Tag Archives: bullet journal

Beginning the Year with A, B, and C

some books on my nightstand

A brand new year. New expectations; new promises to myself. A new journal to keep track of my life…or to keep my life on track, I’m not sure which. It will be filled, soon enough, with resolutions, plans and good intentions, and a number of graphs, lists and charts to record my progress…or lack thereof. I start by noting accomplishments and memorable things from the year just past.

For that, I page through last year’s journal. It is a wealth of information, often discouraging and sad. I can see, for instance, that, though I devoted lines each month in my “Habit and Activity Tracker” to “weights,” “yoga/pilates” and “walk,” I fulfilled those goals only a tiny fraction of the times planned. I did better in other areas. I rarely missed a scheduled work day. I posted a blog twice a week, occasionally more, almost without fail. I read every single day. From the pages I devoted to “Books I Read, 2018,” I see that I completed thirty-three books last year.

With that in mind, I’m going to start this year off on a positive note, focusing on the books I am reading right now. It just happens – coincidentally – that they begin with the first three letters of the alphabet.

Atomic Habits by James Clear is the perfect book to have first on my reading list at the start of a new year. So far, it has given me such confidence that change (improvement) is possible, that I have put off all my usual resolution-making until I finish this book. Clear suggests that it is not helpful to focus on goals; we should, instead, focus on “systems,” the behaviors that will help us get to the results we want. “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” Systems are the steps you take to get the desired outcome. This is a highly technical – i.e.: lots of graphs and studies – but very easy-to-read book. I’m thinking it just might change my life!

Becoming by Michelle Obama. My daughter and I were talking about this book just before Christmas. “Do you have it?” she asked. “No,” I told her, “I’ve seen so many good, in depth interviews with her, I feel kind of like I know how it goes. Maybe I don’t need to read it.” That wasn’t quite true. I had seen many wonderful interviews, and I was telling myself that it was unnecessary to invest in another freshly published hard cover book right now. However, when I received the book on Christmas Eve – a gift from that same wily daughter – I was thrilled! I’ve only just started it, but Michelle Obama is an extremely engaging writer, and I’m thoroughly enjoying her book!

Calypso by David Sedaris is the third book I’m reading right now. My two daughters and I met in Lansing last year, to see Sedaris at the Whiting Auditorium. I’ve loved his books, and his readings on NPR for years, and his talk there did not disappoint. To commemorate that special get-together, I got each of my daughters a David Sedaris book for Christmas. For Jen, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. I own that book, and re-read it whenever I need to improve my mood. I can’t get through the first essay in that book without tears of laughter running down my face! I hope Jen likes it as much as I have. For Kate, Calypso. Because I had not yet read that one, I bought it for myself as well…an early Christmas present for me. Unnecessary, gift-wise, as I was very generously inundated with all kinds of wonderful, thoughtful presents, but I appreciate this book anyway.

So, A, B and C. I’m sure reading – my biggest success – will continue through the year. I can’t say if it will continue to follow the alphabet!


A New Month



Here is February. On Beaver Island, it comes with colder temperatures than we’ve seen in a couple weeks, and lots of fresh snow. In my house, the new month causes an assessment of progress “so far,” and a renewed commitment for the future.

Looking over the “Task and Activity Tracker” for the month of January in my Bullet Journal, I can see – first of all – that my fancy method for marking completed tasks was a bust. It was hard to fill in, and got pretty sloppy-looking early on. It is very hard to see where I succeeded and where I failed. Perhaps that’s not all bad, because I had plenty of areas where my performance was less than stellar. My daily yoga fell off by the last week of the month. My “no sugar” and “no spending” goals never took off at all. In fact, reading – which I have always done every day for the last sixty years – is the only thing that was marked off on each day of January.

That’s okay. This is a new month. I have a renewed commitment and a brand new tracker. This month, I have an easy-to-read grid, and completed activities are marked with a simple “X.” In February, I will be serious about exercise and all the other areas of self-improvement that are important to me. I will continue making time for studio work and home-improvement projects. I will write letters!

January is usually a month for correspondence: thank you notes for gifts and cards, responses to holiday mail, general greetings and “I’m still here” messages. Not this year. I’m still far behind in that respect. It just so happens, the month of February is International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo). Perfect! So, along with many other participants, I committed to writing a letter each day, for the 28 days in this month. Today is February 3rd; I’m writing two letters today, because I (already!) missed yesterday. It seems like that’s the norm when it comes to me and commitment.

Still, it’s way too close to the beginning of the month to start getting discouraged. Every new page of the calendar is a chance for starting over. And if you know me, you know how much I love a fresh start!



A New Year’s Project



This is Monday: not a usual day for me to be posting a blog. It is January 1st, though, and that seems like a good time to drop in to say “hello.” Being the beginning of a brand new year, it’s also a fine time to rethink old conventions, and change things up if it seems appropriate.

