2016 “Bullet Journal”

Well here we are once again! New year, fresh start re: regular posting – a little later than expected due to internet connection issues we had all last week – but now that (hopefully) that’s resolved, it’s time for another installment of…

Bullet Journal 2016 header

Last year I gave an adapted version of Bullet Journaling a try, and it worked surprisingly well once I tweaked the system to suit my own needs – specifically, keeping the “Bullet” part pretty much completely confined to tasks and to-do lists. Bottom line is, for my life and for my line of work, the actual “bullet” part of the system for planning purposes? It totally doesn’t work as a freelance musician and adjunct instructor, when I often book things months (and sometimes years!) in advance.

And so I adapted the system in certain places to essentially function like a regular, traditional planner. Specifically, the addition of monthly calendars at the beginning and more space for daily planning in the month-by-month section made it far more functional for my purposes. You can see the details of last year’s planner here, if you’re curious, but I’ve pretty much kept all of last year’s changes, so we’ll rehash them in a moment.

Now, this year’s journal is not EXACTLY the same in every way – as well as what I set up last year worked, as I used it, I did find myself adding pages, and using set pages slightly differently than expected. So as I set up this year’s, I’ve added in some new pages that I hope will work even better for my personal goal attainment and planning.

It also took a little while for me to get it up and running this year, due to my indecisiveness with regards to the actual notebook I was going to use. Last year I just used a spare journal I had lying around, since I didn’t know if I was going to stick with the system or not. But this year I felt an enormous amount of pressure to pick something that I knew I really liked since I’ll be stuck with it all year.

And let me tell you, was that difficult. I just couldn’t find one that I both liked and was the right size/set-up and it took me quite a while before I found and settled on this grey Eccolo journal featuring a cat and a ball of yarn. It’s still a little plain for my tastes, but it was at least the size and shape I wanted, and wasn’t just a plain solid color like the Moleskine are. Overall, I’m pleased with the quality of it – the cover is sturdy, but flexible, and the paper quality is nice – a little thin, but the ink at least doesn’t end up feathered.


I decided to forgo a key this year, since I pretty much know my system at this point, and I have a color-code key taped to the case of the staedtler fineliners that I use for calendar work anyway. I also skipped the index/Table of Content pages, since I didn’t use them AT ALL last year. Instead, the journal starts right in with the monthly calendars in the first 12 spreads.

Once more I used the beautiful calendar pages from this year’s The Handmade Home’s free planner. Like last year, getting them actually inserted and affixed to the journal took FOREVER, but it’s seriously so worth it for me in terms of functionality. I use these calendars for entering the “big stuff” that I need to keep track of through the year – concerts, birthdays, gigs, etc… as well as anything I end up having to schedule more than a month in advance. This way I have one place to see everything that falls outside the realm of the “daily grind” when I get called to schedule something – double booking is a real fear of mine if I don’t have everything written down and accessible. I only had the page about half-filled in when I snapped this picture, but as you can see by the few smudges there are, I color code things on my calendar – green for personal, blue for my academic job, red for music gigs, and pink for birthdays.


Following the monthly calendars, I have a few spreads that I will be using throughout the entire year, the first of which is a list of my New Year’s Resolutions, along with a blank page adjacent to it which I plan to jot down challenges or set-backs, and generally use to help assess my progress as the year goes on.

Bill Log

The next is probably the most important “yearly” spread beyond the calendars: my Bill Log. I’ve always found it helpful to have a checklist like this for everything I can’t set to auto-pay. Having it really helps me keep my anxiety re: adult finances under control, since if I ever find myself second-guessing myself about having paid a bill, I can just look at the list, and all the information is there. I also usually write down exact amounts, and either the check number or the payment confirmation number, but January’s bills were paid when I was still working from last year’s journal – so I only transferred the checkmarks (I would have edited those out in Photoshop for privacy/safety purposes, anyway).

finished book log

Next up is a log of all my Finished Books. Since one of my New Year’s resolutions is to read more, I want to keep a log of what I get through in terms of pleasure reading (I will not be logging books or parts of books I have to read for work/lecture purposes… only the books I choose for my own enjoyment/enrichment). Hopefully at the end of the year, I can look at this spread and be able to really tell that I’ve made progress in making pleasure reading a habit again.

