Using a Bullet Journal to Organize My Life and Writing

Bullet JournalI’m a pretty organized person. It’s one of the reasons I love technology. I have always found that tech (from my iPhone to my apple watch) is very helpful in organizing my life. But lately I’ve been feeling a little uncomfortable with the way that technology has infiltrated my life. I’m tired of the constant alerts. And I am hyper-aware of the habits that I am modeling for my kids.

Enter The Bullet Journal

It was probably due to this nagging sense of irritation that I decided to check out bullet journaling. A few friends had taken it up and at first it struck me as a big ‘ol waste of time (I’m never going to carry around a case of different colored markers with which to decorate a glorified day planner), but out of curiosity one night, I decided to do a little research into what this bullet journal thing is really about. I started with this YouTube video:

The very first image caught my attention because I am totally the kind of person who carries around piles of notes. I tried taking pictures of them so that I could store them in my phone, but then they got mixed up with photos of my kids and were hard to find. So then I tried using apps to organize them (Evernote being one of the best), but it just didn’t work for me. I kept having scraps of paper everywhere – from shopping lists to story ideas.

After watching that video I decided to give it a shot. I found a journal I had lying around and entered the basic formatting to plan for the month of November. I decided I would give it a try for a month, just to see if I liked it. Long story short: I do.

Planning For My Brain

One of the things I liked right off the bat was how I could customize it to match how I think. At the end of November, when it was time to set up for December, I was already shifting how I drew the lines of my daily calendar to leave room for a to-do list, and to include a space at the end of each day to write something I’m grateful for.

Then I started to integrate my writing. Now, instead of carrying around a separate notebook for all my different writing tasks, I have it all in one place, right alongside my calendars and to-do lists. I have pages dedicated to story ideas. And I have pages dedicated to planning for my blog. I also dedicated a few pages for ideas relating to my next novel. It’s so refreshing to actually know where everything is when I need it.


The biggest advantage of the bullet journal so far is how it has pushed me to focus.
When I caught myself adding pages to my index to keep tack of things that really weren’t that important to me, I had the realization that I could just cut those things out of my life, and promptly did.

For instance, after recently reading Light the Dark, I fell in love with this quote by David Mitchell:

You’ve only got time to be a halfway decent parent, plus one other thing.
For me, that one other thing is: I’ve got to be writing. I have a few ways to make sure I can carve out time.
Part one: Neglect everything else…

It inspired me to get super focused on finishing my novel. But it’s really easy to get distracted.

I was filling out my to-do list for December in my bullet journal when I realized I had a bunch of time set aside for pitching magazines on story ideas and that this task was in no way helping me to finish my novel. It sounds like such a simple thing, but it was a real epiphany. I crossed out the page with one diagonal line to remind myself that I would come back to all of that once my draft was out the door to agents. And you know what I did then? I finished my novel.

The Challenge

The only hard part about using a Bullet Journal (or BuJo as the kids say), is that you actually have to think about how you want to organize your life. It takes some experimenting and requires that you be comfortable with the fact that it takes a little while to get used to.

It’s important to NOT fill in a whole year of calendar months right off the bat, but to instead do each month as it comes so you can adjust to make space for the things that are important at any given time.

Here is a quick video I found with some easy hacks:

And I really like the BuJo videos by this lady:

From there, you can explore a bit on YouTube and find all kinds of videos with different takes on the BuJos. If you have a favorite trick, please share. I am going into my third month on bullet journaling, and though I do find it very useful, I’m sure I have more to learn.


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5 Responses to Using a Bullet Journal to Organize My Life and Writing

  1. Bryan Fagan December 22, 2017 at 8:39 am #

    My daughter joked the other day that I am old school. Note books, favorite pens, along with the best of the ’80’s playing in my man’s den. Every now and than I step into the future. The other day my oldest caught me with a gadget that types up my dictation. She was also pleased with the fact that I used a spreadsheet for an outline. But my choice for tools will always be pen, notebook and a little U2 (Joshua Tree) in the background. Please do not copy me. Today’s world is fun. I would have been knee deep and broke if I were a 20/something.

    • April December 29, 2017 at 10:21 am #

      A fantastic album. Let’s hear it for paper AND spreadsheets!


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