Posts Tagged Time management

Building Good Habits – An In-Depth Strategy Guide To Changing Habits

Building Good Habits – An In-Depth Strategy Guide To Changing Habits

how to build good habitsBuilding good habits can be a real challenge, especially if you’re trying to replace a bad habit that you’ve come to embrace daily. We all know we should work out more, eat a little better, or watch a little less TV. We even tell ourselves we’re going to change, but change is hard. So, how do we build good habits?

I’ve spent a lot of time working on changing habits over the years and while I’m still learning, here is what I can share.

These lessons were learned through a series of failures as I made the shift from my old life of debt and the corporate world to my new life of being debt free in a tiny house as an entrepreneur. After a decade of wrestling with changing my habits, here is an in-depth strategy guide that will help you actually stop bad behaviors, build good habits, and find success.

Understanding Ourselves Before We Build New Habits

understanding ourselves

One of the hardest things to overcome in this process is yourself. If I’ve learned anything during this journey, it would be that we are really good at getting in our own way. This led me to realize a major limit to every person’s potential is self-accountability and understanding ourselves. If we can understand ourselves and be totally accountable for our own excuses, we can achieve our highest potential.

That means the key to your best life is the ability to own your own failings; doing so will bring massive success.

Being Brutally Honest With Yourself

Being Brutally Honest With Yourself

Learning to be honest with yourself is a painful process. It’s also a challenging task because we are so blind to truths about ourselves.

Being honest with yourself starts with being willing to call yourself out, own your faults, and admit mistakes. The goal is to have the clarity to see your failures and the humility to admit it to others.

The best way I’ve found to develop this is to shift your thinking by analyzing how you contributed to the failure and how you could have done better.

Having a mentality of ownership over your shortcomings is crucial to being honest with yourself. It’s important to question and understand how you could have done better, even when you’re doing well. And most importantly, when you feel that urge to point fingers at someone else, turn that finger around and point back at yourself. Ask, “what was my part in this and how can I fix it?”

Acknowledging that we can only control ourselves is one thing I’ve come to accept and equally struggle with every day. If I’m honest, I fail at it more days than not.

We have to set aside all the distractions that stand between us and being honest with ourselves in order to enter into a place of self authenticity.

Taking Time For Introspection

Taking Time For Introspection

Introspection has been a huge part of how I address being blind to my own truths. Taking the time to analyze and process our thoughts and feelings around different areas of your life is crucial. My go to introspection method is going for walks alone in the woods, for you it might be something different.

Making time to be alone with your thoughts is something that most people aren’t willing to do. In a world that is constantly in motion, I’m convinced that many consume themselves with being “busy”. Fearing that even a brief moment of stillness means we’d be alone to face our uncomfortable truths.

Slowing down and being alone with those uncomfortable truths is often the exact reason I need to go for very long walks. The time allows for the noise and thoughts of daily life to resolve themselves. Then, and only then, do I get into a space where I can actually do the real work of introspection. Your introspection can be anything that’s dedicated time alone without distractions.

how to destress




Stop Making Excuses

Stop Making Excuses

For years I struggled with making excuses and not owning my mistakes. Then one day it was explained succinctly to me by a mentor. An excuse puts blame outside ourselves. On the other hand, a response owns the failure knowing we could have always done more, then sets a plan of action to fix it the next time.

These two parts, ownership and responding with a plan to fix it, are the critical components of learning how to stop making excuses. Our default pattern should be owning the failure. Our default response should be to put a plan in place so it doesn’t happen again.

Ownership over your failings will move you forward in life in ways you can never imagine.

Getting External Feedback

Getting External Feedback

In addition to investing – a word I choose intentionally – in time alone, I also carefully choose people who are willing and able to call me out on my excuses. Friends, business coaches, business peers, and more are all resources to facilitate this.

This is a painful process and we have to be careful not to shut it down or to cause people to pull their punches. If you’re anything like me, you feel a visceral response as you get the hard truths of your own missteps.

You’ll snap to a defensive reaction; you’ll feel anger and a whole range of other emotions. I’m bad about trying to “explain” my way of thinking instead of just taking feedback, but that only serves to shut down the person giving us an outside perspective. The goal here is to take our punches, lick our wounds and use it as the fuel in our fight to be better.

Understanding Locus Of Control

understanding locus of control

In psychology there is a concept called “locus of control”, which is an important part of goal setting. Locus of control is an individual’s belief system regarding the causes of his or her experiences and the factors to which that person attributes success or failure. Locus is Latin for “location” so essentially it means where the source or location of control comes from.

If you have an internal locus, you believe your successes and failures come from within you and are within your control. An external locus of control means that any successes or failures are attributed to outside of you.

It is important to make the distinction a key part of the view we adopt, what our attitude is about it, and how we choose to move through this world. While there are things that happen outside our control, I believe it’s better to foster a worldview to have an internal locus of control.

locus of control arrowsStudies have shown those with an internal locus of control often have less stress and anxiety. Internal locus of control correlates with ambition and success in life and business.

Each person adopts a locus of control as their world view, often a mix, but I think it’s important for us to decide what that approach to life is going to be. I think if we are faced with the question of, “does my success come from things within my control or outside of my control?” we have two options.

The first is we could say most of what happens to us is outside of our control, so whatever happens will happen. Or we believe that we have control over our destiny and can effect change on our lives. When answering that critical question, I’d counter and say it doesn’t really matter.

go for it

Be The One

Who Goes For It!

