NaNoWriMo Update With BuJo Word Count Tracker

It is day four of NaNoWriMo, and so far the month is off to a great start. I decided to work on completing the first draft of a project that I had already written over 11k words on. I guess that makes me a NaNo Rebel this year. But, my first drafts are always at least 60k words. So I think this starting early strategy is going to be a really good thing for me. Instead of reaching the end of the month (and of the challenge) but not getting to write “the end” on my draft, this year I may actually hit 50k words written in the month AND get to the end.

I promised in one of my NaNo Prep posts to post an update with photos of the final version of my bullet journal word count tracker. So, let me show you how that turned out and how I’m using it.

The progress bar around the outside shows my progress toward the 50k word goal. I marked each 10k milestone with a sparkle star to remind me that reaching that point qualifies me for one of my rewards. The boxes inside that progress bar (one for each day of the month) are divided in half. I debated what I wanted to put in those. I ultimately decided to go ahead with putting the total words written that day on the top and the total words in the project on the bottom. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it that way because my total words in the project are not going to align with that 50k progress bar (because I started early). But, I decided that didn’t matter since I’m keeping track of the math in my spreadsheet. I didn’t need to do it here, too.

I also created a rewards plan, and a more detailed word count log on a separate spread.

I struggled to come up with rewards and ended up with a mix of new movies / shows I want to watch and fun stuff I want to purchase. I’m rewarding myself for hitting my daily word count with Magic the Gathering Arena, YouTube, and re-watches of favorite movies and/or shows. But there are several new movies and shows coming out in November and December that I’m really looking forward to watching. So, I decided to use those for three of the goals. The release timing worked out to have two movies as rewards for 10k and 30k, while saving the big Wheel of Time series watch until after I’m totally done with NaNoWriMo).

I filled in the other two slots with minor purchases of fun and frivolous stuff. I went with $20 as my wish list spending limit because it’s the reward for hitting 20k words. And I decided on four stickers for the 40k word reward so it would be like one for every 10k words. Neither of these are things I would probably just buy anyway because neither of them are things I really need. I mean, I already have a TON of stickers. But it would be nice to get some new ones for my 2022 BuJo and for my 2022 writing goals planner, which I will probably start setting up in December.

I just hit the 10k words milestone this morning, so technically, I could go watch that movie now. But I’m going to wait until I after I do a few more sprints and hit my daily word count goal.

Speaking of sprints, I added a sprint tracker to my word count log so that I could mark off progress throughout the day. I’m keeping track of my actual word count per sprint on a loose sheet of paper. I may decide to glue that into my planner at some point, but for now I’m keeping it separate. I decided that my daily minimum was going to be three thirty minute sprints. I would need more than that for the first two weeks in order to hit my reverse word count goals. But, if I was really just not feeling it after three thirty minute sprints, I was going to let myself call it a day.

The first two days were great. Day three was a little tough, and today got off to a little bit of a rough start. But, very little of the that had to do with the writing. Plus, once I got going, hitting that 10k milestone gave me a boost of added motivation. Also, I’m in the middle of a big dialogue scene with lots of conflict, and I’m building to this twist that I am really excited about, so that all helps.

If you’re also participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope your writing is also going well! I’ll try to post another update mid-month. In the meantime, happy writing and/or reading!

Starting a Reading Journal for 2021

A little while back I asked for advice on what I should do to streamline my reading tracking for 2021. After posting that, I spent some time thinking about why I track reading metrics, and what metrics, if any, were most important to me. My hope was that, if I could reduce the amount of data I want to keep track of, maybe I could eliminate the spreadsheet, at least.

Then, because I knew that journaling about what I was reading was important to me and something I definitely wanted to add, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos where folks showed off how they set up their reading journals. Turns out that there are a LOT of really inspiring reading journals out there.

Many of these reading journals have extensive artistic collage layouts with lots of washi and stickers, and most include some sort of tracker for “days read.” I’m not sure how artsy I’m going to get with my reading journal, but I did decide to incorporate a few of the more popular spreads, with my own personal twist, of course.

