January in my bullet journal

student, organisation, 2020

Hello!

I’ve been blogging fairly consistently about my bullet journal for around three years now – I started in January 2017 and I’m now on my fourth journal and it’s something I love to constantly experiment with to maximise productivity and clear my head.

So I thought I’d show you what my bullet journal looked like in January – I’ve decided to stick with a colour theme per month so it’s very blue. My layouts at the moment are really working for me but there’s some bits I’ve already changed in February, so let me know if you’d like to see those!

Starting with my opening page! I knew I wanted to use my letter stamps but I wasn’t sure how, so the left page is one that looks a bit bare but I love how my January Goals look! And I’m pleased to say I’m on track to achieve all of them – I’ve nearly done my word challenge, I registered at the doctors, I’m eating mostly carb free lunches, I’ve made an alternative decision with the new blog I want to launch and I didn’t go too mad on spending this month. And I read THREE books and went on two date nights so pretty good start to the year!

Next is my finances – I was a bit hesitant about posting this page but then I thought actually… it’s not my card details! The only information this really shows is how many times I caved and went to McDonalds this month! I find tracking my spending like this makes me much more thoughtful about the purchases I do make (except those McDonalds…) and the ‘total spent’ really makes me think. By the time my car bills come out I’ll be on about £550 for the month and maybe that sounds like a lot, but compared to some of my finance trackers last year it’s bloody brilliant!

Then we have the content plan – I was clearly optimistic about how many notes I was going to make on the right hand side of the page but overall the layout of these pages has been fairly consistent. Though I am trying something new in February…

And then we’re onto weekly spreads – I’m not going to show you every week because they all have the exact same layout with different tasks to do. I picked Week 2 because it had lots of ticks if I’m being brutally honest!

The thing I find works best for my productivity is having to make as few decisions as possible so I don’t spend time worrying about which tasks are priorities, so having the long weekly to do list broken down into day by day tasks is really good for me. If I’m feeling a bit unmotivated and run down sometimes I’ll even make a schedule where I have an hourly timetable and set myself tasks for each hour and that works really well too! Not only because I know exactly how my day is going to look but also because if there’s a big daunting task that I’m putting off, I know I only have to spend an hour on it and often I finish it in that hour and it’s not as bad as I thought!

And to conclude – my spread for this week. I also have digital to do lists so I can access my daily lists on my phone but they’re based off this spread (but I can add additional tasks as they pop up, for example I just made a dentist appointment for Thursday!).

In terms of ‘monthly organisation’ I like to count the weeks where months overlap as the last week of the month rather than the first week of the following month. I don’t know why but it just makes my mind happy.


Whenever I write about journalling I always end up rambling far more than I anticipate, but I love talking about organisation so let me know if there’s any other posts like this you’d like to see!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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having a 5 year ‘plan’… ish

2020, career, goals, lifestyle, organisation, student

Hello!

With the amount of goals, organisation and planning posts I’ve written on this little blog, I think it’s relatively clear that I’m one of these ‘productivity’ types (even if being organised is actually procrastinating being productive). One of my goals for 2019 was to start a five year plan and get some notes on paper on what I want to achieve over the next 5 years. As I moved into my new bullet journal this New Year, I’ve started my ‘new’ 5 year plan starting in 2020 and ending in 2024 (where I’ll turn ~28~ and that is scarily close to 30).

But calling it a 5 year ‘plan’ feels a little bit more formal than my plan really is – it’s a double page spread in my bullet journal (though it might actually make more sense to make it digitally if you do everything else online!) with a grid split into five columns and three rows for the five years of the plan and three categories I plan my life in.

So I thought today I’d write about how I make my 5 year plan, what I’m learning in my second year of having a 5 year plan and where I think I’ll learn more in the future.

I started by making a grid in my bullet journal – as I said, 5 years across the top and three categories down the side. Three seems to be my magic number and having three categories works for my New Years Goals and I thought it would be useful to have those three categories match up, so mine are Professional, Personal and Home.