Even if the source of our success or failures lies outside ourselves, I’m going to still act like I have full control over my future because the risk of being wrong is too great. This ties neatly into my earlier point of ownership.

If we act like we control our destiny, that the source of our successes (and failures) comes from within, the worst-case result will be that I believe what I do matters. The best-case scenario would be that I do have the control and I alter my trajectory of my life in a positive direction.

This isn’t to say that bad things won’t happen, that some of us get the short straw, or we’ll work hard and still fail. It is to say we have a choice. I choose to believe I have control over my life and if I’m wrong, then I’ll be blissfully delusional believing in myself.

How To Build A Good Habit?

how to bild a good habit

Building a new habit has a few key steps: determining the behavior’s trigger, building your recognition of the decision point, developing a new response, and replacing the old pattern.

The first step when trying to build good habits is to figure out what behaviors we are trying to stop or start and understand them. It is often the case that we decide to build a new good habit as a reaction to a bad habit. In essence, we are trying to replace bad behaviors with good ones.

Identify The Trigger Precedes The Habit

Identify The Trigger Precedes The Habit

When we look at behaviors, they typically start with some sort of stimulus: hunger, boredom, thirst, depression, etc. These triggers lead us to make a decision on how to address them. A habit is merely a decision on how to address these triggers, repeated until it becomes a default pattern for us.

I’ve found that understanding the trigger that precedes the habit lets you intervene before you have a chance to fall back into your less than desirable ways.

Figuring out the triggers can be complicated and messy because sometimes we don’t even understand them ourselves. Think about what objects or places were involved, the people around you, and what emotions or sensations happened at the same time. All these things build the circumstance that leads to the habit we are trying to change.

Recognize The Decision Point

Recognize The Decision Point

Now that we understand what the triggers are for our behavior, we want to boost our awareness of them. This was an important step for me when I was trying to lose weight. I was a big snacker, I’d be bored and I’d reach for snacks even if I wasn’t hungry.

Take time to understand your patterns. You can shift your thought patterns to recognize these or use things like visual cues (notes to yourself, etc.) to keep this top of mind.

Developing A New Response

Developing A New Response

After I built my understanding that my trigger was boredom, I started to recognize the pattern when I started looking around for snacks. Realizing the boredom, I then built my new habit of asking myself “are you hungry or are you bored?”
Get creative with your response and tailor it to your needs and circumstances.

Replace The Old Pattern

Replace The Old Pattern

If you just try to cut out something, there will be a gaping hole left that is begging to be filled the next time that trigger comes around. To fill that gap, try replacing the habit with something positive.

Instead of snacking when I was bored, I started drinking water… a lot of water. When I caught myself searching for snacks out of boredom, I’d drink about 25 ounces of water instead. This would make my stomach feel full long enough for me to move on to something else.

When choosing what to replace your old behaviors with, consider replacing it with things that do the following:

  • Functions off the same triggers
  • Shares similar reinforcement mechanisms
  • Are easier to do than your bad behavior

You want to make sure you are swapping apples with apples as much as possible in as many dimensions as you can. Living in an imperfect world, it’s imperative to have multiple positive replacements for a single bad habit. If you have a long list of alternatives to choose from as a response to your trigger, you’ll be able to make a better choice instead of falling back into your old way.

Building Routines To Reinforce New Habits

building routines to reinforce new habits

If you spend any time reading up on building new behaviors, you’ll quickly find a lot of talk about building routines; things like The Miracle Morning, Journaling, or other practices that bring intention into your life.

I personally don’t subscribe to building routines as a way to build new habits, but they are very effective for others. It is for this reason that I wanted to bring them up, because in the end, you want to use every trick in the book to your advantage. If they work for you, use them.

What I personally like to focus on is the triggers, because behaviors can happen any time and when life gets crazy, you might not be able to stop for your normal routine. Having an awareness of behavior triggers will let you meet that trigger head on, whenever it occurs.

Building A Strategy For Your New Habits

strategy for new habits

The odds are stacked against you when it comes to starting a good habit, so we need a plan to make it happen. Failure to plan means you plan to fail and if you’re anything like me, I’m here to win.

Taking some time up front, even just a little, will make sure you are set up for success, able to overcome barriers, and push through failures. Here are my tips around building a strategy that works for your new habit:

P.A.C.E. Planning

PACE Planning

The military uses P.A.C.E. planning to make sure when things go wrong, there still is a pathway to a successful mission. You don’t need to do anything complicated, but when you start out, mentally think through a P.A.C.E. plan. This acronym stands for Primary, Alternative, Contingency and Emergency. Primary is the ideal option, alternative is a solid second option if you can’t do the first, contingency is where it will get the job done with some hassle and emergency is the last resort with some compromises.

For example, I participated in a fitness challenge called 75 Hard where I had to do some form of exercise twice a day. My primary was to work out in the morning and then again after work. My alternative was to work out right after work, then again after dinner. My contingency plan was to do the two workouts back to back after work and my emergency was to stay up as late as I needed to in order to do two exercises.

Figure out your P.A.C.E. plan for your new habits.

Plan For Chaos

Plan For Chaos

The biggest place people fall down on building new habits is when life gets crazy. Mike Tyson said “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” and that is equally true here. The real problem is that people make a plan assuming everything is going to go according to plan. A plan that relies on nothing going wrong is a flawed plan from the beginning.

You’re going to try to make progress, to change and build a better life for yourself, but the universe is conspiring against you. It’s a reality we need to recognize.

