Habit Tracking through Bullet Journaling

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If you’ve heard me speak at conventions, you might have picked up on how important I feel basic discipline is to forming good habits for writing. To expand on this a little further, I tend to think of being a writer holistically, because even when I’m not writing (which makes me miserable), I’m still thinking about writing (which can cause more harm than good). But, I’m not “just” a writer. I’m a human being, planet Earth. And as a human, I have to remember to maintain the biological container a bit, as transhumanism is barely a twinkle in the eyes of scientists right now.

Translation: I may wander off with wild hair and no makeup and mismatched clothes and mac-and-cheese and whatever else is in the cupboard while in the thick of it, but that’s not necessarily healthy on an ongoing basis. That bit is the fun part. The “I’m not worrying about a f-bomb’ing thing, other than this project right now.” is absolutely fantastic, but reality often sets in. Where did that extra pound come from? Why has a tornado hit my pad? That sort of thing.

Ergo? Habit tracking. Hilariously, when I heard about bullet journaling (or bujo as the cooler-than-I kids call it), I didn’t see the point at first. It sounded like an overly complicated way of setting up a planner that wasn’t pre-printed. But, it was also an excuse to buy a new notebook (Yay!) and use my set of colored Stabilo pens (which are a-w-e-s-o-m-e, by the way). So, I thought I’d give it a whirl. Here’s a picture of the habit tracker I modified for myself, and a link to the full list of habit trackers with accredited sources:

Bohoberry.com Image to Build Good Habits

Source: Bohoberry

Here’s where it gets interesting. So, the habit tracking method that works for me is to color in each column as its own day, which means I don’t have to do an extra layer of analysis or spend additional time putting together a graph. I get a picture, after a week or two, of what’s actually going on. For me, I caught the fact that my SAD kicked in right away–which is great!

More than this, it’s helpful to look at trends for short periods of time to figure out certain habits. Individual data points… Man, so easy to beat yourself up if you don’t reach a goal on a particular day, or for a specific reason. But, part of my discipline is to track simple habits that build the foundation to my overall lifestyle. My lifestyle by itself requires a desk and a chair, which means that if I procrastinate (which does happen) I sit longer (which is not good) and that takes a toll on my body.

My categories are:

  • Out of bed at 6 a.m.
  • Clean 15 min. a day
  • Cat boxes
  • Make bed
  • Vitamins
  • Laundry
  • Workout
  • No Take-Out
  • No spending
  • Hydrate (64 oz.)
  • Floss
  • Read before bed

I also added a temporary mood tracker and a, um… bad habits tracker. Combined, I quickly figured out my limit for caffeine and how withdrawal was impacting my mood. Next month, I want to fine tune a few habit trackers (e.g. fitness and finances) to ensure I’ve got consistency there. I’m not tracking my mood as well as I’d like, but it’s there in case I need it. After that foundation is laid, then I want to use it for goal setting and see what else I could devise for writing that is a) simple to set up and b) takes less than five minutes to maintain.

The to-do lists for me in bullet journaling don’t work as well as my planner, as well as the reinforcing I do every week via other to-do lists. I rely on those anchors so I can lose myself in the work, and right now they’re a great tool since I’m still waiting on balls to drop that may never come down. My method doesn’t work for everyone, but I try to simplify everything as much as possible knowing how intense I can get. The other thing this bit does, is it keeps the shorter projects top of mind–which is what happens when a longer-term project falls apart or gets delayed.

Latest Artistic Project: Now dreaming about an Etsy store.
Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters, Tales of the Dark Eras, and Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse.
Latest Game Release: Ghouls & Revenants for Vampire: The Masquerade and Court of Shadows for Shadowrun.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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