Journalism

How I use bullet journaling as a freelance journalist

One of the most important parts of being a freelance journalist is figuring out how to organize everything so there is a workflow that works sufficiently well.

There will be problems. When you work in a newsroom, you slot into your newsroom’s already set up process and everyone gets a bit of it to do and it may vary slightly depending on the beat you cover.

When you freelance you do all the bits of it and you have to figure out what your processes and procedures are.

It has been a lot of trial and error and it isn’t perfect and it will fail and falter as I fail and falter. But what I am working with now is bullet journaling.

I won’t waste time explaining what it is other than to say it is a notebook and a pen and very minimal jotting down of things. It’s a build your own organiser system with a few rules for you to use or tweak as you feel you need to.

So here is how I use it for freelancing.

1. I use one notebook for everything

People gift me notebooks often. I have a backlog of them to get through.

I use one to write each book in and one as my planner/organiser. It covers work, volunteering and personal things.

This makes it easier for me because if I added a diary to this that would be three notebooks to carry around and right now I carry a red one to write Gin & Tonic in and a black one for the bullet journaling.

2. It’s minimal

I don’t draw, I don’t try to make it pretty. Reasonably legible is what I go for. I don’t have time to do much doodling and I can’t carry washi tape rolls and several pens around because this bullet journal has to be mobile. It has to be able to go everywhere with me. I don’t have a routine where I am guaranteed to be in one place, next to my journaling tools, to be able to sit and spend time drawing in it.

It still looks lovely to me though.

3. Indexes: I have more than one

There is the main index which so far has two pages set aside for it. Each page is numbered and goes in there except for…

Anything that goes into the:

  • Brainstorming index
  • Meeting notes index
  • Journalism notes index

This saves me space in the main index but also lets me find my notes on meetings or for stories or ideas much faster. I know they won’t be in the main index lost amongst the other page listings.

4. I don’t have a future log but a future mission log.

It made more sense to me to definitely have a calendar set up but to also instead of highlighting by the day, just have a reminder of what I need to focus on in each coming month and it helps me plan ahead.

This makes far more sense to me. I can write down what I need to work on each month.

There is a place for being a bit more specific about dates.

5. I do monthly spreads but NOT weekly ones

I need all the pages I can get in my bullet journal so I drop the things that don’t make much sense to keep in there like a habit tracker or weekly spreads.

My monthly spreads used to be one page but I made them two pages because I track appointments, Patreon posts, blog posts, newsletter posts and my to do list as well.

6. I do use lists so I have a list of pitches

This was a suggestion from a friend Cher Tan who looked at my bullet journal and had two brilliant ideas:

  1. A list of ideas to pitch which I had previously attempted but had made far too complicated.
  2. A database/spreadsheet of editorial contacts that was my own.

So now I have a very simple pitch list of ideas for articles and I keep adding to it.

I also have a list of rejections so I am trying to keep track of the rejections I receive.

7. I have a set way of taking notes for journalism

I set it up when I was freelancing as a science journalist to make sure I had asked everything I needed to ask and had all my information straight.

Scribbling all over my page also happens especially if I am on the phone and interviewing someone.

Each time I make notes, the date and time go at the top and I log the page number into the journalism notes index.

I might write another post about how I set up my note taking when I do so you can have a look and see.

8. I use Asana in tandem with my bullet journal

I will have to post later about how I use Asana because that is also still a work in progress and not perfect either.

9. I track professional and personal goals

I have a list of nearly 101 goals that I add to as I go.

If I manage to knock one off, I write the date next to it and track it that way.

I then also choose a few goals from it to focus on at the start of the year and try and allocate smaller ones to certain months etc.

I use the goals in Asana to break down all the steps I need to complete and turn them into daily tasks. I’m not used to looking at my Asana everyday so I am still trying to make the system work.

10. Future possibilities

I might end up adding a habit tracker somewhere on the monthly spread page to track exercise and pitching. I don’t know if this will necessarily work out.

It’s not a perfect system, it isn’t meant to be. It is meant to make sure things get done as best as they can be.

But hopefully it has given you some ideas for what you can do if you bullet journal.

Above all my journal has to be minimal, has to work with anything digital I use rather than duplicate it, has to be quick, easy and not involve too many accessories because it has to be mobile and it has to be easy to go through to find information.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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