Gift Idea Tracker

Next is a spread dedicated to logging gift ideas. One of my biggest issues is that I’ll see something, or think of something that would be PERFECT for someone for their birthday or Christmas or whatever – but it’s always too far in the future for me to make the purchase. I’ve learned from experience that if I buy more than a month in advance, odds are that person will buy it for themselves before the birthday rolls around (*cough*JIM*cough*), so I try to avoid doing that. But as it always happens, I don’t write the idea down, and then when it actually DOES come time to buy, I can’t remember for the life of me what that amazing gift idea was. So this year I’m going to try to keep that from happening.

Large Purchase Tracker

The last “yearly” spread is one for keeping track of bigger purchases that I want to make. Because as an adjunct/freelancer my incomes are a) seasonal, b) unreliable, and c) very very small – I have to be very careful about budgeting and planning for larger purchases. To help me do that this year, I’ve included a space for me to keep track of the bigger things I want to buy so that I can budget, prioritize based on need vs. want, and just generally keep them fresh in my mind so that maybe I’ll skip the latte in favor of checking the bigger stuff off the list sooner.

And with that, we’re on to the “monthly” spreads – the spreads I will re-do and re-start at the beginning of each month. The process of sitting down and setting up the new month’s spreads on the first of the month has become a really centering ritual for me, and it’s been helpful in helping me feel like I’ve got a full view of the upcoming weeks.

Blog posts and habit tracker

We start with the month’s blog post idea long, and the monthly habit tracker – both of which are pretty self-explanatory.

Reading Log

Next is a new addition to the monthly lineup – a reading log. Again, since one of my biggest goals this year is to up the amount of pleasure reading I do, I figure keeping a log will help me stay accountable. I’m not yet sure how well it will work, but I figure it’s worth a shot. If I find myself forgetting about it, I’ll just omit it from future months.

January Daily

After the reading log begins my detailed calendar work – my version of the “daily” list in the Bullet Journal system. The alterations I made last year to allow myself more room for detailed calendar work, and the eighty-thousand commitments I have between my three jobs worked very very well last year, so I kept them. Again, here is where I color-code.

Finances Page

Following the “Daily” pages, I also have three new additions to the system. First, a monthly finance tracker. I want to get really serious about saving this year, as well as keep a much tighter rein on exactly where my money is going, and hopefully this and the following page will help. No more frantic checking of my accounts before a spur of the moment purchase.

Purchases Groceries and Meal Planning

Next is a purchase log – basically I’m going to try to write down everything I spend money on over the course of the month. Again, all in the interest in keeping tighter control over how I’m spending my money.

And then finally, the single “weekly” page – I am going to attempt to grocery shop more efficiently by keeping track of what I need as I realize I need it (instead of wandering the grocery store aisles wondering, “am I out of that?”). To further facilitate that (and maybe some healthier eating too) I’m also going to try to log my meals – at least for a few weeks, so that I can get a handle on exactly what my “staple foods” actually are – something that’s long overdue considering I’ve been living on my own and feeding myself for a long time now.

After my grocery page comes my daily To-Do/Must-Do pages, which quite frankly are one of the few places that the “bullet journal” system still actually looks like the “bullet journal” system – but I haven’t really had to utilize that function yet – and probably won’t have to until really the middle of this week.

I am a little concerned with all the new monthly spreads, that I might run out of space this year – but I’m not going to worry about it until I get a better handle on exactly which spreads stay, and which get tossed as I set up for February!

Do you guys use a bullet-journal type set up? How do you use it/what changes have you made to make it suit your needs? Feel free to share in the comments!

Magpie’s Adventures in Bullet Journaling


Bullet Journaling has really fascinated me ever since Jenn from With Luck Blog brought it to my attention way back when I posted about planners. The concept seemed to work really well with the system I was currently using for my to-do lists, but there was one big issue with it – the inability to plan ahead by more than a month or so. As a freelance musician, I sometimes book weddings and masses months and even years in advance (funerals, not so much), so the lack of a static monthly calendar in the system was a major flaw for me.

