Bullet Journal: How To Make an Informative Blog Articles Log

TL;DR

The BuJo/bullet journal’s intense flexibility provides THE answer for organizing articles and blog posts. The trick to successful implementation requires knowing both your workflow and foibles, incorporating steps to accommodate each.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

My Foibles

Beginning my day pre-dawn instigates only one negative. By the time my Evening Routine begins, my brain simulates mush. I’m more prone to making silly mistakes, what I dub mental hiccups. To protect myself, I schedule heavy-duty mental endeavors during morning hours when possible. But an Evening Review, by definition, transpires when my brain cells long ago ceased SoulTrain maneuvers. My cure: little tricks, as detailed below, each designed to defeat predictable trouble spots.

My Writing Process

I’d love to tell you my writing process involves plopping into a chair, grabbing a pen or stylus, and committing words to paper. But as every writer knows, that ain’t the real deal! Sometimes words play spitfire, challenging my ability to write as fast as the onslaught of words. Other times, I stare at a screen, playing Where’s Waldo with inspiration.

A few prior attempts at this logging task bombed because I failed to respect the numerous steps involved in my writing process. That coerced me into sitting down, with legal pad in hand, sketching out each aspect from initial draft to publication.

✧︎︎︎ Converting My Writing Process into a Worthy Log/Chart

1️⃣ First Step: Breaking Down the Actual Writing Process:

This list reflects me, not thee, but may prove helpful in ensuring you hit all the bases.

  • freeflow writing ignoring grammar niceties, structure, etc → Drafting
  • massage initial draft → Editing
    • clarity
    • structure
    • grammar
    • inadvertent repetition
    • overall conciseness
    • kill flabby words
    • revisions
    • polish

My initial stabs at a chart punctured my senses. First, I fashioned a checklist chart demanding too many details per entry. That onerous quality stalled entry input, threatening to defeat me at the onset. Attempt #2 fell to the other extreme, offering so little info as to be useless. Eventually, I found my groove, resulting in 2 columns—Drafting, Editing—both housed under a Writing umbrella. I use a simple notation in each checklist column. ✓ = process started; that same checkmark, with a line drawn through it, = process (just about) completed.

Keeping things easy/intuitive increases the odds of faithful upkeep
Keeping things easy/intuitive increases the odds of faithful upkeep

2️⃣ Second Step: Tracking Images

Hey, what’s a blog post without an image or two, right? My standard process involves:

  • selecting the image
  • imprinting the article title
  • optimizing the image for speedy page loading
  • inserting the image (using iPad app Ulysses) into the tentative blog post
  • where additional images clarify the subject discussed, create & add ’em

Again reducing multiple steps to two checklist columns, I labeled them Selected and Inserted, under the Pics category.

As before, I employ the same twofer procedure, with a checkmark vs checkmark-with-line-through-it trick. Keeping count, we’re now at 4 columns.

3️⃣ Third Step: Noting Necessary CSS/HTML Coding Tweaks

I like easy reading. Standard coding sometimes futzes that. Case in point: headers theoretically separate content ideas, but the default spacing presents an equal amount of space both before and after a heading, a syndrome I find jarring. That’s one example explaining why my writing process sometimes triggers a coding-related research mission; other examples: the mini-boxes beginning and ending each of my posted articles, removing double-spacing within listings, and changing the color and weight of the font comprising the headers.

However, unlike the writing/pics steps encountered with each article, the coding hassles aren’t a constant. Result: within hours of its creation, I scrapped aCoding Tweaks umbrella column, housing twin columns for Research and Added. I mention it here for those more deeply involved in the whole coding syndrome, who may find including such columns helpful.

4️⃣ Fourth Step: Handling Links

Links, internal (cross-references to other posts on my blog; hi 👋🏽👋🏽 Google SEO!) ) and external, frequent my pages. In this instance, the column designators jumped out at me: Internal links, External links. A checkmark or dash (no links) signals what I need to know for the price of a glance. If more than one link, I instead insert the number of links. Blog maintenance requires checking continued viability of external links. Seeing the numbers assists in prioritizing the precise pages to be checked.

Let’s say I’m writing a post about my bullet journal, and mention my favorite mechanical pencil. A prior post provides details; I decide to link to it. If it’s just the one internal/cross-reference, no biggie. Query: how to handle multiple links snaking out of the work-in-progress post to pre-existing posts? My solution: leave plenty of space, to accommodate breadcrumbs. If post 1228 refers to 1101, draw a mini map noting such facts. But leave the base chart alone. Rationale: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

Breadcrumbs, showing which article refers to another article
Breadcrumbs, showing which article refers to another article

5️⃣ Fifth Step: Formal Editing

This procedure involves two-parts, each dependent upon respective websites. CoSchedule.com offers a fabulous free service. In essence, you paste the tentative title of your article into the single long text field provided, tap a button, then either smile or groan as you note the results per the Headline Analysis.

