Tag: travelersnotebook

A Spoiler-Free Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

A Spoiler-Free Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

So this has been a long time coming – I actually finished this book several weeks ago, but my MBA classes cranked back up and I just hadn’t had the free seconds to write up a review on Libba Bray’s Lair of Dreams. BUT, now I have a few free minutes so here we go:

Before I really get going, let me just make a disclaimer here: Libba Bray is the author of my all-time favorite series of young adult fantasy books, the Gemma Doyle trilogy of books (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing, each of which can be purchased by clicking on the respective links). These books are on par with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings in my heart and head, and if you’re going to read anything Libba for the first time please start with Gemma’s story! I have read these books almost every single year, without fail, since the first one was released in 2003. I have gifted the first book to many friends – any time I participate in a book swap, A Great and Terrible Beauty is the book that goes out. I promise you won’t be disappointed!!!

Ok – now let’s get into the bulk of this post. Lair of Dreams is book no. 2 in The Diviners series, the first book being (not unexpectedly) entitled The Diviners. Your cast of characters is much the same, to include:

  • Evie
  • Theta
  • Henry
  • Uncle Will
  • Sam
  • Jericho
  • Mabel
  • the Proctor sisters

And a couple of new additions, namely:

  • Ling
  • Wai Mei
  • Louis
  • Memphis
  • Blind Bill

The story picks up about a year from where The Diviners left off, with diviners being the new big thing in the Big Apple. Without going too much into the plot of the story and giving it all away, let’s just say that divining getting bigger and bigger is perhaps not the best thing. Everyone’s powers seem to be getting stronger and they all seem to be tied to a new, central source. I am super stoked to see how this develops over the course of the third (and, I believe, the final) book in the series!

As is always the case with anything Libba Bray writes, my absolute favorite part of this book is the way she builds the story. I’ve read a lot of books in my life, but I’ve never seen an author who can write like Libba writes. She is a wordsmith in the truest sense of the term, and writes in what I can only describe as a cinematic way – I can actually see everything happening in my head as she writes it. All of her books that I own are lovingly dog-eared, underlined, and notated to pieces. I copied complete passages, full pages, over into my commonplace book because that’s just how good she is.

What I have to admire the most is the depth of research that went into this book. With the introduction of Ling and Wei Mai, both of whom are Chinese immigrants in America during the Chinese Exclusion Act, Bray went to painstaking lengths to ensure that historical and cultural accuracy are represented by these two characters and their family members. As I read the book, I was researching some of the topics and symbolism that came up, and Bray has interspersed Chinese symbolism throughout in ways that aren’t even obvious until later unless you know what you’re looking for! That’s a quality I have always admired about her writing, and I’m so glad to see that it hasn’t changed over the last fourteen years.

Here’s the blurb on the back of my copy of the book:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s a media darling. It seems like everyone in love with New York City’s latest It Girl – their ‘Sweetheart Seer.’

But while Evie is enjoying the high life, her fellow Diviners Henry DuBois and Ling Chan will fight to keep their powers secret.

A malevolent force is at large, infecting people’s dreams and claiming victims in their sleep. At the edge of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans of nightmare proportions…

As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

The central source of conflict in this book is the sleeping sickness, which descended upon Chinatown and seems to be spreading outwards across the city. Its victims go to sleep at night and never wake up – they don’t die immediately, though; rather, they seem to be trapped in some kind of nightmare-land from which they can’t awaken, as their bodies are slowly burned up from the inside out until there’s nothing left.

This is what Evie and crew are trying to fight in this book – where is it coming from, who is causing it, why are they doing so, and how do they stop it? Although to be honest, Evie kind of takes a back seat to Henry and Ling, who are featured on the cover of my copy and who play more of a central role in this story than does Evie, who dominated the first book.

That’s truly fine by me, because I think Evie is exceedingly shallow and irritating, and I definitely prefer Henry, Theta, Memphis, Ling, Sam, and Jericho to Evie.

I really enjoyed learning more about each characters’ background and history, as Bray begins to drop significant hints about where they come from throughout this book (you’ve got to be quick and paying close attention to catch some of them, though!). There is truly a character that everyone can relate to in this book, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Overall score: 5/5 stars, definitely add it to your to-read list

Now I am just going to leave you with some of my favorite passages from this book:

I’ve never understood this obsession with where we are from that we Americans seem to have. We are from here, are we not? Sometimes I find this clannishness, these ties to old homelands, ancient traditions, and familial bloodlines, to be nothing more than fear – the same fear that keeps us praying to an absent God. If anything, I hope that our research into the great unknown of Diviners and the supernatural world proves that we are all one, joined by the same spark of energy that owes nothing to countries or religion, good and evil, or any other man-made divisions. We create our history as we go.

America had invented itself. It continued to invest itself as it went along. Sometimes its virtues made it the envy of the world. Sometimes it betrayed the very heart of its ideals. Sometimes the people dispensed with what was difficult or inconvenient to acknowledge. So the good people maintained the illusion of democracy and wrote another hymn to America. They sang loud enough to drown out dissent. They sang loud enough to overpower their own doubts. There were no plaques to commemorate mistakes, but the past didn’t forget. History was haunted by the ghosts of buried crimes, which required periodic exorcisms of truth. Actions had consequences.

“Diviners are truth-tellers. But people rarely want the truth. We say that we want it when, really, we like being lied to. We prefer the ether of hope.”

“But hope is necessary! You have to give people hope,” Mabel insisted.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

Jericho folded his arms across his chest. “In an amoral, violent world, isn’t it unconscionable to keep offering hope? It’s like advertising for soap that never gets you clean.”

“Now you’re just being cynical.”

“Am I? What about war? We keep grappling for power, killing for it. Enslaving. Oppressing. We create ourselves. We destroy ourselves. Over and over. Forever. If the cycle repeats, why bother with hope?”

“But we also overcome. I’ve seen people fight against that sort of oppression and win. What you’re talking about is nihilism. And frankly,” Mabel said, taking a steadying breath, “frankly, that bores me.” Nothing emboldened her quite as much as someone claiming the good fight couldn’t be won.

“How is it nihilism to embrace the cycle and let go – of attachments and morality, yes, and the opiate futility of hope?” Jericho fired back. Mabel’s naiveté annoyed him. She might think she’d seen the world, but, really, she saw only a particular slice of the world, neatly bordered by hedgerows trimmed daily by her parents’ idealism. “All right,” he pressed. “If you believe in hope, what about true evil? Do you believe there is such a thing?”