My plan is to use Goodreads as my book database since I’ve already got all my shelves set up so I know what I own and haven’t read yet and if it’s on my Kindle or on my bookshelf. I also use it to keep track of what books I have on hold at the library, and what’s on my TBR. Plus, it’s easy to sort things by number of pages or title or author or whatever. But… I don’t review stuff there.

That’s where the reading journal is going to come in.

Step one: I took a plain (not dotted) Leuchtturm that I had in my stash of blank notebooks, and started covering it with bookish stickers.

Next I took my list of ideas from the YouTube videos I watched and started laying them out in pencil. Once I was happy with what I had, I started inking things in and adding color.

I started with a title page that also serves as a key for my “year in review” bookshelf on the next pages.

I divided the two pages into three “shelves.” My plan is to draw books on these shelves in clumps that correspond to the months of the year, starting in the upper left where you can see that I wrote “January” on the black strip that serves as the top of the shelf. If you look closely, you can see that I’ve penciled in some books on the shelf as placeholders.

Once January is over, I’ll go draw in the appropriate number of book spines in some combination of horizontal and vertical, leaving space for February on the same half of the page. Depending on how many books I read in January, I may just hold off on drawing these in until after February. I’ll add the titles to the spines and then color them in according to genre, adding a little red heart on the spine if the book is also a romance.

Once that was set up, I spent some time drawing a grid to track my reading stats, and making a page for my 2021 reading goals.

My plan is to capture my reading stats each month and then enter the data here. In general, I decided that I wanted to track the following things:

  • Total books read (goal is at least 52, or one per week on average)
  • How many books I read that were published in 2021
  • How many Indie published books I read
  • How many books I read in each format (audio, ebook, and paper)
  • How many books I read that I own vs. that are from the library
  • How many books I read that are written by Black authors and/or other non-white (goal is 12 by Black authors and 12 by other non-white authors)
  • How many books I read with LGBTQ+ main character(s) and/or written by an LGBTQ+ author (goal is 12 books) — Note: I decided not to just make this about the author demographics because, while I strive to prioritize Own Voices books, an author’s sexuality is none of my business.
  • And finally… how many books I read that are YA vs. Adult

I know, it’s still a lot to keep track of and maybe in 2022 I’ll decide to streamline it more. I tried to only keep the metrics I wanted to set goals for, but a couple more (like YA vs. Adult and Indie pub books) snuck in there. I couldn’t help it. I like data.

Underneath my very short list of goals, I added a “21 in 2021” book cover collage. These are the books that I’ve been meaning to get to for way too long. They either get buried on my Kindle, or I’ve walked past them on my bookshelf so many times that I’ve forgotten they’re there. I tried to pick only the ones that I am most excited to read and not focus on stuff that I feel guilty for not reading.

You may also notice that there are only twenty covers pasted in right now. I’m still debating on what book gets that final slot. It somewhat depends on what book(s) I manage to finish before the end of 2020. If you have a book you want to make a strong case for, let me know in the comments.

Finally, I added one more spread for the year before diving into my monthly pages.

I couldn’t resist adding the 2021 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks. I am not going to be actively participating in that challenge this year, but I wanted to add the prompts just for fun. If I do happen to read a book or two that check any of those boxes, I’m planning to write in the page number that corresponds to my notes on that book.

I left the opposite page blank to be filled in with books that I buy in 2021. I’m not sure if I’ll do another cover collage or if I’ll just make a list of titles and authors. I may start off by writing a list in pencil and then going back and adding covers in batches, once I have enough that it makes sense to print them out.

After that, I started a spread for January.

This one is still in-progress. I got a little crafty and used bits of a cute wrapping paper to dress it up a bit. I’m still working on my TBR. Again, it kind of depends on what book(s) I manage to finish before the New Year. I’m thinking of this like a bullet journal, but for reading. So that would make this my month cover page and goals page.

The two pages after this will include a list of what I read in January, plus my January book stats (kind of like a “month at a glance” spread if this were a bullet journal). That will be followed by entries for each book I read with at least a page of notes (and favorite quotes, etc.) from each (sort of like “daily pages” in a bullet journal).

