Writing Tips

Using the Bullet Journal System for ideas

Using the Bullet Journal system in my Hobonichi Techno Royal Blue

Wanna try the bullet journal system but not a person who needs a To-Do list? Here’s how I modified the system to store ideas written on paper!

How it began

Not too long ago, I bought a second-hand Hobonichi Techno from Rin. This purchasing decision was based on two factors, namely I wanted a nice, different books for writing story/blog/etc ideas in, and it needed to be functional for me to want to use it regularly. Rin was selling only the cover and did not include a planner; this suited me just fine.

To complement the cover and because I have itchy fingers, I made some additional purchases from Taobao. This was an excuse to complete my pen collection and try out the new Ezbuy service (affiliate link).

I ended up getting this notebook because it had a few features that I wanted.

Pre-printed features on my bullet journal

  • Day of the week, so I could at a glance figure out when I was writing in this notebook
  • Weather of the day which was a nice touch that ended up with me tracking whether the weather influenced me
  • Thick-looking paper, which was essential as I tend to write with gel pens, so it had to be bleed-resistant at the very least
  • Cheap enough that I wouldn’t feel too bad for not writing in it as often as I should

It took about one month to arrive as I had selected the option to buy straight from the page instead of getting ezbuy to assign an agent. On one hand, this automated the process so it was literally click and buy, on the other hand it took the longest route to get here. A fuller review of ezbuy will come later (I have it in my drafts somewhere).

Modifying the bullet journal system

While waiting for the notebook to arrive, I did some research on bullet journaling (because it came up as a cult joke on Productivity Alchemy) and realised I didn’t have to follow the To-Do format that’s so popular. I also didn’t need to follow the monthly and weekly planning. It’s an idea book, for goodness sake, I’m not going to need a daily/weekly/monthly agenda!

With that in mind, I was now free to focus on what I wanted the book to do. In the end, I kept the following components from the original Bullet Journal idea:

A table of contents to keep track of my meta data

  • Page numbering
  • Index framework

Then I modified this to suit my needs. As such, I proceeded to add:

  • A tags page aka what the entry is about
  • A financial goals aka a reminder of things I want to do and how much approximately it will cost
  • A habit tracker page, which quickly became obsolete because I was adding/removing habits

I allocated a lot of pages for the index because I knew how much I would use these kinds of books once I got into the habit. 4 pages were also allocated for the tags page. The rest received 2 pages a piece.

Page number gifs

The most tedious part was actually numbering the pages. I may consider getting numbered pages for the next book, but I just number as I go along now. This makes it easier to ensure I don’t misnumber a page too.

Then it was time to start writing in the book. Because I was organising according to project and platform, I needed to be clear from the start where the idea was going to sit.

Here’s how the book is organised so far. The Techno comes with 2 bookmarks, and the book itself comes with another. Techno’s bookmarks are placed on the index page and the tags pages which make it easy to flip. The one for the notebook is on the last written page. Small touches matter.

Inside pocket keeps the original insert and a tissue for the gel pens

I haven’t made full use of the inside pockets of the Techno but I inserted a nice decorative piece bought from CAFKL into the Cover on Cover pocket. It also informs me when I should clean the cover since it’s a white card. :p

Replaced pen

The other thing I love about the Hobonichi is the pen holder that also keeps the book closed. It’s a simple and ingenious solution, but I only wish my pens would actually stay inside – the holder is kinda snug but not fitting, and the pens don’t seem to stay unless they have a have a sturdy clip – which my Muji pen doesn’t seem to have. So I replaced it with a Pilot WINGEL.

So far the system is working the way I was hoping it did. I find writing with paper and ink forces me to be more aware of what I write and the kind of paths it can go down.

It also gives me a good way to focus on the sound of the story; otherwise I would have written down the first idea I thought of and its expansions but completely miss the nuances the idea may have.

Backing up the bullet journal

Habit tracker page

This is also probably the right time to talk about managing backups and archives. I actually have in the habit tracker a reminder to back up the notes in this book weekly.

Currently, I am backing them up in one of two ways: either by transcribing them into a Google Doc for easier search or simply taking a photo and uploading that into Google Photos. This makes backups somewhat hassle-free and simple.

Final thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, I am still struggling to get into the habit of writing ideas down. No, I mean I should actually get back into regularly thinking of writing in the first place. And writing based on said ideas.

This bullet journal does actually work for me… when I actually use it. That’s been the biggest issue I have with it, which is probably a story for another day.

So, what do you think about my system? Any thoughts on how to improve, or do you have one of your own? Sound off in the comments or let me know on Facebook.

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