I’ve been using a Bullet Journal for a month now (I started on January 9th, 2017).
My bullet journal trial has been successful. I’m going to continue using it, at least while I have limited ‘net access.
The portability factor of my bullet journal, and the ease of planning and tracking my time without access to the ‘net has really helped. My access to the Internet has been particularly spotty due to weather problems, so I started using the bullet journal just in time. While I’m still using my digital tools, I can work without them, thanks to the bullet Journal.
I am not one of the many artistic people using a BuJo, nor am I one with beautiful handwriting and perfect spelling. I use mine to track deadlines, keep lists of projects and due dates, and to track blog posts and writing-for-hire work. My BuJo isn’t pretty, but it is functional and it doesn’t require a lot of effort to maintain, leaving me more to write (and read!).
I’ve pretty much decided on my format. I got some super advice from this post.
How I Use A Bullet Journal As A Writer
I have three broad stages of writing (not counting intermittent stages of pacing, hair-pulling and long walks):
* Research and brainstorming
I track all of them in my bullet journal. I brain storm ideas via lists of possible topics for various venues, with short notes about the venue and about points for research. I track research tasks—locating a particular book, obtaining and reading the book, potential interview subjects, etc. (These are lists, but in official BuJo parlance they’re called *Collections*).
I also track pitches, submissions, due dates and publication dates.
My Bullet Journal Set Up
- I use colored ink (red for deadlines, due dates and holidays, green for other kinds of emphasis) to highlight and differentiate information.
- I don’t use the standard Bullet Journal “key,” symbols to identify information by type that Carroll created; I use some derived from the lazy genius post I linked to earlier.
- I use reduced-size monthly calendars, three months to a page through January 2018, for long-range planning.
Ryder Carroll calls these pages the “Future log.” His is a list of days/dates; mine is a miniature calendar. I use these for visualizing blocks of time as I plan what I need to do when. The visual indication of blocks of time in a calendar helps me “see” my time.
- Month-by-month spreads for each individual month, pretty much as described by Ryder Carroll; a list of days and dates on the left page, with a blank page on the right for memos etc.
I’ve not yet needed the right hand page much, but I suspect I will, eventually.
- Individual month pages; a list of days and dates, divided into weeks via a separator line.
I list projects due dates, and bills, and tasks that are repeated weekly on the appropriate dates.
- Daily pages include appointments, tasks, and occasional notes.
I usually create the daily pages (or really, portions of pages; a day’s entry doesn’t take an entire page for me) the night before the day in question.
I list appointments or items due on that day, and tasks I want to complete. I fill in the box (or triangle) as I complete a task, or partially fill in those that require more than one day to complete.
During the course of the day I make brief notes about things I might want to know later; people I’ve met, birds I’ve seen, sometimes the weather, especially in terms of birds.
“Collections” in Carroll’s terms describe data that is not primarily task or appointment related. Mine include:
- Books to read
- Books I’ve read
- Things to write & pitch that are not yet contracted
- Blog posts—I move these to specific days as needed in terms of drafting and then publishing them.
- A list of long term projects in the research phase
- A list of birds for the year
- Recipes that I need to use fairly often but don’t know by heart (sometimes I prefer paper in the kitchen)
Future Plans: I Need a Notebook
I’ll use the current no-name blank book I have through March, I expect, but I’m going to need a replacement soon, since I’ll have run out of pages.
While there is an official trademarked Bullet Journal, available from Leuchtturm.us and BulletJournal.com, most of its extra features (three ribbon markers, designated Index pages, a printed key code and guide to Bullet Journals) don’t matter to me.
What I Want in a Bullet Journal Notebook
- I want something around 5 inches by about 8 inches.>
- I want better quality paper.
By that I mean paper that I can use pencil on and erase, and that I can use fountain pens on with minimal bleed-through.
- I think I want dot grid paper. That said, it’s not a deal breaker for me, and paper quality is.
Dot grid paper has faint dots marking a grid. The dots help me keep my handwriting legible, and they’re useful in creating the occasional charts or diagrams I sometimes use in planning writing.
- Other features that are common—elastic bands that keep the notebook closes, ribbon markers, pockets, pre-printed pages—are less important to me.>
I’m currently considering the accepted standard notebook for bullet journals, the Leuchtturm1917 Medium Hardcover, or a Rhodia Webnotebook. Both come in dot grid (as well as graph, lined, and blank). The question of Leuchtturm vs Rhodia is apparently a bit of a quandary for others, too.
The Leuchtturm1917 Medium Hardcover is an A5 size hardcover bound journal, available with dotted, grid (“squared”) or lined pages. It’s 5.7 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches, and has 249 pre-numbered pages (125 sheets), a reserved set of pages for an index in the front of the notebook, two ribbon markers, and a pocket for notes inside the back cover, and an elastic band to keep it closed.
The Rhodia Webnotebook with dot grid paper. It’s roughly the same size as the Leuchtturm A4 at 5.6 x 8.3. The paper is 90gsm, versus the Leuchtturm1917 which uses 80 gsm paper. But the Rhodia, while it has heavier weight paper, also only has fewer pages; 192 pages (96 sheets).
There are other minor differences (the Leuchhturm1917 has pre-numbered pages, a reserved area for an index, and two ribbon markers, where the Rhodia has one, etc.), but essentially, for me it comes down to a question of more pages (Leuchtturm1917) vs higher quality paper and less bleed through (Rhodia).
The popularity of bullet journaling has made the Leuchtturm1917 Medium Hardcover scarce, especially some covers in the dot grid paper. But if you venture outside of Amazon, you can find various covers and sizes at JetPens.com (where you can also find the softcover black A5 Medium journal/notebook) and The Goulet Pen Co. Or at Leuchtturm.us where you can find a wide variety of Medium Leuchtturm1917 hardcovers in various colors.
Having just drafted this post and link-checked it, I’ve discovered a third possibility via Amazon. A newcomer called Scribbles that Matter — Dotted Journal Notebook Diary. There are four colors of leather cover, all with icons, but with black, gray, pink or teal backgrounds. The icons on the cover don’t thrill me, but I like the 100GSM ivory dotted paper with185 numbered pages (plus a key page, 3 index pages and 2 pen test pages, two ribbon, markers, a pocket, and a pen loop). List price is $24.99, but right now, it’s $19.99, and I confess, that paper is really tempting. There’s a Scribbles that Matter lined paper journal as well as the dot grid version. I see from the Scribbles That Matter Facebook page that they’re planning on new covers in different colors (possibly including a really nice blue, and contrasting elastics), and they’re at least discussing covers without icons.
I haven’t had a chance to do any local shopping yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find something locally. I quite like the blank book I’ve been using, which has high quality paper with minimal bleed. I’d use it again, honestly, but I do think dot grid paper will be helpful.