Create moments of joy by being intentional


Jimmy Buffet, by his own admission, has spent over 80% of his career thinking and reading, not doing.

Benjamin Franklin asked himself two important questions each day:

  • In the morning he asked, “What good do I want to accomplish this day?”
  • And, each evening he asked, “What good have I done today?”

Oprah Winfrey begins each day with her gratitude journal and records five things she is grateful for.

The world’s most successful people do something I’ve never been able to accomplish. In some creative, collective way, each person journals.

I’m a journaling failure. I’ve attempted the art of journaling over and over again, each time failing miserably. I haven’t been able to turn a sporadic recording of my thoughts into patterned behavior. Keeping a diary sounds juvenile, at least to me. A diary is a book I had as a teenager, in which I recorded personal thoughts I shared with friends and things that happened at school. When my mom started reading it, I stopped recording my thoughts and kept them bottled inside. Maybe this is why I keep thoughts swirling in my head instead of recording intimate details others can invade. I am no longer a journaling failure due to a new method of recording.

Have you heard of a bullet journal?

A bullet journal is to journaling what Marie Condo is to simplification and organization.

Keeping a journal sounds more sophisticated than keeping a diary, and it is because it is a useful tool to focus your life. Journaling with a tweak? This I can do. It’s simple. The method was introduced by Ryder Carroll, who has attention deficit disorder and has trouble focusing. A bullet journal is a mindfulness tool that helps us stay focused on the “what” of our day while maintaining our personal “why.”

The bullet journal is the analog method for the digital age. It turns productive mindfulness into patterned behavior and accomplished goals. You’ve probably heard about the benefits of journaling:

  • Decreases stress and anxiety
  • Boosts mood
  • Lowers depression
  • Prioritizes goals
  • Boosts memory
  • Inspires creativity

“We are responsible for creating moments of joy in our lives.” — Ryder Carroll

Carroll creates joy by having a focused intention for his days. We have over 500,000 thoughts each day. That statistic alone is enough to raise my anxiety. Which ideas do I choose to act on today? A bullet journal helps us decide how to focus our thoughts and choices about how we invest our energy and our time. Otherwise, we have too many ideas to turn any of them into productive action.

Decision fatigue is real. When we have too many decisions to make, we lose productivity and focus. Willful intention declutters the decision-making process so that it can be useful. Declutter your mind by taking a mental inventory. These questions will help:

  • What do you have to do?
  • What do you want to do?
  • What are your goals?

Once our mental inventory is complete, break those actions down even further. With each thought or goal, ask these questions:

  • Is it vital?
  • Does it matter?

The answers to these questions determine what actions to eliminate. What choices suck away time unnecessarily? Grow personal awareness by focusing your time with actionable pursuits. Time is not a renewable resource. Once time is used, it cannot return.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” — William Penn

Once we’ve decided how to use our time, it’s time to map those actions into timely productivity.


Draw a mental map, a thought process about how you will accomplish your goals. A developed thinking process comes with practice and keeps our mental inventory updated. Answer these questions to focus your thoughts:

  • What have you tried?
  • What have you not tried?
  • What have you learned?

Next, the mental map spills onto the page. A creative process personalizes the journaling adventure. Track progress by using daily, future, and monthly charts. Some days a quote may stand out for where you are and what you are accomplishing at this moment. If a quote or a bullet point is all you need to capture, then your recording process is simple for this day. If your goals are health-oriented, you might track your daily hydration or daily caloric intake.

My daughter adds entertainment into her bullet journal by recording what television shows she likes to watch. A bullet journal is whatever you make it. My daughter is artistic and permits me to share some pages of her personally designed bullet journal.

Nicole Akers’ pics

As you can see, she spends a lot of time on her bullet journal. My journal is much simpler because I don’t devote a lot of time to make it pretty. If I could have someone draw eye candy by creating page layouts for me, I might consider it, but my journal doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be effective.


Use the information you record to shape your future. Revisit your daily, weekly, monthly charts, then use that information to determine your next steps. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. And, reflect on what you have learned.


Reflect. Get rid of what doesn’t matter. Maybe you’ve spent too much time on things that are unnecessary and haven’t moved you toward your goals. Now that you see the time expenditure, you can reallocate it into a more useful area.

If you didn’t accomplish your big goal for the month, it’s time to reprioritize. Break your goal up by creating small, actionable projects that turn big goals into reality.

Lead an intentional life, not a life you endure.

Create moments of joy and improve your life.

“The key to happiness is really progress and growth and constantly working on yourself and developing something.” — Lewis Howes