But everything else seemed so great… so I decided in the new year I was going to try to figure out a way to adapt the system to fit my needs and give it a shot.


The notebook I chose is one I got on clearance at Barnes and Noble – it’s clearly an imitation of a moleskine, without the price tag (I think I paid $3?). So far it’s held up similarly, with the added bonus of having a gorgeous butterfly wing cover.


The brand is Piccadilly – the paper quality is great, and again comparable to moleskine.


I used a pretty Project Life card to make my key – I use mostly shapes for the actual “bullet” part of it, and the color coding is for calendar entries. My “bullets” are mostly done with whatever pen I have handy, and for my calendar I have a 10-pack of Triplus Fineliners.


This is my index page – not sure how useful this will actually be for me. I don’t do too much idea logging other than blog posts, and I’ve got little post-it tabs to demarcate where my idea log for the month is along with my current active calendar sections.


To solve my need to plan ahead problem, I printed out these lovely monthly calendars from The Handmade Home, trimmed and pasted them in the first 12 spreads of the journal. Getting them folded properly and to lie flat was a bit finicky, but is proving massively worth it. Having this monthly calendar allows me to plan ahead as needed without lugging around a second book/planner specifically for this purpose.

Note that my calendar is not actually this empty – it’s actually pretty disgustingly flooded with stuff. I just feel a bit weird about posting my schedule and where I will be and when for all to see on the interwebs, so I edited out my entries in photoshop. But it should be noted that this is where the color-coding happens. And you can see what each color means on my key above.

In general, I keep the “big happenings” on these pages. The “out of the ordinary” stuff like concerts, weddings, gigs, doctor’s appts, birthdays – but not the day to day work stuff like meetings, classes, rehearsals, and the sort of daily grind things.


Following the monthly calendar spreads, I have a bill checklist – I’ve always kept track using a checklist like this, and now having it in with all my other stuff is great.

(Before you say anything, yes, I know I don’t have a ton of bills – I’ve only listed the stuff I don’t have on auto-pay here, and I’m super lucky to have most of my utilities included in my rent.)


Then, at the start of each month, I have a spread that includes space for logging blog post ideas, and keeping track of habits I want to make permanent.


After the Ideas/Habits spread, then comes the daily listing of the month – here’s another place where I altered the Bullet Journal formula to suit my own needs. Instead of one line per day, I leave a big block for more detailed calendar work. At the beginning of the month I go through and transfer the “big stuff” from the monthly spreads, and then use the rest of the space for “daily grind” sort of stuff – meetings with students, rehearsals, classes, lunches, etc… These are also color-coded.

(Again, I edited out my entries – most boxes are pretty full, I’m just not feeling great about having the details of my daily schedule up for the world to see.)

And then comes my daily lists – here you can see I pretty much stick with the bullet journal formula – although I occasionally forget to “migrate” tasks I don’t complete (as you can see, grocery shopping is one I let go pretty frequently… actually as I type this I’m eating a bowl full of mashed pumpkin for lunch because that’s pretty much all I have left in the cabinets… whoopssss). I use pretty washi tape to differentiate between days, and for a lot of other decorative purposes throughout the book.


So far this system has been working out super well – particularly now that the semester is underway. It’s handy to have my Must-Do lists for the day alongside literally EVERYTHING ELSE, without adding the heft of a big leather binder planner to my bag. The only potential problem I see coming is if I end up running out of space in the book, since the monthly calendars are already affixed and filled – swapping them into another book without having to re-print and re-do everything might be logistically problematic. But judging by the rate at which I used pages so far this year, I *might* be okay until next January first…

But I suppose we’ll see!

Do you bullet journal? If not, what do you use to plan? Any tips or tricks you want to share? Let us know in the comments!

WIP Wednesday

I’ve been really really lax when it comes to knitting lately. I think I ended up with a grand total of 4 FOs (Finished Objects) last year? Maybe?

But I got my mojo back last week and I’m finally making some progress on some of the stuff I’ve been working on.

