Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, watercolour painting

Setting up my bullet journal for September: hedgehog theme

Hi everyone, hope you are all doing well and finding plenty of time to explore your creative side. For next month’s bullet journal spreads, I took inspiration from our garden again. I mentioned a while ago that we have a cute night time visitor who we have started putting biscuits out for each evening (specially formulated little hedgehog ones I should add!). We love getting all wrapped up and sitting on our patio watching him (or her) feed. My husband bought me a wildlife camera for my birthday and so I now have some gorgeous photos and videos of our spiny friend in addition to my creative journaling page records. I hope you enjoy looking through my hedgehog themed pages and I can’t wait to see what you have all chosen for your bullet journal spreads this September.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

For my cover page I wanted to have a go at a little watercolour painting. As my current bullet journal is a Leuchtturm 1917 and the pages don’t hold up too well with paint, I decided to use watercolour paper and then scan and print my finished art work to stick in.

My original watercolour painting. Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative.
Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Next is a motivational quote that I found on Pinterest. It’s there to remind me to keep working towards my goals a little each day. I didn’t want to take the focus away from the words so chose not to add an illustrations.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve just bought a circle making tool and I’m having great fun using it. For my calendar, I decided to go with a completely different layout, a circular design which fits on one page. What I think is great about it is that the space needed for the dates and days is minimal and there are no empty boxes like on the month on two pages grid that I usually use. I drew a relaxing hedgehog in the centre and added autumnal elements. You’ll notice that I’ve done the picture on a while piece of paper and glued it in the centre – this is because I wasn’t happy with my initial d├ęcor so I started again.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Even though Autumn officially doesn’t start until 22nd September, the weather is certainly getting cooler and it looks pretty Autumnal outside already. It feels like Summer is over and it won’t be long until we get those gorgeous shades of red, yellow, orange and brown that we all love to see. I had a little space at the bottom of my calendar page so decided to take the opportunity to do some lettering.

Next are my habit trackers. Some of them are a continuation of last month as I want to make sure I’m keep up with my studying and blogging and also finding regular time to be creative. I’ve got lots planned for my Etsy shop and so will have to make sure I put the hours in to achieve my goals so work on my business is on there again. The other two habits are related to my Level 10 Life goals where I’m aiming for a tidier home and even more exercise by making sure I get a decent walk in each day.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

My next page was inspired by one of vlogger and bullet journaller Caitlin Da Silva‘s September spreads where she created a Fall Reading List. I thought it looked really cute with the little book covers (which I rarely get to see as I generally read on my Kindle Paperwhite) so decided to make my own. I went for a nice mix of fiction and non-fictions and all of the authors are completely new to me.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

It’s been a while since I had a monthly expenses tracker in my bullet journal but I decided that I’d like to be more aware of my spending habits so I drew up this simple spread. I covered the left and right edges of the page with washi tape temporarily whilst I drew the lines of Tombow pen to keep it looking a little neater.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

That’s all of my main spreads for September. I haven’t done any fitness trackers this time as I’ve not really kept up with them this month and they became a bit of a chore. I may do a running list of my workouts which I can add to as I do them. I’m also debating adding a Pinterest stats page as I’m using the platform to advertise some of my Etsy shop items and I also pin all of my blog posts on there.

Until next time,

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions

My new circle drawing tool plus setting up Level 10 life and goals spreads in my bullet journal

As well as my amazing birthday gifts, I was also given some money and I knew straight away what I wanted to spend it on. As well as getting this gorgeous Finetec metallic gold watercolour set, I also ordered the Helix Angle & Circle Maker tool which has been on my wish list for quite a while now. After experimenting with how to make angles and circles, I use my new stationery must have to create a new Level 10 Life assessment wheel and identified some steps and goals for making improvements. In today’s blog post, I’m going to talk about various ways of using the Circle maker in your bullet journal and I will also share my Level 10 life spreads.

The Helix circle and angle maker is great for creating different sizes of circle and angles which makes it really easy to produce circular habit trackers, birthday spreads, mood trackers, monthly calendars (I’m just in the process of setting one of these up for September which I’ll share very soon), a decorative wreath outline or even a future log that’s a little bit different. You can also use the smaller circle templates in your weekly and monthly spreads, for example when labelling the dates in your month at a glance or to add decorative elements. I’ve collected some examples and added them to a new Pinterest board which you can check out here.

