Organization Ideas Using a Bullet Journal [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Real talk, this week authors. I wouldn’t be nearly as productive without my bullet journal.

This weekend I’ve taken part in a panel with Next Chapter Con, I attended a meeting with our local Horror Writers Association Atlanta Chapter, I setup my next mailing list post set to come out September 19th, and chatted with some readers via email. That is a lot to keep track of for one weekend, and that’s not even everything on my to-do list.

A quick note before I begin. This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, a series where authors help authors through all aspects of their author career. I highly recommend clicking on the image above and going to check out all the other amazing blogs in this circle.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the benefits of using a bullet journal as an author, but looking down at my long to-do list and everything I’ve done this weekend, I think it bears repeating. Down to it’s most basic description, a bullet journal is a DIY to-do list to help keep track of goals, habits, lifestyle, etc. The beauty of it is that you can tailor it completely to your needs, unlike an organizer you buy and have to fit to your needs.

Above is a screenshot from one of my trackers. I used it when I got the first round of developmental edits back for Chosen, book 3 of the Stolen series. Now these are usually the edits that require the most changes for me. Sometimes they can require whole scenes to be removed or added, or even whole sections of the novel to be rewritten. I find this first stage to be one of the hardest parts of the editing process. Having a tracker in my bullet journal and adding a few cute stickers helps me to stay on track. I bubble in a circle when I’ve knocked out that many pages. I added a turtle at the bottom to remind me that being “slow and steady” is okay.

On this next example, I’ve listed out books that I’ve been inspired to write. (Sorry it’s blurred out, but there are some major spoilers on those pages!) Some of these may become future works in progress, some may never see the light of day again, but this is perhaps the most prized portion of my bullet journal. These pages actually came from last year’s bullet journal. I cut them out and pasted them in here, and then added more to one of the book ideas this year. It’s wonderful to be able to slowly build on these ideas as I get more inspiration for them, and bring the pages with me each year. I can slowly build on these concepts and return to them again and again. Right now I have four full pages dedicated to book planning.

You’ll also notice I’ve got tabs on the side of this bullet journal. I keep track of everything from Mailing List ideas, to wordcounts for works in progress, to my annual word tracker that I’ve included below. I’m a little behind on filling it out, but I’ll catch up soon.

Each year I change around the layout, add some sections I may or may not use, and get a better understanding of what I need to personally stay organized and on top of my goals. It certainly isn’t a perfect system, but it’s such a huge improvement from the stress and constant feeling of being overwhelmed that I had before I began using it. I can stay focused on my goals, encourage myself with my progress, and remind myself of why I’m doing this.

If you have never used a bullet journal, simply look up #bujo on Instagram, Pinterest, or Youtube. There are tons of ideas out there that might suit your needs. As an author, it’s been indispensable and I can’t even imagine how I would organize the multitude of things I keep track of now without it.

Here are some things I also track with my bullet journal which has made me very happy this year despite all the craziness going on:

  • Habit Tracker for cleaning, self-care, and productivity.
  • Movies and TV shows I’ve watched.
  • Books I’ve read.
  • Quotes I love.
  • Stories I have finished.
  • Music I love.

A bullet journal can be anything you need, whether for fun, physical and mental well-being, or for your author career. Do you have ideas on what you would use one for? If you keep one, I’d love to see pictures! I’m always inspired seeing how people use theirs.

Bullet Journaling as an Author: A Sticker A Day

Since my first blog post about using trackers in my bullet journal was so popular, I thought it couldn’t hurt to do more in this vein. Clearly there are a number of authors out there looking for ways to keep on track when working on their novels. Heck, I was that way too not very long ago.

While trackers are wonderful for long-term planning and smashing out goals, what motivates you on the short term? I know during the work week, I don’t go flipping to my progress chart very often. I’m too busy fixing the nuts and bolts of work and life every day. So I wanted to find a way to give myself a little bit of a boost for squeezing in maybe just ten minutes of writing over my lunch, or maybe dedicating a whole hour one evening to tackling that scene, or giving myself the space to work on edits. Do you know what I found was super inspiring? Stickers.

Yes, I know, it’s very grade school. I remember helping my mom set up sticker boards for her classroom for a number of years, and seeing it slowly fill up as kids did awesome things. A sticker at the end of the day was a way to easily see how great you did, and made it easy to look back over the week to see how you did.

Guess what? It works for us adults too!

You can buy little flower sticker sheets at Amazon or Etsy. They’re adorable, and just the little burst of inspiration I needed to keep going some days. If I had a rough week, just seeing a bundle of stickers spread out over the pages made me proud. That was work on something I enjoyed. That was proof of what I accomplished, even if my word count had barely nudged, I did something worth celebrating.

Lately I’ll admit I haven’t written on my WIP as much as I would like, and seeing my pages lack those stickers makes me sad. Even their absence is motivating. But I’m getting that inspiration rolling again.

Of course, this little trick could work for anything that you want to work on a little bit each day. When my life gets really crazy busy though, I find that my writing time suffers. It’s hard to pull the words out and it’s hard to delve into my fantasy world, the characters, or the plot when life is pulling my attention in a dozen different directions.

Having an easy way to glimpse my progress helps immensely. Remember, all it takes is a sticker a day.

Bullet Journaling as an Author

I’ve only been using my bullet journal since February, but now it’s become a staple in my writing career. It’s helped me remember important things to do, kept me on track with my goals, given me a creative outlet, and even made me healthier. Let me explain.

I scoffed at the idea of keeping a bullet journal at first. I thought I didn’t have the time to keep one and I certainly wasn’t as talented as some of the Youtubers I watched. Slowly though I got on the band wagon and began my own. It was an ugly start. I didn’t know how to organize it and I was using markers that were too fat for the pages, but that was okay. Soon I looked forward to my bullet journal time.

Then a few months later I was diving back into my unfinished YA Horror novel, The Seeking. By that point, I was starting to catch on to how useful this little journal was and figured it could help me in my writing. As you can see, my little word count tracker motivated me so much that I had to put in half steps just to have an excuse to fill it in.

Later on, I was dealing with the release of The She-Wolf of Kanta and had to figure out what to do with the Facebook event I would be leading. You know what was by my side the entire time? My bullet journal of course, with a list of times and events to keep me on schedule.

Now months later, I’m doing the first pass of edits for Stolen. You know by this point that I had to put a tracker in.

My poor bullet journal has been through a lot this year. It’s already almost full and it’s only July. I’m going to have to pick up another one soon to replace it. Do you know what I’m looking forward to though? On New Year’s Day of 2019 I’ll have so many trackers that I’ve completed in my journal. It’ll be concrete proof of all the work I’ve done this year. I’ll be able to flip through years from now and reflect on my first year as an author working on books instead of short stories, finally seeing major traction doing what I’ve loved for so many years. ❤️

Then I’ll setup my new bullet journal and start all over again!

If you’re an author or working to become an author, I would highly recommend starting a bullet journal. It was amazing how much more relaxed I felt getting all the things I was trying to remember out of my head and onto the page.

If you keep a bullet journal, what do you love about it the most?

If not, what holds you back from doing it?