Is this a lot more work than keeping track of my reading in a spreadsheet? Maybe…. But it’s also more fun. Plus, I am attempting to move to using a “regular planner” in 2021, so this will fill the bullet journalling hole in my life.

What do you think? Do you keep a reading journal? If you do, is it artsy? Or do you keep it pretty minimalist? Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas for me in the comments.

Happy reading!

Tracking My Reading in 2021 (advice needed)

It’s the end of the year, and I’m reconsidering how I track my reading… again. I’ve decided to move away from bullet journaling in 2021. I know. I’m shocked as well. But, I need something with a little more structure that can help me stay on track with several different goals and projects next year. So, I bought a Passion Planner Weekly.

My idea is that I’ll use my weekly planner to keep track of what needs to get done each month / week. Then I’m going to have a separate journal for daily (or semi-daily) journaling, doodling, and general brain dumping. I could use that journal for keeping track of my reading, or I could keep doing something more like what I’m doing now.

Right now I keep track of “book logistics” in Goodreads. Things like: what I’ve read, what I want to read, what’s on my Kindle, what’s unread on my bookshelf, what’s on hold at the library, what’s on my must-read TBR, etc. But I don’t review books on Goodreads. I give books I read a star rating, which is almost always four or five stars, and that’s it.

I also have a reading spreadsheet kind of like this one, where I keep track of my book stats. Things like: how many books did I read by authors of color, or by queer authors, or how many books were fiction vs. non-fiction, and how did my reading break down by genre, etc. I like data. I like having quantitative information about what (and whose) stories I put into my brain each year.

I recently added a few columns to the end of my reading spreadsheet where I can rate the book I’ve read on a few different factors (characters, world-building, plot, enjoyment, etc.). The ratings on each element compile into a total score for a book. This allows me to have a more definitive ranking of which were my favorite books that I read, and why. But, I don’t write down my thoughts about a book there, either. It’s just a bunch of numbers.

So here I am, thinking about why I keep track of what I read and what I want to change (if anything for next year). I feel like I need a place where I can write down my thoughts about a book, uncensored and not to be published for public consumption. Something like a book journal. But, I’m hesitant to add yet another method for tracking my reading. It already seems like way too much.

Tell me, what do you think? How do you track your reading? Do you have a book journal or do you just post reviews on a blog/vlog? Do you even differentiate between public and private thoughts about a book? Are you still using Goodreads or do you use a spreadsheet? Or are you using both?

Post a comment and let me know what you think. And if you have good resources that you would recommend for this sort of thing, let me know.

January 2020 Bullet Journal Set-Up

And now a break from the reading summaries, stats, and updates to share my bullet journal spreads for 2020. Unlike most, I don’t bother starting a new notebook at the start of a new year. If I still have pages left in my current notebook, I just keep going.

Before diving into my 2020 spreads, I used almost ten pages planning my 2020 writing schedule and goals which I’m not showing here. In general, I laid out a future log for the entire year, four months to a page, divided horizontally so I had space for mini calendars on the left and notes on the right in each box. Then I used pencil (not normal for me) to start putting in rough plans for what writing project(s) I wanted to be working on each month.

In addition to that, I came up with two major writing goals for the year. One is a revenue goal and the other is to “build my backlist.” After that, I made sure my Q1 goals and projects tied to my 2020, and that’s it. All that’s left is to set up some sort of Kanban board to track my tasks associated with those project and make sure it all gets done. With that more or less set up, I moved on to my reading goals for 2020.

I’m keeping it pretty simple with this two page spread. On the left side, I can keep track of new books that I want to put on hold at the library (or add to my wishlist). There’s an 8×8 box for each month, and I’m writing the release date and title in each box for the books I’m excited about. On the right side, I’ve listed my reading goals for the year (which I’m going to talk about more in a separate post). Then I’m using the bottom half of the page as a tracker for the books I’ve purchased to make sure I’m buying and reading books rather than buying and hoarding them.

Next up is my month at a glance. I like the traditional line-a-day view for this. I’m putting my regular life events on the left side and my writing business stuff on the right side. I also have a little habit tracker on the left side for the four habits I’m tracking in January (vitamin, meditation, cardio, and stretching).