I’m sure many of you who use a bullet journal will already be familiar with the concept Level 10 life. If you’ve not heard of it and have no idea what I’m talking about, basically it’s all about living your best life by evaluating the life you have currently and setting mini goals to maximise a feeling of satisfaction and work towards your best (Level 10) life. The idea was created by popular author and entrepreneur Hal Elrod who outlines it in full in his book The Miracle Morning. He invites you to assess your life in 10 categories (or you can choose your own ideas if you wish) and give each a score out of 10. This can be recorded on a wheel of life so you can see where you stand at the moment. The categories are as follows:

  • family and friends
  • personal growth and development (which I labelled as personal development)
  • spirituality
  • finances
  • career / business
  • significant other / romance (which I labelled as marriage)
  • fun and recreation
  • contribution / giving
  • health / fitness
  • physical environment (home / office)

I created my wheel of life using my circle drawing tool to create 11 circles which provided me with 10 ring spaces. I began with the hole nearest to the centre and worked outwards. It’s a bit tricky to hold the thing in place but will a little practise on some scrap paper I was confident enough to go straight in with pen. I divided the circles up into segments of 36 degrees each which was easy enough to do with the angle measuring and drawing part of the tool.

When you’ve set up your wheel, you can then evaluate your life under the different headings to see what you’re doing well at and which areas would benefit from some attention. I’ve done one of these diagrams before and it’s best not to spend too long thinking and just go with your gut instinct. Here’s a close up of my scores:

When you’ve established your current scores, you can then work on setting some mini goals or things to do to improve them. I’ve just written my initial ideas here and then I can look into them in more depth later and set some actionable and measurable goals using my thoughts to help me.

When you’ve done these spreads, you can use them to set yourself mini goals for each month – maybe choosing the section with the lowest score to focus on first. Then, as long as you revisit regularly, you should find you make good progress towards your ‘Level 10 Life’. After a given amount of time, say three months, you can either record your progress on the same wheel by colouring further up the segments or you can make a new wheel of life and compare it to your old one.

That’s all for today but if you have any questions about the circle tool or Level 10 Life, feel free to drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to help.

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, lifestyle, Planning and journaling, Setting goals and intentions

Monday Matters: Making it stick, how to form positive habits and keep them going

Checking out Pinterest last week I found so many pins about habits and habit trackers. Habits of highly successful women, morning habits for a productive day, habits for a healthy mindset and so on. There’s also a plethora of bullet journal habit tracker examples and so many different beautiful and useful layouts to try. But what I wanted to know was, how to ensure that productive and positive habits stick. I found a few books on the subject and have added them to my TBR pile. I also found some useful diagrams that show the science behind habit formation but decided it would be really good to create a practical guide to instilling new habits to go with the theory. So let’s dive right in…

What is a habit?

According to the online Cambridge dictionary, a habit can be defined as ‘something you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it’. Habits can be good and really helpful e.g. flossing your teeth, getting regular exercise, drinking plenty of water each day, keeping a gratitude journal, or can be bad or unhelpful e.g. eating too much junk food, criticising yourself, biting your nails or always being late. Some habits are really hard to break, such as smoking, being self critical, and drinking too much alcohol and may need help and support or a structured plan to enable you to make changes. Others can be difficult to keep up with for many people, such as eating a healthy and balanced diet, maintaining a positive mindset, having a good exercise routine and always being grateful for what you have.

The habit formation loop

The habit formation loop was first explained in detail by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit. The idea is that each habit is made up of three parts – The Cue (or trigger), The Routine (physical, mental or emotional behaviour that follows the cue and The Reward (a positive reinforcement which tells your brain that the routine works well). Here it is in diagrammatic form in my bullet journal:

Putting the theory into practice

So, the theory is easy enough to understand and has been widely accepted as a good explanation of how habits are created. But how can we apply the science when trying to form new habits? Here are some tips:

Start small

Choose one habit that is realistic i.e. one that motivates you and can relatively easily slot into your life. For example, if you want to start on a fitness journey, you might set a goal to go out for a brisk 20 minute walk each day at 11am rather than saying that you are going to go running for an hour three times a week, to the gym five days a week and swimming at weekends. In other words, take baby steps and take it slow!

Plan what your cue will be

I’ve found that the best thing to use as a cue is a given time. So, for example, I do my yoga at 11am each week day so I can make sure I don’t eat anything for a few hours before and I only drink squash and not coffee prior to my practice. I also make sure that my workout gear and the equipment I need is readily accessible – and I chose my favourite colours for the items for extra motivation too. My clothes are super comfortable and flattering and I treated myself to a good quality yoga blanket in a gorgeous minty green colour plus blocks and a bolster in a wonderful berry shade.

Know that it will take time

It takes time to develop a habit and it’s different for everyone. Don’t expect it to become automatic straight away – you need to work at it and train your brain! For a few months, I would write yoga on my daily to do list in my bullet journal to remind me that I needed to do it. Now, it’s part of my routine and something I do without thinking. If the habit is important to you, and you remain focused, you can do it. If you’re not really interested in making the change, then you will be less likely to achieve your intention. However, you should also be kind to yourself and not berate yourself if your habit formation doesn’t go as smoothly as you would like.

