Uses for Alexa

Uses for Alexa

Two Christmases ago, I was lucky enough to get an Echo Dot* as a Christmas gift, and I was introduced to Amazon’s Alexa.  Technically, she’d already been a feature on my Kindle, but I’d never found that to be particularly intuitive, much less useful.  But, that’s a story for another day! I was finishing up my degree at the time, and now running a blog, a small press, and my own writing career, I’ve found my own little personal assistant to be a lifesaver.  I’ve compiled some of my favourite skills and uses for Alexa, which I’m sure will come in handy for you, too!

This post contains affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information!

Note that I frequently refer to my “assistant” as Alexa, but the more accurate phrasing would be Echo, or Alexa-enabled device.

Sleep Sounds*

This is by far the feature of my Alexa that I use most frequently.  I don’t sleep well very often, but I’ve found that sleep sounds–especially thunderstorm sounds!– give me a bit better of a chance of getting a half-decent night’s sleep.

Speaker

This is a pretty basic feature of the Echo Dot (and other Alexa products), but it’s nevertheless one of my favourites. Whenever I want to hear my music (or whatever else I’m listening to on my phone), I can easily connect over Bluetooth to listen right through Alexa!

Spotify

I’m not currently subscribed to Spotify Premium, but when I was, this was probably the most-used command on my Dot.  Alexa, play [Song] on Spotify.  This doesn’t work with free Spotify accounts, but, if you already invest in the Premium option, it’s a great resource.

While I haven’t used it myself, you can also connect to Amazon Music, of course!

Smart Home

This is another that I haven’t tried out for myself (my current space is far too tiny to both investing in smart plugs and the like), but it’s a huge part of many people’s interest in Alexa (not to mention the many commercials for it!).

Podcasts

I recently got back into podcasts for the first time in ages (with a post in the queue featuring a few of our favourites!), and I love that I can listen to them through Alexa! I use Castbox,* but there are plenty of options.

Conversions

This is a huge benefit when cooking–my mom keeps her Dot in her kitchen and it’s perfect for in-the-moment conversions.  Tablespoon in the dishwasher and need the conversion to teaspoons? She’s got your back. And it’s not just recipe-related conversions! Get the right amounts for unit conversions for temperature, currency, and more with just a question.

Meditation

I only recently learned about this feature, but I’m shocked that I hadn’t thought to check for it earlier! I’ve been through an assortment of different meditation programs since I first started meditating, so utilising Alexa’s capabilities to do so is an awesome addition.  Right now, I’m checking out this skill,* from Stop, Breathe, & Think.

Timers

This one’s pretty self-explanatory … it also comes in handy in the kitchen!

Be prepared for allergy season

This is another new-to-me skill! Zyrtec’s Daily AllergyCast* will give you the pollen count for your area, which could be a great help this allergy season.

Calculations

I’ve never been particularly stellar with math, and sometimes I just don’t want to do mental arithmetic. But do you know who will? Alexa!

Learn something

There’s a whole array of different Alexa skills to teach you something new–Cat Facts* is a personal (albeit goofy) favourite!

Flash Briefing

All too often I forget about this feature, but it’s one of the strongest of this device, in my opinion. Not only can you personalise your very own morning news brief (a “Morning Report,” if you will, Lion King fans), but you can add in some fun, like an “on this day in history” throwback or even a Supernatural exorcism, just in case ridding your apartment of demons is on the agenda.

Control your Calendar

Speaking of your agenda, if you use a digital calendar, such as Google Calendar (my personal favourite as of late), you can add events right through Alexa! Want to check what’s on your schedule for the day? Yep, she can do that, too.

Check your Fitbit stats

Alexa, ask Fitbit how I’m doing today. Use the Fitbit* skill to keep an eye on your step count and other goals for the day!

Alarm

Like any good device, you can use it to make sure you wake up on time! Terrified your normal alarm might not go off? I’ve been known to set more than one just in case–set up an alarm clock at 6:00, your phone at 6:15, and your Alexa at 6:30 to make sure you’ll always have something waking you up on time!

Add to your grocery or to-do lists

As you probably know, I love a good list! I keep most of my running to-do lists in my bullet journal, but Alexa is an absolute lifesaver on those rare occasions I don’t have my bujo in hand.  Simply tell her to “add X to my to-do list” and it will be there waiting for you! You can even review your lists in the Amazon Alexa app.

The same principle applies to a grocery list.  This is especially helpful when you run out of an ingredient as you’re cooking–if I don’t make a note at that moment, I’m bound to forget it!

Put the Law of Attraction to work

Check out the Daily Affirmation* skill for some quick motivation to help you improve your mindset (and your life, by extension!).

Play games

I don’t utilise the many games of Alexa frequently, mostly because I don’t often have free time. But, there are so many options! Play trivia games, a virtual escape room, would you rather, and more through just your Alexa device!

Even more

Obviously I can’t touch on any and all possible uses for Alexa in this post–it would be hundreds of thousands of words long and no one would want to read! But, there are plenty more uses for Alexa (including lots that are just for fun, like Box of Cats)…and even more if you integrate IFTT!

IFTT is one of my favourite websites (perhaps in need of a post of its own in the future?). By attaching it to various other services, like your social media accounts, Evernote, or, yes, Alexa, you can trigger events to happen when something specific occurs: if this, then that.

For example, I have an IFTT applet set for my Instagram and Twitter accounts–whenever I post a photo to Instagram, it’s automatically sent to Twitter as a direct photo, rather than just an Instagram link. It’s not an Alexa-related trick, but it’s a lifesaver!

What are some of your favourite skills and uses for Alexa?

