A Year with a Bullet Journal

I can’t recall how I first encountered the bullet journal concept. I do know that I was convinced from the outset and haven’t looked back. Or, I should say, I have looked back – at my ideas, adventures and plans across 2017 –
because they are all in one simple notebook.

The bullet journal is such a simple idea it seems surprising that it has gained trademark status. Yet often the simplest ideas are the best. Whilst there’s a number of elements to the ‘bujo’ system, the key genius for me is creating an index of your notes as you create them. The idea of valuing my notes sufficiently to catalogue them in this way has been a game changer.

Before I picked up my first Leuchterm, back in February 2017, I had a gazillion notebooks on the go at once: one filled with shopping lists, another rarely-used journal, a third with some sketches, a fourth with meeting notes. And so it goes on. Needless to say, once scribbled on the page, these notes were never seen again.

Now I have in my hand a book with a full year. Sure, it’s filled with ‘to do’ lists and diary dates. But it also holds projects, plans, memories and photos (this was the year I realised the internet is probably going to die at some point, so I best not leave all my photos on Instagram). It holds reading lists and quotes that I’ve come across. I’ve been surprised by how often I refer back to them. Now I can quote Emerson and Quinn at you! (But that’s for another post).

Looking to 2018, and filling a shiny new notebook for the year, I can look back through 2017 and see what ideas I didn’t put in to action and set some tangible goals. I’ve certainly found it useful as a planning tool, but the reason I love it (and the reason I’m sticking with it) is for the joy of having this little scrapbook of a year well lived.

If you’re interested in starting your own bullet journal (if only for the excuse to buy more stationery) you can find out more from the originator, Ryder Carroll. Happy scribbling!

Pencil & Paper

Pens and notebooks

A notebook is the perfect solution to so many situations: facing that blank white screen or starting out on a new project, finding yourself at a cafe without a book, or wrestling with a million to-dos.  I rely on a computer as much as the next guy, and would be lost without Evernote.  But nothing beats a blank piece of paper and a 2B pencil to get me thinking.

My love of stationery means I’m always noticing notebooks.  The carpenter who fitted the new kitchen got my instant seal of approval for using Field Notes. The perfect notebook for everyday, they fit in a back pocket, with a soft cover, feint squared paper, and a ruler marked on the back (ok, I’ve never used the ruler, but I like the idea that I might.)

I type my to do lists and meeting notes, but both jobs are far better on the odd occasion when I get out paper and pencil.  I was in a meeting yesterday where we had paper taped to the table.  People kept adding to it as our plans developed, or pointed to previous points to recall them. We were, quite literally,  all on the same page.  I stumbled across this talk on graphic recording which puts it perfectly.

When working in pre-schools I often recommend visual schedules to help children with limited language or high anxiety know what to expect in their day.  And I’ve realised I do this for myself.  I’ve heard frequent mention of people with ‘too many open tabs’ in the brain: so many things rumbling in the background, so much to do, and all a bit of a jumble.  Doodling helps me iron these out.

And my doodling is dodgy. I don’t have a great wealth of artistic skill to call upon; I lack perspective, scale, shape.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’ve got over being embarrassed about my bad drawing and I actually like to share this weakness with others.  It makes our conversations feel more honest, less about putting up our ‘best front’.

I can’t give up the screen; it makes my life so much easier.  Computers keep me organised and efficient.  But paper brings me joy and inspiration.


Just My Type book on a table with glasses and mug

I am a bit of an everyday font nerd. Not the sort that knows a great deal or can label fonts at five feet; more the common garden bird variety that rages against Comic Sans and quietly subverts the ‘only use Arial’ workplace rules. But with this book I took a dip in to a world of skilled craftsmanship and serious typeface passion, where people care about the shoulder and face, about the kerning, and the picas. Not to mention its historic beginnings; in an age where it’s easy to share anything with a worldwide audience in seconds, it’s hard to imagine the enormous impact made by Gutenberg and the printing press.

With such variety and beauty in the faces and founts (as they were originally penned) it seems a shame to never stray from Calibri or Courier. Some lovely new discoveries for me were Peignot, Stone and Vendôme.

I’ve been noticing the font on everything, and finally caved in to my curiosity and got the WhatTheFont app. Once you start looking, you notice this rich variety to our everyday communications, and will find a few favourites and some pet hates.

Meanwhile, I discovered a new pangram- Grumpy wizards make toxic brews for the evil Queen and Jack- and watched a video of that classic quick brown fox in action.

Book of Books

Birds eye desk view

A grey day is a good one for finishing a book by the fire. And being a notebook fan, it’s probably no surprise to you that I have a book of books. I used to jot recent reads down in the back of my journals, but then they sort of all ended up in one place (what can i say, I like a good list). I made this notebook myself, having the good fortune to live with a bookbinder at the time (hi Kate!)

It’s funny how books attach themselves to the moment they’re read. To me, books are as much about the places they take you, as the places you take them. The story in the cover adds to your own: arriving in Trieste by train with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, soaking in the bathtub of a lofty Cumbrian cottage with Freedom, or carrying a weathered Don Quixote over the Austrian mountains. Ian McEwan joined me in Desolation Wilderness, and I crossed the ocean with Jose Saramago. I lost JB Priestley on a plane, and left JK Rowling on a park bench. I’ve left some books behind, but held on to some pictures. There is something pleasingly neat about storing your memories between the pages of books. And if I didn’t keep a list, I’d probably forget both the book, and those moments surrounding each story.

A Few Notes


I was delighted to have my stationery supplies well restocked by loved ones over Christmas. All my new notebooks are already in heavy rotation. Because, look! They’re all so pretty! Who possibly has the patience and willpower to fill one from beginning to end before starting the first fresh page of another? Not I. After all, I clearly need one notebook for to do lists, one for things to make, one for doodles, one for miscellaneous and one for emergencies. You never know when an urgent note taking matter may arise.

I may not be a person of fulsome new year resolve, but I am a mean miscellaneous note taker. I’ve been filling my paper pads with lists and doodles of Good Things to do this month. So I best be off, so I can crack on and start doing them. I’ll keep you posted.)

Month Notebooks