Mabel felt as if the question were a test, one she might easily fail. “I believe real evil is brought about by a system that is unjust or by people acting selfishly. By greed.” She’d never really articulated her thoughts on the matter before, and it satisfied her to say them aloud.

“That’s the do-gooder answer.”

Mabel bristled. “I don’t go for the bogeyman. There’s plenty of evil to fight in life without having to make up devils and demons and ghosts. If you believe there is Evil int he world, capital E, doesn’t that take away your belief in fee will? I still maintain that people have choices. To do right. To have hope. To give hope,” Mabel said pointedly.

The land has a memory.

Every stream and river runs with a confession of sorts, history whispered over rocks, lifted in the beaks of birds at a stream, carried out to sea. Buffalo thunder across plains whose soil was watered with the blood of battles long since relegated to musty books on forgotten shelves. Fields once strewn with blue and gray now flower with uneasy buds. The slave master snaps the lash, and generations later, the ancestral scars remain.

Under it all, the dead lie, remembering.

The atoms vibrate, always on the verge of some new shift.

Shift and the electrons lean toward particle or wave.

Shift and the action requires a reaction.

Shift and the stroke of a typewriter elevates i to I, changes God to god.

Shift and the beast acquires a thumb; the thumb, a weapon.

Shift and right become wrongs; the wrongs, justification.

It’s all in the perspective.

And finally – from the Author’s Note:

The story of America is one that is still being written. Many of the ideological battles we like to think we’ve tucked neatly into a folder called “the past” – issues of race, class, gender, sexual identity, civil rights, justice, and just what makes us “American” – are very much alive today. For what we do not study and reflect upon, we are in danger of dismissing or forgetting. What we forget, we are often doomed to repeat. Our ghosts, it seems, are always with us, whispering that attention must be paid.

Commonplace Book: What It Is and Why You Should Keep One

Commonplace Book: What It Is and Why You Should Keep One

Lately, I have started keeping a commonplace book again. When I was very young, I kept one for years (and would that I could figure out whatever happened to it!), but fell off the practice when I started high school back in 2005 and haven’t really done anything like it since then. Now, don’t think a commonplace book is like a journal or a diary, because it’s not. A commonplace book is not the place for introspection and personal reflection – rather, it is “a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.

What this basically means is it’s a catchall for anything you might see or hear in the great wide world that catches you eye and makes you think, “Hm. That was good.”

You write it down in your commonplace book for future reference.

My commonplace book is currently being housed in my No. 5 Autumn Rose traveler’s notebook from The Foxy Fix, and is a collection of many things, to include:

  • quotes
  • poetry
  • lists of books I’ve read this year
  • books I want to read in the future
  • a reference guide for Sarah J. Maas’ bibliography
  • definitions of words I did not recognize
  • complete passages from books I’m reading
  • brief research on topics I was unfamiliar with
  • a list of poets I’d like to read

All of this is kept in no particular order. I write on the next blank page, in whatever style and ink suits me. Right now, there’s a ton of passages from Libba Bray’s Lair of Dreams (part 2 of a series, which you can buy here and here if you so desire – it’s YA fantasy set in 20th century NYC and I highly recommend it, Libba Bray is a wordsmith of the highest caliber!) because I swear to all the high heavens that woman is a silver tongue if I’ve ever seen one.

As mentioned, it also is a place to collect vocabulary words (I know – you thought vocabulary words ended in middle school. Let me be the first to tell you it is never too late to expand your vocabulary!). For example, here are some of the words I’ve recorded:

  • pneumatic
  • copacetic
  • sycophant
  • crepuscular
  • nihilism
  • bromide
  • incandescent

No, I won’t tell you the definitions. Look them up and add them to your own commonplace book!

But why should you keep one?

Well, to start off with, nearly all of history’s greatest figures (and many of your normal, regular citizens) have kept a version of a commonplace book. A la Wikipedia, “[Commonplace] books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.”

It’s a place for you to refer back to in the future, should you find yourself in need of inspiration. It makes reading and writing inseparable activities – while you’re reading, you’re taking notes. You’re writing in the margins. You’re underlining passages and dog-earing pages and making exclamatory statements next to particularly surprising passages. Then, when you’re done, you copy it over into your commonplace book. In this way, reading is no longer a passive activity – it is active, intellectual, and engaging. You are given the opportunity to reflect upon what you’re reading, rather than to just absorb it and move on.

Granted, not all of us are readers, and that’s fine. For those of you who aren’t, a commonplace book is simply a handy depository for things you find on the line that might be inspiring or thought-provoking. How many of us screenshot things we see on Facebook or instagram because we thought it was particularly indicative and representative of something going on in our lives, only to have that screenshot lost forever in the depths of our camera rolls, never to be seen or thought about again?

With a commonplace book, you copy that screenshot over, which in and of itself will make you reflect upon what about the passage or the quote or the meme that inspired you in the first place. Then, it’s readily available for future use and reference, whatever that use or reference may be. You will no longer have to scroll through endless selfies and dog photos to find the screenshot you’re looking for.

If you’re into this kind of thing, a commonplace book can also serve as a record for the future. In this digital, electronic age, few things are written down by hand anymore. But the longevity of our digital files is currently unknown – will this blog post survive the passage of time? Will anything we do online survive?

Sure, provided future generations continue to have access to electricity, computers, and high-speed internet.

We know, however, that the written word, pen-and-paper, notebooks, are all able to survive through time, albeit in various states of disrepair upon their discovery. In fact, we have used commonplace books from both the greats and the normals to get an idea of what people were thinking about and reading and doing and writing and feeing for hundreds of years. They have provided us with so much insight into the past and have proven to be an invaluable resource for historians all over the world.

It may be a little ambitious to think that my personal recordings of things that I like might be found one day in the future and serve as the logbook of a generation (ha!), but I still like to record these things as much for posterity’s sake as for my own.

And that’s totally fine!

If nothing else, it leaves a physical record for future generations of my own family to look back and see what I, personally, was doing and thinking and feeling. I have a series of journals my mom kept when I was a baby, nothing important was said in them, just documentations of my day and my first words and my first steps and the foods I liked and things of that nature, but those notebooks are precious to me because they were written by a member of my family and because they provide insight into a time of life that I don’t remember (being that I was an infant at the time, obviously).

It’s a little awe-inspiring to think that someone from my future may look upon my notebooks in the same fashion.