Uses for Alexa

Airtable Review

Airtable Review: Another Amazing Productivity Tool

A while back I reviewed a great time management tool, Trello.  Since then, I’ve discovered Airtable. It hasn’t replaced my using Trello but it has joined it to make me even more productive than ever before. Want to learn more? Read on for my full Airtable review:

What is Airtable?

Airtable is a cloud-based, spreadsheet-style database system.  With gorgeous pre-made templates and the ability to create your own file from scratch, it takes the standard spreadsheet to a whole new level!

If you know me in real life or have been around the blog for a while, you know I love spreadsheets.  I’ve been known to make up new reasons just to make a spreadsheet! That being said, this program was right up my alley.

How do I use Airtable? What can I use it for?

Airtable has, without a doubt, the best tutorial setup I have ever seen on a website.   By following along with their videos, I had a great starting point for using its many features.

About those features: some of my favourites include the ability to link records, switch views (I especially love the calendar view!), and attaching files directly to a cell.

I am fully convinced that Airtable has infinite possibilities. I’ve used it for everything from cataloging my personal library to creating our editorial calendar for here on the blog! Check out their case studies and templates for some more inspiration.

All About that Base

No treble? Well, less trouble (pardon the terrible puns!) Another favourite feature of mine is Airtable’s bases and workspaces. Because I use it for so many different things, I’d struggle to find anything without being able to sort my bases into workspaces – I use titles like “For the Sake of Good Taste,” “Personal,” and “Writing.”

Then, within each workspace, I can add a variety of bases, which act like individual files would in Excel.  You can change the colour, icon, and title of each base, which makes it super simple to identify what you need at a glance!

Final Thoughts

Airtable has seriously become one of my favourite productivity tools! Not only does it keep me organised, but it fuels my ever-present obsession with spreadsheets!  Whether you test out one of their templates or start from scratch to create your own design, you’re bound to find a great use for it!

Have you tried Airtable yourself? If not, has our Airtable review convinced you to?

Airtable Review

aliexpress stationery haul

AliExpress Stationery Haul

I’m in quite a few bullet journal groups on Facebook and AliExpress is a favourite store across them all.  These excited recommendations are generally focused on products like washi tape and stickers, but there are countless subcategories of budget-friendly items available from their sellers! For this AliExpress haul, though, I’ll be sticking to what I know, which is mostly bullet journal supplies.

I’ve quite literally had this post in my drafts for months and haven’t had the right time to share it. . . but better late than never, right?

I’m including both the exact product I ordered and, when I can find one, a comparable one on Amazon (with Prime shipping unless otherwise noted!).

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information!

Artist Washi

On AliExpress:  To Master Van Gogh Monet Painting Washi Tape DIY Scrapbooking Sticker Label Masking Tape School Office Supply, $1.90/1 roll

On Amazon: 7 Rolls World Famous Painting Design Washi Tape Set – Oil Painting Canvases Patterns Masking Tape for Art Crafty Decorative, DIY Crafts, Gift Wrapping, Party, $15.99/7 rolls

My review:  After taking an art history class as part of my public history minor in college and taking a modern art class this summer, I’ve really developed what was previously a passing interest in art. This washi tape was perfect for that! This round, I ordered rolls featuring works by Monet (my all-time favourite), Klimt, and Matisse.

Would I buy again? Yes! I’m already planning to pick up a few of my other favourite artists.

Office Supplies Washi

1x 10m Best Selling Designs(raindrop, elephant, cat, flower, flag) Decorative Washi Tape DIY Scrapbooking Masking Tape School Supply, $0.81/roll

My review: The office supply inception here is fantastic!  I don’t often have a page that makes me think (yes, this needs more office supplies), but when I do? I’ve got this!

Would I buy again? If I finish up this roll, most definitely!

Crystal Washi

On AliExpress: 3 Rolls Washi Masking Tape Set Petal Animal Flower Paper Masking Tapes Japanese Washi Tape Diy Scrapbooking Sticker, 15mm x 5m, $2.10/3 rolls

On Amazon: Green Flash Japanese Washi Masking Paper Tape / STUDY HOLIC (Mineralogy [ ST-017 ]), $9.99/roll

My review: This is just so pretty!  I love my crystals and I can’t wait to make a special spread to catalog them.

Would I buy again? Yes!

Galaxy Washi

On AliExpress: 3 Rolls Washi Masking Tape Set Petal Animal Flower Paper Masking Tapes Japanese Washi Tape Diy Scrapbooking Sticker, 15mm x 5m, $2.10/3 rolls

On Amazon: BCopter Washi Masking Tape Set, DIY Sticky Adhesive Paper, Colorful Decorative Arts Craft, Gift Wrap Scrapbook Bullet Journal Planner, value pack Hand Tear Writable (Galaxy-3), $6.99/3 rolls

My review: There’s a bit of a space theme going on throughout this haul as I was working on my “witchy” bullet journal while ordering. This galaxy washi tape was absolutely perfect! I love the variety of colours.

Would I buy again? Yep.  I’ve been able to use this for a few different spreads, like astrology snippets and my Star Wars theme!

Heartbeat Washi

On AliExpress: 2017 Free shipping 24 patterns washee in tape rilakkuma jiataihe washi tape kawaii watercolor tape 1rolls/lot, $1.18/roll

On Amazon: Gold Glitter Dreamy Watercolor Plannet Moon Sky Star Heartbeat Washi Tape – Set of 2 Rolls – Decorative DIY Japanese Masking Scrapbook Bullet Journal Notebook Sticky Paper Wide Washi Tape Set, $8.99/2 rolls

My review: Fittingly, I fell head over heels for this adorable heartbeat washi. I’ve added it to a few other lovey-dovey rolls I’ve got and have lots of spread ideas. Things I love? Best date ideas? Let me know your best suggestion in the comments!

