Bullet Journal Record

I try to use one page per day for my bullet journal, and lately I’ve been experimenting with using the bottom of the page to record important stats. 


I plan to play around with this a little more, but I’m enjoying this little addition to my bullet journal.

Fenner CRAFTS Explorer II for My Bullet Journal

Once I decided that my bullet journal will be around for a while, I took the plunge and ordered a leather organizer that works with the system I’ve cobbled together.

I found this baby: the “Explorer II” by Fenner CRAFTS…an early birthday present, you might say. It holds the large Moleskine cahiers I prefer. I’m more than a little in love with this gorgeous, handcrafted notebook organizer.


I’m going to use one cahier notebook solely for my to-dos, modified bullet journal style.


I think I’ll add two additional notebooks:

  1. Personal and work notes in the Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook
  2. Journal — A large cahier

When opened, you can see how it fits more than one notebook. There are four elastic straps, and it can comfortably hold up to four cahier notebooks, although since I’m using a hardbound Moleskine, 2 cahiers and the Evernote book seem to max it out.


On the left is my bullet journal for to-do lists. On the right is my work and personal journal in the hardbound Moleskine Evernote SMART notebook.

I’m experimenting with the hardbound notebook…it’s not what the organizer is designed to hold, but it seems to fit fine.


I’ve stuck with the bullet journal for months, and it’s the best system I’ve used…with some tweaks. As many people have mentioned, it doesn’t have the monthly calendar at a glance. I recently tried creating a handmade monthly calendar in a large squared cahier. Not my style. The daily blocks — 8×6 grid squares each — were too small for the way I use my monthly calendar. Back to my big ol’ calendar! Maybe it’s my western roots, but I need plenty of room to roam. Perhaps my calendar won’t be so packed when the kids are off to college, but I’ve got a while before that happens!

My pen tucks nicely in between the notebooks and the elastic strap around the center.

Profile pen EXP

I’m loving the use of one notebook for my to-dos, especially with the thin cahiers. While the Midori Travelers Notebook looks lovely, I wanted paper the size of the large cahiers.

I’ve added some photos for comparison with my poor, neglected A5 Malden (more on that later).



With one cahier and the Evernote notebook, it’s slightly thinner than my moderately stuffed Malden.

Malden EXPThe color is a rich chocolate brown, and the texture is smoother than my Malden. The cover is not as “floppy” as the Malden, although it is still flexible. It seems to be a bit narrower and taller, but the use of elastic in lieu of rings means the “usable” space is comparable. I had to make a decision that I’m going to allow this pretty cover to look lived in. It’s tempting to want this organizer to look as pristine as it did the day it arrived, but I’m going to let it age and reflect it’s usefulness.

MaldenEXPFinally, a comment on the excellent customer service from Fenner at Fenner CRAFTS. I received notice that my Explorer II had been shipped on April 4th. While I tried to be patient as it traveled from the U.K. to California, I e-mailed yesterday to inquire if they were able to track the package from their end. When the proprietor Fenner replied, we discovered that the USPS had attempted delivery on the 9th. Unfortunately, the postal employee had not left a note and it had been sitting in the Post Office for almost a week. Fenner was very timely and respectful in responding to my inquiry, even indicating that he would include the tracking number in future invoices. The notebook was packaged securely and arrived in beautiful condition.


It’s odd how sentimental I can be about both form and function.

On the one hand, my bullet journal provides tremendous functionality and pleasure. It seems a bit counterintuitive that I feel a bound notebook provides more flexibility than my ring binder. I love not being confined to “sections.” I love not writing around the rings or worrying about preventing gaps in the rings. The size of the large Moleskine Cahier page works well, but is a slimmer profile than my A5 notebooks.

And yet…

Somehow I feel guilty for not using my Filofax binders. There is something lovely about the flexible cover of the Malden and the ability tuck objects securely into my Holborn zip. Plus, there’s the whole culture around ring binders. I feel a tad silly admitting that in writing. 

I haven’t posted much because this quarter has been truly hectic. Between my son’s journey to health and a major project that consumed weekends and evenings, as well as weekdays, my planner was 100 percent survival-oriented. Photos and posts were a bit beyond my capacity. 

Now…now we are almost a month into my son feeling fairly decent, and I just submitted the paper that had been hanging over my head for months. My qualifying examination – the day when I stand in front of six scholars and they determine my readiness to complete a dissertation – is in slightly less than 3 months. Life is still hectic, but I’m moving into a period where I think there’s time to employ strategy and time management, rather than frantically paddling to keep my head above water.

My bullet journal helped me make it through the past few months, and now I am going to take a day or two and revisit how I move forward.

I’ve missed the paper planning community. What a lovely time to step back and reboot.


Small Tweaks to My Bullet Journal

As I settle into my bullet journal, it has become clear that the unstructured pages suit me. I’ve started to tweak my system in small ways. It’s still simple, but I am making this my own.

Monday - Love the combination of the two tapes, but not how I use them. Ah, well. Live and learn.

   Live and learn. Monday’s layout didn’t work for me.

On Sundays, I have a weekly “launch” routine. I’ve written about this before, and my system is still going strong. Now I’m using the bullet journal instead of my Filofax, however, and I have taken to adding some Washi tape. Nothing over-the-top. Please note that I don’t have a lot added to my list of tasks for the week, because I like to plan out my day the night before. While the pages are relatively empty, I can guarantee they will fill up, since I put tasks both large and small on the pages.

My least favorite layout this week is Monday. It faces a page where I was trying to work out some logistical concerns, and I didn’t have a great vision for how to use the tape. Meh, it is what it is. Tuesday and Wednesday turned out much better, I think.