An easy free mechanism to massage your blog title for maximum effect
An easy free mechanism to massage your blog title for maximum effect
The system scores the likely impact of the title. Anything below 70 induces an awww, man upon witnessing the associated big mustard yellow circle around the number, a short-hand version of “Try again, SherlockReena.” I tweak until I instead see a snazzy green circle around a number higher than 70. Descending the page bearing that number offers helpful how-to-improve info.

Let’s get real. I write because I want folks to read my articles. Despite not yet indulging promotional activities, I’m seeing an uptick in traffic which I attribute to title massaging via CoSchedule. Hence, my checklist includes a Headline Analysis column.

My preferred tool #2: ProWriting Aid, personifying comprehensive proofing efficiency. Did I use a word too many times? How’s my grammar, sentence structure, etc? The standard annual subscription fee for this tool runs around $75. I grabbed it on a Black Friday: lifetime license, $29. Hello!! Another column, y’all: Prowriting Aid. Column tally: now at 8.

When you need a set of objective eyes attached to a gentle English professor's brain, here's your BFF
When you need a set of objective eyes attached to a gentle English professor’s brain, here’s your BFF
By the way, my Grammarly testing short-circuited the second my retinas fell on the following notice at the site:

Guess they haven't heard— this is year 2017. HellWoe?!!
Guess they haven’t heard— this is year 2017. HellWoe?!!

6️⃣ Sixth Step: Cementing the Slug Assigned as the Article’s URL

WordPress shines as a blogging tool, but ya gotta stay awake! As I massage/tweak the title within my writing app, Ulysses, the “slug” auto-generated by the WordPress system also changes. That slug forms the last portion of the public URL, appearing after the final slash mark. The ever-changing slug is a recipe for 404 errors (“page not found”), explaining the creation of checklist #9, the Slug column. A ✓ in this column confirms I’ve updated a companion SimpleNote file named Blog.Slugs. That SimpleNote slug entry appears after the four-digit number I assigned to the article.

Bonus Tidbit:
Why do I prefer freebie plain-text editor SimpleNote?

  • Unlike iOS Notes, no gotcha’s futz your PLAIN text draft.
  • SimpleNote enjoys widespread cross-platform support. Whether Android, iOS, ChromeBook or PC, you want it, you got it.

My process, AFTER finalizing the title via Headline Analyzer?

  • check the Ulysses screen showing the tentative slug (or the WordPress Options screen duplicating that info).
  • – – – massage/tweak → deem it finalized
  • – – – copy the slug in its entirety
  • – – – return to the top of the article page
  • – – – reference the Articles Log to discern the next available number to assign
  • – – – enter the 4-digit number into a “comment” at the top of the article, just after the “Tl;DR” header
  • open my SimpleNote “Blog.Slugs” document
  • – – – enter the assigned number
  • – – – followed by the slug, entered via a paste

✧︎︎︎ Why Assign a Number to Each Article?

Nothing is more efficient/precise in instilling harmony among multiple apps, as well as between my digital AND analog worlds, than a number. While I’m writing/editing, iPad app LogCalendar tracks the time expended. When I shut down that timer, a brief notation with the precise time is auto-tossed to my dedicated Writing calendar in a Google Calendar. I immediately open app CalenGoo to add details. A typical entry example:

  • WritingPG: 11:09a-12:02p/ 957 wc → new: 1233.c. Part 3- This Atty/Writer’s Hobo BuJo (outlining, link procurement/insertion, formatting, pic selection, & initial draft)

The title will change during article revisions, and yet again after a work-out at CoSchedule.com’s freebie Headline Analyzer. The number, however, remains carved in concrete, ensuring easy visual and electronic searches as needed.

My habit is to stick with 4-digit numbers, for one reason: one-, two-, and three-digit numbers litter the contents of many documents created elsewhere; and, Google Drive searches file contents. Because four-digit numbers are infrequent, by comparison, I’m less likely to pull  files masquerading as relevant to my search. Thus, sticking with a 4-digit number increases the odds of glorious no-fuss searches, with few to no bogus hits, whether electronic or visual. Read: eyes more rapidly absorb a single number than a series of words.

Reminder: we now have a total of 9 checklist columns for the Articles Log segment of my Bullet Journal system. I add additional space at the end of each checklist line to house the publication date, thus creating a final total of 10 columns.

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✧︎︎︎ Additional Considerations

● How to Handle the Changing-Titles Syndrome, within the Actual Log?

I’ll spare you my thought processes and cut to the chase. Every article title is written in the log with my 0.5mm Kuru Toga mechanical pencil, stocked with 4B (darker than standard HB) lead. AFTER I finalize the title per the Headline Analyzer, I append a blue square to the line holding the entry, created with a Pilot Frixion highlighter. This market duplicates the checkmark within the “H” column of the checklist, but to my mind, the critical nature of a title warrants this second marker. Once the article is published, I erase the blue highlighting and the penciled text. A brown Zebra MildLiner provides an appended square. I use a light brown .38mm Pilot Juice ink pen to rewrite the title. It’s simply my way of shouting to me: permanent now! A quick-glance through any page tells me, immediately, which articles are “live” versus those awaiting their turn in the spotlight.