Would I buy again? Most definitely–this is one of my favourites!

Marble Washi

On AliExpress: 1X DIY Japanese Paper Marble Washi Tape White Paper Masking Tapes Adhesive Tapes Stickers Decorative Stationery Tape 1.5cm*10m, $1.08/roll

On Amazon: American Crafts Marble Crush Memory Planner 8 Piece Washi Tape Cool, $9.99/8 rolls

My review: As a blogger, I think I’m required to enjoy marble anything. That being said, I have remarkably little of it in my life! This washi adds just a touch, but it’s a welcome detail.

Would I buy again? Yep.

Bookshelf Washi

On AliExpress:  24 Style Creative Modern People City Daily Life Decorative Washi Tape Scotch Diy Scrapbooking Masking Tape School Office Supply, $0.84/roll

On Amazon: RoundTop Designer’s Washi Masking Tape 20mm x 5m, Yano Design Series Natural, Book Shelf (YD-MK-001), $10.92/roll

My review: How perfect is this washi for my reading and writing spreads?

Would I buy again? Yes!

Watercolour Washi

On AliExpress: JA211 The Fancy Color of Water Decorative Washi Tape DIY Scrapbooking Masking Tape School Office Supply Escolar Papelaria, $1.10/roll

On Amazon: Natural Color Washi Masking Tape, Sticky Paper Tape for DIY, Decorative Craft, Gift Wrapping, Scrapbook, Nordic, Set of 6, $8.99/6 rolls

My review: I love the aesthetic of watercolours, so this was a no-brainer. Plus, the colour scheme is beautiful!

Would I buy again? Yep.

Antiques Washi

On AliExpress: JI116 3cm Wide Black White Antiques Decorative Washi Tape DIY Scrapbooking Masking Tape School Office Supply Escolar Papelaria, $1.74/roll

On Amazon: Antique Washi Tape Set (Japanese Masking Tape) by MIKOKA, 0.6 inches Wide, 32.8 Feet Long, 5 Rolls – Vintage Fantasy, $15.99/5 rolls

My review: I love “old things,” so this was a great match.  This is one of a few larger rolls that I don’t use as often as the “normal” tapes, but it’s perfect for adding some flair to a blank space!

Would I buy again? Yep.

Balloon Animal Washi

On AliExpress: Creative Animal Travel to London Washi Tape DIY Scrapbooking Sticker Label Masking Tape School Office Supply, $1.02/roll

On Amazon: Masking Tape Washi Tape Set 4 Rolls for DIY Scrapbooking Embelishment Bullet Journal (Width 0.78in Length 22.96ft) (Whale Weather Balloons Bunting), $9.99/4 rolls

My review: I’m terrified of clowns, so I’ve only really gotten a few balloon animals over the years. Nevertheless, I find them adorable! This washi was a perfect was to get some of that cuteness . . . without Pennywise staring at me in the process.

Would I buy again? Yep

Travel Washi

On AliExpress: Creative Animal Travel to London Washi Tape DIY Scrapbooking Sticker Label Masking Tape School Office Supply, $1.10/roll

On Amazon: Pack New Sketched Paris Eiffel Tower Japanese Washi Tape Office Adhesive Tape Adesivo 15mm10m, $10.00/roll (not available with Prime shipping)

My review: While I haven’t travelled much lately, that hasn’t stopped me from daydreaming about it (my travel bucket list is coming soon here on the blog!). This washi is perfect for travel-themed spreads, from places to go to packing lists.

Would I buy again? Yes!

Cactus Washi

On AliExpress: Nice Green Cactus Decorative Washi Tape DIY Scrapbooking Masking Tape School Office Supply, $1.08/roll

On Amazon: Smartcoco Cactus Potted Plants Sticky Paper Tape Decorative Adhesive Printing Masking Washi DIY Scrapbooking Decor, $2.77/roll

My review: My succulent was brutally murdered in the move from my apartment at school (I know. Rest in peace, little guy), so this washi was my main source of greenery for a while this summer. It’s not quite the same as having a real plant friend, but it was a decent substitute!

Would I buy again? Yes!

Jellyfish Washi

On AliExpress: 1.5CM Wide Blue Sea Jellyfish Tape DIY Scrapbooking Sticker Label Masking Tape School Office Supply, $1.38/roll

On Amazon: Gold Glitter Sea Ocean Creature Marine organism fish Jelly Whale Washi Tape – Set of 3 Rolls – Decorative DIY Japanese Masking Scrapbook Bullet Journal Notebook Sticky Paper Wide Washi Tape Set, $10.99/3 rolls

My review: Now, I don’t particularly like the ocean. I’m moderately terrified of water. That Friends episode has always stuck in my mind when jellyfish are involved. Nevertheless, I fell in love with this washi the moment I saw it. Despite my fears, there’s just something about the artistic rendering of it that’s so calming!

Would I buy again? Yep

Galaxy Landscape Washi

On AliExpress: Night Stars Gilding Washi Tape DIY Scrapbooking Sticker Label Masking Tape School Office Supply, $2.34/roll

My review: I bought three rolls of this tape: the train, the fireworks, and the astrological symbols. They’re gorgeous! The metallic gold stands out beautifully against the “starry sky.”

Would I buy again? Absolutely. I cherish these rolls desperately, but I’d definitely replace them given the need!

Travel Stickers

On AliExpress: Travel Around The World Watercolor Hand-Painted Building Decorative Stickers Adhesive Stickers DIY Decoration Diary Stickers, $1.58

On Amazon: Travel Around The World Watercolor Hand-Painted Building Decorative Stickers Adhesive Stickers DIY Decoration Diary Stickers, $7.93 (not available with Prime shipping)

My review: These stickers are beautiful – so beautiful that I’ve hardly touched them!  I have a terrible habit of saving especially pretty stickers for the “right” moment, which may never come.