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Foxy Fix Southwestern Santa Fe No. 5 Single Set

Foxy Fix Southwestern Santa Fe No. 5 Single Set

Yesterday, I came home to a HUGE happy mail haul!!! I had a golden envelope from the BST that contained my Mystery Sale Sugar Coconut (!) with white stitching and white elastic. The sweet lady who sold it to me included A METRIC SHIT-TONNE of extras from a The Planner Society kit, to include:

  • floral washi tape (!)
  • floral vellum (!!!!!)
  • like four new B6 inserts
  • a vinyl dashboard w/ adhesive top-loading pocket attached to it
  • some kind of glitter card that is cool but I have no clue what to do with LOL
  • AND (my personal favorite, because I’m into this shit) a sweet hand-written note from the seller (I get off on hand-written notes so hard – I still send physical birthday cards in the mail to all my friends)

I ALSO got my orders from KatyLusCreations (the adorable burlap bow clip) and TabbyCatClips (OMFG the elephant planner charm!!!!!) on Etsy

AND LAST BUT MOST CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, THE ONE WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR:

NO. 5 SOUTHWESTERN SANTA FE SINGLE SET FROM THE FOXY FIX OMFG!!!

Aforementioned adorable elephant planner charm because elephants are my all-time favorite animal ever

Let me just take a minute to say that I absolutely love structured leather that ages and patinas with use so if you’re not into that, this leather is almost certainly not going to be your style. 

Ok. Moving right along. The Foxy Fix blog describes this leather collection as being “a full grain leather with all natural range markings that include scars, color variation, light and dark markings as well as markings that are not natural and are from the tanning process and production. A beautiful high end vegetable tanned leather that develops in character. Made in the U.S.A.” I have had this FN in my possession for exactly 10 hours and 34 minutes, and I can already see scuff marks and scratches on the cover. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. In fact, I love it. I’m still kicking myself for having sold my old original Rowena 6.5 (even though I literally would have no use for that size FN) just because it aged and gained character so well.

This is not a floppy leather. It is very thin (think 1.8 – 2.0 mm), but very structured, and it molds around my inserts just fucking beautifully. The outside is very smooth and is kind of reminiscent of maybe some kind of horse tack (?), while the inside is almost scratchy feeling (definitely not the soft, suedey feel that you find inside the Boss Babe or Sugar collections). I can already tell that the Santa Fe is going to hold up beautifully over time and just get better and better as she ages, so I’m super stoked to start putting her to use.

I’ve already waxed sentimental in the past about the glory of the single-strap FN, so I’m not really going to go into that here, except for to say y’all stop bitching about getting your single-straps in the Mystery Sales if you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen there are so many people who have literally never got anything in the Mystery Sales because y’all are all snatching up four and five and six FN per size and then complaining when they all come in as singles even though Foxy Fix is very blatantly saying the Mystery Sale price is 50% off the price of a single in that size and why the hell would anyone expect Foxy Fix to load up their Mystery Sales specifically with fully-loaded couture items WTAF y’all are killing me over here.

Phew. Okay. Got that off my chest.

Now for the minor changes I’ve made on the inside.

As I said before, the lady who sold me her Mystery Sale Sugar Coconut single-strap included a ton of extras. This precious floral vellum was one of the extras. I’ve never used vellum before and would never have purchased any on my own, but it is so nice and adds a little extra ~pop~ to my FN. This particular vellum actually says “Finances” on the back, but because I don’t use a finance insert I just turned it upside down so the blank side was on the front and rolled with it lol.

Vellum! Who knew?

She also included this 2017 calendar insert from PaperPenguinCo, a shop I’ve already raved about in the past, but I’ve never purchased one of her calendar inserts. I really like the intention behind the monthly calendar I’ve been using for the past few months, but I am such a visually-minded planner that I need to see this layout to really make sense of it all in my mind. I’ve already ordered my 2018 calendar insert from LightsPlannerAction and it’s a traditional calendar insert, so I had planned to make the switch in January but when I saw this in my golden envelope, I immediately sat down and filled it out and moved right in. Featuring the aforementioned floral washi tape (I fucking love floral anything).

More vellum. This one worked out because I do have an insert that I use specifically for note-taking throughout my day (outside of my regular rapid-logging insert). Super cute. Love vellum. Ugh. Also on the left are some freebie stickers that came in the package from KatyLusCreations – definitely will be ordering from her shop again, if only because her mascot is an elephant and she sent an elephant sticker and everything has elephants on it and I am obsessed with elephants. <3

This is the back of my last dashboard, with an adhesive top-loading pocket attached. These are some little stickers from The Planner Society. Not too sure yet what I’m going to do with them, I’ve never used stickers in my planning before, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

Outside of everything featured here, I also got a No. 5/B6 dot-grid insert from The Foxy Fix. I haven’t tried it yet, and I’m not sure what kind of use I’ll put it to, but when I figure something out I’ll definitely let you know.

Plan With Me: October 2017

Plan With Me: October 2017

We have officially entered the fourth quarter – where has this year gone? Yesterday it was January. Is this what getting old feels like?

I heralded the new month with gluten-free pancakes, coffee, and this brand-spanking-new-to-me no. 5 Wanderlust Butterscotch single that I found on the buy-sell-trade boards on Facebook. Wanderlust Butterscotch has been a unicorn Foxy of mine since I found Foxy Fix in June 2016, and I am so thrilled to have finally got my hands on one!

As you may or may not have come to expect at this point, I’ve made some minor changes to my FN system as we move in to October. I couldn’t keep my hands off the Butterscotch once she came in, so I’ve moved Autumn Rose to the shelf for the time being. The good part is that because I only use no. 5/B6, I can switch out covers whenever I like!

I also found three separate $5 Etsy gift cards in my email last week – the only catch was I had to use them on three separate purchases, so I bought a bunch of paper clips and a planner charm that all totaled under $5 with shipping and ended up with free accessories! The dot clip and the bow clip pictured here are from PugPaperCo – my other clip and charm haven’t arrived yet. 🙁

Haven’t made any changes to my monthly going into October – just the addition of that cute little clip. Lots of birthdays this month but school has slowed down so I’m super stoked about that! Insert, as always, from PristinePaperie.

Weekly inserts have had one minor change – the addition of washi tape! One stripe of tape across the top of the page to add a little color – ha! I’ve also dropped down from two classes to one for the rest of the semester, and that is a welcome change! Insert found at LightsPlannerAction.