They’re pretty self-explanatory – in ‘Professional’ I put my career goals, at this point I am having somewhat of a career crisis and I have no idea what I want to do so this section is a bit quiet at the moment. But as I do more research into what I actually want to do and actually develop a career I can make more solid career goals but this section is probably the simplest.

The next section is ‘Personal’ – this is where I will detail my travel plans, any ‘life’ stuff like when I want to shave my head again etc. I’m still kind of figuring out what I want to put in this category but it’s for things that aren’t career stuff, kind of hobby related, travel goals and stuff.

And then the last category is ‘Home’ – this is where I put my plans for my life with my boyfriend essentially. Where we’ll live, what we’re saving for (house deposit etc), when we’ll get a pet, maybe a wedding or a baby? It’s another one of those that’ll get more specific when I have more of an idea about what my career will look like over the next few years but the baseline and the ideas for what I want to achieve is already set!

And that’s my 5 year plan! It feels like I haven’t described enough but actually, all it takes to make a ‘5 year plan’ (or ideas, which is how I prefer to think about it) is to write down 5 years and write down what you’d like to achieve in that time.

Now going into my second year looking at my 5 year plan, I can see what was a ridiculous idea and what is actually more achievable. I’ve learnt that setting ‘blind goals’ (such as “I want to have made this career progression” when I’m not actually sure what career I want right now) is not going to help anything and filling up space for the sake of it might make it look like I have my life together but it’s just unachievable words. This year, having an emptier plan is something I’m finding reassuring rather than intimidating – it’s a prospect of endless possibilities and not a terrifying emptiness (well, most of the time anyway).

As I continue to fill in my 5 year plan this year and start again in next year’s bullet journal and so on, I can only see that I’ll get better at goal setting and making them S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, or something like that). It’ll be less ‘get married’ and ‘try for a baby’ and more ‘pay X amount of the mortgage’ and maybe ‘Child A starts school’ – the next 5 years are going to be some of the biggest of my life and that is exciting.

But even talking about 5 year plans sounds daunting – the thought of knowing exactly what I want from the next stage of my life is a lot! But seeing the scope of what I could achieve is really motivating and helps me focus on the steps I need to achieve to be able to get there. 

If you’re wanting to take yearly goals to another level and get some longer term ideas down on paper but don’t know where to start, just start by writing down the years. It’s a lot less daunting than you think when it actually comes to it! Hope that helps.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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2020 Goals + January Goals

2020, career, goals, lifestyle, organisation, student

Hello!

really want to start this post with a joke about ‘I’ve not written a post since last decade’ because really I’m the closet King of Dad Jokes but instead I thought I’d just tell you about it. I think that might be worse.

Either way! If you’re a close followed of this blog, you’ll know that I love goal setting, organisation and planning. If you’re new, hello! Join the party – I love goal setting, organisation and planning. To the extent that I lull myself into this false sense of security thinking I’m getting stuff done but I’m actually just writing lots of to do lists and not doing very much.

This is something I actually got better at in 2019 – I really reevaluated how I was productive with my time and I’m still figuring out what works best for me. This time last year I thought I was embarking on this amazing freelance digital media career (which fell through pretty much immediately) and now I’m working towards a masters degree, I have my own place with my boyfriend, I had a job and now I’m looking for a new one, I’m spinning a lot of plates and somehow they’re just about not falling.

Having looked back on my 2019 goals (I was going to write a blog post but I think personal reflection was more appropriate), I’m actually really excited about my 2020 Goals because I was inspired by videos by Doctor Mike and Hannah Witton to make SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals that are actually going to be relevant to me over the whole year.

So let’s try and keep this succinct – please do let me know your thoughts on goal setting! Do you like setting goals as they become relevant? Are you a fan of New Years, Fresh Starts? Do you make SMART goals or more ‘bucket list’ style goals? I’d love to hear all about it.

My goals are split into two different types – I have three categories (Professional, Personal and Home) each with three goals as well as 9 stand-alone ‘bucket list’ style goals. Here goes!