Would I buy again? Yes!

London Stickers

On AliExpress: Creative London Vacation Stickers Diary Sticker Scrapbook Decoration PVC Stationery Stickers, $1.26

My review: In case you haven’t caught on, I really, really miss living in the UK.  London holds a special place in my heart, so these stickers were an extra special purchase! I’m thinking of creating a “Things I Miss about the UK” spread specifically to use these and some of my other travel-related items. . . .

Would I buy again? Of course!

Alpaca Stickers

On AliExpress: Novelty Cartoon Alpaca 3D Stickers Diary Sticker Scrapbook Decoration PVC Stationery Stickers FOD, $0.83

On Amazon: [DECO FAIRY] Cute Litte Sheep and Alpaca Animal Puffy Stickers, $7.99

My review: I had a similar pack of 2D stickers with these adorable cartoon critters that was almost used up when I came across these. Given my love for alpacas (and friends thereof), this was a must-buy!

Would I buy again? Yes!!

Gudetama Stickers

On AliExpress: 60 pcs/pack Sanrio Gudetama Lazy Egg Sealing Stickers Diary Label Stickers Pack Decorative Scrapbooking DIY Stickers, $0.94

On Amazon: Zeroyoyo Sanrio Gudetama Lazy Egg Sealing Stickers Diary Label Decorative Scrapbooking, $3.99

My review: Gudetama is one of my all-time favourite animated characters. I have pens with him on it, so I naturally needed matching stickers! I especially love the packaging these come in.

Would I buy again? Yes!  Never enough reasons to have the Guedtame theme song stuck in my head (like I do as I write this post).

Moon Stickers

On AliExpress: 45 pcs/pack Dark Moon Star Decorative Stickers Adhesive Stickers DIY Decoration Diary Stickers Box Package, $0.94

On Amazon: BleuMoo Phase Of The Moon Planet Star Calendar Decoration Stickers DIY Hand Craft Planner Scrapbook Label Diary Stickers, $3.35 (not available with Prime shipping)

My review: Back on the space theme, I’d seen these stickers pop up a few dozen times in various bullet journalling groups and AliExpress hauls. They were absolutely perfect for a moon phases spread!

 Would I buy again? Yes!

Galaxy Cat Stickers

On AliExpress: 6 pcs/pack Star Cats Label Stickers Set Decorative Stationery Stickers Scrapbooking DIY Diary Album Stick Label, $1.07

On Amazon: Cute Funny Cat Theme Washi Planner Sticker, Decorative Adhesive Sticker, Craft Scrapbooking Sticker Set for Diary, Album, Notebook, Bullet Journal, 12 Sheets/Pack(Star Cat), $8.99

My review: If you can’t tell, I love the galaxy aesthetic. If you’re a return visitor to the blog, you likely know how much I love cats (Fitz especially! He’d be very angry if I didn’t specify). These stickers combine the two beautifully!

Would I buy again? Most definitely!

What was your favourite piece of stationery in our AliExpress haul?

aliexpress stationery haul

2019 Bullet Journal

My 2019 Bullet Journal

As you probably already know, I really enjoy bullet journaling.  As you might not already know, I’ve been talking about my excitement for setting up my 2019 bullet journal since . . . about October.  I insisted my mom pick up at least one of my favourite $5 journals from Michaels and planned to do little but work and bullet journal in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

And that I did, for the most part.  So, my first bullet journal of 2019 is ready to go!  I’ve found that these journals typically last me about three months a piece, so this one should last me through March.  It might even make it until April, since I don’t have many holidays and events adding special pages!

This post is in no way affiliated with the official Bullet Journal brand.

For this year’s journal, I have it roughly split into long-term pages, blogging pages, writing/Nightingale & Sparrow pages, and monthly pages. There’s space after January to add the coming months, as well as any additional pages I might find myself in need of!

At the risk of spending a couple thousand words breaking down each page, I’m going to list most of them and give a bit more information on some of my favourites! Of course, if you want to know more about another page, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Long-term pages

My “Welcome 2019” page is one of my favourites, despite messing up a bit in writing out my word of the year (distractions are unhelpful, kids).

welcome 2019 bullet journal

My page for Fitz is another favourite, despite only being just started. How could I not love a page that features that face staring back at me? This is the first time I used by HP sprocket 2-in-1 in my journal and I absolutely love it.

Fitz 2019 bullet journal

My 101 in 1,001 spread always makes me smile as I flip through because it’s so darn colourful! I’ve got a ways to go on actually completing the tasks, but a spread this pretty is rather inspiring.

101 in 1,001 bullet journal 2019

The digital declutter spread is another favourite because I kept it pretty simple. The grey mildliner is the perfect complement if I do say so myself!

digital declutter bullet journal 2019

I also have a KonMari spread–I’ve been following her for years, but I’ve been telling myself for months now that 2019 will be the year I finally tackle the full process!

konmari bullet journal 2019

  • 2019
    • Intro & word of the year
    • Goals
    • Level 10 Life
    • Birthdays
    • Future log
  •  Finance
    • Bill tracker
    • Debt avalanche
    • Work income & expenses
    • Savings tracker
    • Wishlist & spending goals
  • Reference
    • Fitz’s info
    • General reference
  • Productivity
    • Morning/Evening routines
    • Packing lists
    • 101 in 1,001
    • Letter-writing tracker
    • Package tracker
    • Digital declutter checklist
    • KonMari method
    • Cleaning calendar
    • When did I last…? tracker
  • Entertainment
    • Books to Read
    • Goodreads Reading Challenge
    • Library Tracker
    • Movie Tracker
    • Disney movies
    • TV shows
  • Education
    • Duolingo tracker
    • Online course tracker
  • Food
    • Meal planner
    • Recipe bank
    • Vegan Treats to try
  • Health
    • Workouts
    • Makeup Expiration Tracker
    • Gratitude Log
    • Meditation Tracker

Blogging Pages

Most of these are replicated from my last journals–they were so useful the first times around that I stuck with it again!