Dailies are still found in the Muji B6 grid notebook, but are now marked with that cute little bow clip from PugPaperCo (link above). This layout just works for me, so why would I change it?

I covered the Muji notebooks with some scrapbook paper – looks cute on the outside, less cute on the inside. 😀 But I’m still happy with how it turned out! The left insert above is still where I write my non-date-specific notes and keep my grocery lists and other miscellaneous information. The right insert is a new addition for the fourth quarter, something I’m trying out to see how I like it. More info below!

I saw Leuchtturm’s Some Lines A Day notebook on the Goulet Pens website a while back and loved the idea. I’ve always liked the concept of journaling but have never been able to be consistent with it. I didn’t want to buy a whole new notebook just for this, especially when I’m not into A5 size at all anymore, so I popped an extra Muji insert into my FN, titled it Some Lines A Day, and am going to try my hand at just writing a sentence or two each day about what happened. I think it will be a neat thing to look back on later, provided I can keep up with it!

Gratuitous photos of the Butterscotch because OH MY GOD look at that texture and pebbling I just love it so much. Pine tree gold-embossed on the spine. Ignore that weird smudge on the desk.

Ancora Imparo gold embossed on the cover – this means, “I am still learning,” which I think is appropriate given my current stage in life. If you were on the fence about buying a Butterscotch (or any of the Wanderlust leathers – I have a Wanderlust Licorice micro wallet that has held up beautifully to the beating it inevitably takes as a wallet), let this be the nudge that pushes you over!

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Plan With Me: Foxy Fix #5 Autumn Rose

Plan With Me: Foxy Fix #5 Autumn Rose

So here’s the thing: I might have changed things up again. But in my defense, I didn’t know how perfect a single-strap would be until I got my hot little hands on one! And my Foxy Fix no. 5 Autumn Rose delivered on Friday. And it was love at first sight!

Before we go any further let’s just look at her because OMG – I’m usually not in to bright colorful leathers, I like that rustic look, but as soon as I saw these listed for presale I knew I had to have one (Super Shoutout to Best Husband Ever for agreeing with me and not fighting my desire to splurge even though I had said I wouldn’t be buying anymore notebook covers – you da real MVP)!

Ok but come on…
COME ON!!!!! How can one thing be so perfect?

These are my first photos of her unboxing – I just love the way Foxy packages their items, there’s always so much care that goes into each one! I got a Boss Babe Kate leather sample – love Boss Babe so much. Fun Fact: my first experience with Boss Babe leather was through a Foxy gift I had bought for a sweet friend of mine’s birthday and I also fell in love with that leather. I had a no. 8 and a no. 4 Boss Babe at one point in time but then that B6 life swept me up and I haven’t looked back.

ANYWAY. Back to the fun stuff. Single life. As you may or may not know, depending on how long you’ve been lurking around here, I’ve made some quite significant changes in my planning over the past six months. I started out in a no. 8 single-strap that I got in the mystery sale – I didn’t love singles in that size, likely because the inserts were so big it made it all so heavy and also at that point in time I was still trying to carry around a bunch of crap I don’t necessarily need (more on that later). So after carrying the no. 8 single for a about a month, I ordered a no. 8 Sugar Cookie 6-strap wide, thinking I’ll be able to put my LT1917 in it along with some other inserts (that’s the logical fallacy most BJ-Turned-TN folks make, I think).

WRONG. The wide was too wide. I don’t stuff my TNs like some other people do, so it just looked all sad and empty. Ordered a no. 8 Boss Babe Kate compact and listed the Sugar Cookie for sale. I had the Sugar Cookie embossed with my monogram (I know – rookie mistake) so it took a while to sell, but sell it finally did. Or trade, anyway – someone offered me the no. 5 Bay Blackout traded for the no. 8 Sugar Cookie and I jumped all over that. I had been eyeballing the no. 5 size for a while but couldn’t justify switching sizes and having to buy all-new inserts again. My sweet trade partner hooked me up with a bunch of inserts, though, and I’ve never looked back! B6 is my size till I die. So I listed the no. 8 Boss Babe Kate for sale also, ended up trading that for a Chic Sparrow Outlander Verona, and pre-ordered the no. 5 Autumn Rose when it came available.

The problem with the compacts (and I didn’t realize this was a problem until I got the single) is that they are still a little large, so I found myself carrying inserts around every day that I don’t use every day, just for the sake of being able to have a “stuffed” compact. The arrival of Autumn Rose changed all of that.

SO – here we go! My New and Improved Planning System, featuring Only the Essentials, and None of That Extra Crap!

Insert 1 is now, and always has been, my monthly insert. This one is from PristinePaperie, when she used to offer printed inserts (now they are only available as printables – which sucks because I can’t ever figure those things out!). I especially love these inserts, too, because they have space for little reflections on the month, which will be cool to look back on later, and because they are undated.

Insert 2 is now, and always has been, my weekly insert. These are my lifeline for future planning when my MBA classes are in session. This is where I keep track of all my assignments. Bonus Feature: also undated, so no pressure to use one every week if I don’t need one every week. Double Bonus Feature: that little section of dot-grid, which allows me to keep a mini weekly habit tracker. Triple Bonus Feature: THIS IS AVAILABLE AS A PRINTED INSERT FROM LightsPlannerAction OMG!!!!!

Dashboards – I’ve never purchased one on my own, nor would I have ever thought I needed one, but they are so cute and totally functional in a single. My trade partner included these in with the Bay Blackout. The sparkle one she had done, but I recently purchased some scrapbook paper and I did the pink and black one. Love these little guys. So cute. Can’t believe I scorned dashboards in the past.

See? Dashboard on the left, featuring: a picture of my tiny little Dot Nugget, some tips on communicating effectively from one of my MBA classes, and my transaction register (from this blog post).

Here’s another fun thing I did recently: used the scrapbook paper I mentioned earlier to cover my MujiUSA B6 inserts. They just come with a grey cardboard cover that is NOT super attractive. I originally saw this done over by FreeSoulPlanner on instagram and knew I just had to do it, too!

Inside the MujiUSA is where I still keep my daily rapid-logging – no changes made there. Rapid-logging will probably be my daily planning style until I die. 13 months and going strong.

That last insert is a square-grid insert from AORJournals and is just for notes and other miscellanea. The back of that dashboard has a picture of Gidgimon, the Gidgital Monster, and one of my favorite quotes, and also houses my tiny ruler.

