An artist, writer and healer-in-training musing on the magickal arts of self-compassion & self-care, and the alchemy of living a creative life.

On Keeping a Notebook (Part II: Martha Stewart's Bomb Disposal Kit)

On Keeping a Notebook (Part II: Martha Stewart's Bomb Disposal Kit)

I wrote about my obsessive documenting habits back in June and promised I’d tell a bit more about how I juggle multiple notebooks so that you, too, can waste hundreds of dollars on dead trees, ink, and adhesive.

Lately, I’ve using a system of two notebooks: my planner and a logbook, and I cart them around the house in a plastic cubby like an alcoholic hauls home a 36-pack cube of Budweiser: with equal parts shame and elation. Seriously, this thing is obscene: one bin is packed full of washi tape, another with 50+ colored pens, and the largest bin holds the actual notebooks plus sheet upon sheet upon sheet of stickers. If you look at the picture above, you can see the monstrous stack of stickers at the bottom. I'm almost 32 years old and I own more stickers now than I probably did when I was in elementary school, which is saying something because one of the ways my mom got me to shut me up was to drag me out to the local Ben Franklins to buy sticker books. If Martha Stewart had a bomb disposal kit, it would probably look like this thing.

Most of my planning gear is made by Me and My Big Ideas, a mother-daughter company that pumps out some of the most sugary-sweet planner gear on the planet, and their following is rabid. I'm pretty sure they're Mormon, if only because I'm convinced that it's a pre-requisite before your products are even allowed to grace the aisles of Hobby Lobby and Michael's (and because many of the women who dominate the mommy/craft blogs are, in fact, Mormon). 

Right. So what do I actually do with all my Mormon Lisa Frank shit?

My logbook, a Leuchtturm1917 A5 notebook, is exactly what it sounds like, and it goes with me pretty much everywhere. I date it for the day, then jot down things as they come to me: todos, deadlines for class assignments, college events, writing ideas, books to read, whatever, and assign specific bullet points to each to make them distinguishable. If you haven't been living under a rock for the past five years or so, you probably think this sounds like a Bullet Journal. Which it is. I just hate identifying or associating with the Bullet Journal community in any way, shape or form now that "Bullet Journal" has become synonymous with "weekly planner drawn by hand", hence logbook.

If you want more details on Bullet Journaling and how it's done, I'll let the creator, Ryder Carroll, explain:

This is not a planner. I repeat, NOT a planner. It's just an inbox for everything that comes my way. Something pops into my head? I write it down and I can forget about it until review time comes (more on that later). If you kept an index card in your back pocket - if you're lucky enough to have functional back pockets (if you do, you're probably a man and you're really, really lost right now) - it would serve the same purpose. I just happen to prefer a notebook.

Speaking of preferences, a note on tools: don't get caught up in tools. I see people obsess over having the "right" tools, and this is just a convoluted form of procrastination. Love what you use, but use what you have, too. If a nice notebook scares the everliving shit out of you, DON'T BUY A NICE NOTEBOOK. Cal Newport suggests simply slipping a piece of paper in your pocket or wallet and writing down your todos and what not on that. Why? Because it works.  Don't turn into one of those assholes that gets all precious about their tools. Nobody likes that. I used to go to art school for photography and there was nothing I hated more than the digital vs. analog debate.¹ Use what you love, use what you know works, and stop trying to justify it. And don't complicate it. You won't use your system if you do. Adopt the KISS motto: Keep It Simple, Stupid.