  • Routines
  • Goals
  • Stats tracker
  • Post schedule
  • Vlog schedule
  • Pitches tracker
  • Collabs tracker
  • Plugins
  • Hashtags
  • Affiliates
  • Blog/Vlog ideas
  • Income/expenses
  • To dos

Writing/N&S pages

I’ve already had to add a few more Submissions Tracker pages as I make headway towards my 500 submissions goal for 2019!

  • Goals
  • Income/expenses
  • Submissions tracker
  • Poems published
  • 100 Rejections tracker
  • N&S info
  • N&S site info
  • N&S checklists
  • N&S income & expenses
  • N&S to do

Timed pages

I’m testing out a new weekly setup this month and I’m absolutely loving it so far! I still have enough space to track my endless to-do lists, but I can also track items like food, sleep, and water to make sure I’m staying at least semi-healthy.

  • January
    • Monthly spread:
      • Calendar
      • Bill tracker
      • Memories
      • Events & deadlines
      • Goals
      • To do
      • Shopping
      • Future log
    • Habit trackers
      • Habits
      • Medicine
      • Cat tasks
    • Weekly spread:
      • Daily to-dos
      • Sleep tracker
      • Water tracker
      • Weekly tasks
      • Food diary

How is your 2019 bullet journal coming along so far?

2019 Bullet Journal

Bullet Journal Holiday Spreads (Blogmas 2018, Day One)

If you don’t know already, my bullet journal is sometimes the only thing keeping me sane.  This year, I’m trying to utilise its full potential and incorporate some holiday trackers and other festive spreads!

I’ll detail the spreads I’m using myself first, then list some additional ideas that might be of interest.

This post is in no way affiliated with the official Bullet Journal brand.

My Holiday Bullet Journal Spreads

Winter/Holiday Bucket List

I’m doing a winter bucket list myself (I did an autumn bucket list too, though I’m afraid it wasn’t very successful).  For me, this contains everything from drinking some of my favourite peppermint hot cocoa and looking at Christmas lights to taking a walk in the snow and preparing for the new year.

winter bucket list

Christmas Countdown

Or a countdown for whatever holidays you celebrate!  You might not need a reminder of such a special day, but this will definitely build a bit of extra anticipation. I’m in full support of extra excitement!

I created 24 of these little lights & ornaments (I’m not exactly a talented artist, but these are an example of some of the better ones!) to colour in throughout the season.

christmas countdown - closeup

Gift List

Whoever you’re buying gifts for this season, keeping track can make it a lot easier!  You can list who you want to buy presents for, your ideas for what you want to buy, what you’ve already bought, and even mark when you’ve wrapped your gifts!

The lines in mine are rather wonky because I worked on this one during a pain flare, but it’s effective!  I have columns for the recipient’s name, the gift, the budget allocated, amount spent, the store I purchased it from, whether I’ve received it (for any online purchases), whether it’s wrapped, and whether it’s been sent or delivered, as well as a bonus column for notes!

christmas gift list

Card List

Similarly to a gift list, planning out and tracking the cards you send out will simplify the process.  Keep track of cards you’ve received and want to reply to, cards you still need to send, and even addresses for those loved ones you want to send a special card to–that way you won’t need to look up addresses, too!

I kept mine simple with a list of names and boxes for the card being written, addressed, stamped, and sent.

christmas card tracker

Treats to Bake

Do you have a Pinterest board filled with festive recipes you mean to make, but keep putting off? Make yourself a tracker and get cooking!  You can keep it simple with a list or doodle each treat to colour in as you bake/make them.

My tray of cookies isn’t particularly pretty, but it gets the job done!

christmas treats tracker

Movies to Watch

I don’t know about you, but I love holiday movies.  By sitting down early and writing out my favourites, I barely have to think to put on a film! In fact, I’ve already made progress on a few.

holiday movie tracker

Holiday Story/Reading Tracker

I’m listing some of my favourite stories here in advance and I plan to add some poems throughout the season as I inevitably come across them.  Let me know if you have any suggestions!

christmas reading list

 

Dinner Menu & Shopping List

Since any vegan food is exclusively for me by default (no one else will eat it, really!), I get to be pretty creative for Christmas dinner!  I attempted to make my actual “menu” a bit more fancy, taking inspiration from some wedding menu cards, but I kept my shopping list nice and simple.

shopping list

Blogmas Planner

I couldn’t help but include Blogmas! This includes the date and shortened post title, plus boxes to check off for when the text is finished, pictures are ready, and the post is scheduled (T, P, & F), as well as when it’s been shared to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest (f, t, i, & p).

blogmas spread

DIY/Crafts to Try

One of the items on my 101 in 1,001 list is to try some Pinterest crafts and one of my winter bucket list items is to make an ornament. So, some crafting is in order!