So what I’ve done is gotten rid of the book reviews insert – I don’t need to carry that around on the daily, like come on. Especially not when I’m in school still and all my reading is in textbooks. I’ve also completely kicked the idea of a fitness tracker insert, which I had previously for like two weeks – not my style, don’t use it, out it goes. I’ve finally streamlined everything so that I’m only carrying the essentials every day, and it just so happens that a single-strap is the perfect medium in which to carry the essentials.

I especially love them because the four inserts go flush to the edge of the TN cover, so I don’t get any of that awful bending at the end from the rubber band, and because four inserts is enough to make a single-strap look sufficiently stuffed. I already sold the Outlander Verona and placed an order with those funds for a no. 5 Santa Fe single. I may end up listing the Blackout, also, to get maybe a Rowena or a Wanderlust Butterscotch single. Will update on that later.

If you are a minimalist planner like me and were on the fence about whether or not singles are right for you, let me take this opportunity to push you over the edge.

ALSO, Foxy Fix is now taking pre-orders for their second round of Autumn Rose – you can get one for yourself here!

How to Plan for Planning When You Just Don’t Have Time to Plan

How to Plan for Planning When You Just Don’t Have Time to Plan

If it seems like content has dropped off over the past few weeks, it’s because, well, it has. In addition to my regular 45-50 hours-a-week career and my fascinating and rewarding role as wifey and #dogmom, I’m also enrolled in grad school three-quarters time (more than part time, less than full time – I know) and so my hours are jam-pack-crammed full of nothing but work-dogs-exercise-school-homework-textbooks-sleep-work-dogs-repeat.

What I’ve seen a lot on-the-line is that some people tend to abandon their bullet journals and organization systems when life gets too busy. All I can ever say to that is, “You do what?!”

These systems we pour so much time and effort into are meant to make us more productive. We should be leaning on them harder than ever when life gets busy and we fall into a time crunch. If the first thing to go when things get hard is your organizational system, I can probably almost guarantee you that it’s definitely going to get even harder after that.

SO. With that being said, here’s my super-top-secret secret for how I keep up with my organizational system when life has me scheduled to do 25 hours worth of work in a 24-hour day: make the system work for you!

This is why I love the concept of a traveler’s notebook system. I literally have neither the time nor the inclination to spend any of my precious minutes drawing out a weekly or a monthly spread in my bullet journal – time is money, after all! So in my TN, I have a handy-dandy weekly insert where I can keep track of all my assignments that are due in my classes, plus schedule things that are going on in my work-and-personal life all in one place. The beauty of an undated weekly insert is that when classes let out and I don’t necessarily have a need for a weekly planning page, I just don’t have to use it – no tears shed over the waste of perfectly good paper, because it’s all undated!

Click the photo to go to LightsPlannerAction’s Etsy listing for this insert!

As you can see, I’ve got each day broken down into three sections: MBA 777, MBA 759, and Home/Work. The To Do section has miscellaneous non-date-specific tasks that need to get done at some point during the week. The Notes section often goes under-or-unutilizied because hey rapid-logging-dailies. And I’ve switched from a huge monthly habit tracker that requires more time than I’m willing to invest to a teeny tiny weekly tracker that is literally just two lines. Again: MAKE THE SYSTEM WORK FOR YOU.

Muji Grid Notebooks – click the photo to be taken to an Amazon listing for five of these babies!

The heart and soul of my bullet journal system is still my rapid-logging daily pages. This is as simple as simple can get. It takes me all of five minutes to get my plan together each day, and I keep this little baby open on my desk at work all day long. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Enter into each day with a plan. Etc. Etc. Etc. There’s no bullet journal cardinal rule that says your daily tasks have to be written inside a perfectly-to-scale representation of the Great Pyramids of Giza. You don’t have to have the most perfect handletteringmanship (whoops – my bullet journal for curmudgeons is showing) to be organized and proud of your system. You don’t have to have a theme for each new day of the week. Find a way to make it work and stick with it! This has been my bullet journal daily style for several months now. I’ve made absolutely no changes to the layout of my dailies. Why? Because it works! In the immortal words of democratic businessman and politician Bert Lance, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

All I’m really trying to say is this: if your bullet journal is the first thing to go when life gets hectic, you’re probably not utilizing the tool as it’s meant to be used. Try a new format. Check out Minimalist Bullet Journals, immediately get discouraged because of how much time and effort they invest into making their minimalist bullet journals look perfect, and then come back here and look at my haphazard and undecorative dailies to make yourself feel better. Don’t fall prey to the Pinterest Bullet Journals or the other people who have literally made bullet journaling into a full time job. It doesn’t have to be that way! Hack the system and make it productive for you!

Analogue Expense Tracking

Analogue Expense Tracking

I tend to get a little obsessive about our bank account. I track every single dollar that enters into or goes out of our account. I want to know where, how, and when we are spending our money. I want to keep accurate track of when our bills are due, what has been paid, what hasn’t been paid, what has cleared the account, what hasn’t cleared the account, what never showed up, etc. etc. Some months (like this month) I have more bills to pay than others, because a bunch of annual renewals came due and I had some medical bills come in, so I need to make sure all of those get paid as well. The only efficient way I have found to be able to do this is in an analogue  format.

Hello, handy dandy transaction register!

Now, I have online banking and I utilize that tool a lot. I know that the bank will keep track of all my bills and transactions and everything like that also, but my brain isn’t optimized to function digitally. If I’m not writing it down every day, if I’m not paying meticulous detail, it’s just not going to stick in my head. Plus, while my bank does a pretty good job of trying to categorize items correctly, sometimes it just doesn’t. I hate having to go back and recategorize or label transactions that didn’t get categorized correctly (or didn’t get categorized at all!). Analogue transaction tracking also allows me to keep an incredibly accurate visual record of when my bills are paid and when they cleared the account. This has trained me to think not in terms of what the account balance is, but rather what we have left to spend – just because there is money in the account doesn’t mean it’s there to be spent!

I start out writing down all the bills I have to pay and the amounts that are due (not shown here – nope! sorry!). Some of these are actually bills (like the mortgage, the power bills, car payments, etc.) and some are just monthly expenses (dog food, gym memberships, etc.). If it’s money I know will be used for someone or something else, it goes here. I use my bank’s bill pay feature to pay 99% of our bills, so the date that gets written down in the DATE line is the one on which the money is set to be sent, not the due date. (All our bills get paid ahead of time so the actual due date is often later on in the month. I don’t bother to keep track of that because by the time they actually come due, they’ve already been paid. If your schedule is to pay your bills as they come due, you’ll definitely want to write that date here instead.) If I have to write a physical check, the date I use is the date on which the check is sent out, and I make sure to notate the check number as well. As the money clears out of our account, I highlight the row – that way I know the money has been received by the person or institution to whom it is owed, and I can take it off my radar.

