Setting Up Jeff Goins’ Writing System in Ulysses

A few months ago, Jeff Goins wrote about the system he’s used to write 5 books and over 1,000 Blog Posts:

What we call “writing” is actually made up of three distinct activities: coming up with ideas, turning those ideas into drafts, and then editing those drafts into publishable pieces.

Most writers […] believe the myth that writing is one thing. When I realized that coming up with a great idea, writing 500–1,000 words on that idea, and then editing that idea into something I could publish on my blog — all in one sitting — was, in fact, a ridiculous goal, everything changed.


I began breaking those activities — ideation, creation, and editing — into three separate actions. And you know what? When you have one goal to accomplish, you are far more productive and focused than when you have three.

Goins shares how he now has 3 buckets: One for ideas, one for writing, and one for edits.

He has a whole folder full of ideas for when he’s feeling dry. Then, when it’s time for him to write, he pulls out an idea from the idea bucket and begins writing.

With Ulysses you could easily set this up. In fact, you could do so in a few different ways.

  1. You could have, as Jeff does, three separate buckets. Keeping it simple — each “bucket” could be its own group. (This is how I do it.)

  2. If you have multiple topics or areas that you’re writing about (such as technology gear but also food blogging), you could keep unique buckets of ideas, drafts, edited works that sit nested underneath each of your topics.

  3. You could also tag your sheets with the appropriate keyword: idea, draft, edited. Then use a smart filter to gather them all together no matter what group you have them in.

As I mentioned, I’ve gone the first route. In my Ulysses I set up three groups: Ideas, Edit, Publish. (Each with its own fancy icon, too.)

Jeff Goins writing system, set up in ulysses

Another advantage of using Ulysses for this system is that you’ve now got one central spot where all your ideas go. (And, thanks to the Ulysses share sheet on iOS, it’s quite easy


There are two surefire ways to help overcome writer’s procrastination, and one of them is knowing what to write next.

I’ve been writing as my full-time job since 2011. While I can’t recall if I’ve ever been short on ideas, I do hit walls with my writing from time to time. After taking Jeff’s system and transposing it to my own Ulysses library, my writing process feels liberated.

What I discovered was that I had bits and pieces of my writing all over the place, strewn about in all sorts of different apps. Ideas, working drafts, finished articles, bits of inspiration… all roaming wild and scattered about.

Next week I’ll share more about how I’ve consolidated everything into Ulysses and how I’m using it now.


Brief side note: We’ve got something brand new in the works that’s related to Ulysses.

You can find out more about it right here.

And, in the meantime, for more on Ulysses, here are some recent articles: