My Word for 2018–Ignite!

My mom recently asked me to design her a sticker using her word for 2018, and that got me thinking about what my word for 2018 should be. I haven’t actually done a word for the year before, though I know other people have found it to be a great method of focusing on what was important.

So I went to One Word 365, a website where you can get inspiration for words, connect with other people who have that word, and more. It generated a list of words for me, and the moment I saw ignite I knew it was my word!

Merriam-Webster defines ignite like this:

transitive verb: to subject to fire or intense heat; especially : to render luminous by heat; a : to set afire; also kindle; b : to cause (a fuel) to burn; a : to heat up : excite; b : to set in motion : spark

intransitive verb: to catch fire; to begin to glow

I love the “to render luminous by heat” — isn’t that a great image? When we’re feeling the heat, we’re under pressure, right? We’re stressed. Wouldn’t it be great to be the kind of person who is rendered luminous when under stress?

And “to set in motion”? I have so many things I’d like to set in motion in 2018. I want to start blogging here regularly in 2018. I want to spend more time being intentional about my business. I want to set in motion a plan to pay off my credit cards and start saving for the life I really want.

What about setting things afire? Not literally, of course. But I’d love to set my imagination afire. Set my creativity afire in my Etsy shop and my novels. Set other people’s productivity afire with the stickers I make and the blogs I post. Set people’s hopes afire that they can have the organized life they’ve always wanted.

So this year, I’m going to IGNITE.

Do you have a word for 2018? What is it?

Download: #TheDarkIsReading Bookmarks

One of my favorite book series is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence. About an eleven-year-old British boy who learns he has magical powers (but written some 30 years before Harry Potter), the title book is atmospheric and full of vivid imagery and characters that have become real people to me over the years.

A hardcover copy of The Dark Is Rising Sequence,. The book has bent corners and several bookmarks in it.

My well-loved copy of the SFBC omnibus of The Dark Is Rising Sequence

I first read the series in middle school, which was a rough time for me. Seventh grade, man. Seventh grade was awful. But I had Will Stanton and his friends to keep me company, and that meant a lot.

So this year there’s a huge Twitter book club all reading The Dark Is Rising (which is technically the second book in the sequence) over the period of time covered by the book. It starts on Midwinter’s Day (or the First Day of Winter here in the US), which is Will’s eleventh birthday. I try to reread the book every year, but some years, I confess, I get caught up in holiday busy-ness and don’t finish.

This year, along with #TheDarkIsReading book club, I’m going to make sure I complete the rereading. There are all kinds of people participating–authors, artists, musicians–and a lot of people are contributing their own creations.

To learn more about the book club, check out #TheDarkisReading: A Midwinter Reading Group. Some other great blog posts about The Dark Is Rising and #TheDarkisReading are The Eeriest Novel I KnowThis Night Will Be Bad and Tomorrow Will Be Beyond Imagining, and this great project: The Dark Is Rising Soundtrack. I can’t wait to hear all of the soundtrack as the book unfolds!

I found a beautiful winter image pack while I was looking for graphics to use for my Christmas cards this year (I make my own). They didn’t end up working for my Christmas cards (though they’d be perfect for someone who celebrates Solstice instead) but they did have some gorgeous imagery that relates to The Dark Is Rising.

So I made bookmarks! If you download the PDF and print it double-sided, the images match up and will give you four bookmarks with a quote from the book and some lovely raven images. The Winter Ravens artwork is by Mikibith.net.

Download #TheDarkIsReading Bookmarks
Digital Time-Blocking is also an alternative

Free Time-Blocking Printable for Better Productivity

I love my Bullet Journal. But it isn’t perfect. I often use it in addition to other tools, including a time-blocking worksheet, Google Calendar, and a timer.

One thing that isn’t easy to do in the Bullet Journal system is future planning/scheduling. Sometimes, when I have a large project I want to get done, the only way for me to “find” time to work on it is to make time. But in my Bullet Journal, I don’t keep a daily or weekly schedule the way you would in a paper planner. I rely on Google Calendar for my appointments & meetings, writing them in my monthly log and looking at the calendar every day. That works well for me.

So when I need to block out my schedule and make time for my project, I print out a blank weekly time-blocking sheet and start marking what I have to do each day of the week.

Cal Newport seems to be the first person who wrote about time-blocking, back in 2013. He does time-blocking a little differently than I do. He recommends blocking out every single minute of your day. I don’t do that. I suppose I could just block in “Play Skyrim” or “read a novel” instead of leaving those blank spaces. I’ll talk more about that later, though.

How to start time-blocking

Start with the essentials. We all have commitments we either can’t or won’t give up. For most of us, there’s a full-time job, for instance. For those of us who can’t work from home, there’s commuting time.

So I start by writing in church, my work week, and commute time, because those are unchanging. Sleep is important, so I block out the time I want to be sleeping. I also put my television shows on there, because I don’t want to miss them (right now it’s just The 100, but iZombie is back next week!)