This is especially useful if you are writing a lot of physical checks. As we all know, checks have to be mailed, which can take a while, and then they take an additional 3-5 business days to clear out of your account once they’ve been received. It’s so easy for us to write a check and assume the bill has been paid, but it’s all too likely (and happens all too often) that the check perhaps was never received by the person for whom it was meant. As someone who works at a lending institution, let me assure you of one thing: your biller does not care when or whether you sent them a check, they only care if they have received it. This system is an easy way for me to keep track of my physical checks to ensure that they are received and cashed in a timely manner. If it’s been longer than a week and I am still showing the check pending, I’ll go ahead and call the biller just to ensure they didn’t receive the check and apply it to the wrong account. They’ll often notate the check number and will usually call me back to inform me when the check has been received.

Flipping over to the next page shows our transfer register. I’ve got a series of automatic transfers set up for various things, and this is an easy way for me to make sure the money is being sent where it’s meant to go. The same system as above applies, wherein the date the money is meant to transfer is notated and the row is highlighted once the funds have cleared the account. The far left column is just a notation of Funds Transfer (FT) to other bank accounts vs Automatic Deposit (AD) into an investment account.

This is where the real action happens, though. This is where I notate any and all transactions into and out of our bank account outside of regularly scheduled funds transfers or payments of bills. These transactions are color-coded according to their category (household/pets, groceries, food/alcohol, medical/personal, and miscellaneous/hobbies) and are logged on a daily basis. Part of my morning routine is reviewing our bank account and notating transactions from the previous day. This allows me to sit down at the end of the month and say, “Hey, we’ve spent too much money going out to eat this month. We need to cut back on that.” Or, “Hey, we’ve dumped a lot of money into our personal hobbies lately, let’s try investing that money instead.” It’s an easy way to keep us accountable to where our money goes.

Transactions registers can be picked up free-of-cost at just about any banking institution in the country. They are the exact same size as a checkbook, and I keep mine tucked in the back pocket of my no. 5 Foxy Fix. I’ve washi-taped my color code onto the front cover, and it just folds inside into the book. Not featured here is the deposit log – this is found on the very first page of the transaction register, and is where I notate all deposits of money into our account.

I’ve been keeping an analogue expense tracking system for well over a year now, and it has been a game changer for how I view our funds. Obviously, it’s totally modifiable to your particular situation, but this is what I’ve found works for me!

Have you got any particular system for keeping track of your expenses? Let me know in the comments!

Here’s a picture of Mama Pearl – just for fun!
Bullet Journaling Shouldn’t be a Chore

Bullet Journaling Shouldn’t be a Chore

So here’s the thing the Internet doesn’t want you to know: bullet journaling was created to be a *~*~*~productivity tool~*~*~*. It’s sole purpose was to help people get more shit done during the day in the simplest way possible. Of course, as soon as it became “mainstream”, it also became commoditized, and now bullet journaling is one of the most popular and seemingly most expensive hobbies to jump into (yes, I said hobby). If you hop on to any of the bullet journal Facebook groups, you’ll see one hundred and one posts from people who are new to the system saying, “I finally got all my supplies in! Now I’m scared to start because I don’t want to mess it up!”

They’ve got four $20 Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, a 300 pack of Staedtlers, every color brush marker under the sun, watercolor palettes, three dozen mildliners, a gel pen in every color known to man, stencils, stamps, stickers, markers… the list goes on and on.

And they’ve got no idea where to start, because they look at all those things and think, “How is this supposed to make me MORE productive?!” And other people look at it thinking they couldn’t ever start a bullet journal because they don’t have $300 to spend on supplies!

(Disclaimer: not saying there’s anything wrong if this is your planning style. Just saying this is not the ONLY way to bullet journal, because I couldn’t do it if my life depended on it and I bet there’s other people out there like me, too.)

A page from my first ever bullet journal

I started out with the same kind of mindset. I went out and bought a Moleskine square-grid notebook ($20), a fountain pen and ink cartridges ($20), a calligraphy pen and ink cartridges ($15), a 4-pack of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners ($10), a pack of Papermate InkJoy gel pens ($8), and a ton of washi tape (probably between $20-$30 total). I thought those things were essential to having a bullet journal, because that’s all I saw on the internet.

When I was still trying to figure out that damn calligraphy pen

It took me maybe about six months to realize that I am just not a creative planner. I had been hunting for a productivity system for so long that I was glad to have found something that worked (rapid-logging), but I was still fighting with myself internally about the need to make it ~*~*~*~decorative~*~*~*~.

Still with the calligraphy pen

I obviously had no clue how to write with a calligraphy pen, but I kept at it thinking this was how I had to make my headers to be a true bullet journalist. I was constantly comparing my pages to others’ pages and coming up short, thinking I was doing something wrong and trying to figure out how to be more creative to be “competitive” with other bullet journalers!

Finally gave up the calligraphy pen

Towards the end of my first bullet journal, I finally realized that what worked for other people didn’t necessarily have to work for me. As someone with a full-time job who’s also enrolled in grad school three-quarters time, I simply didn’t have the time to sit down for 30-45 minutes every day working on my bullet journal (yes, that’s how long it took for me to do those sad, simple little pages). This is why I get frustrated when I see people who say they get “too busy” to work on their bullet journal. That’s a sign you need to make a change to your system!

In my magenta Leuchtturm1917 dot-grid notebook, the HOLY GRAIL of bullet journals

I filled up the Moleskine in November 2016 and moved right in to the Leuchtturm1917 I had bought. Everyone knows this is THE notebook to have for a bullet journal, and I thought for sure that it was going to revolutionize my bullet journaling style (spoiler: it didn’t).

Still trying to be creative drawing out my weekly spreads

The problem was that I was still spending too much time doing monthly and weekly spreads. I hated having to sit down with a ruler and a bunch of different pens and draw a bunch of straight lines that were never perfectly straight, and I was still trying to do decorative headers on those pages and I am just not a decorative person, and the washi tape was still making an appearance for no damn good reason. I kept thinking to myself, “There has got to be a way to make this more productive for myself!”

