My friend and fellow designer Gretchen Kish was the one who first told me about bullet journaling. She’s a mom, a designer, researcher, artist, and much more; so when she tells me a newly adopted organization system has been been helping her meet her writing goals, I take heed. While a quick internet search quickly spiraled into me trying to:
A) wade through a pile of detailed blog posts (the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group has almost 12,000 members!) and,
B) not get distracted by beautiful bullet journaling images.
It seems like the gist is this:
Bullet journaling is an analog way to organize your schedule and tasks on a monthly, and then daily basis, that is flexible, forgiving and easy to customize to your needs.
The four main components are topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets. “•” are for tasks, “X” is for a completed task, “>” is for a task moved forward, and “<” is for a task scheduled ahead of time.
To some extent I assume that non-bullet journal enthusiasts who are also extremely organized are already using a system like this. As a long-time planner-using person, I have my own notation system as well, although bullet journaling seems even more flexible and open to updates and revision than my current system.
But let’s get to the big question: how can the power of bullet-journaling be harnessed for the writer? Or for the artist working on a long-term work, for the hobbyist aiming to level up in his/her crocheting, or the avid reader starting an ambitious new year’s reading plan? After reading various blog posts from avid bullet journalists, bullet journaling appears to be effective for meeting writing goals. It actively keeps all the research, surges of inspiration, character brainstorming, doodles and to-dos in one place.
- Bullet journaling life, by blogger Kim Holmes – “Calendars and daily planners never seemed to help me manage the random lists I would make throughout my life. But notebooks for lists never seemed to help me manage my calendar. I ended up with scatter use of several tools whereas now I seem to rely on only one. …it holds everything together in one place.”
- Bullet journaling life + keeping on track with writing a dissertation by Impact Zone founder, Jewel Ward – “What I like about the Bullet Journal method is that the act of manually transferring my tasks from day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month forces me to be more aware of that I need to do, what I have done, and, what is feasible to do within the time frame I have available.”
- Illustrated bullet journal, by Kara Benz (Boho Berry) – “I love to sprinkle my daily pages with quotes, doodles, and notes. Sometimes I’ll add in a little journal entry. That is the beauty of the bullet journal system. You can really make it your own and you are never limited by space.”
- Bullet journaling by children’s book author, Kate Messner – “One thing you’ll notice… 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.”
- Bullet journaling for NanoWrimo – Primrose Amelia wrote in the comments: “Once I start writing, I use the typical daily spread to log how long I worked and what I worked on (writing, worldbuilding, character sheets, nothing at all)…. I don’t have to worry about not being able to find that napkin I wrote on earlier in the month.”
I also think that bullet journaling can help writers get better at making their daily writing goals actionable, adjustable and trackable. This helps make a plan much more likely to succeed, and is something we’re focusing on at TheRightMargin with our writing workspace. It seems bullet-journaling is a widely applicable way to start, plan, execute, and finish a writing project in analog. Soon, TheRightMargin will help writers start and finish their writing projects using many of the same principles.
Added 03/01/17: How to Use TheRightMargin as a Digital Bullet Journal
I’ve mostly thought of bullet journaling as a squarely analog way to organize and track things, but since the time I wrote this post, I’ve found articles about how people are applying the basic principles of bullet journaling to how they use their digital tools. Intrigued, I started to realize TheRightMargin could be the perfect place to keep a digital bullet journal too, not only for my daily to-dos and future goals, but also to practice thankfulness, and track my emotional/physical health.
So, without further ado. In TheRightMargin, I made a new project and called it Bullet Journal. I made my first milestone my place for journaling today, and then made 6 additional milestones for the rest of the week.
First milestone: Today! March 1
Second milestone: Thursday, March 2
Third milestone: Friday, March 3
… and so on.
Then I opened up my Today milestone and added the sections I’d want to check-in with myself on, track, or journal in response to.
- What I’m grateful for
- What’s on my mind
- Accomplishments of the day
… and started filling them out.
The bullet system you want to use is up to you. Since I’m just starting, I’m mainly using “.“, “x“, “>“, and “<“. As I finish each section for the day, I check off the checkbox — and since tasks don’t disappear when they’re checked off, I can always come back to it.
But what to do with the writing space on the left?
I started writing my Future Log and Monthly Log there. I like this because I’m able to see all three levels (yearly & monthly on the left; daily on the right) at once. Writing goals, life goals, career goals — I can write them all there.
The best part? We already added this project timeline as a Smart Project, loaded with inspiring and helpful smart tips, in your Projects page. Make an account or sign-in, go to Projects > Smart Projects > add the Bullet Journal project to your Projects page.
There’s even a bit of instructional help in the writing space to get you started.
Keep calm and bujo on!
Sign up for free today to try this Bullet Journaling Smart Project for yourself!