First, my Undertow Shawlette (Ravelry Link), which has been in progress since this was a KAL pattern by my LYS (which has sadly now closed) in May of 2013.


I’ve been super slow with progress on this, not because I don’t like the pattern (it’s pretty easy actually), but because the yarn is not really my favorite – I’m using Crystal Palace Yarn’s Mini Mochi in what I think is colorway 303 Spice Market (I was an asshole who lost the yarn band). The yarn is fine, but the colorway isn’t really my bag of chips so it’s been difficult finding motivation.

I’ve also run into a problem now that I’m making progress – I never actually consulted yardage requirements before starting this pattern and have, well, run out of yarn. I’ve got two options here – one is to find a second skein, which will take some searching of brick and mortar yarn stores (since I lost the band and need to compare the actual project to the skein), or bind off early. I kind of want to avoid binding off early, because as much as I don’t care for the colors, the lace section is shaping up beautifully and I don’t want to sell it short by skipping the last section.



So I’ll have to figure that one out as I go I guess.


Next, I’ve got a quick project I started because I can’t find the chunky arm knit scarf from last year. I need another chunker for my walk to work, and I had a few skeins of Lion Brand Hometown USA in Cambridge Tweed floating around so I figured, “Why not?”

Right now it just looks like a blob, but eventually it’ll be a Domek (Ravelry link). I can’t wait to see how the construction turns out.


In non-knitting news, my other decent sized project for the next few days is finally starting to get photos from our Disney trip last year into an album. I finally got around to getting some of the pictures printed and grabbing some Disney themed paper. I’ve been on the hunt for some for months to no avail. I gotta say, you’d think there’d be more that wasn’t either a) 100% Mickey themed or b) 100% kid oriented, since the parks are pretty huge vacation destinations for adults, and there’s way more than just Magic Kingdom there…

So basically I settled for grabbing some bright colored paper to augment the overwhelming Mickey focus.

Now if only there was a Disney Project Life pack, I wouldn’t have even had to bother…

Once I make some progress on these, I’ll let you know how it’s all working out. But for now, what are you all currently working on?

So I Guess I Scrapbook?

Photos layed out

So a few weeks ago after I saw this post on A Beautiful Mess, I re-caught the photo album bug. I’ve never liked calling what I do “scrapbooking.” When I hear the word “scrapbooking” I think of those aisles upon aisles full of (often super cheesy) stickers at Michael’s. I think of hundreds of dollars worth of supplies and countless hours going into a single page that highlights a single picture. I think of albums that quite honestly are more embellishment than photo, stuffy, formal, and TOO perfect. And I’m just not down with that. I don’t have the time, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the patience, and I don’t have the space to store all the STUFF.

That said, I do like photo albums. I like having all my photos printed and accessible. I hate the idea that everything is destined to sit on a hard drive forever, if for no other reason than so that my eventual children can sit and pour over them the way my brother and I poured over our parents’ when we were little.

And so they at least have the opportunity to laugh at my 2002 school photo with the popcorn shirt the way we laughed at my dad’s powder blue prom tuxedo with the massive 70’s lapel and my mom’s Adam Ant glasses.

But anyway.

The problem is, I think plain photo albums are boring. I like pretty paper, I like to occasionally include captions regarding what was going on in a certain photo…

Project Life kit

So over the past year I’ve had to get a little more okay with the idea that, yea, I’m a “scrapbooker.” Some of that has to do with discovering Project Life – which is definitely a no-muss no-fuss way to get nice looking albums that let you be a little more creative than a straight up simple photo album, without feeling like your committing your entire paycheck and life to the scrapbook industry. The rest of it has to do with growing up and realizing that a scrapbook can be whatever the hell I want it to be.

If I just want it to be pictures pasted on a piece of pretty paper, that’s all it has to be. If I want to doll it up a little with captions and photo mats, then I can do that too. If I just want to stick a concert program and tickets in a page protector with nothing else, that’s okay too. It doesn’t have to be pretty and expensive and perfect. It can just be what it is.

So I’m a scrapbooker I guess. A messy, half-hearted, lazy scrapbooker.

I’m okay with that.

Are there any craft “labels” that you struggle with?