Using a Bullet Journal to Get More Writing Done
I’ve always struggled with planners. I never stuck with it long enough to actually get any benefit from the resource. My solution? A bullet journal.
While I’ve since discovered the perfect planner for me, the bujo has always been a consistent space for my writing. It’s an all in one resource to plan, schedule, write, capture, list, journal, habit track, and so much more.
I still have my bujo, and I’m using it a lot differently this year than I have in the past. Mainly, I’m using it for idea capturing and project monitoring, but there are a lot of other ways you can use it for your writing goals.
The best part about a bullet journal is that it can be as clean or as messy as you want, and you can design it however you like! No more filling in boxes and using pre-printed prompts that serve no purpose. You can create the boxes that serve you and your writing goals.
So, pick up a fresh notebook and pen or pencil, and let’s get started.
Number your first 50 or so pages (or however high you want to go). We’re going to use these as references, so protect the first few pages as your index. Depending on how big your handwriting is, you may want a few more pages.
The index will serve as your organization tool. No more flipping through and searching for a random page. You’ll be able to find the index, title, and get exactly what you’re searching for on the first try.
To key or not to key
If you’re someone who needs specific symbols to represent certain tasks, this one is for you. Create your system and write it down. Personally, I’m less of a strict bullet pointer. Sometimes I like arrows, sometimes I make squares, and other times it’s a bullet. If you want a color coded journal, list out what is going to be color coded and use this throughout your bujo.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what categories or coding system you want to use in the future. You don’t have to have the answer now. Fill in what you can, which might be nothing, and add it as you go.
With this space, draw out your calendar for the year. You can either include the months and days or you can just leave space under each month to fill in your important information.
This is where you can plan for the future. If you have dated assignments (like publishing dates), write them under the corresponding months. Hint: this might be where you have your first color coded stuff.
List out your writing projects, goals you want to hit by certain dates, writing retreats, courses you want to take, things you want to focus on, etc. If your bujo is specifically for writing, keep it simple and only list out your writing things. The more stuff you include, the more it will feel overwhelming. Don’t let your writing goals get lost in the mess.
This is where the freedom and individuality of the bullet journal really comes to life. Collections are where you keep any general ideas that are related overall. My list is pretty long, but this might inspire you so I’ll include it.
- novel ideas
- article titles
- goals for the year
- nonfiction books I want to read
- fiction books that are similar to mine
- ad copy
- pull quotes from my books for marketing
- social media ideas
- reader engagement ideas
- newsletter topics
- podcast topics (I host two writing related podcasts)
- writing prompts or challenges
- quotes from other sources
- daily habit tracker (word count list, project related word counts, goals)
- Plot outlines, scene breakdowns, character names, submissions, agent queries (these can be located anywhere in your journal)
Some collections might relate to specific months, such as habit trackers or monthly goals, so those you might want to rewrite every month rather than save twelve pages at the front of your notebook.
Collections also don’t have to be the same every month. You can include them anywhere in your journal or even design it differently each time you do it. Let them work for you.
And if you run out of pages for one collection, make a note at the bottom of the page such as “cont. on pg 93) and then make another collection page on page 93.
Here, I transfer any future log goals from the front of my notebook, including what I have coming up the next month, and plan out what I need to be working on. I’ll determine how much work I need to get done on each project to have them done by their respective dates. Those notes are easy to reference as the month continues.
You can put your monthly collections in the front of this section as well. One monthly-specific writing collection might be NaNoWriMo in November. You can have a word count tracker to 50K words, the roadblocks you’ll likely face, and tips for getting past them. Maybe you’ll even include rewards for reaching each milestone.
Here’s another space where your key might be useful. Daily logs are for tracking what you need to do each day. This is where you’ll mark off events, scheduled posts, goals or milestones to hit, and everything else you do during the day.
You can have this look like a day per page or even a week per spread, but the point of the daily log here is to be short and sweet. Don’t get caught up with explaining everything that you never get any writing done. Be short and sweet, like a single line saying “edit TCA” instead of a long “edit chapters 1 and 2 of The Curse of Asalie”. If you need to track that much, you can do it. Otherwise get the idea out and get back to work.
I’m not going to lie — Pinterest and Instagram pictures of bujo spreads are really inspiring but also demotivating to me. I’m not artistic. I can’t create these gorgeous spreads and perfect lines.
My bullet journal is imperfect and minimalist. I call it functional while others might say simple. Either way, it works for me, and that’s the point of the journal. You can always get inspiration and collection ideas from other people, but don’t worry if it feels overwhelming. Start with something you can do and move up from there.
Keeping track of your writing and seeing where your time is spent can help you focus on the writing goals you want to hit. Monitor your progress and see the space where you’re falling behind. It’s a great motivation and keeps you on track to hit your goals.