The Martha Stewart labels at Staples are very similar in color to the Moleskine paper.

The Martha Stewart labels at Staples are very similar in color to the Moleskine paper, so I had fun using them in this layout.

One of my small tweaks is listing the dinner plan for the night at the bottom of the page. I also created a log to track how many glasses of water I’ve consumed during the day. I plan to add notes that also track my spending for the day, since I carry this notebook everywhere, and I can tuck a receipt in there as soon as I make a payment or pay a bill.

For Thursday and Friday, I love the paisley Washi tape with a small strip of purple underneath. Simple and bold at the same time. It almost makes up for Monday’s disaster of a page!

I may have to repeat the paisley Washi tape sometime soon!

In addition to starting my lists for the week, I decorated some pages for two lists that I want to make…one for brainstorming family activities and one for travel. My husband and I are alternating weeks for one-on-one time with our kids, in addition to spending time together with all four of us. This weekend, I took my daughter bowling at the university’s student union. The lil’ stinker managed to beat me…legitimately! Next weekend, my husband will do something different with her, and I’ll do something with my son. As you can see, I haven’t added a lot; I’ll fill it out as the week progresses. On the other side is a space where I’ll brainstorm our family vacations. My husband and I spent an hour talking about our calendars yesterday, so here’s where I’ll put ideas for each of the vacation periods.

Ready to complete...I'll have fun with this during the week. Time to do a little dreaming!

Ready to complete…I’ll have fun with this during the week. Time to do a little dreaming!

Bullet Journal – Going Strong

I have to admit…this bullet journal thing is very “me.”

I’ve been working on my bullet journal for a few weeks, and it is brilliant in its simplicity and functionality. This week, I even went a little out of my comfort zone and used Washi tape to accent the plain grid of my Moleskine planner. I know. Living on the edge.

I have included a few pages to give you a sense of how I’m currently using it.

IMG_4480First, the index/table of contents. This helps me locate specific lists not related to my daily planning. You can see that I’ve made notes about my monthly overview, kept records of my work meetings, noted books I’m reading, and more. To keep things uncluttered, I am not listing my daily “to-dos.” That’s what I use my bookmark for…

Here’s my week. Blurry, because…well…how interesting is my to-do list, really? I use dots for notes, circles for my events/appointments, and check/tick boxes for tasks. Today, I color-coded some notes about my children’s activities. The stars indicate my three “Most Important Tasks” (hat-tip, Zen to Done).

IMG_4477Since I had time on Sunday, I set up a few pages in advance…plus you can see some notes from Sunday with my Washi tape. I’ve posted them below. As for my A5 Maldens and Holborn Zip, I’ve been settling into my Finance Filo nicely. The Maldens have become binders with notes and references, but not my tasks and diary. Who knows how long my love affair with the Bullet Journal will last, but for right now, I’m loving how easy it is to update and not worry about the order of items. I’m also appreciating that I don’t have to write around the rings. It’s a small detail, but one worth noting. Maybe that means when new Flex notebooks come out, I should look at them. Now…off to finish a few more things before my daughter returns home from school.




Permission to — occasionally — set aside lists and planning

Last Friday, I attended my brother-in-law’s funeral. After we pause for a moment to say our favorite curse words about cancer, I wanted to share a post about setting aside planning and productivity once in a while.

I’ll be reaaaalllly honest about my love of planning and organization. I know we’ve just met, but I’m a Northern California girl, and I have been known to sprinkle the word “authenticity” into a conversation or two.



Here it is: While it’s true that I need to be organized to make sure I don’t leave a kid at practice or miss a deadline for work, one of the main reasons I’m drawn to planning is emotional. Sometimes (cough:: most of the time:: cough), life is messy and out of my control. My brother-in-law’s rapid decline from melanoma. The loss felt acutely by my sister and her children. The drought in California. Traffic jams. The list goes on.

It’s actually liberating to acknowledge that life is messy and we don’t have the power to micromanage every detail. Aside from being exhausting to have that much responsibility, it would rob of us the joy that comes from spontaneity and serendipity. On the other hand, I draw comfort from being intentional about the things I can control. Enter my love of lists, journals, routines, and calendars! If you’re here, you likely understand the satisfaction of getting thoughts on paper and ticking off items from one of your lists. Admit it…a good list and ticking off each box can fill you with a sense of joy and accomplishment. You OWNED that day!

I had a long list of things to do Friday afternoon, but when I returned home from the funeral, I remained immersed in the love, sense of loss, and reflection that funerals trigger. And I was utterly drained. Not depressed. Really. It was a beautiful and moving experience to hear how one person impacted the lives of many, but I had zero motivation to do work that afternoon, despite the fact that my list felt even more compacted because I’d missed a morning of writing and research! Frankly, I was not interested in digging deep to focus at my desk. I just wasn’t.

So I gave myself permission to abandon the day’s list. Without guilt. My bullet journal list on Friday had a ton of arrows, indicating that I moved those unfinished items forward to another day.

Guess what? The world was not knocked off its axis.

Yes, my Saturday list was a little bit of a doozy, but I survived…as did my adviser, my writing partner, and my family.

There are some days that aren’t made for lists and maximizing productivity. They can be days spent off the grid with your loved ones, playing in a tide pool. They can be days when you’re under the weather. As long as these days are more of an exception, we should embrace our need to set aside a list. In sports, we talk about “listening to your body.” There are also days when we need to listen to our spirit, and not just honor our need to leave a list undone, but do so without shame or a sense that we should have done more…been more.

Friday was that day for me, and I feel infinitely better for it.