Tag Archives: setting goals

Analog Journaling: What is it Good For? A Whole Lot, Actually.

Naomi Hawkins-Rowe

Back in September when I traded the classroom for my dinning room table, I was overwhelmed with freedom. Instead of just being a 5 a.m.-writer (and occasionally an evening one, if i could peel my eyes open), I now had the whole day between school drop-off and pick-up to write. I was busy, but I’m not really sure I was productive. I’d make to-do lists on post-its, but somehow I’d find myself doing laundry when I should have been revising a scene. To be frank, it was like my brain had forgotten time management. I needed a plan: Enter Analog Journaling.

I’d first heard of this task checking method in the form of Dot Journaling on Erin Boyle’s minimalist blog Reading My Tea Leaves; I had even used it to keep track of research for one of my three WIPs. Though it wasn’t until over a year later that I thought to give this method a try to utilize every second of my day. Leo was a late bloomer and so am I.

Most people reading this likely already know what analog journaling is, and if not, here’s the gist.

My Calendar and Habit Tracker for February 2019

A closer look at my habits and goals

Bullet Journals, Dot Journals and Idea Journals (used by da Vinci, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Beatrix Potter) all fall under the umbrella of analog journaling. Think of them as tools to compile calendars, to-do lists, idea-lists, habit trackers, sketches and doodles. Entries are meant to be short; they are meant to be a record of information; to capture an idea you want to explore. As mentioned, they aren’t a new phenomenon; I’m just crazy late to the party.

Of all the methods, however, it’s the Bullet Journal Method that has become most popular. If you type in the phrase analog journal, you will get tsumanied with articles on the Bullet Journal Method. (I apologize upfront, this post is link heavy). While I am not using the Bullet Journal Method specifically–you wont find the Bullet Journal terminology used in this post– the practice of analog journaling offers flexibility and freedom to tailor your journal to address your specific needs. You want to meal plan, train for a marathon, or start a small business? Do all three? This is your jam.  All you really need is a journal and a pen, no other fancy equipment required.

Materials: I am currently using a Sulirun1981 dot journal (the less fancy cousin of the Leuchtturm1917, which is most popular in the BuJo world), a mechanical pencil, a set of Papermate Flair pens in an assortment of colors and a set of Koh-I-Noor woodless color pencils (a gift from my husband who understands my genuine love a good writing implement).

WHY I STARTED AND WHAT I GET OUT OF IT: While I have flirted with online task/habit trackers such as Habitica, I’ve been fully converted to the analog camp; it has changed my life since I started experimenting this past November. My initial entries were just a habit tracker and a tentative Mon-Fri Schedule (which would be changed in December and changed again in January to a blend of what worked well in Nov. and Dec.). I wanted to be more productive, not busy, so I was curious to see how I was spending my time.  It forced me to be honest with the hours of my day and how I was doing establishing my desired habits and goals. Now it is February and my Mon-Fri Schedule works pretty well, though their are some habits that need to catch up before the train leaves the station.

For me, analog journaling is like a tether back to reality. It keeps me grounded and focused. It’s a central place to gather my ideas, thoughts and lists. Actually if truth be told, I really enjoy making lists; I crave structure–within reason. It’s a place for me to be honest about what I am actually achieving. It tames my daydreaming and meadow prancing while still allowing me an open-ended method that acts as a jumping point to get creative and messy. Complete with a mom-voice reminding me “dinner is in five”.

February 2019: Mon-Friday Schedule (Sat. & Sun. are included, though I do not require myself to follow my M-F schedule). I divide my writing tasks, color-coded in Blues and Hooker’s Green (named after the botanical artist for the curious) into the following: Reading, Writing/Revising, Research, Critiques, Fine-tune Editing & Story development/Brainstorming. (Through note the color theme doesn’t correspond with my Habit Tracker; something to be remedied in March.) My day still starts between 5 and 5:30 am because I am one of those crazy morning people. Though this month has been rocky.

