Bullet Journaling (Children’s author version!)

I’ve seen a lot of social media talk lately about the concept of bullet journals, an organizational tool I’ve been using since October.  It’s basically a monthly calendar, notebook, and daily to-do list all in one. If this is a new idea for you, you might want to watch the official bullet journal video here. Thanks to Gwenda Bond for linking to it this fall & getting me started.  Recently, some writer friends have asked me how I use my bullet journal, so here’s a glimpse inside the pages…

First things first… Here’s my notebook.

It’s a 5.75 x 8.25 inch Leuchtturm Medium Notebook with dots on the pages, and you can read more about it here. I love this notebook, but you don’t need it to bullet journal – any notebook will do.

As the video suggests, I make a two-page spread for each month, with scheduled events on the left and a list of tasks for the month on the right. Here’s October – you’ll note that some tasks are broken down into smaller pieces, which keeps me from getting overwhelmed (and allows me to check things off even when I’ve just taken a small move toward completing the task. Baby steps!)

Here’s November:

As tasks are completed, I check the box next to each one.  If a task doesn’t get done in that month, it gets an arrow, showing that it’s been moved to the next month. I thought I might finish my 7th WISH novel draft in November (a girl can dream) so I put that on the list but ended up moving it to December. Ranger #3 revisions didn’t happen in October or November because my editorial letter didn’t come until later on. But I totally got to check that off in December, too.

For each day of the month (most days, anyway) I make a separate entry with tasks & events for that day. I try to include everything that’s important to me – not only the work-related things that need to be done, but also my kids’ events, getting some exercise, and other things that I really want to do that day. Some – but not all of these things – are on the monthly task list, but others – phone calls, making spaghetti sauce for dinner – aren’t significant or long-term enough to warrant that, so they just pop in on the days when they come up.

Aside from the monthly and daily calendars, I have lots of other pages in the notebook that I use for story ideas, organizational charts, phone call note-taking, grocery lists, manuscript notes, lists, etc.

(I promise you, the above scribbles make perfect sense to me. They’re lines & ideas for a maybe-story that occurred to me while I was driving to a school visit this week. I pulled over, scribbled them down in my bullet journal, and continued on my way.)

One of the reasons I chose the notebook I did was because it has page numbers and a table of contents in the front. Whenever I add an entry (other than the daily to-do lists), I add it to the table of contents so it’s easy to find later.

One thing you’ll notice here is the serendipitous nature of the whole thing – story ideas live side by side with phone call notes, brainstorming charts, grocery lists, and jobs I need to do in my role as a skating club parent volunteer.

After three and a half months of bullet journaling, I’m pretty much hooked. I am a particularly task-oriented person, so this system makes me more productive and less likely to fritter away time on social media, which is great, but it also forces me to own what’s important to me each day. If it goes in the bullet journal, it matters, and I’ve found that I’m more likely to honor my exercise plans and small writing goals when I write them down here. I’ve always kept paper to-do lists, but this is different, somehow, in its permanence. Today’s list doesn’t get tossed in the trash tomorrow, and for some reason, that adds to my motivation to keep those commitments.

I know some other writers & other book industry friends are trying this out in the new year, and I’d love to hear how it’s going for you so far!

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17 Comments

  1. Posted January 8, 2015 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    This is awesome, Kate! I’m a project manager in my day job and can see how this could organize home and writing! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Posted January 9, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    This is brilliant! I love it. Thanks so much for sharing. Maybe share it on our Binders page 🙂

  3. Posted January 9, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Wow! This is awesome. I am going to try this! 🙂

  4. Posted January 9, 2015 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Great view of a process that yields a lot of bullseyes.

  5. Posted January 9, 2015 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Kate for sharing your process. I had not heard of bullet journaling until I read this post. I think this is something that could work for me.

  6. Posted January 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    For anyone interested in buying the notebook.
    http://www.leuchtturm1917usa.com/product.php?id=6 In the US, the 5.75 x 8.25 inch is a Large. At checkout use code L1917 for a discount and free shipping.

  7. Sue Hyams
    Posted January 9, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    This is so brilliant. I must start doing it immediately. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Posted January 10, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I was telling someone just the other day how on top of things you are (and how nice you are…remember briefly meeting at IRA in 2012?). Anyway, this is a great glimpse into how you keep all the balls in the air. Off to watch the video. Thanks!

  9. Posted January 10, 2015 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Kate,
    Thanks for always sharing your processes and great ideas. This one’s definitely worth a try!

  10. Posted January 10, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    This makes sense to me. I think I’ll give it a try. My only concern is losing the journal 🙂 But, I imagine I would learn to treat it like treasure!

  11. Posted January 11, 2015 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Kate- Thanks for sharing t his method! I am intrigued by the possibilities. The pictures of your journal helped me envision possibilities.

  12. Sharon Morse
    Posted January 12, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Oooh. I love this idea! I’m always writing down to-do lists, but they always get trashed or buried in a notebook. This is a fantastic way to keep organized. I’m DEFINITELY going to try it!

  13. Posted January 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kate,

    I really like this concept, though I have some concerns.

    I use a sort of digital version this using Google calendar and task lists in addition to an app (GTasks) that shows both my daily calendar and scheduled tasks in one place on my phone. I keep a journal separately and a small notebook with me at all times to jot down ideas, new tasks, phone numbers, etc. that I can later add to my digital logs later.

    The reason I like the digital system is that it feels more malleable (and expedient) than writing on paper, though it does force me to be more tied to (and sometimes distracted by) a digital device which is not productive.

    So my question is … if you have your daily calendar and task lists on one page and you run out of room, how do you expand them when new things come up without having to go to a page that is not immediately following the page you started with? That would be the most challenging thing for me.

    I\’m considering this system though, as you can see, I have my concerns.

    I am glad it works for you and for so many others though.

    All the best to you,
    Jodi

  14. Erin Hagar
    Posted January 13, 2015 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for introducing this to me! I just started this week and already I feel less scattered. It’s wonderful for people who love to check things off (raises hand) but who also want a system that is flexible enough for your whole life, not just one aspect of it. Many thanks!

  15. Posted January 14, 2015 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    This is brilliant! Such a great idea. I want to try it right away. Thanks for posting, Kate.

  16. Posted January 21, 2015 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Day two. Hooked already. So fits how I already do things, only all in one place. Thank you!

  17. Posted January 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE this – I am a list maker, but I have them all over my desk at school, my counter at home – on my phone – I need to do this!

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