Business of Art: The Difference Between a Good Day & Bad Day - Bullet Journal

For me, the difference between a good day and a bad day is ridiculously simple: it's a to-do list. 

Being self-employed, a to-do list is the difference between a day that feels productive and well-spent and... the opposite. (The opposite being the feeling of flailing and wondering aimlessly.)

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I like having a physical reminder: the process of writing and viscerally checking something off as "complete" is something my inner-school kid loves. 

However, I recently reached out to local organizer to talk about putting some systems in place for my art business and she suggested that I upgrade my to-do list by using the bullet journal. 

As of this writing I've only been consciously using this method for two weeks but already I can tell you that it works for me. 

Here's a peak at my process.  

Type of notebook:

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This is not a "cute" notebook, ya'll. It's a workhorse and it looks utilitarian. I'm totally okay with that. 

The paper is strong enough to take watercolor but isn't as rough as traditional watercolor paper, therefore I can write and paint. 


The index is one of the most important organizational structures of the the bullet journal method. Basically it's empty space where you record what you've got happening  and on which pages. So that you don't flip endlessly looking for that awesome list of illustration possibilities. You simply flip to whatever page the index tells me.

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I was initially hesitant to number all the pages ahead of time because, "What if the page I use has an amazing painting on it?" but then I realized how my current process leads to me scanning digitally touch-up my work, which leads to worries about page numbers anyway. 

Also, I tucked all the numbers under the ring binding so it's less likely to be in the composition.


I intentionally put "awesome artwork" on my index first thing as a reminder to actually use this to paint in and not just have piles of lists. The only drawback to this? Having a wet painting in progress, not remembering what else was on today's list, and not being able to reference it because I'm literally waiting for paint to dry. 

My workaround: Before I start putting paint down I snap a picture of my daily list so once I get to the waiting phase I can move on to the next part of my day.  

Business Snapshot:  

This is where I put all the things that don't have an actual to-do associated with them. This gives me an overview of what's in progress, what's coming up, and things I may want to pursue.

I should probably also schedule in some time each week to look at this.  

Daily journal:

This is where I stow all my professional and personal to-do's. If the refrigerator is broken and I have a deadline looming they are both given the same importance on today's list. (I've prioritized before and it's horrible for my procrastination brain.)  

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I find that front load my weeks with lots of assignments and use the "migration" feature of the bullet journal to spread it out over the week.

(To migrate something simply means to move it forward to the following day. My friend Jennifer encourages this as it's a good way to see how really dedicated you are to doing the thing you keep putting off.)

Also- the "real" bullet journal method has all these fancy symbols. A checkbox for a to-do. A circle for an event. A star for an idea. I say scrap that, or at the very least, don't let it be the thing that holds you up. I kept forgetting what each signal meant in my previous attempts at this bullet journal thing and my frustration would impede my actual doing of the thing. 

Which leads to the wrap-up of this thing-

BUllet  JournaL - Buffet Theory

Just like your favorite 24 hour buffet (ew. that's a joke folks.) - Take what you like, don't worry about the rest. :)

For too long I let the thought, "I'm doing this wrong!" stop me from using this method that works really well for my brain. From here forward I'm hope to not let the "supposed tos" get in the way of what works.

I'd love to know: 
How do you keep your studio / brain organized?