Time-blocking printable worksheet by redhead paper

Add Negotiable Commitments

After the essentials, I add any meetings or appointments I might have. Those can vary from week to week, depending on what committees I’m involved in or if I’m volunteering somewhere.

If you have kids with sports or activity commitments, you’ll need to put those on here, too.

Once my time-blocking worksheet is filled in with everything I can think of that I must get done, that’s when the magic happens.

Block in Reactive Time

Here’s something I hadn’t thought about before reading Cal Newport’s blog. Even if you have a job that involves a lot of necessary interruptions, you can handle that with time-blocking. Just mark in “Reactive Work.”

Newport writes:

“Even if you’re blocking most of your day for reactive work, for example, the fact that you are controlling your schedule will allow you to dedicate some small blocks (perhaps at the schedule periphery) to deeper pursuits.”

I think that’s a great way of coping with the reactive work. Part of my day job involves me being available to give tours at a moment’s notice. I’m going to talk to my coworkers about each of us blocking in reactive work time to co-ordinate how we share the load. I have lots of other duties besides the tours, which means I also need to be able to schedule in deep work time blocks.

Block in Project Work

This is where I look at the time that’s left over on my schedule. I figure out how to spend that time and how much of it I can give to my project.

In this case, it’s my writing. I’m way past overdue on my latest novel, and it needs a serious commitment from me now that I’m recovered from the nasty case of bronchitis I had for a good part of this month.

Looking at my time-blocking sheet above, I see a lot of blank spaces on the calendar to do things like laundry, meals, and playing with the cats or reading.

But I also managed to find time for a solid 17 hours of writing in this week.

Leave Yourself Some Free Time

I think it’s important to leave some flex in your blocked out schedule. For one thing, life happens. Electricity goes out. Tires lose air. Germs attack. Not only that, but other people may not be privy to your schedule, so interruptions happen–some more important than others.

Not only that, but time-blocking should never be an exercise in pain. The goal of a time-blocking sheet isn’t to keep your nose to the grindstone 24/7. It’s to be intentional in how you use your time. It’s to make you aware of just how much time you have, if you put off checking email until after you do the deep work you’re committed to.

Now, since Cal Newport recommends blocking your entire schedule, I had a go at doing just that on Google Calendar. The good news is, you can create a time-blocking schedule pretty easily on a digital calendaring system, too. I’m not sure if I’m in love with scheduling everything, and it takes a little more work than doing it on paper. But here’s what it would look like on GCal.

Digital Time-Blocking is also an alternative

Use a Timer during your time blocks

Another useful tool with your time-blocking printable is a timer. The Pomodoro Technique, designed by Francisco Cerillo, has you set a timer for 25 minutes. You work on your project until the timer goes off, and then you take a short break. Every four Pomodoro sessions, you take a longer break.

I’ve learned first-hand how well this works. During NaNoWriMo my friends and I often have word wars. We put our heads down and write for a set period of time (often 15 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes). At the end of that time, we compare to see how many words each person has. The point of the word wars isn’t to have perfect prose. It’s to get words on the page so you have something you can polish later.

Free Time-Blocking Printable

Do you have a project you need to commit to? I can help! Click the button below to download a PDF of the blank time-blocking worksheet. No email required!

DOWNLOAD

Let me know how it works for you!

Additional Time-Blocking Resources

For a deeper dive into time-blocking, check out this great post on RescueTime’s blog: Time-Blocking 101.


Get a free time-blocking printable for planning and time management from Redhead Paper!

A set of acrylic drawers with Tombow Dual Brush Pens and Papermate Flair Bullet Journal supplies

My Favorite Bullet Journal Resources

One of my favorite things about the Bullet Journal system is how adaptable it is. You don’t really need any special equipment–any notebook and pen will do. I belong to a few BuJo communities on Facebook, and it’s surprising how often people ask, “Can I–?” on those groups. Yes, you can! You can do anything you want with your Bullet Journal!

That said, I do have some things I love using for my Bullet Journal. In this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite BuJo supplies and resources.

Disclaimer: Some of these links are affiliate links. In plain language, that means I get a tiny amount of money from those items any time you buy–at no extra cost to you.

Notebooks

My favorite notebooks to use for Bullet Journaling are Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks. They have fountain-pen-friendly paper, the pages are pre-numbered, and there’s an index in the front. Leuchtturm 1917 is the notebook BuJo-creator Ryder Carroll chose to make the official Bullet Journal notebooks. At first available only in black, the official notebooks are now available in emerald green.

If you can’t afford a Leuchtturm 1917, though, there are plenty of other good options. I’ve used Moleskine VolantsMoleskine Cahiers, Picadilly notebooks, and even a cute spiral-bound notebook.

Bottom line, if you have a favorite notebook, use that for your Bullet Journal, because Bullet Journal is all about what works for you.