How are you going to handle things when life gets busy, when you’re feeling sick, when the gym is closed, when that meeting runs way over or someone hands you a piece of cake without asking if you wanted it?

Building A Plan Of Action For Failures

Building A Plan Of Action For Failures

When you first start a new habit, take time to develop a plan for if or when you do fail. You shouldn’t expect to fail, but you should plan for failure all the same.

I frequently see a pattern where people slip up one single time and then give up totally despite having come so far. It’s important to realize that a mistake for a single instance doesn’t outweigh a series of wins; even if those wins are yet to be realized.

I once was feeling down about something that happened earlier in the day while chatting with a friend. I was talking about it when they asked “Was it a bad day or was it a bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?” That really stuck with me and let me realize that if I do slip up, I need to use the energy of all the wins I’ve had up to that point to carry me through.

Be A Fire Marshal, Not A Fire Fighter

Be A Fire Marshal Not A Fire Fighter

Things will come up where we have to move quickly and drop everything to address a certain problem. In this case, you can spend a lot of time putting out fires. This will happen occasionally, but after the emergency passes, we want to think back and ask how we can prevent the scenario in the first place so next time it doesn’t blind side us.

Moving through life I’ve had to admit that some people can’t get their acts together no matter what. They live in a perpetual state of needless drama, crisis or negative space. I’ve worked on teams where they were always in a crisis and emergencies were the norm.

I’ve found thinking like a Fire Marshal to be very helpful to bring stability to the team. By the same token, after much effort, it signals to me when the fit isn’t right and I need to move on.

To my earlier point about excuses vs. responses, we want to develop a response to what happened. In the end we don’t want to be a Fire Fighter who has to put out fire after fire, we want to be the Fire Marshall who prevents the fire from happening in the first place.

Build In Buffers

Build In Buffers

Scheduling yourself back to back on your calendar is a recipe for disaster. If I’m honest I do this too often, particularly around time for traveling between appointments. We should assume most meetings will go over by 30 minutes, there will be traffic and the lines will be long at the post office. If we end up with extra time, either use it to get ahead or just relax!

Adding slack in your schedule is important and will make life less hectic and more productive. To this point, I try to make time to prep before a meeting and debrief when it’s over. It’s important to plan time for travel with traffic, assume that finding a parking place will be difficult, etc.

busy schedule

Battle Of The Busy


Learn To Say No

And Manage Your Time

Finally, stand your ground on defending these buffer times. It can be tempting to try to fit things in these “free” times, but it will only stress you out. Hold your ground on those times and don’t offer explanations for them when people are trying to find a time with you.

Use The Tools In Your Tool Box To Build Good Habits

tools for building good habits

Building good habits is a skill we can develop. Just like a muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it gets. It’s easy to be lazy and fall back into our old ways, so we need to stack every advantage in our favor.

We’ve talked a lot about what strategies you can employ to build good habits and remove bad habits from your life. If you fall down, it’s important that you get back up and push forward. I’d say good luck, but you know that building good habits isn’t luck, it’s doing the work every single day.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have for building good habits?
  • What habits are you trying to break?


Click Titles To Visit Each Post

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How to set personal goals guide
how to prioritize guide
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Jump Start Your Journal With A 21 Day Journaling Challenge – 50+ Thought Provoking Journal Prompts

Jump Start Your Journal With A 21 Day Journaling Challenge – 50+ Thought Provoking Journal Prompts

jump start your bullet journalIf you’re anything like me and have a million thoughts swirling around in your head, you probably want to get some of them down on paper, too! For me, journaling is a way to process and make sense of things. It allows me to articulate my thoughts and feelings on any number of things in my life.

You might want to keep track of a busy schedule, find time to work in some daily creativity to your life, be better organized or work towards a goal. Many people want to keep track of things like gratitude or meditation. Maybe you’re trying to build a new habit, like exercising. You could keep a yoga journal or track your progress as you get in shape. Whatever your purpose is, you can tailor your journaling challenge to meet your needs.

What Are The Benefits Of Journaling

what are the benefits of journaling

For me, writing is a way to work through my thoughts and articulate my feelings around something that’s been on my mind. The process of writing helps me define, distill and put words to things I may be feeling, but not able to readily identify.

Journaling has been shown to improve mental health by bringing intention into our lives. A practice of journaling – like a 21-day journaling challenge – brings clarity, improves emotional intelligence, builds mindfulness, increases gratitude and strengthens self-discipline. Simply put, by committing to taking time for yourself through journaling, you’re investing in yourself.

How Do I Start Journaling

how do i start journaling

It’s important to first get a clear idea on what you hope to achieve from starting a daily journal habit. It could be a goal you are wanting to achieve, it could be solving some pain point in your life, or it could be to reconnect with yourself. Whatever it is, take a few minutes to think about it and define what success is going to look like for you.

bullet journal printable designsOnce you know your direction, you can determine the smaller, daily steps you need to accomplish that will lead to your larger successes. You’ll want to take that bigger goal and break it down into simple little actions that you can do each day. No matter how big your aim is, find the simplest thing that you think you can realistically do.

The key here is to orient yourself in a general direction and figure out the first step. It’s important to realize that even if you have missteps in this process, you’re at least making forward progress. If you fail over and over, you’ve discovered multiple ways of knowing what not to do. The benefit of making mistakes is having more data to show what doesn’t work and pointing you in the direction of what does.