More Holiday Bullet Journal Spreads:

  1. Travel/trip planner
  2. Stocking stuffer ideas
  3. Holiday party planner
  4. Calendar for tracking plans/events
  5. Wishlists
  6. Holiday memories
  7. Festive doodles
  8. Tracker for any food allergies/preferences in guests
  9. Holiday budget
  10. Holiday to-do list
  11. Favourite holiday songs
  12. Holiday quotes
  13. Secret Santa organisation
  14. Decoration inventory
  15. Thank you note tracker
  16. New Year’s resolutions/goals/affirmations

Of course, you can’t forget themed weeklies, dailies, or monthly pages! I decided against using the holidays as a full monthly theme, but that would be another great way to incorporate some festive cheer into your bullet journal.  Plus, you can top it all off with a holiday cover page.

In fact, I did add a quick Christmas-y cover for my holiday pages! This song always gets stuck in my head as December comes to a start, so it was the perfect beginning.

christmas is coming

Or, as I realised while writing it, this could also be an uncharacteristically festive Game of Thrones reference!  Either way, I’ll take it.

Have you made any bullet journal holiday spreads yourself? Let us know in the comments what your favourites are!

Happy Blogmas

How to Stay Organized in College

How to Stay Organized in College: A Guest Post by Carlee of In Carlee’s World

I’m super excited to welcome Carlee Hebert of In Carlee’s World to For the Sake of Good Taste!  I’ve loved getting to know Carlee a bit through planning this guest post and I’m thrilled to share her post on how to stay organized in college with you all here today. If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you know we love to bring some ideas about organisation to our readers, so this is the perfect fit! 

While I’m not going back to college this fall (and it’s honestly really starting to freak me out—more on that coming soon), I definitely use some of these in my “adult” life, too.

Ever felt like a hot mess? Yeah, we’ve all been there. And college life is basically the “hot mess” life. With classes, organizations, part-time jobs, friends, dates, football games, and everything else, you can easily become overwhelmed. But, with just a little organization, (almost) everything in life will fall perfectly into place!

Planner

Okay, so you’ve heard this literally EVERYWHERE. I know, I know, but it’s so important. As I’ve mentioned on my blog, I keep two planners: one for life stuff and one for school stuff. And, to organize even further, I color code everything. Whether your planner is online or on paper, it’s the best way to stay organized in your busy life!

Syllabus

For our next college organization tip, take a look at your syllabus (a.k.a. your saving grace during the semester)! There’s lots of important information in there like grading rubrics, attendance policy, and the extra credit policy. But, the most vital part for staying organized is the due dates!

Most syllabi will have a detailed calendar of the semester. I like to go through this calendar and write out each due date and test date. Before each week, I’ll glance over it again to be sure I’ve read or have planned to read all the right assignments. Spend just a few minutes with your trusty syllabus to get as organized as possible.

Folders

To step up on your organizational skills, use folders to neatly store all of your notes, essays, and other similar things. I do everything on my computer, so I use folders in Google Drive, but you can easily use physical folders if your class uses handouts. This is such a simple thing to do, but it makes me feel like I have my life together.

Don’t over commit yourself

I’ll be honest with you, this is something I’m still learning. I want to do everything I can so I say yes to every extra assignment, organization, and friend date. Once it comes time to do it all, I’m regretting spreading myself so thin! Learn your limits and figure out how much time you really have each day. Do what’s best for you to be a successful and organized boss!

Carlee - In Carlee's World

Thanks again to Carlee for sharing her tips on how to stay organized in college! Be sure to check her out at In Carlee’s World and on social media: 

How to Stay Organized in College

Bullet Journal Tools - My Favourite Stationery

Bullet Journal Tools and Beyond: My Favourite Stationery

If you haven’t caught on by posts like my 6 Top Office Supplies for College Students, I really like stationery.  When I’m not collecting supplies to make my pencil case a bit more pretty, I’m probably using it to bullet journal!  In the process, I’ve definitely found some supplies that are, in my mind, well above the rest, whether in quality, uses, or personal preference. Today I’m sharing some of my favourite stationery products and bullet journal tools!

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see our disclosure for more information!

This post is in no way affiliated with the official Bullet Journal brand.

Mildliners*

Mildliners

My mom bought a pack of these after seeing them in some bullet journal Facebook groups and found she loved them. Soon after, I got my own! I’m hoping to finish my collection someday soon – I only have two of the small packs so far.

Two often missed fun facts about these pens:  they aren’t midliners (despite the logical progression from highlighters!) and they’re actually double-sided! When I first learnt about the smaller, finer end, I couldn’t see much of a use for it in comparison to the “normal” end. After using these for a while now, though, I’ve come to love them both!

Staedtler fineliners*

Fineliners

I only have a five-pack of these so far (this four-pack* with an added grey pen), but I absolutely love them!  I especially enjoy the built-in easel added into their plastic case. This 36-count pack* is next on my wishlist until I can eventually buy the 50-pack with all 48 colours!

In the meantime, though, my mom happens to have the big pack herself and she’s kind enough to share!  Because of that, I have access to plenty of colours most of the time and I can honestly say that they are absolutely stunning. The pens write beautifully and the colours are vivid and of a great variety.

Sakura Pigma Microns

Microns

My all-time favourite pens! I use these for drawing out spreads, signing books, and everything in between.  These don’t have as long of a lifespan as most of the others listed here, between the fragility of the tip and the ease with which the label (and, consequently, the marking of which size if which) wears out after a bit of use). Still, I love these pens and would definitely recommend them!

Fountain pen*

Fountain Pen

Some backstory: I once bought a calligraphy set from an estate sale that was opened, but unused. I brought it home with an awful lot of excitement but found that, no matter how hard I tried, I would only rip through the paper when using the fountain pen.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when my sister brought home a fountain pen for an art project. After watching her go over her drawings with it, I asked to borrow it for a minute and retry. As it turns out, the ink cartridges were most likely dried out in that old kit – I could successfully write with a fountain pen! Now, I’ve got my very own!