The right hand side also has a mini habit tracker because I have a goal of writing 1000 words every day in January. They can be in any of the three Modern Fae projects I’m currently working on, but blog posts and outlining and brainstorming don’t count. It has to be part of a story scene, even if I eventually end up cutting it from the finished product. Ultimately, I want to see if I can keep this up all year, but I’m going to take it one month at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed by my ambition.

On the next page, I have a big blank page for capturing what I read that month and any favorites from my “culture consumed” (like podcasts, music, movies, tv shows, etc.). I’m not sure exactly what this will end up looking like, but I’m intending to try to make it a bit of a collage. I’m thinking of printing out mini book covers to paste in, or maybe doodling the covers of the books I’ve read. I’ll probably add ticket stubs from movies, if I go to any. I’m leaving plenty of space to be creative and have a bit of fun.

I’m also trying something new this month. I’ve never done a mood tracker before. I thought it might be helpful to be able to visually compare my mood to my movement, so I came up with the idea for this chart.

The days of the month are across the bottom. Number of steps are on the vertical axis alongside a very basic mood scale from “no good very bad day” to “everything is awesome” with “meh” in the middle. I’m using some symbols to track what kind of movement I’m doing for my daily cardio (for me this means at least 30 minutes of continuous movement). I’m really curious to see how this turns out.

One of the reasons I wanted to try a mood tracker this month is because I’m not great at being mindful about how I’m feeling. I’m hoping this will force me to stop and think about it at least once a day. I suspect I’ll feel better on days I move more, but who knows. Maybe I won’t. It will be interesting to find out.

The final new thing I’m trying this month is this reference page just before I start my daily pages where I can do some meal planning and write down admin tasks that need to get done but that I don’t want to add to my daily log for whatever reason.

I have these little post it flags that happen to be almost exactly 3×10 squares. So, I made a week and then started writing some of our regular meals on the flags. This way I can move them around and re-use them throughout the month. The lime colored ones will be crockpot recipes and the blue ones will be for everything else. That way if I know I need a crockpot recipe on a certain day (because I won’t be home until late, for example), I can see at a glance that I’ve got myself covered. I’m hoping this will also help me stay on top of groceries for the week.

And that’s it. That’s my set up for January. I don’t like using weekly spreads. I keep trying them and then hating them for a variety of reasons. I like the flexibility and the focus of daily logs. So, that’s what I’m sticking with for January. I definitely lean more towards the traditional bullet journal method rather than the “instagram friendly” bullet journaling that gets featured a lot on YouTube and elsewhere. But, if you like this sort of thing, let me know in the comments, and maybe I’ll do more posts like this.

Top Five Wednesday: reading goals for 2019 (#T5W)

Happy New Year, everyone! I took a little time off over the holiday to rest and recharge. I read a bunch of good books and had fun times with family and friends. Now I’m ready to start 2019! I hope you all had a happy New Year and a fun and relaxing holiday, too!

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday theme is “2019 reading resolutions.” I was planning to post my 2018 reading summary before I did my reading resolutions, but I didn’t get that done yesterday. So, we’re going to do this a bit out of order. Today you’ll get my 2019 reading goals, and later this week I’ll post my December reading summary and 2018 reading stats.

Oh! And Powell’s posted their staff Top 5 lists! So, my summary post is in progress. I’ve already crunched the numbers and reserved the entire list at my library. Spoiler: there are a LOT of good books that weren’t on my radar. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out last year’s post.

As for my “2019 reading resolutions,” I’m not really a fan of making “resolutions,” but I’ve definitely have some reading goals for 2019 (as I do every year). I never thought this was an odd thing to do until last week when I was talking with friends and they all looked at me funny when I asked about their reading goals for 2019. Apparently, not all avid readers make reading goals. Who knew?

My reading goals are pretty much the same every year: read at least 50 books (about a book a week, on average) and try to read diversely (books by AOC, different genres and age ranges, books by or about folks with different experiences than me, etc.). This year I’m adding a few other goals to that list, and not just because I wanted to round it up to make a “top five” list, I swear. I actually had a few more goals than the ones listed here, but I trimmed things back to keep focused, reduce overlap, and limit myself to only five.