People will sometimes get in their own heads about figuring it all out or having all the answers, only to give up. Just start, even if you do it badly, you’ll still be ahead of doing nothing.

From there, use some of the prompts I have provided here for you as a starting point. Tweak them for your purposes if you need to, but the main goal is to just put your pen to paper and write. Even if you decide to write about not knowing what to write about, it’s a start!

How To Do A 21 Day Journaling Challenge

how to do a 21 day journaling challenge

Once you’ve laid out your goals, get a journal and a good pen to write with, I’d suggest coming up with a few go-to questions and writing prompts you can always fall back on. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, set aside all other distractions and begin to write.

Leuchtturm 1917 notebook
bullet journal pens

A Few Basic Journal Prompts To Get Started:

Use these basic journal prompts to get started journaling if you don’t know where to begin.

Basic Journal Prompts

  • What’s the big thing you need to get done today?
  • What is one thing that you can’t stop thinking about?
  • What do you want more of in life/career/love and what do you want less of?
  • What would make this day or week a great day/week?
  • What guilt am I carrying around with me, how do I address it?
  • Create a list: What are 50 things I love?
  • What’s something that bothers you and what are different ways you could fix it?
  • What are 5 things you need to let go to move forward?

Different Types of Journal Challenges You Can Try

different types of journaling challenges

The nice thing about journals is they are super flexible. You can treat it like a diary, set it up like a bullet journal, or have it be purpose driven. Here are a few different types of journal challenges you can try out, feel free to try a few!

Daily Journaling Challenge

daily journaling challenge

This is a great place to start if you’re just getting into journaling. You can morph into whatever you want and can try some of the specific journaling exercises below to see what works for you! All you have to do is grab your journal and pen and then start writing a few pages at a time. Start with 5-10 minutes each day, but if you’re on a roll, go with the flow.

It can be a good idea to block out time on your calendar each day. Many people like to journal in the morning to set intentions, clarity and focus for their day. If you’re like me, I like journaling right before bed to take all the ideas swirling around my brain and get them on paper. This lets me address them head on and allows me to fall asleep more easily with a calm mind.

Daily Journaling Prompts

  • I couldn’t imagine living without these things…
  • If a younger version of myself were to see me, they’d call me out on ___.
  • I feel most energized when I am doing ___
  • Create a word cloud of what your ideal self would be, summarize it into three rules to live by.
  • What is getting in the way of being happy or reaching your goals, what part do you play in that?
  • What are the ways you could build more meaningful connections with friends, family and love interests?
  • What things do you say you’re going to do, but ended up not? How can you improve your say-do ratio?
  • What are things you like to do that others are willing to pay for; how could you leverage that?
  • What’s one project you’d like to spend more time on, why is it important? Bullet out 5 steps to make it happen.
  • What’s something that you’re not doing out of fear? How would you deal with the worst-case scenario?
  • If your house were to catch on fire, what 10 things would you save from the fire?

Yoga Journal Challenge

yoga journal challenge

While you’re journaling, you might also want to give yoga a try too. Many people who want to add more intention into their lives like to journal and do yoga at the same time; it’s a nice balance of mind and body. I know many yoga instructor certification courses suggest adding daily intention into the mix to help reflect on the process.

Take 15 minutes each day for three weeks to journal about your thoughts and feelings that come up during your 21-day yoga challenge. Journaling can be directly about your process of getting into yoga or it could be wide open as a way to process things to have a more wholistic approach.

21-Day Yoga Journaling Prompts

  • What does balance feel like in your life?
  • How do you recognize when you’re in “the flow”?
  • Where is your focus: on the journey or the destination?
  • How can you best serve your future self?
  • How do you express your creativity? How can you foster that?
  • What things bring energy to your life? What things take energy away?
  • What do you need to be more present in your life?
  • What is your ideal life? What things bring you closer or further from that ideal?
  • What are three words you want to characterize your life? Write about each.
  • Who are the people in your life that you’re grateful for and why? Be specific!

Bullet Journal Challenge

bullet journal challenge

A bullet journal is a great system to organize your thoughts, goals and habits. What I like about the system is that it’s both flexible for many needs and structured in a way to keep the chaos manageable. Start the process by setting up your bullet journal index, key and number your pages: I show you the basics of bullet journaling here.

Each day you will create a daily to-do collection page, then spend some time building out the rest of your bullet journal with purpose built spreads that support your goals. If you’re not sure what to put in your bullet journal, check out my post about how to choose what pages to include in your bullet journal.

Once you’ve got your layouts finished, start with some daily reflections and journal on some of these questions. Then, add it to your index. If you’re feeling really motivated, create a habit tracking page to mark each day you journal!

21-Day Bullet Journal Setup

21-Day Bullet Journaling Prompts

  • What are your top priorities this year? Bullet out 5 steps each to make them happen.
  • What things get in the way of achieving your goals? Brainstorm ways to address them before they happen.
  • What are the biggest nuisances in your daily life and what could you do to fix them?
  • What’s the difference between your actions and your intentions? How could you close that gap?
  • What is a favorite memory of yours, what lessons can you pull to apply moving forward?
  • What’s the best job you’ve had and what’s the worst one? Write about the differences and how to spot them.
  • What types of experiences do you want to have in your life, what about them makes them meaningful?
  • What’s an idea that’s consuming you right now? Journal about that idea.
  • What’s an area of your life that could be improved? Brainstorm about how you could make progress there.

how to start a bullet journal

Daily Gratitude Journal Challenge

daily grattude journal challenge

If you’re like me, it’s helpful to focus on what is good in your life as a way to stay positive. I once heard a saying “Was it a bad day or was it a bad five minutes that you milked all day”. That really stuck with me because I think my life has a lot going for it, but sometimes I get so wrapped up in the one little thing that didn’t go my way. Having a focus on gratitude can help fix that.

