The Bullet Journal: One Year Review

bullet journal review

Last December, I published an excessively fussy post about all the planners I had used for the past decade. At the time of publishing that post, I was currently using a bullet journal and had been for about two months.

Next month will mark a year of using a BuJo and I wanted to provide a bullet journal review after using this simple system for a year. Here’s my notebook of choice: I’ve gone through two of these in a year!

The Layout

I intentionally keep things very simple, otherwise, I’ll get off into the weeds and obsess over fancy watercolor cover pages and flower doodles that I can’t actually pull off. And then the system stops working. But if that’s your jam, by all means, embrace it! I just know that for myself I have to keep things really simple in order for it to keep working for me.

My layout includes:

  • Personal goals
  • Any other lists/future planning
  • Current month layout
  • Notes/Next month planning page
  • Weekly layout (horizontal)
  • Additional notes (Like notes from an interview or webinar that I listened to during the week)
  • Monthly recap (Reflection questions I’ve curated)

I do enjoy some embellishment and I can do a bit of brush lettering, so days of the week or the months get a little hand lettering, and I throw on some washi tape and call it good.

BuJo Pros: IMO

  • Simplicity
  • Size
  • Cost
  • Less waste
  • Customizable
  • More mindful planning

Especially in the chaos of 2020, I was grateful for my bullet journal…because of how much I really didn’t use it through the spring. It would’ve been sad to have spent $50 or $60 on an expensive planner just to cross things off my month or week. I love my monthly reflection section as it helps me focus on what really matters in a month and provides a unique way to look back on the year. I love being able to tear out pages if I mess up or if a list becomes irrelevant.

BuJo Cons: IMO

  • Awkward future planning
  • Not a luxury experience
  • Very hands-on to set up

You do obviously spend more time setting up each week/month than you would with a traditional calendar. And I still never found a way to track future events that totally suited me. On average, it would take me 30-45 minutes to draw out a new month layout and get everything set up and here lately I’ve tired of that.

So will I keep using a BuJo? Through this whole process, I’ve come to recognize that for me, different seasons will call for different planner needs, so I am learning to hold my systems lightly. (Confession…I did actually order an Erin Condren planner this week because I just wanted to get fancy again. Like I said…I have planner issues). But what is different now is that I do have a simple system to fall back on should I decide to do so.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that no matter if we use a plain wall calendar, the fanciest of planners, or anything in between, it’s that we should all be planning in pencil. Hold those plans loosely, friends!

What about you? What is your planner method of choice?

What Can You Expect with Copy Editing?

When working with authors who are new to the writing process, I sometimes get the sense that when they deliver their manuscript to me, it’s like they are delivering a freshly baked pie, perfect and ready to enjoy. But delivering the first draft of your MS to your editor isn’t like leaving a freshly-baked creation on their doorstep. It’s inviting them into your kitchen and letting them critique your crust and fiddle with the apple pie filling.

But it’s the critiquing part and the fiddling part that can seem intimidating to so many authors. Maybe you aren’t sure what to expect, or you’ve been burned by some bad experiences in the past. It’s normal to feel apprehensive when you hit send and await the critiquing of your masterpiece. But I think the more you can understand about the editorial phase, it can prepare you to be a better partner to your editor and give your manuscript a chance to shine.

What Can You Expect with Copy Editing?

If you’re not familiar with the editing process, there are multiple phases, which can vary depending on if you are pursuing indie publishing or if you are being published with a traditional house. If you are working with a traditional press, often the timeline will be much longer, and multiple editors will work on your manuscript. If you are choosing indie publishing, your timeline will be shorter, but due to finances or other constraints, you may choose to work with just one editor through one phase of editing. But in general, the phases a manuscript will move through are:

  • Developmental: Completed before the first draft is done, provides direction for the entire manuscript and vetting for ideas and concepts.
  • Substantive: Also called line editing. This is the macro editing phase of the finished first draft and ensures overall flow, cohesiveness, plot holes are addressed, etc.
  • Copy Editing: Micro editing which focuses on grammar, typos, formatting, consistency. Answers the question “Do I have spinach in the teeth of my manuscript?”
  • Proofreading: A final read-through after the book has been formatted. Author may choose to do this step themselves.

Today we are just going to look at copy editing, my specialty! If you are looking for a copy editor or if you’re about to attack the copyedits back from your editor, what can you expect?

I know as a creative mind that addressing details like “Do I capitalize this title?” “Or do you spell out this number or use numerals?” may seem soul-sucking to you. But remember how I said partnering well with your editor gives you a chance to shine? What do I mean by shine? The attitude of a stubborn (or impatient) (or immature) author that says my “My manuscript is perfect as is” or “I refuse to take my editor’s advice” is going to leave a dull sheen on your manuscript, like a window that needs to be cleaned. If you can embrace this phase, your manuscript will glow and allow the light in your masterpiece to shine through. Also, the more polished your manuscript is, the less chance of distractions your readers will face. And you want to make the reader’s job as easy and enjoyable as possible! Details will make or break you.

