Welcome to the September issue of Boho Berry Guests!
One thing I love about this “little” community of ours is how diverse we all are. We comprise all ages, genders, and walks of life. While I love sharing my Bullet Journal system with the world, I’ve come to realize that I don’t always have all of the answers for all of you out there.
On that note, I’ve decided to start inviting guest bloggers to come on and share how they are adapting the Bullet Journal system to meet their needs.
In this month’s installment of “Boho Berry Guests“, I am thrilled to welcome Bell Cooper of Hello Code to the blog. Belle is a writer and iOS developer, and I am excited to welcome her to the blog today!
Please join me in giving her a super warm welcome. Take it away, Belle!
Using the Bullet Journal system to run a company, make a living as a freelancer, and write a book
I’ve always been a lover of stationery, but for the last few years I’ve been working in the tech industry and found it hard to find a way to incorporate my love of analogue tools. I occasionally took notes on paper, but otherwise, I managed my tasks, appointments, and lists of ideas using software.
I’d heard of Bullet Journalling before, but I’d never been confident enough to try running my life from a notebook. But about a year ago I was feeling lost. I had a lot going on, and I didn’t feel in control of my workload. I was looking for a system to help me be productive, but also make sure I didn’t forget anything, and software just didn’t seem to be cutting it anymore.
I decided it was finally time to try out the Bullet Journal system. Since then I’ve had fun putting my own spin on the system to suit my needs and gathering ideas from others in the community. These days I use a Midori Traveler’s Notebook to keep me organised, with each insert having its own role to play in my system.
I rely on this system for pretty much everything in my life from running my own company to my ongoing freelance work, to every big project I work on. Today I want to share some of the ways I use the Bullet Journal system in these different areas of my life.
I’ve been doing content marketing for around 4-5 years now. For the last couple of years, I’ve been freelancing, writing content for various companies to publish on their blogs.
Freelancing has its ups and downs, and definitely requires a different mindset to a steady job. Since there’s a lot more to think about as a freelancer (such as sending invoices, keeping track of payments, and making sure I have enough work every month), I rely heavily on my BuJo to keep me organised.
One of my most used spreads is a client work tracker. I’ve been using this ever since I got my Traveler’s Notebook, and I’ve found it’s perfect for keeping track of what I’ve done and what I need to follow up.
I use square grid or dot grid paper for nearly all my notebooks, but for this spread squared grid paper is best. Down the left-hand side of the page I write a one- or two-letter abbreviation of the client name, then I write down what the topic is for the article they’ve commissioned from me.
On the right-hand side, I’ve got headings across the top for each of the grid columns. I use these columns to track the following:
- When I’ve sent my final draft to the client
- When I’ve invoiced for the article (and the invoice number)
- When I’ve been paid
- When the article is published by the client
- When I’ve included the published article in my weekly newsletter
- And a final check for when all of the above are done, and the article is complete
I refer to this spread all the time to update it when I’ve received a payment or to see which article need to be invoiced for, or to check which articles have been published recently so I can include them in my newsletter.
My other main spread for my freelance work is a monthly spread listing all my deadlines. I’ve tried two approaches to this one: a pre-designed monthly layout where I just have to write in the dates, and a monthly list, similar to the original Bullet Journal monthly spread. I like the list approach, but I also like not needing to do much setup, so I find the pre-designed monthly planner I have to be the most convenient approach for this spread.
I make all of my freelance deadlines on Sundays, so I use my monthly spread to note down every article I have due each Sunday, with an abbreviation of the client name. This helps me check at a glance when I have space for more work, so I never get under- or overbooked.
Though my final drafts and research are all done on my computer, I do use my BuJo for some other parts of my freelance writing work. I have one insert in my Traveler’s Notebook that’s just for note-taking and brainstorming. It’s the place I can scribble anything, and I often use this insert for outlining articles or brainstorming topic ideas for future work.
I also have a separate insert in my Traveler’s Notebook that I use just for sketchnotes. I recently started making sketchnotes as part of my research process, to help me absorb the information I read, and to make it easier for me to write my first draft after having read a lot about a topic. Sketchnotes make the research process more fun, too, since I get to spend more time playing with stationery!
Running my software company
I work part-time as a freelance content writer, to pay the bills, but the rest of the time I work on Hello Code, a software company I started with my partner, Josh. We make two software products: Exist, a personal analytics app, and Larder, a bookmarking app for developers. I handle marketing and iOS development, and we share the load on business admin and customer support work. Since there’s just two of us, there’s a lot to do and a lot to remember, so I need a way to keep track of everything I’m working on.
I have a content tracker for Hello Code that works just like my freelance work tracker. I write articles for Hello Code on our company blog, and the blogs for each of our products. I use the tracker to keep notes on which topic I’m writing about for which blog, when they’re published when I’ve republished them on Medium, and when they’ve been included in our newsletters.
I usually combine my monthly deadlines for Hello Code with my freelance writing deadlines, so they’re all on one spread. Although the work is very different, it’s all work, and it’s all demanding of my time, so it’s helpful for me to see it all in the same place when I’m planning. I sometimes have deadlines for guest blog posts to schedule, and I have deadlines for different updates I’m working on for our iOS apps.
Although I work from dailies, which I usually make in my passport size Traveler’s Notebook, because the smaller size is perfect for a daily to-do list, I find a weekly spread is also really helpful. Like my monthly spread, I sometimes switch between writing this up from scratch and using an undated weekly planner insert. Either way, I usually note down any appointments I have, any tasks I want to get done that week, and all my deadlines for the week. I keep an eye on this weekly page as I create my dailies each morning, to make sure I’m getting through everything I’d planned.
Writing a book
I recently started planning a new project, a book about analogue productivity. Having finally embraced analogue tools myself and found a way to integrate them with my mostly-digital life, I want to share analogue approaches with others who are looking for more functional ways to improve their productivity.
Of course, a huge project like this has to start in my BuJo. When I wrote my email course and book, Productive Habits, I wasn’t yet using a Bullet Journal, and it was an overwhelming process to stay on top of. I knew I needed to do things differently this time around.
I first made some messy notes on ideas I had for the project, what format it might take, who the audience would be, and what it would include. When I had a better idea of how the project would shape up, I created a project page that lists out the first few chapters of the book. This way I can cross them off as I work on them, and see how the content of the book is coming together. When I’m done with my first draft, I’ll use my monthly spread to plan deadlines for each stage of editing and publishing so that I can stay on track.
You can tell from my pictures, and the spreads I’ve created, that I don’t stick too closely to the original Bullet Journal method. While I really love the original method, particularly for the clean, simple design, I’ve found the best way to use any productivity system or tool is to find out what you need, and adapt your tools to suit you. I’m continually making adjustments to my own setup as my needs change, so I’m always working with what suits me best at the time. As long as I’m getting things done, I’m happy with how I’m going about it.
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Belle B. Cooper is a writer, iOS developer, and co-founder of exist.io, a personal analytics app to help you understand your life.