Here are my reading goals for 2019:

  1. Read an average of a book a week for a total of 52 books read in 2019. — I’m increasing my usual goal by two books to make it an actual average of a book a week. I almost always exceed this goal, so adding two more books shouldn’t be an issue.
  2. Create one page in my bullet journal for every book I read, once I start reading it, to write down thoughts and notes about that book. — I’ve stopped writing reviews on Goodreads and only leave star ratings these days. On my blog, I only mention high-level thoughts in my monthly reading recap posts. Mostly, this is because I know how much work goes into writing a book, and I’m not interested in dissecting that work in public. I do think it’s useful to read critically and make notes about what I enjoyed, what I didn’t, and why, as well as what I learned (from a craft perspective, if I’m reading fiction). So, at the end of last year, I started capturing these thoughts in my notebook. The added benefit is that it’s much easier to reference these notes.
  3. Attempt to complete all the 2019 Read Harder tasks and try to do it using books that are already in my TBR (physical or virtual) wherever possible. — This one is sort of two goals wrapped in one. I don’t have any specific reading diversity goals I’m trying to hit this year, and I liked the ones on the Read Harder challenge because there were plenty that represent new areas of reading for me. But, I also have over 100 books unread on my Kindle, plus an entire shelf of unread print books on my bookcase. So, before I go running out to reserve a book at the library to cover one of these tasks, I’m going to see if I have any purchased and unread books that I could read to check off a task, instead.
  4. Read more indie published books. — When I decided to self-publish my Modern Fae series, I hadn’t read a lot of indie-published books, but I had talked with a lot of indie-published authors and watched a lot of indie-authors talk about publishing on YouTube and at RWA events and conferences. This year, I’d like to try to expand my reading beyond the mainstream popular traditional published stuff and read more books by indie-authors. Coincidentally, this is also a task on the 2019 Read Harder challenge.
  5. Read more books that I own than the amount that I buy for myself. — This is one I’ve been working on for the past few years. You’ll see when I post my 2018 reading stats that I did a great job of buying fewer books this year. The problem is, I read a LOT from the library this year. So, net effect is that I added books to my “purchased and unread” books. This year, I want to try to keep the number of books on that list at neutral, or hopefully reduce it. My plan is to only buy books if I can’t get them from the library *and* I plan to read them immediately.

All this requires tracking, so I’ve added some new spreads in my bullet journal. This first one I’ve already added to a previous post. I’m using this to track new releases and the Read Harder tasks.

I added another to remind me of all the awesome books on my shelf and my Kindle that I keep forgetting to read in place of the new shiny stuff. That list on the far right are the books I currently have on digital hold at the library. There’s no way I’m getting to all these this year. Too many books, not enough time…

I also mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been frustrated with how many places I’m tracking what I’m reading. This year, I’ve decided to narrow things down as much as possible. I’m going to use Goodreads to keep track of what books I have in progress and/or checked out from the library. I’ll update Goodreads when I start a new book or when I finish a book. All day to day tracking and book notes are going in my bullet journal. And, I’ve decided to keep using a spreadsheet (I like this one from Book Riot) to keep a list of books and related details about those books because it makes it easier for me to run my reading stats at the end of the year. But, I’m probably only going to update it once a month or so because I only check my stats every six months. That should take some of the pressure off.

That’s the plan, and I’m pretty excited about it. So, how about you? Do you have reading goals or resolutions? Do you track your reading stats in a spreadsheet like the one from Book Riot? Tell me about it in the comments.

Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best for 2019!

Bullet Journal Set-Up for NaNoWriMo 2018

It’s time. I finally set up my November month at a glance and NaNoWriMo tracker.

This month I’m going minimalist as possible. Only five habits to track, chosen for what I think will keep me healthy and sane while I shift my focus more fully to writing. In terms of health and fitness, my habit goal is to hit my step count every day, try to eat fewer calories than I burn, and shoot for getting at least 45 minutes of continuous movement each day. In terms of mental well-being, my habit goal is at least 5 minutes of meditation and at least 30 minutes of reading for fun. That frees me up to focus the rest of the day on writing. Woo hoo!