Follow-up a few months after writing that first bit:  unfortunately, this pen specifically stopped working not long after my purchasing it. I’m hoping to get a slightly better quality the next time around so this hopefully won’t occur again! 

Dixon Ticonderoga pencils*

Dixon Ticonderoga Pencils

I mentioned these in my top office supplies for college students, but they’re worth another shoutout! For bullet journaling, these are great for sketching out spreads before finalising them in your ink of choice. However, I pretty much use them for anything and everything!  Additionally, these were my pencil of choice through seventeen years of schooling—they’re perfect for back to school!

Washi tape*

I love washi tape for its endless design options and limitless uses! Sometimes it’s just the pop of colour or theme-coordinating design to make a spread perfect. I have far more rolls than any sane person should own, but I love it nevertheless.  I haven’t tried those linked above yet, so let me know your thoughts if you do!

My collection is a bit excessive, with rolls from Michael’s, AliExpress, and gifts. From pet themes to polka dots, I almost always have the perfect colour or design! Whether you’re adding a pop of colour to something in your bedroom or you’re updating your bullet journal spread, washi is probably the perfect solution.

Cover-It*

Cover-It

Or correcting product of choice. When I don’t use a pencil first (or even sometimes when I do!) I turn to whatever type of wite-out I have on hand to save the day. . . and that bit of my journal. From a misplaced mark to an overdrawn line, cover-it is ideal for making your pages look a bit more streamlined.

Keep in mind that this works better for pages that are of a similar shade of white. Of course, you can use it on off-white or cream pages, but if the colour difference will bother you, this might not be the best solution. An erasable pen may be a solution in this case!

Bullet Journal Tools - My Favourite Stationery

These aren’t all of my bullet journal tools and supplies, but they are some of my favourites!  What are your favourite school/office supplies or bullet journal tools?

Myths about Organising

12 Myths about Organising

I’ve spent years trying to become more organised, yet I’m still appalled by the myths about organising I encounter time and again!

You’re either born an organised person or not.

While you may be naturally better at organising than someone else is, there’s no reason the latter can’t become more organised!

You’re too busy to get organised.

You can become more organised with just a few minutes a day! It will take time, of course, but it doesn’t need to take over your life.

Organisation costs too much.

You don’t have to spend lots of money to get organised!  Chances are, you won’t have to spend money at all. From repurposing items you have already to DIY-ing a new storage system, it’s not difficult to organise on a budget.

If you take the time to organise your whole home once, it will be organised for good.

On the one hand, a massive organisation session will make a world of difference. On the other hand, it won’t fix all of your problems forever. You’ll still need to maintain your organisational system.

The system that everyone raves about will definitely work for you.

Whether you’re researching FlyLady or Marie Kondo, seeing hundreds of glowing reviews can easily convince you that that is the system you need to get organised once and for all. But what works for one person (or hundreds) may not work for you! It may take some trial and error to determine your best method.

You need to organise “the right way.”

No matter how Pinterest-worthy an organisational system may seem, it might not be right for you. Like I’ve said in our Rules of Organising, there really are no rules!

Once you buy certain containers or other tools, you’ll become more organised.

On the contrary, I actually recommend waiting until you’ve progressed significantly through the organising process to invest in containers and the like, if at all. If you purchase them in advance, you might not even use them. Then they’ll just become more clutter!

If you’re messy, you must be disorganised.

Not at all! If it works for the person in question, it’s still an organisational system, even if it’s “organised chaos.”

You have to toss/donate most of your excess belongings or become a minimalist to really be organised.

This definitely helps, and some level of decluttering is a necessity. But by no means do you need to go overboard if you don’t want to!

You need lots of free space to get organised.

Like decluttering, lots of free space is helpful, but by no means necessary to become more organised.

You need a plan or list for everything to really be organised.

Yes, I’m debunking this as a bullet journal fan. For many things, these lists and plans can truly be helpful. But sometimes, they are nothing more than tools for procrastination.

You can’t have fun being organised.

Instead, you must plan each and every moment of each and every day, right? No. You can be organised and spontaneous! Heck, some people even find the organising process itself to be fun!

Myths about Organising

Have you encountered any of these myths about organising?

My 2018 BuJo So Far

Bullet Journal Inspiration: My 2018 BuJo So Far

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that I reference my bullet journal (and this post on bullet journaling) all. the. time.  With that in mind, I thought it was about time I share my 2018 bujo so far—both for your bullet journal inspiration and as an update of sorts!  Of course, this is just a sampling of my favourite spreads.  If there’s a spread you’d like me to share otherwise, just shoot me a message and I’d be happy to oblige.

This post is in no way affiliated with the official Bullet Journal brand.

As of August, I’ve updated this post to include some more spreads and further feedback on my earlier spreads! I began a second journal for 2018 when I graduated at the end of May, so there are spreads from both journals and both my student life and “adult” life.  For the most part, these are updated versions of our prior spreads. Where I haven’t kept up with a spread going forward, I’ve let you know about that, too.

Monthly Covers

I’ve let myself get a bit extra-creative (and a lot sticker-crazy!) with some monthly covers this time around.  Can you tell I was really getting into Valentine’s Day?

As the months went on, I used a few covers and the start of themes for the month, like my Bob’s Burgers theme for April and my Star Wars theme (featuring special guest star Justin Timberlake) for May. I’ve really come to enjoy spreading a theme or colour scheme throughout my spreads for that month.

Habit Tracker

I’ve kept a habit tracker of some sort since I began my first bullet journal, but it’s probably the spread that’s changed the most!  As I’m sure you can tell from the image, I’ve done rather poorly when it comes to keeping up with it this month, too.  Nevertheless, I’m liking the small sets of boxes for each habit, as opposed to a larger overall grid.  Not sure if I prefer the x’s or squares though (let me know what you think in the comments!).