Take 5 minutes each day to just reflect on all the good things that happened. You can journal about what the good things were, how they made you feel and why you are grateful for them. You can also try out some of the prompts below. Consider adding in a mood tracker, which can be helpful to give you an objective view on how things are going.

21-Day Gratitude Journaling Prompts

  • Make a list of all the things you are grateful for in your life.
  • Write a gratitude letter to someone important, even if you don’t send it.
  • Take time to reflect on things you take for granted, what are they and how can you recognize them more?
  • Why is a habit of gratitude so difficult? What could we do to change that?
  • When everything goes wrong, what do you fall back on? Write about that.
  • What kindnesses have others shown you and what did they teach you?
  • What failures are you grateful for? What lesson was learned from them?
  • What went right when you really needed it to? Write about the experience and how that felt.

21 Day Meditation Journal Challenge

21 day meditation journal chalenge

Many of you know introspection has been a big part of my journey through life and that takes a willingness to be alone with my thoughts. Meditation is a great way to settle my mind when I need to be in the right head space for important work in my own life or in business.

There are many great resources on how to meditate, but realize that journaling in and of itself is a form of meditation. You can reflect on your meditation went the thoughts that tried to push their way into your mind while doing it. You can also meditate for 10 minutes and then start to journal with a clearer mind.

21-Day Meditation Journaling Prompts

  • My favorite way to spend my day is ___. What lessons can I take and apply from that?
  • Make a word cloud of words that you want your life to embody. Summarize them into a single sentence.
  • What are the things that bring me back to center when things are stressful or not going my way?
    Make a list of what is enough for you.
  • What was one of your life’s biggest mistakes, what lessons can you take away from that?
  • What are three things you could do to live a more fulfilling life?
  • What rules should you set to determine when to say yes or no to something?
  • What words do you need to hear from important people in your life?

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Journaling Challenge

how to get the most out of journaling challenge

Taking just a few minutes to journal each day will bring a lot of intention and clarity to your life. Putting down the phone, switching off the TV or breaking from your busy day to spend a moment on self-development and discovery each day can have a huge impact for little investment.

Here are some tips to make the most out of your time journaling:

  • Try to take a step back and challenge your assumptions and self-limiting thoughts
  • Defend your time for reflection, make it a priority and guard it well during the challenge
  • If you don’t know where to start, start badly to build momentum
  • Remove barriers and excuses to building a journaling habit before they come up
  • Calendar time each day to make it a priority

I hope that was helpful to kick starting your journaling habit. Doing a daily challenge can be a great way to build meaningful habits into your daily routine. So, grab your journal and get writing!

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have for people just starting out?
  • What prompts do you like to write about?

Living A Level 10 Life? Finding Direction With The Wheel of Life + FREE Worksheet

Living A Level 10 Life?  Finding Direction With The Wheel of Life + FREE Worksheet

are you living a level 10 life

When I built my tiny house and started to simplify my life, it was because my life was out of control. My career had experienced a significant shakeup and I was in debt. I found myself between a rock and a hard place. I was struggling to figure out how to move my life forward. Clutter was weighing me down.

But through these struggles I learned a lot of ways to move my life forward when things got tough. I found tools to guide me when I couldn’t figure out what I needed to do next in life. I finally started to get my life under control and one of the main tools that helped me get on track was called the Level 10 Life Wheel.

I’ve found one of the strongest motivators for achievement is need. This fact seems obvious, but it’s often ignored. Many people set goals that don’t address their needs and then wonder why they aren’t motivated to achieve those goals. They ask why their life isn’t track or when they never seem to be getting ahead.

Level 10 Life WorksheetFor those of you unfamiliar with the Wheel of Life assessment tool aka Level 10 Life Wheel, it’s a simple way of writing down and assessing the critical areas of your life that you’d like to focus on. From there, you determine where you stand in terms of satisfaction in each area, set goals, and track your progress. For me, it’s been a really useful to orient my focus to the areas of my life I need to improve.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to use the Wheel of Life assessment to reach a Level 10 Life!

Why the Wheel of Life Assessment Tool Works

why level 10 life tool works

Before explaining the nuances of the Wheel of Life tool, I thought I’d give you a little background on why it works.

For many people, goal setting becomes scattered or unfocused. We set goals because we think we need to or because we think those items are what we want, but we haven’t assessed the areas of our life and where we need to focus our attention.

You may think, “I want more money,” or “I want to get a new job,” but you aren’t looking at the reasons why you want those things. Similarly, without using goal setting tools and SMART techniques, you might miss the path to accomplish your goals.

mountains notebookAs I said before, I came upon the Wheel of Life assessment tool because I was struggling to get a handle on several areas in my own life. After researching solutions, I realized cutting out all of the extra stuff in my life weighing me down was the key to finding success and fulfillment. I started my blog, and I started building my tiny house. It was a long road, but one that brought me a lot of satisfaction, and it came out of need.

When people set a goal like, “I want to get rich,” it doesn’t have the same motivating effect. The state of being “rich” isn’t really measurable—for some people, rich means being able to pay your bills with your paycheck. For others, it may mean buying anything you want at the grocery store and taking vacations a few times per year. Others may define rich as owning a private jet and a yacht.