Dailies from my no8 Foxy Fix

That was when I found out about the Bullet Journal in a Traveler’s Notebook community. It seemed like the perfect hack! I could have pre-printed inserts for monthly and weekly spreads, and still be able to do my daily rapid-logging, as well! By this point, I had finally got hold of my dailies so that they made sense to me and utilized as much of each page as possible (see above). Any semblance of fancy headers are gone, replaced with my simply writing the day, date, and a little two-second drawing of the weather, and then highlighting it as a page break.

While I was still on the fence about making the switch from my LT1917 into a TN system, The Foxy Fix had one of their famous mystery sales! I thought, “This is it! A sign from the gods! Make the switch!” So, I snagged a no.8/A5 FN, bought a bunch of inserts for it, and went to town. I made the mistake (for me) that so many people make when switching from a single notebook into a TN system, and wanted to stick with the same size (A5). I had originally intended to keep my LT in the TN and have other inserts for other things, but quickly realized that was just too bulky and not practical for taking to work with me every day. Then I realized that I just wasn’t a fan of the A5 size in general for a TN. Having four or five inserts in it just made it really heavy. If it weren’t something I had to tote back and forth to work, it probably would have been fine, but I just wasn’t in love with it.

Ahhhhhh… planner peace in the B6 Foxy Fix

The bujo gods heard my laments, though, and offered me redemption in the form of a no.5/B6 FN. As soon as I got that size in my hot little hands, I knew I had found it: the elusive planner peace. I have finally got everything set up in a way that works for me. I no longer feel like I’ve got to be a creative bullet journalist. You’ll never see watercolors or tombows as part of my planning style. I have a four fountain pens that I switch out on a daily basis. My ink color is never the same from day-to-day. The most creative I get is still with the mildliner swipe across the date. I’ve got undated monthly and weekly inserts for future-planning and assignments – the undated bit is a great feature, because if I don’t need to use a week I can just skip it and not even feel bad about wasting pages.

The point of this whole spiel is to emphasize that you shouldn’t feel pressured to make your bullet journal fancy or pretty or artistic (unless that’s what you got it for in the first place). All you really need to start a bullet journal is a notebook (any notebook will do) and a pen (or a pencil, if that’s your thing). My best recommendation is going to be to start simple. If you want to add the fancy stuff later, do it! But odds are, you’ll get burned out on the system quick if you try to incorporate every single feature you see on Pinterest within your first month of bullet journaling, and then you’ll get discouraged when you have a bunch of half-empty spreads because you realized you really didn’t need a TV show tracker because netflix does that for you just fine (guilty). Be kind to yourself and to your planning style! Let it grow into something that works for you, instead of trying to force your style to be something it’s not (guilty again).

Plan With Me: Foxy Fix No. 5/B6 Bay Blackout

Plan With Me: Foxy Fix No. 5/B6 Bay Blackout

So here’s the thing. I’ve made some major changes to my planning system over the past week. I thought I had found the elusive *~*~*~planner peace~*~*~* with my no8/no4 set-up but then I got my hands on this no5 Bay Blackout from a BST board on Facebook (I traded my no8 Sugar Cookie for it) and it was literally love at first sight. SO, I’ve had to make some modifications to the way it all works (and I’m still tweaking things like my monthly habit tracker and gratitude log – looks like they may turn into weekly trackers instead) but as of yesterday I have officially moved into the no5 Blackout 100%.

Look at the way it shines in the sun OMG

I had been toying around with the idea of trying a no5 for a while, but I never wanted to actually make the jump because I had finally got all my inserts together for the no8 and had also just gotten the no4 in and set up, as well. But when my trade partner contacted me on Facebook and said she had a no5 setup complete with inserts and dashboards that she could trade me for my no8 Sugar Cookie, I jumped all over that!

That structure tho

The Bay Blackout leather is considered a “vintage” Foxy Fix leather, as it was only in production for a short time in 2016. The entire Bay line has since been discontinued (although DID YOU SEE THE NEW SANTA FE LINE OMG I AM OBSESSED). Out of all the leather types I’ve had from Foxy (original Rowena, Sugar, Boss Babe, and Bay) the Bay leather is absolutely my favorite. It is supple and pliable but soooo structured. It holds it’s form like a dream and stands up to abuse (E.G. being tossed in my bag and taken everywhere I go) beautifully.

I had been on #baywatch for a while on the BST, so when my trade partner contacted me with an offer for a no5 AND a Bay leather (especially the Blackout, which is one of the hardest variations of their Bay leather to come by, given its extremely small production window), I literally couldn’t say yes fast enough. Because she was kind enough to include a ton of inserts and even dashboards (which I had never used before but OMG I am sold now), she has revolutionized my entire planning system! THANK YOU!

Look at that contrast between the dyed outer leather and the natural inside cover

The inside of the Blackout is set up with left horizontal card pockets and right secretarial pockets with added card pocket and pen loop (aka my ideal set-up, as it always has been). I especially love that sparkly dashboard insert included from my trade partner – it adds a little something special for me to see when I first open up my notebook, and makes me smile every time I see it!

My little Dot Nugget, Dot the WonderPup, tucked inside the pocket of the dashboard
Monthly planning

This is where the changes really begin. I have always been a traditional monthly calendar layout kind of future planning gal but I LOVE these undated monthly inserts from PristinePaperie on Etsy. I can color-code all my events with my mildliners, and it has space to reflect on what I want to focus on for the month and what’s on my mind in just a few words. Monthly tasks, birthdays, and events all have spots to be logged, and there’s still a traditional calendar layout for my visual future planning needs.

Weekly planning

Another change that came with the inserts from my trade is this undated weekly planner. I don’t need in-depth near-future planning every week, so I love that this is undated and I can only use it on the weeks that I absolutely need to, and skip others without feeling like I’m wasting pages because it’s undated! I’m using the little dot grid portion to try out a weekly habit tracker, and am toying around with the idea of writing my daily gratitudes in the daily boxes, but I haven’t 100% committed to that yet because I want to finish out my August gratitude and habit trackers that are still in my no8 (I hate the idea of unfinished or incomplete spreads!). Unfortunately, I don’t know which shop this insert came from so if anyone has seen it before LET ME KNOW Y’ALL!

