Every year, I create a new annual bullet Journal to help me plan out my writing schedule. There I set out my yearly goals and I keep a running todo list of tasks for each day. In the past, I would set up a simple monthly tracking section at the start of each calendar month and then write in my daily todo list each day, setting up the spacing and size on an on-going basis. I also set up outlined spaces at regular intervals in my bullet journal to practice zentangle sketching. I followed this format for five years. I created organic looking, illustrated bullet journals that I found pleasing to look at.
While this system worked for many years, last year I discovered that I was not keeping up with all the illustrated spaces and the constant changing of daily headings, spacing, and other artsy things was slowing me down. I found that other than the monthly heading, I did not fill in any tasks at all during December.
Something had to change. I am writing more than ever these days, articles for my blog and Medium, poetry, short stories, and more than one novel per year. I also have a robust social media system in place. My old artsy bullet journal simply was not keeping up with my day to day planning.
I wanted to set up yearly goals, but I also wanted to set quarterly goals for myself so that I could track my progress through the three novels I wanted to complete and set aside time for two writing challenges that I participate in annually.
I wanted a way to track not only my daily word count, but when I used dictation vs a keyboard, how often I spent in revision/outlining and how many days I spent in writing poetry.
I wanted a system where my daily task days were already set up so I spent less time in creating the spaces in my journal and more time in writing content. I also wanted to remove the art from my journal. Instead, I would set up a separate art journal for my various art projects.
My chosen notebook had to be fountain pen friendly since I wanted to continue to use my favorite Platinum Procyon fountain pen as my main writer. My ink of choice is Noodler’s Black. My new journal needed to play well with these. My choice this year is the Seven Seas Dot Grid with 68 gms Tomoe River Paper. It has a sturdy black cover and lays flat when open.
As part of my new streamlined concept, I did not place an index in my bullet journal. I find that since I tend to keep things organized by month, it is easy for me to thumb back in my journals and discover the information I need. However, I did number my journal before starting so I had those as a reference. So I started with a simple title page that has my name and the year and a Future Log where I could write in future events such as conferences, speaking events or science fiction conventions.
I have a page to write in my yearly writing goals for the year. Here I list how many books I want to write, and general writing goals I wish to meet. I keep the goals loose and try to not pile on too many. I wish to keep my yearly goals to be obtainable.
This year, I also created a page with quarterly goals. I broke down the projects in the yearly goal page and assigned them to a quarter of the year to work on. This gave me a general idea of when to set launch dates for novels, start and stop dates for projects, etc.
Another year spread in my bullet journal is a yearly tracker for word count by day, if I’m writing via dictation or if I’m writing via keyboard, days that I’m either outlining or researching and finally a place to track if I wrote poetry or not. I wanted to keep better track of when I was actually creating new poems.
Next, I move into the month sections. This area will be for the rest of the notebook. Between the yearly section and the monthly one, I leave several extra pages in case I decide I want to add something new mid-year.
I start each month with a simple title page that I place the name of the month. I used to turn this into an art project, but this year I settled for writing the month with large brush letters and placing a circle around it.
I have a couple of trackers that I start each month. The first one is my writing log. I write the numbers of the month in a vertical column in the center of the page. For each day of the month, I write down what writing projects I worked on that day to the left and events on the right. It gives me an at-a-glance look at my production of the month. I don’t keep word counts here. That goes into the yearly tracker at the front of the bullet journal.
My last tracker is more for fun. I write down what television series I’m watching, movies I saw, or books I’m reading. I also keep a list of writing-related items I’ve purchased. It is a handy place to write down my monthly goals to remind myself where I am. I find these goals by referring to the quarterly goals I wrote at the front of the bullet journal and assign tasks from there to the month.
Once the monthly trackers are in, I set up spaces for my daily todo lists. I create seven-day spreads on two facing sheets of paper. This gives me plenty of space for lists, notes or whatever I need to write down to be accountable for my day. I make an effort to not get artistic with it. The key this year is to spend more time on writing projects and less time on getting fancy with my planner. I am finding that setting up this space at the start of the month instead of doing it as I go has saved me much time.
Planning via a bullet journal is a powerful tool for any writer or poet. Being able to stay focused on your writing goals, track your progress on a quarterly and monthly basis, are all key elements in getting your work done. By keeping all your information in a single book throughout the year, you can easily see where you are and where you are going.