Professional:

  • Finish my Masters in Digital Media Production at Oxford Brookes University
  • Start my career – have a full time job by the end of October
  • Learn website design

I don’t think there’ll be any barriers stopping me from finishing my masters (and the end of 2019 really gave it a good shot!) but this first semester has been a massive learning curve and I want to really make the most of my time in Oxford so next semester is going to be a bit more level headed.

Finishing what will be my third degree (BA Hons Multimedia Journalism, PG Cert Professional Development Planning and MSc Digital Media Production, thank you) should lead to being able to get a job and starting my career journey! I’m a bit nervous about this one, because this is what I anticipated when I graduated from my undergrad and I’m still struggling with incredibly low self-esteem about my worth in the workplace, but by the end of October I want to be working full time, even if it’s not in the industry I want to stay in forever yet.

And I want to learn website design! 2020 is my fifth year of blogging and I still don’t know anything about code, hosting or designing a pretty blog and that’s a skill I think will really benefit me. So if you know of any good courses or online tutorials please do let me know!

Personal:

  • Work on making a savings plan for my personal bank account when I’m in a position to afford to save
  • Develop my knowledge of film photography
  • Learn more about vegetarian cooking and aim to eat veggie 3 nights a week

I made some amazing progress with saving in 2019 and I was so, so proud of myself but moving, starting a masters and a personal crisis of sorts led to me using most of those savings just to pay bills so once I’ve figured out my financial situation, I want to get back on the savings wagon because it’s so satisfying.

Film photography is something that’s intrigued me for a little while – just before Christmas my dad revealed he had a bunch of film cameras that he was willing to let me have and after spending £10 on one roll of film I’ve been studying the manual and experimenting with lenses as much as I can. It’ll take the film being developed for me to know if I’ve actually learnt anything but I’m really excited to take this little camera on adventures this year.

And eating veggie has been on my radar for a while – last year when I was doing really well with healthy eating I was ‘veggie till dinner’ and when my boyfriend and I moved out of my mum’s house and he started being away a lot with work, I tend to eat veggie when I’m on my own because it’s cheaper and I love vegetables. But I want to learn to cook more veggie meals and experiment with more ingredients this year.

Home:

  • Don’t move house! Stay put for a whole year (please)
  • Travel! A European holiday with my boyfriend, also Centre Parcs with family friends and MCM ComicCon
  • Save £500 in Help To Buy ISA account

Pretty simple – I don’t want to move in 2020. It will be the first year since I moved to uni in 2015 that I haven’t put all my stuff in boxes and had to settle somewhere new. But obviously it depends on income, whether they want to put the rent up after the first year and if the location is still relevant to what we need.

Travelling is always a goal and last year I got way too excited and overambitious about where I thought I could go. For Christmas, my boyfriend has said he’ll take me on holiday and I’m thinking a beach holiday in the first week of October just to CHILL after my dissertation is handed in but I’m a little blown away by the whole thing so advice please.

Lastly, I know I said I want to make a plan for my personal savings account but I actually have three (personal, joint with the boyf and a help to buy ISA). I think this amount might be a tiny bit optimistic but smart goals have to be measurable – I currently have £10 in there so only £490 to go? But for real, I really want to start saving for a house this year and any amount is a good amount to start.

And onto…

9 ‘Bucket List’ Goals:

  • Read 12 books
  • Do 6 writing challenges (January, March, May, July, September, November NaNoWriMo)
  • Keep adding to 5 year plan
  • Register at the doctors and dentist and actually go
  • Figure out a fitness routine and reach weight goal (not confident enough to share this on the internet yet, soz lads)
  • Get another tattoo!
  • Listen to new music and podcasts
  • Have monthly date nights with the boy
  • Actually start making my t-shirt blanket

Also maybe figure out a blogging and YouTube schedule but tbh, I want to keep it chill this year so we’ll see how that goes.

And that’s what I’m aiming for this year! I was going to do my January Goals in a separate post but I figured most of it will stem directly from these goals so I’m going to tag them on the end here.