HOW I USE IT CURRENTLY: At the moment, I use my AJ for tracking habits (which ultimately effect my productivity), recording how I spend my day, daily and weekly goals, a list of story ideas and as a calendar.  As mentioned before, I am not specifically using any one method (a culmination if anything) and  I created my own symbols and color coding. On my Monday-Friday Schedule, I’ll sometimes use two colors per square if the time I spent doubles as more then one type of activity (for example: being on the phone with my mom counts as time with my community (Dark Yellow) and media time (Light Vermilion) since I am using technology to do so). I also keep a running log for how to improve my AJ’s use, both visually (I’ve been pretty good about not going too far down that rabbit hole, though I’ve been tempted) and in task tracking.

WBM Monthly Goals (small but hopefully doable) & First few days of WBM. I use my own symbols: a green mountain (task complete (reached the summit), blue waves (making progress) and a yellow sun with an arrow (move to tomorrow / future).

For WBM, my focus has been on meeting my goals for my three WIPs. The first (P1), I hope to have the first-third revised; the second (P2), the premise and the characters established so that I can begin writing a first draft in March; and the third (P3), which is still just a seed of an idea, a solid premise. I also included in my WBM goals the process of minimizing my home and life, which for me deeply contributes to being successful with my writing. Even though I started the process nearly a year ago, my house is still not where I want it to be. I am having to accept that with three kids organizing and minimizing is something that has to be maintained frequently! For my daily to-dos each project’s task is identified by its assigned color: P1: Plum Purple; P2: Bright Blue; P3: Red and Minimalizing: Olive Green.

First full week of WBM!

Second full week of WBM!

HOW I HOPE TO USE IT IN THE FUTURE: Having practiced the fine art of analog journaling for nearly four months now, I am interested in taking my task and habit tracking up a notch, and I am especially interested in observing how other writers use them.  For March, I’d like to add a Word Counter, Editing Tracker, Reading List & Seasonal Reading Guide ( it’s cool how the author of this blog does her reading list) First Thoughts (upon waking or about something that is happening socially, politically, etc., as that is often a source for story ideas) and a Minimalization chart (to keep my decluttering efforts going). In April, I am sure I’ll add more.

Of course there is debate as to whether AJs actually work or not. In favor of  Bullet Journaling, though reluctant at first, Tim Maurer spoke with Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal Method, about the analog system. When asked about the concern that the method requires more effort, as you are often rewriting daily and monthly tasks not completed, Carroll replied by noting “If you don’t have the time to rewrite something by hand, chances are it really doesn’t matter.”

The last few months have shown me, Carroll’s really onto something there.

Interested in giving it a go? There’s a lot of info online, but to help wade through the tsunami, here are a few articles/videos I found useful, informative, or worth stealing ideas from:

Further Reading for a general approach:
Ryder Carroll’s TEDtalk

Productivity Subculture Wont Quit (Part 1)
BUJO For Beginners (Part 2)
A Thorough Guide to BUJO
Ultimate Guide to BUJO (Beautiful examples, might be intimidating for first-timers or those who don’t consider themselves artistic.)

Further Reading for the writer:
Complete Guide to BUJO’s for Writers
BUJO’s for Fiction Writers
For the Fantasy Writer

And just because these are deliciously inspiring, if not down right intimidating: 20 BUJO Instagram Pages


Write By Midnight Tip 2-13-19

You’re almost halfway through our Write By Midnight challenge, so now is a good time to evaluate your progress and adjust your goals for the rest of the month.

After that, try this tip to get more words on the page today.

Get a timer, set it for 15 or 30 minutes – take your pick – and write until time is up. Then, reset the timer for the same amount of time and walk away from your project. Spend that time doing anything other than writing. When time’s up, reset the timer for another 15 or 30 minutes and go back to writing. Repeat this process for as long as you can.

