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Can a bullet diary really keep you focused?

August 4, 2017

For as long as I can remember I have kept a diary.  It has been a faithful tool for transferring my hopes, fears and worries from my muddled mind onto paper, clearing space for the next wave of thoughts to come through!  It has often helped me to process any troubling thoughts and enabled me to move forward. 


I am also a huge fan of ‘to do’ lists.  As my life expanded and I became responsible for a house, children and business, keeping track of all my tasks became more important than ever.  Without my ‘to do’ lists I probably wouldn’t have achieved half of what I have. 


I definitely need both of these tools in my life but I have struggled with a system for storing all of this wonderful data.  Over the years I have tried out a variety of diaries, some more fit for purpose than others, but none of them quite fulfilling my needs. 


Then I discovered the concept of a bullet diary.  This is a somewhere you can combine your diary, long-term plans, random thoughts and ‘to do’ tasks all in one place – perfect!  What I really love about it, is that you create it to fit your needs and you can be as creative as you like with it. 


It’s a DIY diary so it does take some effort to set up, but I believe it is worth it for the unique product you end up with.  It’s probably useful to work out what sections you think you will need as this will help you decide on what type of notebook to use.  Do you want blank, lined or dotted pages?  Would a book with dividers be useful? Do you want pockets where you can store items? 


A quick internet search will give you lots of inspiration of what notebooks others have used and how they have created their bullet diary.  Some are more artistic than others but remember that they don’t have to be.  It is your bullet diary so create it in a format that reflects your personality and in a way that will work for your life! 


I opted for a notebook with dividers and pockets, invested in some colourful pens and then set off to create my sections…….


Section 1 – Long Term Goals


  • Big Dreams: My main aim in life!  There is something quite empowering about writing down what is most important to you. 

  • Stepping Stones: Taking my big dreams down a level and thinking of more specific things I want to achieve in my life, I guess you could call it a ‘bucket list’

  • 5 Year Plan: SMART goals broken down by year

  • This Year: SMART goals broken down by month

  • Business Goals

  • Books to Read

  • Things I’d like to Learn


Section 2 – Keeping Organised


  • Monthly Tasks

  • Weekly Tasks

  • Ad Hoc Tasks

  • Weekly Timetable

  • Daily Routine

  • Daily Reflection Codes

  • Monthly Goals / Monthly Review

  • Weekly Planner


Section 3 – Daily Reflections


  • To Do:  At the end of each day I plan my tasks for the following day.  I split mine between ‘Home’ and ‘Work’.  I use a coding system for what each task represents e.g. is it something I need to do, an appointment, an event, etc.  At the end of that day, I then mark my progress.  Personally, I never use a cross for a task that hasn’t been completed, instead I use an arrow to roll it over to another day! 

  • Healthy Body & Mind review:  Each day I briefly reflect on the four areas of nurturing myself which is part of my 5 Pillars of Resilience and Wellbeing.  Here I capture what I have done to help me Be Active, Sleep Well, Eat Well and Be Mindful. 

  • Achievements: In here I capture the positive things I have done, things I am grateful for, positive affirmations and any ‘Big Dream’ reminders to keep me focused. 

  • Mood/Feelings –  a sentence or picture to describe my mood on that day

Although that sounds like a lot, most of it is captured in bullet form, hence the name bullet diary!  I also use pictures and symbols which are meaningful to me. 


The biggest piece of work is designing your diary but, if you enjoy getting organised, that will probably be an enjoyable experience for you!


I find that the bullet diary really keeps me focused and I love that I can quickly capture what I need to do and what I have achieved all in one place.  Not only that, it also helps me make sure that throughout my day / week / month / year / life I am keeping focused on my Resilience and Wellbeing. 


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