This is the first year that I’m not working full time in addition to trying to hit my NaNoWriMo word count goal. I haven’t been able to focus on writing like this since my very first NaNoWriMo, back in 2007. So, this year, I’m shooting for 70,000 words in November instead of 50,000 words. We’ll see how it goes.

You’ll notice I have three benchmark columns in my NaNoWriMo tracker. The first is the basic “peanut butter” goal based on writing 1667 words per day. The second is based on the “reverse NaNoWriMo” method which front-loads the month and decreases your daily word count goal until you get to one word on the last day of the month. I like that method a lot. But, since I’m shooting for 70,000 words this month, I’ve added a third “modified” column. This one starts off using the reverse NaNoWriMo method for the first ten days and then shifts to 2100 words per day for days 11 thru 30.

Ultimately, my goal is to track to the “Modify” column total word count goal. But, I wanted to include all three so that I can make sure I’m at least staying ahead of the “peanut butter” and/or the “reverse” goals.

If you’re planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year, let me know in the comments, and feel free to add me as a buddy on the website. And share your bullet journal word count trackers. I’m always looking for new ideas and inspiration.

Setting up my #BuJo for the New Year

It’s the last week of December, so it’s time for me to get my bullet journal set up for January 2018. Since it’s not only a new month, but also a new year, that means I also need to re-do my future log and start thinking about my 2018 goals.

You may remember from a previous post that I’ve been on the fence about the future log. It wasn’t really working for me. But, I came up with a new layout that I think might make it a little more useful. Plus, I have a lot of travel coming up this year that may make this view something I refer to more often.

I love the little mini month-at-a-glance calendars. I’ve started by highlighting birthdays and other important days. Next up, I’m going to start adding in the travel I have planned. But first, I have to nail down a bunch of trip planning.

With my future log sorted, I moved on to my January month-at-a-glance spread. It’s pretty standard. Unfortunately, I started filling it in with stuff before I remembered to take the picture. So, I resorted to creative use of card stock and my snitch necklace to obscure my calendar and goals.

There are two things I want to point out on my monthly spread… one is the Boho Berry Challenge prompts for January, and the other is the section I added to track my January reading.

This month, I started using the Boho Berry Challenge prompts for December as a daily journaling exercise. It’s been pretty fun and useful to reflect on 2017 in a slightly more organized fashion. So, I thought I’d try to keep up this practice in January. I’m not posting these publicly anywhere, which is (I think) how you’re supposed to be participating. But, lots of people are. So, if you’re interested in seeing how others are doing their prompts in their journals, definitely check out #BohoBerryChallenge on Instagram.

I’m going to do a whole post on my reading wrap-up for December and reading goals for 2018. So, I won’t spend much time talking about that here except to say that “what I’m reading in January” box was left blank on purpose. The little vertical bars are the start of boxes that I plan to draw around titles that will be written down as I start reading them in January. I know. No TBR. Shocking. Again…more on this later.

Then, I remembered that I had some “bigger than just January” goals for 2018, and I probably should have put that in before I jumped into my January month-at-a-glance. Oh well. I guess that’s what the index is for… So, I added this spread next:

When I took this photo the page on the right was still blank, but I’ve since started adding my 2018 goals on that page. The page on the left is a running training log.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that swimming is my main sport. However, due to travel plans and other life stuff going on, I’m not planning to have regular access to a pool for much of 2018. That means it’s time to get back into running shape. However, “walk” days will probably become swim days if I have access to a pool.

I haven’t been running regularly for about seven or eight years. So, I’m being smart about it and using a beginner running guide from Runner’s World. Even though I’m in pretty decent shape for swimming, swimming doesn’t translate well to running, and running doesn’t translate well to swimming. This is why (IMO) it’s pretty rare to see folks who are really good at both running and swimming. So, I’m going to take it slow, but I will say that one of my goals that I wrote on the right side of this page is “run a 10k” in 2018. But, I probably won’t be ready to tackle that until late spring at this rate.