Hold yourself accountable

There are a number of ways of holding yourself accountable. You could share your intentions with a partner or friend and ask them to check on how it’s going. You could arrange an accountability partner who is trying to instil the same habit as you and motivate each other as you go. Or you could set mini goals to work towards and reward yourself each time you reach a milestone. I know of people who have shared what they hope to achieve in a group on Facebook and then updated everyone on their progress regularly.

Expect to have blips and work through them

Accept that there will be days when you don’t do what you set out to do or feel resistant. For example, I was feeling under the weather for a whole week at the end of last month and didn’t do my aerobic workout, toning exercises or daily yoga for five days. I could have quite easily continued the habit of not doing my workouts, but instead, I recognised the reasons for me not keeping up with my practice and made a promise to myself that I would start back up again when I was feeling better – and I did. I also reminded myself of the benefits of my routines for body and mind and this helped me get back on track.

You can also produce a written record of your intention in your planner and then evaluate how you’ve done each week. You can even give yourself some written feedback including what you did well and a couple of suggestions for improvement a bit like a work performance appraisal!

Write a plan using the habit formation loop as a guide

On his website, Charles Duhigg provides a number of resources to help you with breaking, forming and changing habits. The plan can be written in the following form: When (cue), I will (routine) because it provides be with (reward). So, for example, if you want to adopt a daily yoga practise, you could write the following plan: When it gets to 11am, I will change into my yoga gear and set up my equipment and do a 20 minute routine because it provides me with better focus and improved body strength. Or if you want to start keeping a gratitude journal you could develop this plan: After I finished the final daily chores, I will spend 5-10 minutes reflecting on my day and then jotting down at least 4 things that I am grateful for because it helps me look for positives in my life and reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for.

Track your habits

Writing down your habits in your bullet journal and tracking them is a great way to stay focused. I’ve tried various layouts in the past and my experience has taught me that it’s best to have a very small number of habits which you are really motivated to stick with. So, for example, you could choose a few things which you already do but want to engage in consistently e.g. meditation, in bed by 11pm, face cream, 10K steps etc. If you are wanting to instil a new habit, I recommend just selecting one that you can easily incorporate into your current lifestyle and that you are really highly motivated to put into place.

The first photo here is an example of a habit tracker that I tried in the past and found really overwhelming. You can see I had so many habits listed that just filling it in was hard to keep up with never mind actually doing them all. Needless to say, I regularly forgot to fill it in and gave up on it in the end! The second image is the one I have set up for next month. The new habit is studying for my distance learning course and I put it at the top as it is to be my main focus. The other habits are things that I do already but want to do consistently and preferably on a daily basis.

An overwhelming habit tracker that didn’t work for me
Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Final thoughts

If you want to make changes to your life by instilling new habits then the best way is to keep it simple and achievable, develop an effective routine and record your progress. I also think sharing your intentions with others is a great way to keep yourself accountable as you can often rely on family and friends to ask how you are doing and keep you in check. However, ultimately, it’s up to you to keep yourself motivated and regularly assess things and evaluate how your new habits are affecting your life for the better.

I would really love it if you took the time to leave me a comment telling me what habits you want to form next month and how you’re going to go about sticking with them. I hope you’ve found my ideas useful and that they help you work towards your goals.

Posted in bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, Planning and journaling

Setting up my Bullet Journal for August: birthday themed month

It’s my birthday next month and I will be sharing my special day with my niece, Lexi. On the 3rd August, I’m going to be 43 (and still thinking and behaving like a kid) and Lexi will be 9 years old (and probably feeling really grown up). So, for August, I chose to do a Happy Birthday theme and include cakes, presents, balloons and banners in my decor. Here are my spreads for next month:

Cover page

As I’m still developing my drawing skills, I was keen to have a go at a hand-drawn birthday cake so I took to Google and found a simple cake tutorial. It was really easy to follow even for a beginner like me. The tutorial came with a YouTube video but on this occasion, I just followed the pictorial and written instructions. I also added bunting and a banner as well as the word August in brush lettering, then finished it off with some party popper paper ribbon pieces (I’m sure they have a name but I can’t think what it is!). The banner is painted using some Winsor & Newton watercolour and the rest of the illustrations are coloured in using my Tombow ABT brush pens.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Month at a glance