I haven’t done very well throughout the year with keeping with a habit tracker, and I didn’t include one for a few of the months.  This one is still a work in progress: I’ve started reincorporating a few individual habits that I’d like to track again, but it still hasn’t quite stuck!

Weeklies

I’ve always been partial to daily spreads, if only because I tend to have an unnatural list of things to do each day.  Nevertheless, I think I’ve permanently converted to this weekly spread!  The long boxes allow for a lot of to-do items (though I have found myself having to abbreviate to fit some items), but keeps me from putting too many in one day—if it doesn’t fit in today, it will just have to wait until tomorrow!  I also love the boxes above for events (yes, I need to go to class, but I don’t want to take up valuable to-do space with it!).

As of August, I’m using the same style of weekly!  I’ve added a few pieces some months, like a tracker for the hours I worked at my transcriptionist job or a tracker showing my progress toward making the money I’ll need to pay my bills that week.

Meal Planner & Recipe Bank

These are some of my favourite pages so far!  One of the best things about living alone (well, besides Fitz and the obligatory Gettysburg ghosts) is the ability to experiment with new meals whenever I want, with little to no complaints.   Not only do these pages keep me from forgetting about some favourites, but I’m constantly adding to the bank to mix things up.  That being said, I’m happy to take suggestions if you have any recipe recommendations!

I don’t use this spread anywhere near as much as I should even still.  But I am making a conscious effort to add new recipes and recipes I rediscover so that when I do use it, I can use it more!

Books to Read

This one is taken almost exactly from my last journal, except I’m adding books as I plan to read them, rather than filling all the shelves at once with books I eventually want to read.  This way, I feel like I’m under a lot less pressure to read the ones I added to it months ago just to fill space, and I’m already colouring in more than I did in all of the filled shelves!

When I switched journals, I also moved over a similar spread. I accented this one with a few cute details from some stencils I acquired, which never fails to make me smile!

Sleep Log

I’ve been trying extra hard to improve my sleeping habits, and between my Fitbit and this log, it’s getting there!  In the main grid, I midline the hours I slept during the night, then on the right, I add in any naps.

As of August, I’ve mostly stopped using this tracker. My sleep’s still very poor, but filling in the tracker wasn’t making much of a difference. My Fitbit records this in much more detail, so there’s little sense in rewriting it (much less writing out so many tiny numbers!). I’m considering adding a spot to mark how much sleep I’ve gotten each night, but I don’t think I’ll be returning to a full-page spread.

What’s your best bullet journal inspiration of 2018 thus far?

My 2018 BuJo So Far

Trello Review

Trello Review: The Tool That’s Super-Charged My Productivity

Quite frankly, I haven’t shut up about Trello as of late.  The online task management system is one of many (so, so, many) that I’ve tried, but it’s the only one I’ve not only stuck with but have enjoyed using!  Want to know more? Read on for our Trello review to learn how it’s super-charged my productivity . . . and how it can do the same for you!

Follow along with our example boards:

So, firstly:  I really love Trello. I didn’t really expect to, though!  If you’ve been on the blog a while, you’ll already know I’m hooked on bullet journaling. After several failed attempts at using other digital task management systems, I was far from convinced that another one could really help.  But, I’d read so many glowing reviews that I took a chance and made an account.

The first feature that nearly convinced me? Their adorable mascot, Taco the husky!

If you know me, you know the surest way to my heart is through cute animals.  That applies to animated animals as well!

From there, though, the functionality is what really sold me on Trello.  It works so well with my bullet journal, too!

Looking at our example board, here are some of my favourite features:

Colour coding

I haven’t gone all-out labels or the little coloured marks at the top left of each card (each item), but they are the feature I’ve probably found most useful so far!  I love categorising and organising (surprise, surprise, right?), so the ability to mark my to-do items so that I can identify their relevance at a glance is perfect.

Due dates

If you look at the second column, or the “Done” list on my board, you’ll see that the date is marked in green.  This is because I’ve marked it as completed before the due date!  I love the feeling of checking off an item and getting the little green box.

I don’t use it myself, but you can even add a calendar “power-up” to see all of your due items in calendar format!  

Lists

I’d be remiss to not offer an explanation, however brief, of how I utilise the columns, or lists, on each board!  By using a basic “To Do/Done” format, I get to plan what needs to be worked on as well as feel good about what’s already been accomplished.  I take it a step further in utilising “To Do Today/This Week/This Month” lists, much like in my bullet journal!  This allows me to keep the “To Do Today” list manageable without letting those long-term items slip from my mind.

I do something similar with my blogging board!

The Editorial Calendar lists upcoming posts (don’t worry, there are far more on the board I use myself!), which I can move into the “currently writing” category as I get to them.  Then, I move them back to the Editorial Calendar (you could also use a separate “Scheduled Posts” list!).  The To Do list references blog tasks that aren’t directly related to a post, such as social media,  courses, or emails.

Checklists

Within each card, you can add a description, comments, or other useful bits, but my favourite is the ability to add checklists!  For repetitive tasks (like promoting a post on social media channels, for example), you can even input a checklist from a pre-existing card.  Talk about efficiency!

Card View

This is probably my most frequently used bit of Trello. Once I’ve input my tasks on the proper boards, I’ll go to “Cards” (click on your avatar in the upper right-hand corner!) to see them all laid out.  Sorting by due date, I can prioritise what I really need to be working on at that moment.

Have you tried out Trello for yourself? Or has our Trello review convinced you to give it a try?  Let us know in the comments!

Trello Review