For years, I have been using the Bullet Journal Method to organize my daily life and projects at work. During this time, I have found several unexpected benefits from this practice, including large bonuses.
With the new year starting, I want to show you how you can get the most benefit.
A normal review period
I have worked at companies with a regular performance review process for most of my working life.
And for most of that time, I treated it as just another meeting where my manager would tell me things to improve. At best, I would leave that meeting with a semi-vague sense of how I was doing and sometimes excitement over a promotion or bonus.
At worst, I left the meeting realizing my manager had no idea what I did or the valuable contributions I made to the team.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have found that more and more, my managers don’t know what I do every day. They have enough on their plate to do their work and notice what my colleagues are doing. A lot can easily get lost, even for the best managers.
Do you feel your manager doesn’t know what you do?
How often has your manager asked, “Do you remember what you did this year?”
There’s a recency bias to our memories, and many of your accomplishments can disappear just because they happened more than two months ago.
I bring good news: there’s a simple solution to change this.
Take daily notes
Personal productivity and note-taking are popular right now, which helps because there are many ways to take advantage of what I’m about to tell you.
To the best of your ability, you should capture any potentially noteworthy event during your work day. For example, what tasks did you work on? What conversations did you have?
The Bullet Journal MethodContrary to most search results, The Bullet Journal Method does not require time-intensive, artistic pages. It’s just a flexible and very personalizable system to get things done. If you’re not familiar with it, check out the four-minute intro, or better yet buy The Bullet Journal Method book. has done a great job of keeping me organized with a physical book. A central component of it is a daily page. On this page, you list the tasks you need to do, notes you need to remember, and, most importantly, events that happened throughout the day.
For example, over a month, I’ve logged things like:
- Helped ET with Python, querying the database, and applying logic to data counts
- spinning my wheels over the new “exception configuration file” requirement for project foo
- emailed JT and GB to attempt to get clarity
- GB gave excellent background information to clear some things
- things I still don’t understand:
- emailed JT and GB to attempt to get clarity
- Talked to ML and NB about the API. Both think it’s a great idea.
- Working with ML to get access to the server
- Working with NB to get service account
- DS told me his boss complimented him on his code, “The best he’s ever seen.” DS told him it was because of my coaching.
- Had a great pairing session with ZB for project A
- Helped MB figure out issue preventing SSO authorization for project W
- Got to explain the property decorator to KH. It was great to see him understand why we would want to use it!
- Working with DS, we leveraged
unsyncto reduce the database sync script from 2 hours to 7 minutes!
Capturing every event during the day would be great, but things will slip. But everything you capture can help bring clarity.
For example, the issues I had with the “exception configuration file” took weeks to iron out, but my notes helped me organize my thoughts and ask better follow-up questions to the people in charge.
During the rest of this week, try recording the events in your life.
Curate your notes
This is where things start to pay off.
At the beginning of the next month, curate your notes.
In my case, I turn to a blank page in my bullet journal and write the month at the top, “January 2023”.
Then, I look at each of my daily notes for that month. If anything bubbles up as something worth remembering, I summarize it on the monthly page and write its date next to it.
# January 2023 5 Created context managers to cache database connections for project L 10 Helped AW understand several aspects of Python tooling 11 Added ZIP file support for project L 15 ML and NB thought my API idea was great for project D 15 Started working with ML & NB to iron out dependencies for project D 17 DS's manager: his code "The best he's ever seen." DS told him it was because of my coaching. ...
Some months, you might not be able to create a list of a handful of items. In other months, you might fill a page. Either way, it’s a great reminder of your progress over time. No matter how disappointed I have been with things at work, creating a list of things that happened in a month helped me appreciate my job and my colleagues.
The sweet, sweet payoff
When your performance review cycle approaches its end, go through each month, cherry-pick the best things that happened, and add them to a list of accomplishments you can proactively give to your manager.
My manager was blown away a few years ago when I gave them a multi-page bulleted list of notable accomplishments and events from the year. They were so impressed that they gave me a higher bonus, included my entire list in their report, and introduced it with the words, “look at this impressive list of things he accomplished.”
That’s not all
I bet that larger bonuses and promotions may happen to you if you put something like this into practice in your life. But this practice has more value than career advancement or extra money.
Last year was so hard for so many of us. I struggled at times with my mental health. Weighing on me were three long-term projects that were not as smooth or successful as I hoped they would be.
Most days were full of failure and frustration, and I had to put up a solid fight to remember that I was not a failure.
This practice was a huge help, as I remembered things I had forgotten every time I did it. Instead of feeling like a failure, these notes reminded me that I helped colleagues understand things like
@staticmethods , and
@classmethods . I got shoutouts from other colleagues during a department-wide meeting. I had forgotten about projects that went so well that my colleagues and I finished within days of starting.
Notes like these have made a significant impact on my life. I hope you find the same.