My monthly calendar has the same structure as usual with 6 by 6 dot boxes. Although I don’t have things to write each day, I do like to have plenty of room for when I do make entries so have stuck with doing a two page spread. I’ve also just started a distance learning course run by my local college, Mental Health Level 2, and so I have assessment deadlines to meet each week so I’ve recorded when I have to submit evidence of my learning. Again, I’ve decorated the spread with birthday related items.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Exercise logs

I’ve kept my steps tracker the same but will be using colours from my palette for the month. I’ve changed up my log of different workouts for this month, so instead of a calendar style that I did in May, June and July where I recorded the minutes I spent on each workout, this time I’m going to be creating bars which show how many workout minutes I’ve done each day and what type of exercises I’ve done. This will help me to see how active I’ve been on a particular day. Another change, is that I’ve split up fat burning and cardio as this is shown on my Fitbit tracker and so is easy to record. This will enable me to see when I worked a little harder during my walks and my Zumba workouts. I’ve included an example I made on MS Word to show how it will look when it’s filled in.

In hindsight, I wish I’d done the key on the right hand page to make it easier to use but it’s done now and I’ll be able to alter it next month if I choose to use a similar spread.

The Get Fit stickers are actually a shiny gold colour but they look black in the photograph above so I took the bottom of the page at a different angle.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Habit Tracking

For August, I’ve also decided to go back to using a habit tracker. I previously used one but tracked so many things on it, I’ve found it really overwhelming to fill in and often got behind. This time, I’m just tracking six things which should make it a bit easier to keep up with. I want to make sure I study regularly as there are a lot of reading materials for my course and written activities to complete. I also want to make time to meditate each day. I currently do a mindfulness meditation set up by my local recovery college but this is only twice a week so I want to use my Calm App and my Fitbit App where I have a premium membership trial on the go. I have free trials on both of them and I’m currently not making the most of them so hopefully the tracker will help me.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

The rest of the habits are related to my Etsy shop, my blog and creativity. I want to make sure I do some blogging and shop work each day so I wanted to track when I do blog related research, reading, post writing and checking out blogs of the people I’m following. I also want to squeeze in a little creative task most days such as drawing, painting, journalling and papercrafting.

As I’m a leftie, I got absolutely covered in Tombow ink whilst working on my spreads and managed to smear some on the bottom of the habits page. I tried to cover it up using white gel pen, Tippex and my white Posca paint marker but it didn’t really work. The mark will annoy me for the whole of the month. Maybe I should have included a habit where I try to embrace imperfection in my spreads!

That’s all of my spreads for this month. I hope they have inspired you to get creative in your bullet journal. Let me know what your theme is for August and if you’ve featured your pages in your blog I will definitely go check them out.

Happy bullet journaling!

Posted in bullet journal, creativity, gardening, Planning and journaling

Setting up my bullet journal for July: Meadow flowers and grasses theme

This month, my husband and I went to a local place called Rainton Meadows which is a nature reserve run by Durham Wildlife Trust. It’s somewhere we go regularly for walks and to spot the variety of flora and fauna there. There’s so much to see, including a variety of water birds on the wetland areas, woodland birds from the new hide, ponies grazing on the grass, dragonflies around the water, along with butterflies and stunningly beautiful wild flowers in the meadows. For my July BuJo spreads, I decided to take inspiration from my visit to the reserve and the flowers and grasses we saw. I did want to take some my grassy and wild flower finds home with me so I could do some observational drawing but unfortunately, it started to rain heavily just before we left and we had to run back to the car. I had, however, taken plenty of photographs and was able to find line drawn images online to help me with my sketching. So, here are my pages for July. I hope you like them.

During lockdown, I’ve been addicted to watching plan with me videos on YouTube and I came across a vlogger who had done something similar to the idea I had in my head for my meadow and I took inspiration from her layout for my cover page. I had intended to have a go at creating a watercolour painting but I liked the effect of her designs with felt tip markers and fineliners so I decided to have a go.

For my calendar page, I stuck with a two-page spread as I like plenty of room to write down when I have published as blog post and any appointments or birthdays. I did a mini meadow in the bottom right hand corner and used one of the grass colours to for my boxes. The ‘make it work’ sticker is from a Happy Planner sticker booklet and I thought it finished that side of the page off nicely, whilst reminding me to keep going and find pleasure in life despite the restrictions due to Covid.

I kept my exercise trackers the same as June but changed the colours and added floral decoration to my workout chart. I found they worked really well for me last month and I was motivated to keep up with filling them in each morning and night.

Finally, I created a Garden Jobs for July double page spread so that I know what to focus on for the next month. I used the Gardener’s World and RHS websites for this as they both contain really helpful advice.

I would love to know what theme you have chosen for your bullet journal spreads for July. Let me know in the comments and add a link to your blog if you have one so that I can take a look.

Wishing you a wonderful July,