I think that’s all the high-level planning I need to get started in the New Year. So, the next spread is my first weekly spread for January, and it looks like this:

I’ve been using this layout for a couple of weeks now, and it seems to be working for me. I can fill the boxes with day-specific events and tasks. When I’m not busy (like the last two weeks), all my “to-dos” fit nicely inside the boxes, and I don’t even need to break things down to daily spreads.

I’ve left a space in the upper right for my top goals and/or things I want to accomplish by the end of the week to keep it in my face. And, I’m working on adapting my habit tracker to this format. I’m not 100% sure which habits I want to track in January. I already have the running plan spread on the previous page where I’ll be tracking my exercise. So, I don’t think I’ll add exercise here. As I discovered during November’s NaNoWriMo tracking, I hate having to check things off in multiple places. So far, I know I’m tracking reading and writing days. I’ll probably also add “healthy eating” and meditation.

We’ll see how this format adapts to post-vacation life and if it keeps working or if I need to adapt it again.

By the way, if you’re thinking of getting started with your own bullet journal, my local bookstore had a copy of Dot Journaling, so I picked it up to get some inspiration. It’s a pretty great introduction to the expanded world of the original bullet journaling idea and has a ton of great ideas for layouts. Definitely check it out. (PSA: I am in no way affiliated with either of those links and get nothing for recommending them to you. I’m just a fan.)

Happy planning! And happy (almost) New Year!

Experiments in Bullet Journaling #BuJo

Because I recently posted about my current notebooks on Instagram…I thought I’d do a longer post about my adventures in Bullet Journaling in case anyone reading this is also a bullet journal fan.

I’ve always been the kind of person who keeps a journal. I’ve also always been the kind of person who prefers to have a paper calendar instead of a digital calendar (though that has changed a bit in the past few years and now I have a more hybrid approach).

Don’t believe me? Here’s a photo of my 2 boxes of archived notebooks. The box on the right are old planners and work notebooks. The box on the left are old journals. The ones balanced on top in the middle are some of my stash of blank notebooks.

With this as evidence, it should be absolutely no surprise to anyone that for the past several months I’ve been messing around with this whole “bullet journaling” craze. I haven’t gone so far as to get special markers or decorate with washi tape or try my hand at fancy lettering. I’m just trying to keep it simple. In general, I use my notebook to keep track of my personal life and “hobby projects” like writing, reading, and swimming. I don’t use it to keep track of stuff for my salaried work.

After trying a bunch of different styles, I think I’ve landed somewhere between the original, utilitarian concept and the super crafty and creative BuJo spreads you can find on Instagram and YouTube.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, here are the basic components to bullet journaling:

  • Index
  • Future Planner
  • Month at a Glance
  • Daily (or Weekly) Tracking
  • “Collections”

I’ll talk a little about how I am (or am not) using each of these components, and what I’ve found works for me.

Index (needs help)

I have completely botched this up with this first journal. I think I wrote down every page and what’s on it. I ran out of room in my allotted space and had to continue it in the last pages of my journal. Whatever I did is absolutely not working. I need to go watch some videos on how to index properly. If you have pointers, please share them with me!

Future Planner (needs help)

I made one in my journal, but it’s pretty empty, and I’m constantly forgetting to use it. Clearly, I need to figure out how to use this space. I thought about abandoning this entirely when I start a new BuJo, but I think I’ll still need a place where I can park things that aren’t due or scheduled for months, and this does seem to be the easiest way. If you have suggestions for alternative Future Planner layouts, let me know in the comments, please!

Month at a Glance (love it!)

I use a pretty basic one like they show in the “how to” video on the bullet journal website. On the page facing my month-at-a-glance, I list out my goals and the titles on my TBR for that month. I’d show you a picture, but I don’t have a blank one right now.

I am big on goals, and I really like having a place to write out all the things I want to accomplish each month. Recently, though, I’ve been struggling to accomplish very many of my monthly goals.. I think this is because, even though I wrote them down, I sort of forget about them part way through the month.