Pens

My favorite every-day-carry pen is a Pilot Hi Tec C Coleto Lumio Multipen. I use .5 refills in orange, turquoise, brown, and apple green because I color-code my tasks and events for context. Orange is one job, turquoise is another job, brown is writing, and apple green is home & personal.

A set of acrylic drawers with Tombow Dual Brush Pens and Papermate Flair Bullet Journal suppliesI also have a Pentel EnerGel black ink pen that I carry every day. The multi-pen and the black ink pen are the basic essentials of my daily Bullet Journal use. I also have a 10-color set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners I use daily. They live on my desk, in a new five-drawer acrylic set I just got at the Container Store. I like seeing all the colorful pens!

I’ve recently branched out a little more. I bought a set of Papermate Flairs, because so many people seem to love them for Bullet Journaling. I’ve been using them a little, but I can’t pretend they’re my favorites. Still, they’re a good alternative.

My recent treat to myself (thank you, tax refund time) is a couple of sets of Tombow Dual Brush Pens. I got the Secondary set and the Landscape” set, because I decided my Staedtler and Flair sets already had the primary colors covered.

Now I just need to learn how to do brush lettering! I’ve been watching videos on YouTube. Does anyone have a favorite tutorial?

Stickers & Washi Tape

Here’s a caveat: I make stickers and sell them at my Redhead Paper Etsy shop, so of course I love my own stickers!

But there are plenty of other sticker-makers out there I love, including Boho Berry Paperie and Mila Printshop. I also love finding stickers at Michael’s.

I love washi tape, but lately I haven’t been using it as often in my layouts. I couldn’t resist the roll I found at Michael’s on Monday, though: it has sayings on it like, “Dream,” “The time is now,” and “This is your life–seize it and make it amazing.”

 


So those are my favorites. What are yours?

 

Why Bullet Journal?

Sometimes when I’m in a meeting, people look at my bullet journal and ask why that system is better than others. So today I wanted to talk about my BuJo Journey.

I’ve loved organization since I read Julie Morganstern’s book Organizing from the Inside Out about 15 years ago. First I started organizing all the stuff I had, and then I started realizing I had too much. And then Julie Morganstern wrote Time Management from the Inside Out, and I realized I had even more organizing to do. I struggled for years to figure out how to balance everything I like doing–hiking, reading, writing, scrapbooking, online gaming…

I tried everything. Paper planners. Online calendars. Scheduling and task management apps like Trello. Nothing really worked for me until 2010, when I tried David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. That made sense to me, having project lists and next action lists and context lists. But after a year or two and a job change, I realized the GTD system wasn’t really working for me anymore.

Photo of my tickler fileI kept my tickler file, which both Julie Morganstern and David Allen recommend, and I rely on it. I love it when someone can say, “Hey, do you have that file I gave you two months ago?” And I can say, “Yep, I filed it for this week when we were going to need it again.”

So the tickler file was working, but my planning system wasn’t.

Fast-forward to March 2014, when I discovered Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system.

I honestly didn’t expect it to take, but I thought, “Hey, I’ve seen this mentioned several times lately, so why not try it?” (I think Lifehacker was the first place I saw it, but I’m not sure.) So I set up a spiral-bound notebook I already had. I’d only used it for about two weeks before I realized that hey, this system really clicks with me!

I started out buying Moleskine Cahier notebooks. I could fit about two months in each notebook, and pretty soon my boss started saying, “Hey, did you write down in your little book when we…?” It felt awesome to be able to say yes every time.

Photo of my stack of Bullet Journal notebooksI experimented with notebooks for a while–Moleskine Cahiers, then a Picadilly (which sadly fell apart and had to be repaired), more Moleskines, and then the BulletJournal Kickstarter happened! I was a backer, and I’ve been in love with the Leuchtterm 1917 BulletJournal notebooks since then. I did use a lined Leuchtterm 1917 for part of 2016, but for Christmas my family got me two of the new Emerald Official BuJo notebooks, so I should be set for 2017!

Now I’m branching out into different pens. I color-code my tasks, because I have two part-time jobs and I also write fiction, so I use color to track the context of my tasks and projects (still implementing some of the GTD methods I loved). I use a Coleto Hi-Tec-C multipen to write down tasks, but for things like habit trackers and coloring pages, I’ve been using Tombow Dual Brush Pens for a few weeks now.

So that’s my Bullet Journal journey.

I love so much about Bullet Journal, but the main thing I love about this system is its flexibility. Some of my spreads are super-decorated and pretty and fun, and some of them are simple lists. Sometimes I doodle in my spread, and sometimes I don’t take the time to do a spread for the week. I can experiment with different signifiers to see what clicks. I can see how long it’s been since I did a financial review because of my habit trackers. I can make this planner what I need it to be.

I think that’s why it’s stuck so long–Bullet Journal is a system that adapts to my needs.