How a journal/planner system allows me to achieve more in less time

How a journal/planner system allows me to achieve more in less time

There is perhaps an image that comes with someone who journals, someone doodling in a coffee shop and instagramming it. There's nothing wrong with that but that's not something I could see myself having the time to do. But I wished I had opened my mind up to journalling and planning much earlier as its a hugely powerful way of managing your time and checking in with your mental health at the same time. 

There are many ways that journalling can be approached and I really wish I had been more open to it earlier. Combining a journalling and planner system has been a game changer and has allowed me to achieve more than I have in years AND leave me with more spare time to develop my personal projects and focus on my approach and attitude to life. 

I don't mind admitting I was living in a perpetually negative state - feeling like I never had time for anything and life's little niggles felt like huge hurdles. I couldn't understand how people around me were seemingly achieving so much while also enjoying life and having a great attitude. It turns out these people don't have personality traits that aren't achievable for me, they're not superhumans - it's just I needed to work a little on how I approached my time.

“Those who make the worst of their time most complain about its shortness.”
— La Bruyere

I knew I needed to make some changes and looked around for a planner that would help me structure my time better. When I mentioned it to a friend, he recommended the BestSelf system. BestSelf is essentially a planner that is based around goals that you set yourself, as well as allowing yourself to reflect on your day in a positive way. 


BestSelf works in 13 week roadmap sections - so each book lasts for 13 weeks. Within these 13 weeks you set yourself three goals. These can be anything that is important for you, for me I wanted to focus on health, work and relationships. And then each goal is broken down into targets that will help you get there. In my first book I went for these goals:

  • lose a certain amount of weight 
  • improve my relationships
  • have a defined professional presence

And then each goal was broken down into three targets which would help me get there. So for instance with the weight I set myself fitness targets (increasing weights, increasing how many hours I sent on exercise), implemented the 5:2 and aimed to plan food better. And with my professional presence at the end of the 13 weeks I wanted: a printed portfolio, a rehauled website and an Instagram strategy. 


You then have a weekly planner that allows you to note what you have going on in the week that then allows you to work out how your days are going to pan out and how you can schedule time daily to allow you to work on your identified goals.

The daily pages are my favourite thing. I spend 5 minutes (honestly, that's all it takes) the evening before working out how my day is going to pan out tomorrow (and this also allows me to sleep better knowing I have everything scheduled and I can fit it all in) and how I can fit in my goals. 


You also have space to note wins and lessons learned, so you celebrate your successes (no matter how small or big) and you can reflect on what worked and what didn't. This can be anything from 'I need to set aside dedicated time for social media' or '2pm is the perfect time for a swim so the pool isn't busy'.

There is also space for 3 gratitude bullets morning and night. This has been massive for me! Instead of thinking 'I have to clean the house' I put 'I have a lovely home' or I note my health, my ability to work, my physical fitness and so on. 


At the end of the 13 weeks I had lost 2 stone, strengthened my relationships massively and achieved everything I wanted with my professional presence. AND I felt notably more positive with a lot more spare time on my hands. Pretty powerful stuff eh?!

“It’s not how many things you start that make you successful. It’s how many worthwhile things you finish.”
— Peter Turla

Working on my identified goals allowed me to focus and set some priorities. I have always been someone who gets sidetracked by new ideas and gets bored quickly but having clear targets worked wonders. Working meanfully allows you to marry together all your ideas to make them work for you. 

I'm now halfway through my second journal and on my way to smashing my second set of goals and I couldn't be more pleased.  

Since using BestSelf I have also introduced in a second journal - a blank leather bound notepad that I use to mind map and mull things over. Some days when my brain feels a bit jumbled I focus on some targeted questions I have written at the front of the book:

What is my overwhelming emotion? (I then draw this in a the form of a simple face)

What has caused it?

If negative, how can I work to try and resolve it?  

Or if I have something coming up I am nervous about I work on it by simply dumping my thoughts on the page about it. Working through things like this is incredibly cleansing and grounding. There is probably a whole other post on this so will work on that soon! 

Check out BestSelf here. There are other journal systems out there, while this one works best for some people you might find another works best for you. Check out MindJournal who are doing amazing things in the field.


Formally Emma Gutteridge