It’s time to acknowledge your successes — and track them more efficiently.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

How do we quantify success? Is it a dollar figure? Is 50k successful? Is 100k successful? Is earning your bonus successful? Is it buying the things you want? Is it who has the bigger house? The nicer car? The more expensive clothes? Is it even supposed to be comparative at all?

I don’t know the answer to that question. And I don’t know because there is no one answer. Each person quantifies success differently, has different goals in life, different paths. Some of ours may cross, some may not, but quantitatively, it does not matter.

The problem with goal setting is our human tendency to fixate on that goal, ultimately letting a bunch of small details slip by our peripheral.

We forget to celebrate the little wins.

We live in a lavish time, which is functional, but because of what we see around us, societally, we have a habit of overlooking each piece of the puzzle because it’s much more pleasing to think about the puzzle itself — you know, the picture on the box. I’m the biggest culprit of this. Am I working on the right projects to advance my career? Am I hitting my mark compared to my peers? I have other friends who are getting married, or traveling the world; I’m not doing either of those things. I must be doing something wrong.

We get so focused on that gorgeous life-puzzle we’re trying to put together. But, as any person who’s ever tried to put together a 2000 piece puzzle of the nighttime sky and looked down when it’s 60% complete to find the dog gnawing at a piece eventually figures out, every piece matters.

Have you been promoted at your current job, changed roles, or started a new job in the last year? Or possibly hit your one/three/five year mark at your current job? Or more simply, have you completed that project you were asked to do? Have you launched your own business? Have you invested time in extra learning, college/online classes/self teaching? Did you make your rent payment last month? Fill your gas tank in the last week? Make it to work/school/something important on time and crush it?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you have achieved something. You did it. You did the thing. You decided on something, you worked toward it, and you DID. IT. These small pieces all build out different areas of our life-puzzles. The idea here is that every action, event, feeling, decision is all part of a greater pattern of actions, events, feelings, and decisions that we ourselves are curating. We have a habit, however, of disregarding the smaller achievements — the smaller pieces of this larger puzzle.

Overlooking, and therefore not celebrating, these small wins is only part of the problem — and to be clear, you don’t have to go on vacation, or buy something expensive to celebrate. A celebration could be as simple as taking a moment to recognize how far you’ve come. So ask yourself: why aren’t I celebrating? Better yet, why aren’t I tracking these wins?

We talk about our futures, professionally and personally, to nauseam with our friends, family, and sometimes colleagues. We plan vacations. We plan our kids’ activities. We plan out our weekends. We plan out our day. We plan the structure of a meeting. Hell, we set an alarm to plan to wake up in the morning. But these are usually the larger initiatives in our lives — larger being sometimes more financially taxing, or involving other people. Self reflection and independent planning, however, are just (if not more) as important.

Enter the Bullet Journal.

PAUSE: I know what you’re thinking, “I’m busy, like I have time for a damn journal. I’m not a teenager that needs a diary.”

A Bullet Journal, defined and simply explained by the folks at bulletjournal.com, is a customizable and forgiving organizational system that brings back a productive analog form in the digital age. The journal (or planner, or sketchbook, or whatever you decide to call it) is simply a tool that has the potential to help you along the way.

The system works with a set of marks that you define (a dash , a dot, an open circle, and an exclamation mark, for example). By using the system in it’s most basic form, you can use these marks to signify a “to-do”, an event, a meeting, an idea, or just something to remember — the organization and mark-to-item association is entirely up to you. Taking it to the second level, you can use your system of marks to then curate a month-week-day view of your life. If you start scouring the web, you’ll find a huge community of bullet journal’ers who’ve found unique ways to track and log different aspects of their life — entries include things like workout schedules, want-to-see movies, number of times they’ve walked their dog, hours spent training on a particular subject, or simply a reflection on a day’s activities.

Take 5 minutes and watch this video for a quick-start guide to see if the system is for you.

If you want to see a short preview of the endless types of pages you could include in your bullet journal, look here.

NOW RELAX.

It can seem pretty daunting — I mean, most new things don’t feel natural at first. I challenge you to give it one month. Pick a notebook you have laying around, or order one on amazon, and just try.

You’ve read this article, so you get to check one thing off, already, in your future bullet journal. So go ahead, pat yourself on the back, high five the person sitting next to you. Even if you woke up this morning feeling like shit, and in a worse place than you were last week at your job, in your personal life, in your relationship, etcetera, breathe for a moment take a look at all you’ve achieved!

Every detail of your life is a decision. And each decision, internally, should be appreciated. While you’re worrying about what’s left to do, don’t overlook what you’ve already done. A systematic approach to something you’re already doing in your head will not only relieve stress, but will help you celebrate the little wins, and reflect on them as time goes on.

So here it is. The punch line. The kick in the ass you need to get up and make this year, this month, this week, this DAY a successful day:

You are here. You took the initiative. You have succeeded. You have done a TON of things correctly to get you to where you are at this very moment. You get a gold star. Now go find your next goal, no matter how big or small, write it down, and get to work.