Systems that Work (Especially for Creatives)
Six systems that keep me sane.
I’m big on systems. I’m not naturally organized and I have a lot of balls to keep in the air, so I need those systems if I want to do — well, really pretty much anything at all.
I have a book coming out in this month. I’m the main breadwinner for my family. We’re almost certainly buying a house for the first time sometime this year. I’m going to try something new with Ninja Writers in the spring. My baby is starting high school in the fall. My parents-in-law are probably going to have to move into a nursing home this year. For now? They live with us.
I told you. Lots and lots of balls. Systems are my jam.
I thought I’d share some of the systems that work for me, and how I use them.
A Daily Log
This idea came directly from Austin Kleon. You can read about his system below. I straight up just do what he does. I buy a little pocket-sized Moleskine daily planner and every day I just keep a little log of things that happened.
I’m not great with journaling. I know that’s pretty weird, because I’m a writer. But even when I was a kid, I had a hard time with keeping up with a journal. The pressure to be interesting and creative with it are maybe too overwhelming? I’m not sure. But I do love just jotting things down after they happen. This is my third year to keep a log.
ON KEEPING A LOGBOOK
An expanded version of this post appears in my book, Steal Like An Artist . “Writers are the custodians of memory, and…
A Daily Planner
I’ve got a ton of stuff on my plate. My youngest kid (the only one who is still a kid!) is a two-sport athlete. I run a business. I take care of my parents-in-law who both have dementia. It’s a lot.
I’ve tried every kind of planner out there. My favorite is Erin Condren’s Lifeplanner. I love the covers, the size and feel of the whole book, and that it’s just artsy enough.
A Monthly Planner
I looove my monthly planning system. It’s maybe my most favorite system of all time. I call it FRED: the Folder for Reaching the End of my Draft. You can read more about it below.
Basically, FRED is a monthly calendar combined with a daily log sheet. Just two pages. I stapled them into a manila folder. I give myself a star for ever day that I meet my daily writing goal and log what I wrote. It keeps me right on track and makes me so much more productive in a much shorter amount of time.
These days I use a notebook instead of a folder. Did I mention that I love it?
I have often wished I could just keep a bullet journal and do away with my daily planner. For me, that doesn’t work. It’s too easy for me to skip creating a weekly or daily spread. It’s too tempting for me to just doodle away in my bujo notebook and mess things up.
No. I need the structure of an actual daily planner.
But I do love a bullet journal. I actually use a notebook that has monthly calendar pages. It’s very basic: this month’s calendar over two pages, three or four note pages, then next month’s calendar over two pages, and so on. At the back is just a plain old notebook.
I use mine for keeping track of projects. Your projects are going to be different from mine of course. For me, my bujo is mostly about gardening and self-sufficiency efforts. I use the calendar to plan out my garden and the notebook to keep track of things like food preservation and just a log of the things I do everyday to advance my goals.
I can’t state strongly enough the difference a log makes. Just seeing all your work laid out like that is so empowering.
You could totally just use any sort of notebook for this. That’s the beauty of a bujo, right?
Two years ago, I decided to try keeping a single notebook instead of just jotting notes down in whatever notebook was closest at hand. I use my one notebook for everything from grocery lists to conference notes to story plotting.
Systems that Work for Writers: One Notebook — Ninja Writers
This week I want to introduce you to another system that has really worked for me in the last year or so. It’s pretty…
A Meal Planning Program
Meal planning for a household of seven where I’m the main (really, only) cook is a major job. I need to manage the budget, make sure that I’m not standing in front of the fridge at 7 p.m. trying to figure out what to make when everyone is starving, and figure out how not to eat fast food four nights a week during soccer season.
It’s a lot.
I have a couple of systems that help. The most recently added one is a white board in my pantry (which is visible from my kitchen) where I write down all the meals that I have the ingredients on hand to make. When we eat that meal, I erase it. When we go grocery shopping, I add to the list.
I wanted to keep a dinner diary in 2018 and it didn’t happen. I’m trying again in 2019. I’m not sure why I want to do it, other than I read about it and it sounds pretty cool. I feel like it will help me at the very least with the fast-food-on-sports-days thing. No one wants to write down McDonald’s or pizza three or four times a week.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.