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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How do you use the gratitude log bullet journal? How often and what should you write?
In his book The Bullet Journal Method, Ryder Carroll suggests two ways a bullet journal can help you cultivate gratitude. The first way is to celebrate when you complete a task, and the second is to keep a daily log of things you’re grateful for.
Here’s how you can systematize your gratitude practice with a bullet journal.
To get the most out of life, Carroll recommends taking time to appreciate our achievements and experiences because doing so helps us better understand their value. This is especially important because due to our busy lifestyle, we tend to lose sight of meaningful moments that make our lives worth living.
(Shortform note: Carroll’s argument for appreciating our day-to-day achievements and experiences is supported by research. Studies show that not only do we overestimate our ability to remember present moments, but when we take time to document and revisit those mundane parts of our lives—such as a random music playlist, a recent conversation, or a question from a school exam—we also experience more joy in reminiscing than we would expect.)
Additionally, the way we conceptualize productivity prevents us from seeing a deeper meaning in the tasks we complete. It’s difficult to recognize the value of what we’re doing when we view productivity solely as a list of completed tasks. Intentionally cultivating gratitude helps reconnect us to that deeper meaning.
(Shortform: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins defines this conceptualization of productivity as “movement,” because it’s all about moving through an endless list of tasks that keeps you busy rather than working toward things that matter to you.)
The Bullet Journal Solution
Carroll says there are two primary ways you can use your journal to cultivate gratitude. The first is being deliberate about celebrating when you complete a task. In doing so, you build a sense of accomplishment rather than getting swept up in your remaining responsibilities. Specifically, the author recommends tailoring your celebration to the magnitude of the task you completed (like taking a much-deserved break after completing a small task) as well as keeping track of your achievements by writing them as events in your daily record.
(Shortform note: Carroll may not draw a line between celebrating and rewarding yourself here, but psychologists say that understanding the distinction can help us foster different types of motivation. When we celebrate our success through rest and reflection, our focus is on appreciating the process. Therefore, it helps us cultivate intrinsic motivation—or motivation that comes from within. On the other hand, when we reward our success with external prizes like gifts or money, our focus is on the outcome. This cultivates extrinsic motivation—or motivation that comes from outside sources. While both types of motivation can be good, intrinsic motivation is what fosters joy and appreciation for our efforts, regardless of outcomes.)
The second way to cultivate gratitude, continues Carroll, is to take time out of your day to consider what you’re grateful for. Spending even a few minutes reflecting on this can help you see things from a new perspective, and according to research, practicing gratitude can improve your relationships, health, self-esteem, and ability to empathize.
Carroll gives two recommendations for implementing a gratitude practice in your journal: Write the things that you’re grateful for in your daily record during your nightly review, or create a bullet journal gratitude log that you can add to over time.
|Developing Your Gratitude Practice|
Writing down what you’re grateful for is just one of many strategies you can use to cultivate gratitude. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin explores additional ways you can bring more gratitude into your daily life. For example, you can make a deliberate effort to remind yourself of life’s fragility—such as by reading memoirs, watching documentaries, or even visiting graveyards—or practice pausing to reframe your perspective in difficult moments.
However, as you focus on developing your personal gratitude practice, be aware that it has some drawbacks: First, it can trigger unwanted social comparisons as you compare what you have to be grateful for to what others have. Second, if you live in a collectivist culture that prioritizes community over the individual, feelings of guilt and indebtedness over experiencing joy when others don’t can overshadow feelings of gratitude. Finally, people struggling with depression can end up feeling like a failure if they’re unable to find things to be grateful for.
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- A comprehensive guide to using the Bullet Journal Method
- How to maintain a journaling practice that can improve your overall quality of life
- How to extend the method beyond productivity to a practice in mindfulness