So to copy editing. It’s hard to catch both macro and micro changes at the same time. It would be like trying to complete a kitchen renovation while also cleaning the kitchen. You can’t very well be installing a new counter and backsplash while also dusting and wiping down said counters. You do the big pieces first, then follow up with details. The same is true for copy editing. Those big pieces of editing must be done first so you can clearly see what to edit.

In the publishing industries, there are industry standards and that’s what editors specialize in; you as the author won’t necessarily know all the details. Do you capitalize this word or this person’s title? Do you spell this number out? Your editor will be familiar with making these type of changes, so you need to trust them to help make your manuscript consistent. They may also help you decide on your own house style for matters of formatting that are up for interpretation.

As we mentioned earlier, the big changes have already been made by this point in your manuscript. Your copy editor should not be suggesting big sweeping changes at this point nor should you suddenly decide to revise half your book. The type of changes you can expect to make (not an exhaustive list, mind you!) are as follows:

  • Typos
  • Formatting (capitalization, numerals, etc)
  • Grammar, usage, spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Citations/copyright permissions

Expect to see a lot of markup regarding commas and apostrophes and em dashes (and beyond), but know you won’t have to make an individual decision about each insertion or deletion; they will be incorporated once all changes have been accepted. What the editor will need you to do is respond to comments where there seems to be missing or incorrect info or an incomplete sentence. That will need your individual attention. If something doesn’t make sense or you don’t agree with it, always ask rather than ignore or immediately change it back. Your editor spent a lot of time on the edits; don’t discredit their efforts immediately. Instead, start a conversation. You may gain insight as to why they suggested a change, or may still feel the same about your stance. You are the author after all. But opt for discussion rather than ignoring edits all together.

Timeline and pricing vary widely and depends on the length and state of your manuscript, the experience level of your editor, along with a few other factors. So be sure to discuss candidly before proceeding, especially if you are hiring your own editor. They may ask to see your work before they can provide an accurate timeline or price, which is normal. But it’s not unreasonable to expect to pay several hundred dollars if not into the four-digit realm for an experienced and thorough copy edit of your manuscript.

I hope I have given you some food for thought when it comes to the editorial process, and I hope you feel empowered to embrace the next phase your manuscript will go through! What questions do you have about the editing process or what has been your experience in working with editors in the past? Comment below!

If you have a finished first draft and are looking for a reliable and thoughtful copy editor, I offer a free 30-min discovery call to see if you and I would work well together as editor and author. Send me a message here.

YouVersion Easter Plan Available Now!

Happy April everyone! As we are all in the midst of navigating this pandemic and adjusting to our shelter-in-place routine, we are also looking at Easter celebrations that will look very different from years past. In spite of that, I’m looking forward to reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice for us. Will you join me in preparing our hearts for Easter Sunday? You can do that by starting my new Easter plan available now on YouVersion.

YouVersion plans for Easter

A Fussy Planner Roundup

I don’t know how to say this, but I have a problem. I’m obsessive about my planners. (In 2018 as you’ll see, I dallied in three different planners). I am very particular about my planners and approach my decision of the yearly planner much like a GM approaches the NBA Draft. This planner is going to carry me through the year and keep me organized, so it needs to be dependable. So buckle up for my fussy planner roundup.

Fussy Planner Roundup

Since starting college in 2008, I’ve used a physical planner. Even when I’ve worked in offices with Outlook and even with Google or Apple calendars, a physical planner is my main tool. My husband and I do share a calendar just for events that affect both of us. (Pro marriage tip right there).

My humble requirements:
• Monthly + Weekly layout
• Ample writing room
• Inspiring colors or design
• Customization!
• Price (Sweet spot is less than $35)
• Size (Sweet spot is the classic A5 size and less than half an inch thick)

Because I am a saver, I realized I still have several old planners I’ve used from the past eight years, so I thought it would be fun to review what I’ve used as you might be looking for a planner for the new year, but it really just revealed how neurotic I was about this area of my life. Let’s get to it.

The Basic Betty: (various styles at Target)

Fussy Planner Roundup
My planner from 2011

For about seven years, I would just pick a new planner up at Target and go. Usually the Mead brand, maybe Blue Sky as well? Especially as a college student, the basic planner was plenty for a regular schedule of school and work. Also, my budget would only allow for basic. I also used a separate monthly calendar that was color-coded for my class assignments and tests, which wasn’t entirely necessary BUT IT WAS MY SYSTEM. Don’t at me.

The Basic Betty carried me through four years of college, and three years post-college as I worked an office job, and continued working as a dance teacher as well. She never let me down with her simply monthly and weekly layouts and cheerful, but simple designs.

The Passion Planner (2015-2016)

Fussy Planner Roundup

In 2015, I left my office job and started building a freelance career in writing. My husband first discovered The Passion Planner and thought it would help me get organized as I laid out new goals for work. And he was “write.” This planner was super helpful when I started freelance work because it got me thinking about where my time went (v important for those who are self-employed) and it gave me great tools for visual representation of small milestones to meet my goals. It also had monthly reflection questions which I absolutely loved.

