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!)
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!