[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]
When I first discovered bullet journaling, it was as if a whole new world had opened up in front of me. A world in which I could finally get my ideas down on paper, and actually have fun with it. Imagine that? Planning out your music career in a way that feels fun, productive, and dare I say, even a bit relaxing?
Bullet journaling, in a nutshell, is your Google calendar, but on paper, and with more color and pizazz. There’s a set system you can follow with symbols and guidelines to help you map out each day/week/month, but if you’re like me, you might end up just skipping the system altogether and using it as a space for colorful braindumps and vivid daydreaming. And that’s ok. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about process and boosting productivity. And you’ve got to find yours.
If you’re interested in the official format you can get a feel for that here but if you’re just looking for real-world inspiration look no further than one of my favorite Facebook groups, Bullet Journal Junkies. And of course, following the hashtags #bulletjournal and #bujo on Instagram pull up some pretty amazing layouts as well.
Next, you’ll need some materials. There are notebooks set up perfectly for the official method, but I prefer a blank 8×10 sketchbook. It really just depends on how you want to use the journal.
Next, the writing utensils. If you search online you’ll find tons of suggestions but truthfully, anything that doesn’t bleed through the page is going to work. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on fancy markers. Just pick up some colored pencils or non-bleed markers like those from Fineliner and you’re good to go.
Ready to find out how you can use your brand new bullet journal set up to have your most productive year yet?
Brainstorm your big ideas
One of my favorite ways to use a bujo is to simply get out my colored pencils, markers, and some washi tape (for decoration!) and go to town. Sure, you could brainstorm in a regular notebook or Google Doc, but there’s just something so much more special about sitting down with all these beautiful, colorful utensils and getting all those ideas onto paper. You can lay it all out in whatever format you want, and use different colors for different themes, feelings, or ideas.
Plus, getting to see it all laid out in front of you like that has proven incredibly valuable for me not only in the moment when I’m trying to think my way through something, but later on as well. I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve solved by writing it out in my bujo, or how many ideas of re-ignited by revisiting old brainstorm sessions.
You can use it to brainstorm your upcoming tour, new merch ideas, scribble down song ideas and lyrics, or think about new ways to engage your fans, like social media marketing campaigns, one of a kind live show experiences, and more.
When I’m in creative mode, I sit down with my bullet journal and simply let the ideas flow out of me. Sometimes I organize it and sometimes I just write it as it comes to me. It can be as simple or complicated as you like—personally I love to use different colors because it makes the whole thing more relaxing and fun (which for me, inspires more creativity), but it’s really up to you.
Do a quick search on Google or the above Facebook group for “bullet journal brain dump” or brainstorm” and you’ll find a ton of amazing layouts and ideas.
One of the more popular themes you’ll see in bullet journaling is trackers—mood trackers, meal trackers, and sleep trackers are big ones but for musicians, you can also use it for things like tracking practice time, breathing techniques, making sure you’ve posted to/engaged on social media or sent out your weekly newsletter. There are a few ways to use it, including using different colors to represent different things (see below).
Let’s be honest, keeping track of everything isn’t always easy when you’re wearing 20 different hats and trying to do all the things. Your bullet journal is a great way to keep track of everything and stay organized. You can put together checklists like:
Weekly To-Dos (especially for things that happen every week like social media posts, practice time, and writing)
It’s a simple way to make sure you’re staying on track—plus who doesn’t love crossing out something on their to do list, or otherwise manually acknowledging your progress?!
When I’m in the key planning phase of anything, I turn to my bullet journal for the first draft.
For you, this might mean outlining your tour in your bullet journal, (what cities to hit, what venues to contact, what artists you want to play with) or sketching out your release plans, (when will the album be finished, what blogs will I reach out to, what angle will I pitch). There’s just something about having all those ideas and dates right in front of you, easy to refer to – not only to jog creativity, but to help you move forward.
One of the most popular ways to use a bullet journal is as a sort of appointment diary—but better. You can sketch out your own layout or just print an existing one and then get to work filling it out. This is a great way to keep track of the week’s goals, habits, and to-dos in a fun, productive way.
Whatever you decide, this is the kind that works best when you simply try it out and see what works for you. Don’t get stuck trying to do the perfect layout or do it the “right way.” The right way is what helps you be the most creative and productive version of yourself, so just pick up that colored pencil and get to work—I promise, it’s going to be really fun!
What do you think? Is bullet journaling something you can see yourself using?