Why brown? Folks, I’m a color-coding champ! I’ve long indulged TimeBlocking, with vertical bars noting time planned vs actually spent daily re five primary categories. Admin(istrative) is one of those categories, to which I assigned my fave color, brown. Light blue reflects the Writing category, explaining why the initial color applied here = blue. Color-coding can easily dovetail into a rabbit hole. I protect myself by sticking with five colors, period.

● All Those Rows & Columns!! How To Keep Tired Peepers on the Target?

As regards horizontal rows → I apply yellow “Hi-Lighter” throughout alternating rows. That shaped-like-a-tank dude is unique in its combo bonanza: no bleeding, no ghosting, no smearing, no globs at the end of the highlighted area (yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, ZenZoi highlighters!). Add: the chiseled tip is perfection for one-pass coverage of the row concerned.

Easiest method to keep your eyes on the ball, even when tired (yellow is MUCH more pronounced in this pic than in reality)
Easiest method to keep your eyes on the ball, even when tired (yellow is MUCH more pronounced in this pic than in reality)
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What about columns? Simple answer: space the drawn lines far enough apart that the spacing itself will keep my eyes on the column targeted.

Amazing how much mileage a simple cross through a ✓ provides
Amazing how much mileage a simple cross through a ✓ provides
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Why? Cliff Notes version: I’m a daily early riser, sans alarm clock. Because I’m up & at ’em between 4–4:30a, by the time my scheduled Evening Routine review sessions hits, this gal’s live brain cells crunch underfoot as my pooch strolls by. I know me. Me needs help ensuring my hand truly targets the intended line. The coloring and spacing nuances address this need.

Did you notice? The line reflecting a published article → no ✓ in the Slug column. Why? Once published, I erased it. Soon, I’ll copy the published URL, which includes an addition—the date of publication. I’ll paste that updated version into SimpleNote, replacing the previously pasted URL. Once that step is completed, I return the ✓to the column.

● Distinguishing Among Assorted Lists/ Logs/ Collections

I add Washi tape in the top margin, breaking the monotony of a wall of text. Weary eyes also relish this stronger visual indicator of the contents per log. Examples:

  • Articles Log → books washi/ public viewing – take extra care with the info provided, as if bound in a book
  • #5amWritersClub / Twitter → musical notes washi – I share Motown-era tunes each morning between 4-5a. Helps me groove my way outta bed; may help others do the same.
  • Photos Log → birds washi – bird photography is a beloved hobby, so I share related pics through the blog
  • Reading List → eyeglasses washi – self-explanatory
  • Routines of Successful People → chains washi – consistency reminder

That, my friends, explains why I now appreciate the inherent power of thoughtfully applied Washi tape. That’s as close to artistic flourishes you’ll find in this woman’s minimalistic BuJo. To quote bullet journal creator Rydall Carroll:

“There are a lot of very beautiful and elaborate Bullet Journals out there on Instagram. This can be very intimidating. It’s not about how your Bullet Journal looks, it’s about how effective it is.” 1

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Wrap-Up

When all is said and done, my finalized list of columns numbers 10:

  • Write
    • Draft
    • Edit
  • Links
    • Internal
    • External
  • Pics
    • Selected
    • Inserted
  • Proof
    • HLA
    • PWA
  • Slug
  • Scheduled/Posted (pencil vs brown ink)

Alternating colored rows ease data entry chores.
Respect your actual workflow while devising your Articles Log & chart.
First, pencil your intended chart. Problem spots love to hide, revealing themselves only as you work your way through the process on paper.
● Find a way to add something to each Log which sparks a smile. For me, music, cameras and birds address that fun need, in the form of carefully selected washi tape. We naturally gravitate toward fun. Act accordingly during your Log creation process.
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Call to Action

I like long-term easy. The initial construction, and feeding, of an Articles Log eats several hours. But in return, I have all things blog-content-related in a single location, including both published and work-in-progress articles. That base is manna as I work in my Editorial Calendar, serving as my blogging dashboard.

  • Are your articles organized?
  • Do you have a mechanism to easily distinguish between published vs scheduled vs ready for Freddy blog posts?
  • Do you have an orderly plan in place as regards posting what when at your blog?
  • Quiet bonus: maintaining a list of Articles empowers during Review sessions, yielding ideas for still more posts. Would this prove helpful to you?

Fact: A quest to save time on the back end mandates expending concentrated time on the front end, i.e. to pull a new organizational scheme together.

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Til later 👋🏽👋🏽😁

Footnotes

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/02/07/what-the-hell-is-a-bullet-journal-and-why-are-people-using-the/, last accessed 2/8/2017 (boldface emphasis added)

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