Right. So. Throughout the day I'll check my logbook and check off what I've done and/or add new shit I have to remember. The next morning I review my logbook with my planner in hand. I transfer events, deadlines and due dates into the appropriate boxes on my monthly or weekly calendar in the planner. If it's Monday and I have to have a textbook chapter read by Friday, I write down how many pages I plan to read per day, and on what days. If I wrote in my logbook that the Human Services Club is having a meeting on Wednesday, I write it down on Wednesday in my calendar, along with the time and meeting place. If I have a project due in eight weeks, I try to plan out the first step or two and give myself hard deadlines to work towards. After that, I look to see if there's anything coming up really soon - within the next week or so - and decide on what I can feasibly do today to work towards those deadlines, and write those as todo's in my logbook under today's date. This is the actual planning bit, and it's basically a back-and-forth between two notebooks: my logbook captures all of the information, and my planner is for organizing the information and turning it into small, actionable steps. I also take it one step further since the weekly part of my planner has each day divided into three sections, whichI've dedicated to the three main parts of my life: Personal (personal development, exercise, family-related stuff), Work (housework, writing, this blog and self-promotion, etc.), and School (self-explanatory), respectively. It's a nice at-a-glance feature.

I learned about this system from Cal Newport's How to Become a Straight-A Student and it's my favorite way to plan out my day (week, year, whatever) because it's fast and easy. The only thing I have to remember to do is check my logbook and planner in the morning, which I usually do with my morning coffee (having a trigger like your morning cuppa helps make it easier to develop habits like this, FYI). A straightforward system like this is absolutely integral for my sanity because my depression leaves me with little to no energy, no real get-up-and-go, and this takes very little work.

It helps that I love my notebooks, too. This never feels like a chore. It's a ritual, one that involves beautiful and well-designed objects that bring me joy to use. Yes, most of these products are sticky sweet and my planner is chock full of tacky quotes like "LIVE LAUGH LOVE" which I fucking hate but damned if all of that color and cheerfulness doesn't have an effect on me by the end of the day. Which is why I'm shameless about splurging on all of this gear because, yes, all of the stuff you're looking at in these photos was expensive: my favorite pen, a fountain pen, runs for about $30. My logbook is $20. The planner is $30. The matching sticker books sell for about $20 a pop and I think I've bought 6-7 total (in my defense, I get them from Michael's and they run 40% coupons every week. I am flexing my domestic muscles over here, okay?). I'm probably toting around about $200 worth of crap, just to write out a few deadlines but I. Do. Not. Give. A. Shit. It makes me happy, and I budget for it accordingly. 

So there you have it. My stationery addiction rationalized and laid bare. If you're interested in any of the stuff I own, I'll list it out and link it for you to check out. Don't feel like you have to do things my way, please. What works for me might not work for you. You might hate paper. You might not have the money to spare. It might feel like a lot of work. And that's fine. I think it's easy to feel pressure to do things a certain way thanks to social media (seriously, do NOT browse #bulletjournal on Instagram or search for it on Pinterest. You do not want to go down that black hole, I promise you) and the popularity of productivity on the Internet now.² So I'm giving you permission right now to not do things my way, or anyone's way. You'll secretly hate yourself if you do things any way other than your own, anyways.

Now, on to the goodies:

  1. The logbook: Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover A5 Notebook
  2. The planner: The Happy Planner, classic size
  3. My fountain pen: LAMY Safari w/ extra fine nib
  4. My workhorse pens (my fountain pen stays at home): Pilot G2 Extra Fine and Staedtler Fineliners
  5. Sticker books: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 
  6. Washi tape: Happy Planner washi tape sets
  7. Date stamp: Heidi Swapp date stamp
  8. Planner stamps: Heidi Swapp planner stamp set


1. I hate these kinds of debates, period. Kindle vs. physical book? Who the fuck cares, just read and enjoy! iPhone vs. "real" camera? The best one is the one you always have with you!

2. A hispter moment: I've been into productivity and stationery long before it was cool. Like, back when Hispter PDAs were a thing and 43 Folders was still around. I also started doing Bullet Journaling when Ryder first launched his website and before people started calling anything in a notebook a "bullet journal". 

Rainer Maria Rilke from “Letters to a Young Poet”

Rainer Maria Rilke from “Letters to a Young Poet”

Jack Kerouac on Writing

Jack Kerouac on Writing