Check back next Wednesday for another tip to help you stay the course during Write By Midnight.

A Good Goal Makes Me a Better Writer

Megan Norris Jones

The beauty of Write by Midnight is that it allows each of us to set our own goals for the month of February. The only requirement is to write every day by midnight. Writing every day this month will be a challenge in itself, since I have some traveling to do, but I wanted to set a more specific goal for this month-long focus. I’m currently revising a manuscript that I’ve been working on for longer than I like to think about, but Scrivener politely reminds me every time I open it by popping up a “Document created on” date. I’m not going to tell you when it was. It’s embarrassing. And it’s time I finished this puppy up.

I was three-quarters of the way through this revision at the end of January, but Act III needed a complete rewrite. I already had about 6,000 words in Act III, but I anticipated needing closer to 20,000 to finish it. That meant I needed to write another 14,000 words to complete this draft. February has 28 days, which meant I needed to write about 500 words a day, 3,500 words a week. That’s doable, but a stretch for me. I usually only get in two to three solid writing sessions a week, with other days just fifteen minutes or so between activities to keep my head in the story. Continue reading

Inspire Fellow Writers by Talking About Your Work

Laura Ayo

What’s the one thing you can’t be a writer without?

Imagination. Dedication. A thick skin. Pencils.

The question elicits multiple answers, depending on the person asked and their perspective. For me, there’s one thing above all else that I absolutely can’t live without as a writer: other writers.

While I’ve long known the benefits of having fellow writers in my life, this past weekend I realized just how vital they are to helping me maintain my daily writing routine.

My first day of Write by Midnight was a technical success. I wrote. I got in some words before the stroke of midnight. But I fell short of my desired word count after off-and-on attempts throughout the day. In addition, my efforts produced painful-to-read, utilitarian sentences.

As I drove on Saturday to meet a friend for coffee, I analyzed why I struggled so much the day before. I came up with several explanations. I wasn’t feeling well. I had other things going on Friday that distracted me. I didn’t have a clear picture in my head of what needed to happen in the scene. I had more research to do.

I walked into the coffee house with the excuses floating around in my head, vowing to shake them off and have a better writing session on day two. I drank coffee with my friend, also a writer, and her husband. We chatted about work, kids, travel and, as all writers do when they get together, books and writing. I only met this energetic couple a few months ago, so we’re still getting to know one another. As it turns out, that was an important piece to helping me identify what had been missing on Friday.

When I first met my new coffee buddy at a writing conference in the fall, I was working on a different manuscript than the one I’ve recently started writing. I hadn’t shared my new project with her yet, so I found myself filling her in on the basic premise on Saturday. Having to tell someone who is unfamiliar with your material about what you’re working on rekindles the enthusiasm that led you to write it in the first place. I left the café motivated and itching to get my fingers on the keyboard.

Then, on Sunday, a fellow WriteOwl needed some help with writing struggles of her own. After a few email and text exchanges and a 30-minute phone conversation, not only was she back on track, but I, too, found my words flowing onto the pages. As I fleshed out my protagonist’s plight in a high-stakes action scene, my phone beeped with a grateful text from her:

“I don’t know what I’d do without you guys! I just hope I give as much back as you give.”

I assured her that she does and realized, at that moment, that I needed to set a second goal for myself for Write by Midnight. In addition to writing every day for at least an hour, I also plan to talk to other writers every day this month, even if it’s just via text, blog or tweet. I challenge you to do the same, either here or with the writers I hope you have in your inner circle. Share your successes and your struggles. Talk about your characters, your voice, your plot, your setting. It’s always an energizing, positive, motivating experience that will only make you a better writer.

Ready, Set, Write By Midnight!

If you’re dedicated to making writing your priority, you’ve come to the right place at the right time. Today, the WriteOwls community embarks on its  third annual Write By Midnight journey. Here, you will find support, encouragement and tips from fellow writers who aspire to write every day and reach their writing goals. Continue reading