But if you can pay your bills and you don’t have an urgent need for a yacht, are you going to feel motivated to do the work to turn yourself “rich”? If you do achieve the status of being “rich” does that actually solve the underlying drive and need we are truly seeking? If I had to guess the answer would be no. We must look at each area of our life and figure out what it is we want to at a deeper level.

For each of us, these areas might look a little different. But once we identify them, we can use the Wheel of Life as a goal-setting tool to track and move toward achieving a Level 10 Life in all areas.

How to Set Up a Wheel of Life

how to set up wheel of life

When I started working on simplifying my life, I found it helpful to divide up my areas of focus into distinct categories. For example, career, living space, relationships, time, and health. This allowed me to examine each area, identify where I stood, and pinpoint goals in the areas I wanted to work on.

I found the Wheel of Life tool very useful in determining how I should progress and what steps I should take next. The initial exercise is pretty quick, but it’s also super effective. The way I filled in each section of the circle let me quickly see where I was weak and what needed to improve. In some areas I realized I was doing pretty well, so I could just work to maintain there while I dedicated more time to areas where I was weaker. Of all the self-help tools I’ve found out there, this one was one of the best fits for me.

I’ve created a Wheel of Life template for you to use in your bullet journal. This will give you a good starting point, especially if this is your first time working on this type of life assessment tool. (Note: you definitely don’t need a bullet journal to work on the Wheel of Life assessment, but the tool lends itself well to this type of goal setting program.)

The wheel starts with a circle on the page. You’ll divide the circle into 6-10 wedges (like a pie). Divide each wedge into ten levels (hence, the “Level 10 Life” moniker. Each pie stands for an area of your life you deem essential.

Wheel of Life Categories

  • Physical Environment
  • Personal Growth
  • Education
  • Spirituality
  • Health
  • Romantic Relationships
  • Friendships
  • Family
  • Career
  • Finances

Those are several examples of the areas, but you can undoubtedly choose anything that resonates with you. You may want to include your mental health, creativity, outlook/attitude, or another area aligned with your life. What’s important to you?

Don’t spend too much time worrying about getting it right; follow your gut feeling. I found it was helpful to do the categories fairly quickly. If I couldn’t think of it in a few minutes, it must not be vital to me.

wheel of life journal Once you’ve chosen the components, you’re going to go through the wheel and rate each category based on where you are today on a scale of 1-10. How satisfied are you with each area? Where do you feel you’re at? Assign it a number, and then color in the pie piece up to the level. Once the wheel is colored in, you’ll get a very clear idea of where you are and how each piece stacks up against the other.

I like this goal setting tool because it helps you visualize your problem areas. If work is a three and everything else is at an eight, then you know your career needs improvement and focus. For example, when I did the Level 10 Life assessment, I realized I wasn’t spending enough time on creative activities. This gave me a clear area I could work on, so I laid out a plan to weave in creative activities into my life. I knew it was a weak point for me, and this tool really helped me understand where I stood.

The Wheel of Life tool helps bring you clarity. You’ll destress your life by eliminating activities that aren’t moving you toward what you want. You may find your career is fully filled in but at the expense of your friendships. Think about what you could do to shift your schedule and make time for your social connections.

What the Wheel of Life Tells Us

what the wheel of life tells us

The Wheel of Life gives us a snapshot of where we are in terms of satisfaction with our experience. The goal of a Level 10 Life is to live so we’re fully satisfied in every single area. Bloggers and bullet journalists have found the next helpful step is to assign a goal in each area to bring you closer to a level 10 satisfaction.

Ask Yourself

  • Why does this area need attention?
  • What steps could you take to bring your satisfaction up one level? Two? Use those steps to set your goal.
  • How will you break down the bigger goal into actionable steps?
  • What barriers could come up to achieving this and how could you address them ahead of time?
  • What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve the goal?
Now, I think it’s also helpful to look at the areas you’ve rated highly—even those you’ve rated at 10. We often fail to grow in areas of our life where we get too comfortable. So, even if certain areas seem great, you may still want to set goals to maintain those areas and keep them up. Don’t become complacent.

Honesty is also fundamental to your assessment. Many people, including myself, have a strong desire to do everything “right.” We want to prove (even to ourselves) we’re satisfied with all aspects of our life. We worry about what we should answer as opposed to answering the truth.

wheel of life assessment toolRemind yourself this is a life assessment tool to help you know where you stand in your life and help you figure out what areas you want to work on. It doesn’t mean your life is terrible, or you’re failing in an area. If we’re being honest the fact that you’re stepping up and doing something to improve your life sets you apart, most people are lazy and content being miserable. This process simply means you may want to shift your focus to those areas needing additional attention. There are no right or wrong answers, and even motivational speakers and lifestyle gurus would probably admit they aren’t living a Level 10 Life in every single category.

If you’re overwhelmed by setting goals in all areas of your Wheel of Life, pick the areas you’re the weakest in and focusing your efforts there. Set two or three actions you will take in the next few weeks or months to improve in those areas.

What I like about the Wheel of Life tool is that it tells us a lot about our blind spots and the areas where we need to put in additional effort. It also helps us realize the areas of our life where we derive the most satisfaction. It gives a beautiful visual representation and map to follow to reach our version of a Level 10 Life.

I recommend using the Wheel of Life assessment tool on a monthly or quarterly basis. Monthly is an excellent place to start. If you feel you aren’t staying on track, you may want to start checking it weekly. If you feel like you need a little more time, stretch out your checks to once a quarter (especially once you’ve built up momentum).

Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to living a Level 10 Life in every area. Get started with the Wheel of Life assessment tool today.

Your Turn!

  • What categories are most important to you?
  • What goals will you set today based on your Wheel of Life assessment?

Bullet Journal Symbols: Taking Your Bullet Journal Key To The Next Level

Bullet Journal Symbols: Taking Your Bullet Journal Key To The Next Level

bullet journal symbolsIf you’ve started your bullet journal, you’ve probably wondered what bullet journal symbols you should use in your key. The symbols you use in your bullet journal key let you codify different items in your tasks to quickly identify where you’re at with tasks.

The Genius behind bullet journal symbols

When I first came across the concept of bullet journaling, I was like “great another journaling how to, whoop-de-doo”. Then something caught my eye…

It was how they took the symbols and then modified them to keep track of how things progress. Why does that matter? One downside to paper journals over digital is that you can’t “edit” things. This comes into play when you want to monitor a to-do list.

Before I started with my Bujo, the best you could hope for was a checkbox . If left blank it was incomplete. If checked it was done. But what about other states of completeness? It was only an either-or option.

The way the bullet journaling approaches it, you can neatly “edit” the symbol to have multiple states (which we get into down below) by adding to the base symbol. It was simple, elegant, functional and looked good at the same time.

Here’s an example of how your base symbol is modified as you need it:

basic bullet journal migration symbols

Using Bullet Journal Symbols To Make The Most Of Your Key

Bullet journals are a great way to bring some intentionality to your life. By using a tool like a bullet journal, we can begin to master how we spend our time, stay focused on the important things, and keep important items at the forefront. Like any system, the bullet journal is just one way to manage your time. Continue reading our post on how to manage a busy schedule using a bullet journal.

What is unique about a bullet journal is it’s more than just a way to organize yourself, it gives some structure to common ways we like to organize that, in my mind, really helps you master your productivity. The system helps address a lot of the shortcomings of a paper planner over a digital solution while giving you the tactile feel of a journal or planner.

Basic Bullet Journal Symbols

basic bullet journal symbol

The most common symbols are To-Do, Started, Completed, Canceled, and Migrated. It’s important to note that your To-Do symbol is your “base symbol” meaning you start every item with that and then it’s modified to your needs.

  • To Do: The starting symbol often a dot, circle, or square.
  • Started: this is something that you have begun work on, but it’s still in progress.
  • Completed: A task that you have finished. Who doesn’t like checking things off your list!
  • Canceled: Sometimes you decide something doesn’t make the cut for your limited time.
  • Migrated: When you have an item that you didn’t complete, but moved to a new to-do list.

How To Figure Out What Bullet Journal Signifier Is Right For You?

bullet journal signifier

The power of bullet journaling is that it’s very flexible and customized to your needs. With that said, it is just a matter of figuring out what is right for you. Below I have a lot of bullet journal symbol examples for you to get inspiration from, but before that, a few words on figuring out what’s right for you.

1 There is no one right way

A bullet journal is just as unique as you are. Its flexibility means you can build a Bujo that’s right for you. It can be tempting to see what others do and copy them – I’m certainly guilty of spending hours looking at stunning spreads on Pinterest too – but in the end, find what works for you and don’t feel like there is one right way.

2 Experiment with different symbols

There are many different ways to do symbols. Most often people start with a base symbol of a dot, a circle or a box, but you find what works for you. I have my own unique way of doing things that won’t work for most folks. The great part about bullet journaling is if you try something, you can switch it up each time you migrate your tasks forward. That means you can try new things weekly/monthly until you come up with the perfect mix.

3 Start simple, then layer in more

When people start, they often go overboard with symbols thinking more is better. This is definitely a place where we want to use only enough to cover 90% of cases. Too often people start making complex symbols in their journal for edge cases, things that only happen a few times vs every day. Start with things that you use every day, then expand as certain needs start coming up over and over again.

Bullet Journal Symbol Ideas

bullet journal symbols ideas

Appointment Symbols

Events should use a unique signifier that stands apart from your normal symbols so that it’s clear they have a specific time and place that they need to occur in. I tend to use the little clock symbol because I use a base symbol of a dot. Then I add the two little clock hands from that dot, then circle the whole thing. That makes it clear when it’s an appointment, not just a task because I purposefully don’t keep a lot of meetings, so it’s important to make it really obvious when I need to be somewhere.
bullet journal migration steps
Migrated tasks symbols

A core part of bullet journaling is how to migrate tasks. Below is a little gif I made to show how migration works. The genius part of this is when you get most of the things on your to-do list completed, you can migrate them forward to a new weekly spread to start with a cleaner list. This lets you focus on the remaining tasks that you need to complete.

Important Tasks symbols

A list of tasks is great, but a list that is prioritized is even better. Symbols that let you highlight important items on your to-do list are a great way to manage this. While I think digital organization options have an edge here (you can reorder lists easily) you can use these signifiers in your Bujo to keep an eye on what is important and then reorder when you migrate tasks later on.

Canceled Symbols

When you’re trying to get stuff done, it’s often the case that it’s just as important to know what you aren’t going to do vs what you will do. Saying “no” is a powerful time management technique that you should take seriously. You can use these for to-do list items or events. Just remember these are for things that are no longer going to do, as opposed to things that will be migrated. The latter are things you still want to do, just not now.

