. Don’t let your worth get tied to a teeny-tiny check box!

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”

Albert Einstein

Recommit. Constantly.

As a recovering perfectionist… I hate this one. Deep down I want to do this new goal PERFECTLY and if I don’t, well too bad. I messed up, I’ll try again next year. The amazing and sometimes sucky thing about working on goals is that failure is part of the deal. Usually, lots and lots of failure is involved. Which means that to achieve any goal, you have to recommit yourself to it every time you mess up. And that will unfortunately be more often that not, especially at the beginning.

I started small – working out 2-3 times a week for 20 minutes. Once I got that into a good routine (and it took a few weeks of recommitting), I added walking the stairs outside my apartment for 20 minutes once a week. After a few months that turned into 20 minute workouts every day + 30 minutes of stairs with a backpack on. By summer, I was ready to practice on local mountain trail with similar stats to Half Dome. And by the time we made it to Yosemite, I had the stamina to summit that sucker!

I admit… we are only 3 weeks into the new year and I’ve already fallen off the wagon with my 2021 goals for two of those weeks. BUT instead of losing momentum quickly, I recommitted myself immediately (not “I’ll start again next week”). This way you take all the pressure off yourself if you mess up, learn where you need better planning and get back on the wagon.

You Can Do It!

Goals 101
I apologize for the not-great-quality pic; it was a smoky day. BUT the point is that I made it to the top, and you can too!

If I can summit Half Dome, you can do whatever the heck you want to do. I PROMISE whatever you want is doable for you! The key is to know how to break down your goals and have a good system to plan and keep track of where you are.

I believe in you! Let’s smash this year, together.

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