Finding time to make art can stop a creative before she’s even begun. I’ve struggled with this since I decided to commit to an art practice. But then I discovered the bullet journal and SMART goals.
What is a bullet journal?
It’s the methodology created by Ryder Carroll – known by its short name Bujo – that not only moves your projects forward, but also serves as reference for previous projects. Ryder describes it ” as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.” It’s designed to help you live an intentional life.
Google bullet journal and you will see some beautiful, colorful spreads, but my own bullet journal is purely functional. I have sketchbooks in which to let my creativity loose. This book is all about taking action!
How does it work?
Collections form the basis of the system. The core collections are the index, future log, monthly log and daily log. Then you just add other collections as necessary, recording them in the index as you go.
This video explains it and shows you how to set your bullet journal up.
There are other techniques to create a supremely sophisticated system. I highly recommend you visit the official bullet journal website to learn the complete methodology.
How I use it
I’ve used the Bujo for years. I chose to use a simple Moleskine dotted journal. I use all the core modules as well as additional collections: specific art projects, reading list, quarterly goals, meditation tracker, art practice tracker (for my 2019 goal to draw more), list of art supplies, future projects/goals, etc. It’s a very flexible system.
This section contains event dates, deadlines, and long range goals. I consult this periodically to make sure I’m on track. It’s my 30,000 foot view of my year.
I list my 90 day projects here. Art projects, editorial projects, launches – all are plotted here. Think of this as a 10,000 foot view of my year. This is also the place where I list my quarterly goals.
This is where I list deadlines and appointments, monthly goals and tasks, and notes for the month. I’ll add any trackers I want for the month in this section, too. I base this 5,000 foot view on my goals outlined in the future and quarterly log, and add any unfinished tasks from the previous month as long as they are still relative. Anything no longer relative gets migrated as needed.
I lay out all the actions to make my goals happen in this collection. The daily log for me is part to-do list, part diary of things that happened that day, and lists of questions to answer, subjects to explore, calls I need to make, etc. Interspersed between are specialty collections: details of current art and research projects.
The SMART goal for creatives
Perhaps you’ve heard of SMART goals. We used them a lot when I worked in the nonprofit world. I find this framework so helpful to create attainable goals and productive supporting actions. When you create a SMART goal, it’s so much easier to break it down into actionable tasks for the daily log. And it’s soooooo satisfying to check those tasks off!When you create a SMART goal, it's so much easier to break it down into actionable tasks for the daily log. Click To Tweet
Below is a breakdown of an arts-based SMART goal:
Define your goal so you know exactly what you want to do.
Example: Create a limited edition illustrated zine of the trees of Acadia National Park.
Write down how you will know when you’ve met the goal.
Example: 8 watercolor and ink illustrations completed, scanned, duplicated and bound into 5 zines.
Think about how to accomplish the goal. Do you have the tools and skills needed? If you don’t currently, think about what it would take to attain them.
Example: I’ll need to gather reference material, work out composition, color and form in my sketchbook, and research printing options.
Focus on how this goal fits into your larger goals.
Example: This project will provide a portfolio sample and 4 extra copies to sell in my online store.
Set a completion date so that you stay focused and motivated. Assess how much time you’ll need to complete the goal, and specify when you are going to work on this goal.
Example: First phase of paintings will be completed March 31; second phase of scanning and laying out the zine will be completed April 30; third phase of printing May 31; fourth phase of promotion and sales launches in June – coinciding with the start of the summer tourist season on the island.
I hope you try the bullet journal and SMART goal framework – it was a game changer for me. My art practice became more productive. I was able to organize and make the time I needed to complete tasks and reach goals. Let me know how this works out for you!