I spent a large part of New Year’s Eve – and too much of the day today – setting up my brand new bullet journal. I had almost completely filled the hot pink version that had served me well since last April; with the start of 2018, I decided to break out the new blank book with it’s sea foam green cover. Of course – though I’ve been doing this for more than two years now – I had to start by reading another book on the bullet journal process. I had to troll Pinterest for ideas that I could adapt to my own needs. I had to break out my new Sharpie pens, my colored fine-point markers and my brush-tip highlighters.

Then, having researched, investigated and planned myself into a frenzy, I spent several (!!!) hours laying the groundwork for this new year. I drew up my annual calendar; two facing pages were devoted to a separate annual birthday calendar. I made a larger monthly calendar than I did last year, and – having failed at using the monthly task manager that shared those pages last year – have not yet decided what to do with the rest of that page. I filled in daily pages for the thirty-one days of January. Since I had finished one book already this year, I devoted a page to noting the books I read this year.


Next, I made a “Habit and Activity Tracker.” I love this feature, and have incorporated it in my bullet journal from the beginning. It has gone through many changes. I’ve tried horizontal and vertical formats. I’ve experimented with high expectations and low. I’ve played around with X’s, slashes and dots for marking a completed task. So far, at month’s end, it has too often been a glaring reminder of things I have neglected. But, this is a new year…a new beginning. I’m filled with high hopes and fresh resolutions. To celebrate, I have a brand new format for tracking my success.


Do you see where this is going??? Here’s a close-up view:


Three diagonal lines mark a completed goal. The direction of the diagonal alternates, so that if everything gets checked off, every day, a beautiful jacquard pattern emerges. Tasks not done (note the “no sugar” failure, as I dipped into the box of Christmas chocolates today) get a little zero, which add a bit of jaunty character to the pattern. It’s just so cute, it makes me want to complete every single thing! And that, my friends, is why I am posting a blog on this Monday, the first of January, 2018.

Happy New Year!!

Bullet Journal



I like a day-minder. I prefer the type that allows one full page for each day, but I’ve tried out others. Some fit seven days onto a two page spread. Many of them give Saturday and Sunday less space than the other days of the week. I can work with those formats, but they’re not my favorite. I like a full page for my to-do list,  my work schedule and other places I have to be, miles walked and other exercise done, and anything else I want to keep track of. Spare room on a page might be used for inspirational quotes, movies that sound interesting, books I want to read or anything else that catches my attention.

I also keep a journal. I have a book filled with nothing but possible titles for future works of art. I have another with Christmas gifts I have purchased and given – and to whom – over the course of the last forty years. My daughters were having a discussion a few years ago about how I had shorted one of them at holiday time. No way! I was able to pull out my little book, go all the way back to the year 1989, and show that I was absolutely fair. It just happened that Kate had insisted on a pair of very expensive designer jeans that year. Jen got three pair of [less expensive]slacks to Kate’s one, but the expenditure was the same.

I have my big red notebook, with quotes and notes, plans and aspirations. It also has a eulogy for my sister, Sheila, written on a tearful trip down-state, the particulars of two separate meals I shared with my sisters on two different vacations, and every book I read in 2013.

The bullet journal intrigued me as a way to possibly combine many of these various ledgers into one single book that I could carry with me. I watched the on-line  tutorial by the inventor, then did some exploring on my own before attempting to implement the idea. There is a lot of information out there. Quite a few people have blogs devoted to nothing but the ins and outs of bullet journaling. Pinterest has dozens of bullet journal categories, with thousands of ideas. Any search engine will produce several good examples.

Let me start by saying that none of these ideas are original, or my own. I started very simply, last August. It was more than a month before I was confident enough to give up my day-planner, and use the bullet journal exclusively. Many discussions talk about how this is superior to using a smart phone or computer to keep track of things. That means nothing to me, as I have always written things down. There are just a few – important – things that set the bullet journal apart from regular planners.

  • You set it up yourself. You decide if each day of the week gets a full page, or a fraction of a page. You decide what’s important, and what gets space. Nothing is off limits. I might have ten pages of simple day-planner stuff, than a page of quotes, or a list of books I want to read, a good recipe…whatever.
  • The index. This simple aspect is what makes the bullet journal workable – even borderline genius. It is simply a few pages at the front dedicated to what can be found where. So it can be found again. Unlike the information scattered throughout the pages of my day-planner!
  • Simplicity. You start with a blank book. What’s important – and what gets space – can change throughout the life of the bullet journal (which does not run from January to December, by the way, but from whenever you want to start, until you fill it up and begin another one).
  • Creativity. Honest to God, go to Pinterest, and check out the oh-so-cute and creative approaches. Many of the ideas put me – an artist – to shame. I adapted many ideas and formats I found there, to meet my needs and suit my aesthetic sensibility, but you could use it, easily, as a springboard for your own creativity.


That’s about all I can tell you about the bullet journal.