This month, I plan to use my monthly goals in combination with that section of my newly adopted weekly spread format where I write out my “top three things.” I’m hoping that will help me stay focused on what really needs to get done each week.

Daily vs. Weekly Tracking (still dialing this in…)

I started with daily tracking, switched to weekly tracking after a few months, then switched back to daily tracking for a month, and now I’m back to weekly tracking using a weekly layout that I saw on Boho Berry‘s YouTube channel. It seems to be everything I need to keep track of what needs to get done and when each week.

I took this photo before I filled in my “habit tracker legend.” These are the four things that I’d ideally do daily. What qualifies for coloring in the daily square changes from time to time. Right now “Swim” is basically my cardio, “Write” depends on what my writing goal is for that week, “Read” is almost always “at least 30 min/day,” and “Zen” depends a lot on what’s going on but meditation, or yoga, or a walk all usually count for coloring in that box.

One thing I liked about daily tracking (vs. weekly tracking) was that it helped to remind me to slow down and take one day at a time. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and a little stressed between work commitments and personal goals. I feel like I’m not accomplishing everything I want to accomplish fast enough. When I have a space to note progress on a daily basis, it forces me to acknowledge my incremental accomplishments, which I almost never do.

I feel like this spread is a good compromise between daily and weekly tracking. I may eventually switch back to daily tracking, but for now, the daily boxes on my weekly spread seem to do the trick.

Collections (still dialing this in…)

I’m not sure this is a thing that they talk about in the original bullet journal concept, but it’s a big deal with BuJo enthusiasts. I have a few collections (basically a one or two page spread) that I use to track writing goals, swimming workouts, and my monthly reading TBRs.

I’ve moved all of my swim workout and TBR tracking to my BuJo, and it’s nice to have this as an analog system for when I’m offline, traveling.

Still a work in progress… 

One thing that I’ve not yet figured out how to deal with is actual journaling. I’ve basically ended up having a separate journal for that which seems counter productive. Again, if you have thoughts on this, let me know.

Even after almost a year messing around trying to find a way to adapt bullet journaling to meet my planning needs, I’m not sure I have it completely figured out yet. But, I’m finally ready to commit to a new journal… my first REAL BuJo!

I’ve busted it out of the wrapping and decorated it with a few stickers. Now I’m getting ready to start adding content. When I do I’ll take some photos and post them.

I expect that I have just enough pages left in my current journal to get through June. That means that I’ll get to start this one at the halfway point of 2017. I’m so excited! New journals always make me happy. 🙂

Do you use a bullet journal? Post your recommendations and favorite “how to” videos in the comments, if you have any suggestions!

#NaNoWriMo reverse word count tracker, #BuJo style

In order to write 50k words in November, the standard practice is to divide 50,000 by 30 days and give yourself a daily word count goal of ~1667 words per day.

This year, I think I’m going to try something a little different… It’s called “Reverse NaNo,” and it looks like this:

The idea is to capitalize on initial early excitement and momentum and get ahead of your word count early. I really like this idea for a number of reasons. So, I created a word count tracker in my notebook, and I’m going to give it a try. If all goes well, I might even be done with my 50k words before the Thanksgiving holiday! Another added bonus is that, if I stick to this plan and meet these word count goals, I might have a real shot at ringing that bell at the Night of Writing Dangerously.

You see, if you finish your 50k words during the event, you get to go to the front of the ballroom and ring this very loud bell. Everyone cheers for you. It’s pretty awesome. I was nowhere near 50k last year during NoWD, and I had no idea about this particular tradition. This year, I’m going to be ready.

Oh, and yeah… That picture of my notebook is also revealing my weak attempt at trying out the whole Bullet Journal craze… I’m trying to decide if I like this free-form planner concept, or if I want to continue my tradition of buying (and only sort-of using) my usual weekly planner from Moleskine…

So far, I haven’t quite figured out a format that works quite right. Of course, my weekly planner isn’t perfect either, and I do like the flexibility that the “BuJo” method offers. I’ve got a couple months left to mess around with both options before I have to decide if I need to buy a 2017 planner. So, we’ll see.

Do you use a bullet journal? What resources did you find most helpful when you were very first getting started?