Bullet Journaling For Writers: Part 1 The Basics

Bullet Journaling for Writers: Part 1 The Basics

I’m a bullet journal and planning junkie. Working out the exact right system for maximum joy and productivity is 1000% my jam.

Over the last few years, I’ve worked out a system that helps me make the most of my writing time, keep track of multiple projects, and meet my goals.

Today I’m really excited to launch a blog series on Bullet journaling for writers. Read this blog series to learn my (not so) secret system for organizing your writing life to reduce stress and maximize joy.

Not only that, you can get a printable version for free when you sign up for my mailing list. 

Free Printable Bullet Journal for Writers

Today I’m going to take you for a tour through my bullet journal.

In later posts, I will take you through my magical monthly spread and share ideas for collections for every writer’s bullet journal.

I hope this peek into my bullet journal helps you find more writing joy in your writing life.

 

Stack of My Writing Bullet Journals
My Writing Bullet journals. From top to bottom: Dark Teal 2018 writing Bullet journal, Silver 2019 Writing Bullet Journal, Turquoise Novel Bullet Journal, Purple New Novel Bullet Journal

 

What is Bullet Journaling?

First off, if you don’t know what bullet journaling is, you should hop over to the official Bullet Journal website and watch the introductory video. I’ll wait.

Back? Great.

The thing about bullet journaling is that it’s not just about the journal. The magic is in the process.

  • As you create the journal you’re reflecting on the tasks you want to accomplish =  setting goals and make plans accordingly.
  • Afterward, you analyze the un-done tasks and unmet goals before making new plans =  reevaluating your goals and resetting your intentions.

It’s a process with goal-setting and intentionality built in that just so happens to fit in a notebook.

Once you get the basics down, you can customize it to your heart’s desire. Your bullet journal will not be exactly like mine, because you don’t work in exactly the same way I do.

 

My Bullet Journal

You can start a bullet journal any time and keep going until it’s full. I prefer to set up one for each year. I’ve been doing this for a few years, so I know that one journal is just about right for a year.

For 2019, I’m using a Silver Rhodia goal book. It has good quality paper (which I need for fountain pens) and it has some pages pre-formatted in useful ways.

My 2019 Writing Bullet Journal with a few of my favorite tools
My 2019 Writing Bullet Journal with a few of my favorite tools

 

It’s looking great – crisp and untarnished by, you know, actual use. Great for inspiration but empty pages don’t really show you how to use a journal.

So I’m also going to share some pictures from my 2018 journal – a softcover Moleskin. This one has that lived-in look that I’ve come to cherish. Which is to say, it’s messy. No matter how good my intentions, at some point I get a bit slapdash. So don’t despair if your journal isn’t a work of art like the ones you see on Instagram – I’m right there with you.

 

Index

The first thing you need is an index. You’ll be adding things to your bullet journal over time. When you do, put an entry in the index with the page number so you can easily find the entry later.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Index
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Index Looking a Little Empty

My 2019 journal already comes with pages formatted for a table of contents and all the pages numbered.

Previously I set aside a few pages for the index and numbered the pages by hand. It’s tedious, but not hard.

2018 Writing Bullet Journal - Index
2018 Writing Bullet Journal – Index full from a year of use

 

Collections

A collection is simply a two-page spread of information you want to keep together. Find a blank page and list all the information together.

Here’s one from my 2019 Bullet Journal. I try to blog on the first and fifteenth of each month. In my 2019 writing bullet journal, I went to the next open page (26) and made a collection to hold all the information about blog posts. I noted that in the index.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Blogging Collection
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Blogging Collection

It’s looking a little empty right now, but it will fill up through the year as I jot down ideas and track what I post.

There are a ton of collections that can be useful for writers. I have another blog post with collection ideas for writers. Make sure to hop over and check that out.

 

Future Log

The future log is a special kind of collection. It’s a place to track future events and tasks.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Future Log
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Future Log

Last year, I didn’t really use a future log. My Rhodia has these pages preformatted with the months, so I’m going try using them as a future log this year. You can see I’ve already jotted down some deadlines and tasks for January and February.

 

Calendex

I discovered this last year and it. is. brilliant. It’s a combination of a calendar and an index. The Calendex originated here and this post has a really nice overview.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Calendex
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Calendex

The Rhodia comes with spreads I can use for this. Previously I drew it out by hand.

 

2018 Writing Bullet Journal - Calendex
2018 Writing Bullet Journal – Calendex

SETTING UP A CALENDEX: Each column represents a month. Each row represents a day. I drew lines across to show breaks between weeks. (I use a Monday-Sunday week for planning so the weekend isn’t split up.)

USING THE CALENDEX:  Earlier I showed you the collection I made for Blogging information on page 26.

In my Calendex, I wrote in the page number (26) on the first and fifteenth of each month.

2019 Writing Bullet Journal - Calendex
2019 Writing Bullet Journal – Calendex

Now when I look at the calendex, I can instantly see that I’ve got a deadline that day (like a calendar) and I can easily trace it back to all the relevant information on page 26 (like an index).

Brilliant.

You can make this even more useful with color coding. I use green to signify critique group meetings and deadlines, blue for writing deadlines (like blog posts), red for writing challenges, and purple for events. The little stars indicate holidays, birthdays, and the like.

USING THE CALENDEX FOR PLANNING: I love the Calendex because I can instantly see how busy I’m going to be. For instance, in January 2019 I can see that I’ll be working on writing new books for the Little Elephant’s series all month long. I also have a writing challenge I want to participate in. It’s looking busy already and I don’t even have any of my critique group meetings listed yet. (I’m in 3 critique groups. It’s a lot.)

This is useful for planning: I know January is not the month to start writing that new novel or to take on more contract work.

 

Monthly Log

My monthly log is by far the most important piece for keeping me organized. I’m dedicating a whole blog post to this one. So make sure you check that out. I’ll give you a taste of it here.

In a traditional Monthly log, at the beginning of the month, you would make a spread for the month. Copy over all upcoming events and tasks for the month from your future log. Then add anything else you need to get done for the month.

My December 2018 Monthly log
My December 2018 Monthly log

MY MONTHLY SPREAD: Over time, I’ve devised my own monthly spread for my writing bullet journal. It’s designed to meet my needs:

  • I needed a system to keep track of a variety of writing tasks: writing, craft development, business and marketing, submissions, etc.
  • I needed a way to manage multiple manuscripts at the same time.

The whole thing serves as a dashboard – a place to gather the most important information so I can tell, at a glance, what my priorities are and what tasks I need to accomplish to meet my goals.

 

Daily (ish) Logs

Daily log from December 2018
Daily log from December 2018

The daily log is your list of events and tasks for the day. Though you can get fancy, mine is essentially a to-do list. After writing it out, I sometimes number them by priority.

It’s daily-ish because I don’t write one out every day. In a few days when the list is no longer relevant, I make a new one.

 

Putting it Together

Those are all the basic components of a Bullet Journal. You’ll find all of them in my free Bullet Journaling for Writers Printable.

Make sure to read my next post on my custom monthly logging system to learn more.

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