More expensive than my Target planners, but not crazy expensive. I used this planner for a year, but ultimately the grayscale pages just weren’t inspiring and it offered cramped writing room on the monthly and weekly layouts.

Erin Condren (2016-2017)
Starts at $55

Fussy Planner Roundup

Sometimes you just want the expensive lipstick. You know there is a Maybelline dupe for that Charlotte Tilbury shade, but sometimes, you just want Charlotte. Or Erin in this case.

Oddly, my Erin Condren planner purchase was an impulse purchase, but I was essentially done with my first Passion Planner, so it was time to pick out a new one anyway. I was having a bad week and you know what? I totally felt better after I plunked my name on a floral $60 planner. Again, don’t at me.

The color, the stickers, the thoughtful layout, and design made this a dream to use. This planner carried me through a job change and house renovations and it made me smile each time I got to open it.

Fussy Planner Roundup

But again, the price is a major downside. As was size. I realized I didn’t ultimately love lugging such a large planner around. I’m also not a huge fan of spiral bound anything.

But she treated me well, folks.

Bullet Journal – 1st attempt (2017)

Perhaps in response to the luxury of EC or the fact that we were going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace, I briefly tried a BuJo for a month toward the end of the EC planner. But I never could get the bugs worked out in a way that pleased me. Per usual, I was late to the party on this trend, but I was captivated with the idea of BuJos for the customization aspect. I just hadn’t hit on the right formula.

May Designs (2018-never used)
Starts at $26

Fussy Planner Roundup

Around the time I started using my EC planner, I received a May Designs journal with a book I purchased. I immediately fell in love again with the designs (read: sucker) but I loved the sleek size of the journal. Sooner than necessary, I began scoping out May Design planners. When the new designs came out for 2018, I snagged one but had immediate concerns about the size and layout. I could tell early on it wouldn’t give me the space I needed, and decided to go back to the Passion Planner. I still used the planner for menu planning for a bit which was actually helpful.

The Passion Planner (2018)

Fussy Planner Roundup

Hello Passion my old friend…I used this for the rest of time I was working another office job and I loved and hated it for all the same reasons. I purchased a slipcover for it (my first one had a plain black leather cover) but with the stiff paper cover sliding around in the cover, it developed a permanent crease that made it hard to work with. I only used this for about eight months in 2018.

The Basic Barbara (From Amazon- 2018)
Less than $20

Fussy Planner Roundup

When I left the marketing firm and moved to my teaching job, I purchased yet another planner (if you’re keeping track, this is my THIRD planner for 2018). I loved the price tag and the space for affirmations at the front, but didn’t like the daily layout of bullet points on each line.

But I did use it for the rest of 2018, because three planners in one year is JUST EXCESSIVE.

The Business Boutique Goal Planner (2019)

In looking toward 2019 with the goal of finishing my fourth book and continuing freelance work, I started understanding my needs more- I realized I liked the guided reflection aspect that the Passion Planner afforded, but needed a little more flash and panache. I opted for the Business Boutique by Christy Wright. It was more than double the price of the Amazon one, but still slightly less than EC, this carried me through most of 2019.

I loved the monthly reviews and themed lessons. It gave me a little more pep and organization in my step each week, but ultimately, I tired of the size. It’s even bulkier than the EC one and has an even more unwieldy spiral spine.

But in a weird turn of events, I started craving simplicity once again…

Bullet Journal – 2nd attempt

Oddly enough, I find myself back at the BuJo, but enjoying it much more. I’ve identified the important criteria of adequate space to write and guided reflections, but the size has to be portable.

During 2019 I had developed some brush calligraphy skills and I knew the BuJo would be a great outlet for that (BUT TOTALLY NOT NECESSARY. YOU DO YOU.)

This decision came on the heels of settling on Moleskin journals for my main journal. Much like my planner decisions, I typically labor over journal designs, but after 14 years of colorful designs and numerous sizes, I’m settling on the same one for the foreseeable future. (However, the thinness of the pages in Moleskins is irritating me so to Leuchtturm notebooks I will go for the new year)

So right now, I’m currently using a dotted, soft-cover Moleskin for my bullet journal and I love it. One of the things that gave me anxiety was needing to write down future appointments, but not having that month “drawn” yet. I now leave 1-2 pages after the current month’s monthly layout so I can quickly capture future events, and then transfer them when I’m ready to draw the month layout.

I also borrowed questions from the Business Boutique and leave a few pages blank after the end of the weekly layouts for the month and I do my own guided reflections. I also bought a giant book of stickers to satisfy my need to personalize. Because I realized stickers made me very happy.

I am so happy with the simplicity but the ability to customize which finally marries two big needs in my planner quest. Around $20, it satisfies my price threshold and the size is perfect. I’ve used it for about two months, so I’m still refining how it works for me. I’ll share layout pictures in the new year!

It’s fine. I’m not crazy. Everything is fine. Everyone go plan your weeks now, and let me know what works for you!

Want to see what the rest of my day looks like beyond the pages of my planner? Check out this post here.