January Goals:

  1. Write 9000 Words for Writing Challenge (I’ll be real, I didn’t twig that I wanted to do a writing challenge this month until the 3rd when writing this so that was a nice realisation)
  2. Register at the doctors – I’ve been collecting my anti-depressants from my home doctors at my mum’s house since I moved nearly four months ago so I really need to get onto this
  3. Find carb-alternatives for lunch food – a sandwich is so easy and what worked for me last year was not eating carbs or meat until dinner and I want to find a way to make this less boring. I don’t really like salads that much, I love couscous and roast veg but I can’t heat it up at uni. Need to do some research!
  4. Launch new blog…
  5. Spending ban – except food, bills and my boyfriend’s birthday

And so I don’t forget my two monthly ‘bucket list’ goals…

  • Read 1 book
  • Have a date night!

Now that is a long ass, self-indulgent post about what I’m hoping to achieve this year! But I find reading and hearing other peoples goals is so inspirational so let me know all about your goals in the comments!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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approaching New Year | diary 10

2019, lifestyle, writing

Hello!

Doing these little diary posts once a month really reminds me what blogging is all about and where it all began – a web log, a recount of goings-on and a log of activities. The priority on my little corner of the internet will always be having something that I can look back on and 1) be proud of and 2) serve as a little reminder of who I was when I posted, even if that’s not who I am now.

And writing rambly blog posts that all come out in one go are my favourite and I think they’re the nicest ones to look back on!

So today I wanted to talk about how the end of the year is fast approaching – it feels like my entire Instagram and Twitter feeds are either full of Christmas or ‘it’s the end of the decade, have you achieved anything, get off your ass and do something‘ and personally I feel attacked (note the sarcasm).

But for real, it’s very intense and makes me think I haven’t achieved anything but at the turn of the last decade I was 13 – I’m a completely different person to who I was at 13 and that’s definitely for the better. I’ve finished my GCSEs, finished my A Levels, finished my undergraduate degree, finished a post-graduate certificate and I’m now studying a masters that I’ll finish in September next year – I’m starting the next decade as a masters student and hopefully that’ll be the beginning of a much more exciting decade full of learning but not in an institution that racks up my debt any further than it already is.

Outside of academic achievements, I’ve been on two charity expeditions to Tanzania and Ecuador, each for a month for the most amazing, terrifying and life-changing experiences. I’ve moved across country and met people that are going to be friends for the rest of my life. I lost friends that I thought I’d have for the rest of my life (but that’s just how the world works).

I met the love of my life. I’m a proper renting adult with proper bills and a car to pay for. I learnt to drive! As soon as the list begins you realise that 10 years is a long ass time and so much can happen in that time.

With that in mind I shunned the pressures of the internet and thought about the here and now – how do I feel going into the New Year?

Generally, the signposts of the passing of time scare me – I like routine, I like consistency and whilst I consider myself someone who adapts to change quite well, I’m definitely working on being someone who embraces and enjoys change. There were several New Year’s Eve’s as a teenager where I’d silently cry in my room as Big Ben rung over to the New Year and I couldn’t stop thinking that ‘this year’s going to be worse than last year’ and ‘I won’t be any happier next New Year’ so I’m grateful that I’m no longer trapped feeling that sad and lonely. But the New Year still scares me a little bit.

So I try to focus on the things that I enjoy – as I detailed in my last post, I love organisation, goals and planning so January is going to be almost exclusively resolutions, yearly goals, goals reviews and the likes! I’m actually really excited about that because 2019 started in a very different frame of mind and my goals reflected that so I feel more prepared to make my goals for the next year.

In a typical ‘I’m a student mindset’ I can’t really focus too much on the New Year or Christmas because I have about a million deadlines (five) to hand in before that and they’re big and stressful, but after that I’ve got a few shifts at work, Christmas, New Year with my family, then three weeks of working at much as possible before it all begins again with semester 2.

Generally, the New Year is a good time for me – it’s another chance at a fresh start and new goals and resetting. That’s what I’m trying to focus on.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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setting short, medium and long term goals!

