This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Bullet Journal Method" by Ryder Carroll. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What is a bullet journal goals page? How can creating a goals page help you to stay motivated and on track?
In his book The Bullet Journal Method, Ryder Carroll suggests setting up a collection page around your goals. Your bullet journal goals page can include both personal and professional goals as well as plans for achieving those goals.
Here’s why and how to make a goals page in your bullet journal.
The Importance of Setting Goals
Goal setting is a fundamental component of productivity. However, Carroll argues, if we don’t have continued personal investment in the goals that we set for ourselves, we’re likely to lose motivation and ultimately face disappointment.
(Shortform note: According to a popular theory of goal-setting developed in the 1990s, personal investment is just one of five principles of successful goal setting. The other four principles are the goal’s specificity, level of challenge, and level of complexity, as well as the presence of feedback.)
Unfortunately, Carroll says we tend to set goals based on misguided parameters that lack meaning, which makes personal investment difficult or impossible. In particular, we choose goals based on others’ experiences (like aiming to save for a house because that’s what your peers are doing), goals that are reactionary (like deciding to run a marathon because your friend said she thought you couldn’t), and goals that are too lofty (like trying to open a tattoo parlor with no prior experience).
(Shortform note: Setting goals based on meaningless parameters isn’t the only goal-setting obstacle we can run into. In Goals!, Brian Tracy crucial goal-setting pitfalls to avoid to ensure you choose relevant and fulfilling goals. Specifically, he advises that you steer clear of goals that are too vague or unquantifiable, goals that fail to push you out of your comfort zone, goals that have no time frame for completion, and goals that conflict with each other. Even if you avoid the misguided parameters Carroll notes above, you likely won’t successfully meet fulfilling goals if you fall victim to any of these pitfalls.)
The Bullet Journal Goals Page
To help you be more intentional about choosing goals that genuinely motivate you, Carroll suggests a series of exercises that encourage you to explore what sparks your curiosity, prioritize what matters most, and devise a plan for how to take action. First, he recommends that you brainstorm a list of personal and professional goals and add them to a bullet journal goals page.
Next, Carroll suggests that you set timelines for your goals by categorizing them as short, mid, or long term. This helps you reflect on the effort required to accomplish them, which is important for maintaining motivation. To do this, he recommends that you open to the spread of pages following your goals section and label the left side “personal” and the right side “professional.” Then, divide each side into five rows that represent progressively shorter periods: years, months, weeks, days, and hours. Finally, transfer the goals from your goals section into one of the five time periods on either the personal or professional side.
Once you’ve categorized all of your goals according to your desired timeline, Carroll says you should prioritize them even further, because committing to too many goals at once can cause overwhelm and decreased motivation. First, he advises that you reflect on whether each goal is worth the effort. If it’s not, cross it out. Next, mark your highest priority personal and professional goal with a signifier (*) in each of the five rows, which will leave you with 10 goals in total. Finally, transfer the four goals you want to complete in the next several hours and days to your daily record, marking them with a signifier to ensure that they receive your focus.
(Shortform note: In addition to causing overwhelm and decreased motivation, setting too many goals can negatively affect your ability to prioritize. According to management experts, when we have many different goals, we’re prone to prioritizing the easiest ones. As a consequence, we ignore or abandon the goals that are more difficult to achieve—but are potentially the most worthwhile. Therefore, aim to focus on a limited number of goals at any given time.)
|Additional Tips for Setting Goals|
Carroll’s recommendations are a good place to start, but he doesn’t cover every step of the goal-setting process in detail. To help you dive a little deeper, here are a couple of additional goal-setting suggestions.
First, to help you brainstorm a list of goals for your customized section, there are several methods you can try. The first is to write down every goal you can think of in stream-of-consciousness fashion. Another is to ask yourself goal-specific questions to inspire additional steps or ideas (for example, if your goal is to knit a scarf, asking yourself what specific skills you need can lead to a preliminary goal of mastering the garter stitch). Or, if you prefer something more visual, you can try mind mapping, which involves drawing a “map” that starts with one central goal and branches out to related goals.
In addition, as an alternative to dividing your goals into just two categories (personal and professional)—which may not allow for a thorough assessment of how you intend to allocate your time and energy—you can choose to organize your goals into several more specific categories, such as career, health, family, money, spiritual, and personal. Using this strategy, you can better assess where your focus is, try to strike a balance between all areas of your life, and maximize your individual growth.
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