Ideas Symbols

Sometimes you just need to get something out of your head and onto paper so you don’t forget it. That’s what these are for. I find that if an idea is floating around in my brain and I can’t focus on what I’m doing because I’m so enamored with the idea, writing it down somewhere safe lets me move on. So if you want to keep track of things, use these bullet journal symbols to keep track of your next brilliant idea.

bullet journal ideas symbols

Communications Symbols

How often have you though this “oh shoot, I meant to email ____” or “I really need to call ____ and ask them about”. That’s what these symbols are for. Keep in mind these are symbols for later in the game once you’ve honed in on your basic bullet journal symbols, but if you’re someone who does a lot of correspondence these might be perfect for you.

bullet journal communications symbols

Work Specific Symbols

When it comes to the work we do, there are some specific things we do very often. For me it’s writing blog posts, creating an email blast, or posting on social media. All these things come up a lot for me and so they derive their own specific symbol. Here a few examples of other symbols you might use in your work.

bullet journal work symbols

Bullet journal symbols for life

Work-life balance is important so don’t just think about how your bullet journal can be used for work, but also for your life outside of work too. Think about the big things you spend your time on and also what your main goals are. For me it’s time with family, working out, and reading a good book.

miscellaneous bullet journal symbols

Using Colors to further organize your bullet journal key

We can add another layer of organization. If you’re like me I wear a few hats. For some people, they like to break out work between different clients, for family life vs work life, or different major projects.

However you decide to codify your key, using a standardized set of symbols for your lists adds another layer of organization to any page in your bullet journal!

Your Turn!

  • What symbols work for your bullet journal?

What To Put In A Bullet Journal To Become Insanely Effective

What To Put In A Bullet Journal To Become Insanely Effective

what to put in a bullet journalWhen you start out with a new bullet journal, it can be overwhelming to figure out what pages you should include. The beauty and trouble with bullet journaling is that it’s so flexible you can do anything, which then begs the question: if you can do anything, what do you do?

1. Start With The Basic Bullet Journal Pages:

start with the basic pages

There are a few key pages that all bullet journals need to have, we outline them here. These pages are the core of any bujo and make the whole system work. The basics are:

  • A key – a set of bullet journal symbols to codify your tasks
  • An index – a place to catalogue your pages
  • Collections – Think a focused list
  • Spreads – often a way to keep track of things weekly or monthly
erin of the petite planner

“Try a couple. Don’t tie yourself into one layout and think you have to stick with it. Try out different layouts and spend some time reflecting on what worked and what didn’t and then make adjustments from there.” – Erin of

2. Next Figure Out What You Already Do

figure out what you already do

The best way to figure out what you should put in your bullet journal is to look at what you’re already doing. Many people jump to what they WANT to do, but humans are funny, it’s hard to change habits. First, focus on what you already do and your current needs, then you can figure out where you aspire to be.

Open up your current calendar, planner, or whatever you use and see what is there. Start to write down what you see as your major items. Look for patterns, things that come up a lot, or things that often get lost in the shuffle. You can create a collection in your new bullet journal just for this! Write down what you see as needs here.


“If you’re just starting out try to keep things fluid. Try rapid logging if you can. That way you’ll get to see how much space you really need on a daily basis. . Based on these findings you can start to design a spread that has enough room”  – Rachael of

If you don’t have any system yet (why would you be looking at bullet journals otherwise?) open up your email inbox, then look at who you email most. What types of things do you notice about that?

  • What meetings do you often have?
  • What projects or tasks came up in the last 30 days?
  • What meeting invites did you receive?
  • What tasks result from your top 5 people you email?

You can do this with your text messages on your phone, social media messenger apps, the bills you get in the mail, etc. Pretend like you’re an anthropologist analyzing the pieces of your life to figure out what you do day in, day out. Add these to your collection.

“Brainstorm ideas before you even get started. Grab a random piece of paper, and just write down everything that comes to mind. What do you need your journal to do for you?  From that list, you’ll have a really good idea of what layouts you’ll need in your journal.” – Kara of

3. What Else To Include In Your Bullet Journal?

what to include in bullet journal

Next, think about beyond what you already do and think about what you’d like to aspire to be. I’d suggest starting with only 1-3 new things. Remember that we aren’t really good at changing behaviors and besides, its best to start with a few goals that we really nail, then move on to a new one. Studies have shown this to be way more effective.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What would my ideal day look like?
  • What do I want more of in my life?
  • What do I want less of in my life?
  • If I didn’t have to worry about money, what would I do?

Once you answer those things, figure out what goals you have, choosing only 1-3 goals. Write those down and think about a spread that might support that goal. How can you document your progress on that goal?

shannon of wellella

“You can either create your own layouts or search for examples online to get ideas. There are very active online communities for bullet journalists on Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram that can also be great places to ask questions and get ideas if you feel stuck.” – Shannon of

 Blossoms and Bullet Journals

“Each month, I always include a ‘highlights’ spread where I write down something good that happened to me every day. (I’ve seen others do similar spreads before, but I wouldn’t say it’s terribly common.) It’s great for positivity, and it’s also awesome to look back on later.” – Annie of BlossomsAndBulletJournals

4. Putting It All Together

putting it all together

Take your list of things you already do plus the things you hope to do. These will outline what your new bullet journal needs to do for you.

Once you you know what your Bujo needs to do, start looking for bullet journal spreads that meet those needs.

Now that you’ve figured out what you need, check out some ideas for bullet journal pages.