Back cover of the first dashboard w more sparkly paper, front cover of the second dashboard featuring Dot the WonderPup again
Rapid-logging for daily planning will always be my go-to

The third insert is a square-grid insert from Muji and is where I still do my daily rapid-logging. This is the heart and soul of the bullet journal system and will forever be how I handle daily tasks, appointments, and notes. I searched for years to find a daily planning system that would work for me, and once I stumbled upon bullet journaling I knew this is where I would stay. Obviously, some things have been modified from the true, original bullet journal system because I’m not one for drawing up spreads and stuff (anything to be less artistic – more on that later) but rapid-logging has been the greatest planning discovery I’ve ever made.

This insert is also where I keep long-term collections (gift ideas, lists and dates of USPSA matches my husband competes in, online order tracking, etc.). They are working back-to-front, but since I don’t have a ton of long-term collections and since I can usually fit about a week of daily rapid-logging on two pages, I should be able to get several months worth of use out of each insert.

The fourth insert is a 31 day health tracker from AOR Journals , which is a really neat company that I’ve never heard of before I got this insert that allows you to pick the cover you want and then has literally a TON of different insert options to choose from, also. This is a company I’m definitely going to be going back to for inserts in the future, once my current ones run out, because they have everything I would need for about $5 apiece!

On this insert I can track my water intake, what exactly I’m eating on a daily basis, exercise, a spot for a daily quote (or possibly a daily gratitude? I haven’t decided yet), and then a space for writing a few lines a day about how the day went/how I felt. This is a really fun insert that I’m enjoying, so I will definitely be purchasing another!

My final two inserts are from YellowPaperHouse on Etsy and are technically sized to fit the no4/personal TN instead of the no5/B6 TN, but since I already had them I wanted to use them, so they’re just a smidge shorter than my other inserts but it still works. This is a plain square-grid insert that I’m using for my grocery lists and to keep ideas for posts I can make on the blog. Basically it’s so I can keep all my non-date-specific, non-task-specific lists in one place, without having to flip back through all my dailies looking for something specific.

Last but not least is my book review insert. This is where I can collect my thoughts about a book in short form before I expand upon it all here on the blog. Once this is full, I’ll buy another in B6 size so it actually fits!

Back of the last dashboard featuring my tiny precious Gidgimon

So, that’s how I plan in my no5 EDC Bay Blackout! Not pictured is a transaction register that I keep tucked in the back pocket to track my finances. If you’ve been considering the no5/B6 size but were on the fence about it, let this be a sign that you should JUST GO FOR IT! This is truly the perfect size for everything. Not so big that it isn’t portable (which is my main issue with the no8) and not so small that it isn’t functional (which is my main issue with the no4). B6 FOR LIFE!

 

***Also, the no4 Boss Babe Madison Ave featured previously on the blog is for sale. Let me know if you’re interested!

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Setting Up September

Setting Up September

I don’t do much in the form of collections and spreads in my bullet journal. I know lots of people have spreads for books they’ve read, books they want to read, TV shows they are watching, trackers for their pets, trackers for their significant others, trackers to remind them to track things in their trackers…… You get the point. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, I just don’t have time to keep up with all of that in an analog form when all of it is already tracked in digital form somewhere (thanks, Goodreads and Netflix!).

There are, however, three spreads that have been a staple in my bullet journal since the very first month I started bullet journaling: an expense and spending tracker, a habit tracker, and a gratitude log. All of these have become absolutely essential, and updating them is an integral part of my daily planning routine. Here’s how I set them up:

First up is always the expense and spending tracker. I know that my bank account obviously tracks this stuff as well, but I find I’m much more accountable to where and how and when I’m spending my money if I have to write it down and color code it each day. To set up this spread, I just used a single Zebra Mildliner and a single black Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, although really any single pen would do. In the past I’ve used just the fineliner for the whole thing.

This is a two-page spread at its completion. On the left page, I have columns for deposits, transfers, and bills. On the right page are two columns for tracking purchases/debits from my account. I track deposit amounts and dates, and write down my bills, the date they are scheduled to be paid, and the amount they are scheduled for. Once the funds have cleared my account, I go back and highlight the line with a Mildliner, so I can keep a running account of my balance and what’s still left to clear out of the account. On the purchases side, I log every debit from my account and color-code the purchases with Mildliners. My spending categories are:

  • Household/pets (pet supplies, anything purchased for home maintenance)
  • Groceries (weekly trips to the grocery store)
  • Food/alcohol (outside of groceries – things like eating out, picking up snacks at the gas station, running by the liquor store on my way home, etc.)
  • Medical/personal (doctor’s copays, medical bills outside of my normal expenses, anything we purchase for personal or physical advancement, etc., clothes/shoes)
  • Miscellaneous/hobbies (bullet journal purchases, books, anything that doesn’t fit into one of the above categories)

Tracking my bills and expenses keeps me honest, on time, and accountable to my bank account. It requires me to review the bank account every day, that way I always know how much money we have and what is still pending.

Next up: the habit tracker. Now, I don’t know many people who keep a bullet journal and don’t also keep a habit tracker. It’s such a fantastic tool to have to hold myself accountable to my personal health-and-well-being goals, like making sure I’m drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, staying on a consistent sleep cycle, etc. I also have an autoimmune disease, so I use my habit tracker to keep up with any symptoms I may be having that would signal whether I’m in a flare or whether I need to change something in my diet/may have eaten something I shouldn’t have. My habit tracker layout is about as simple as it gets. It’s just a series of straight lines with a Mildliner label and a column of dates and days down the far side of the page. At the top is where I’ll write in the habits and symptoms I want to track, but I won’t do that till later in the month. I usually track about the same thing each month, with some minor variations depending on my goals for the month. This has been an especially useful tool in my bullet journal arsenal, and if you haven’t tried a habit tracker, you should give it a shot in September!

Last, but certainly not least, is the gratitude log. There are tons of articles touting the benefits of living a grateful life, not the least of which being it makes you a generally happier and healthier person! So, each day for the past year I’ve written down a single line detailing something I’m grateful for from that day. Some days have been bad, and it’s been hard to find something to be grateful for, but if you look hard enough it’s always there, even if it’s just as simple as the sun shining, having a soft bed to go to sleep early in, or having your dog greet you at the door when you come home from an exceptionally shitty day at work. I can’t recommend a gratitude log enough, and it is literally the simplest layout I have. Write your numbers down the side of the page, write gratitude across the top, and you’re done!

Have you tried any of these spreads? What are the staples in your bullet journal monthly spread collection? Let me know what you think in the comments!