2019, goals, organisation

Hello!

Setting goals, planning and organisation is one of my favourite things to do – I did a Post Graduate Certificate in Professional Development Planning earlier this year and the best bit was just planning ‘official’ career goals.

I find having short, medium and long term goals are such a simple thing that keep me focused and on track if I feel a bit lost then I can reevaluate my goals and update them to what I want them to be.

So let’s start with the long-term goals – my goals are five year goals. I’m still getting better at this one and I’m getting practice with, but I split them into three categories – personal, professional and home. Having the categories and thinking about what I want to achieve in each category in each year made it a little easier to set these goals.

My five year goals as more like ideas or aspirations than ‘goals’ per say, but it’s something I’ll get better at setting more realistic goals when I have more of an idea about what’s going on with my career, but having something bigger to work towards helps my brain feel a bit calmer.

Medium-term goals are my favourite to set – my medium goals are my goals for the year; my new years resolutions; my yearly goals. The New Year on my blog is all about the yearly goals/New Year’s Resolution and with December approaching I’m starting to get excited about the whole thing.

My yearly goals are broken into three categories too (because I clearly find sets of three really satisfying) with three bullet points in each category (see?) – these are personal, career and creative and then I have ten ‘bucket list’ goals for the year as well.

I refer to these goals at least once a month when setting my short-term goals – these are my monthly goals that I share on here every single month. 5 goals that I focus on throughout the month, I write them on all my weekly spreads in my bullet journal and plan my to do lists around them. These are a good way of making steady progress on my yearly goals and focusing on things that I’m finding really challenging (such as reminding myself not to spend money and making sure I’m making enough time for uni work, etc).

Sometimes when we think about goal setting it all feels very far away but having goals for each month just bring it back to reality and makes the longer-term goals more achievable.

Setting goals is actually the easy bit – it’s checking in with yourself and facing when you’re not really committed and doing something about it if you really want to make progress. When you’re setting goals in an aspect of your life that you’re not necessarily being held accountable for (like with academics or a job) it’s tough to motivate yourself but when you see progress? It’s amazing.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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November Goals ’19

2019, goals, lifestyle, organisation, writing

Hello!

How is it nearly the end of the year? My favourite month September went by in a FLASH and now it’s November and I feel like time is going by quicker than I can keep track of it! Not that I’m complaining – I’m getting better at handling the passing of time and I’m getting excited about the prospect of the future and a career again.

Rambles aside, it’s time for a new set of monthly goals – if nothing springs to mind I always refer back to my goals for the year that I set in January which helps me focus and make progress on my mid-term goals. Little top tip for you there! If you’d like a post about how I set goals then please do let me know, this is something I’d love to pursue but I feel like I haven’t achieved enough to warrant making this an aspect of my career.

I’m rambling again! Onto the goals…

One – be more productive with uni work
I don’t mean in the ‘getting more done’ sense, I mean working more consistently and achieving more in the long run if that makes sense. At the moment, I’m slowly trucking away and then I have to work just that little bit harder in the two or three days before an assignment is due to finish off. Even if I spread that work out over a week, I can work in shorter periods and get more done and work on more assignments at a time.

To implement this (another goal setting time – don’t just make goals, plan how to achieve them!) I think I need to start breaking my time down into more scheduled chunks. I’ve always been against this because I’ve taken the mindset that a task will take however long it takes but if I’m spending hours dragging my feet through one task, I’d probably be better off going and doing something else and coming back to it. SO if I set myself an hour of working on one assignment and then I’m going to spend an hour doing some reading for another unit and then an hour writing blog posts then I’ve at least made some progress in all three elements rather than taking all day to reach the point I wanted on a certain assignment.

Two – settle into my new job and the new routine
Getting a job has taken longer than I anticipated because I spent so long looking for jobs in the place where we were going to move and then we ended up moving somewhere else and then there was complications with my applications in the place we actually move to then there were complications with start dates but I’m finally due to start my new retail job next week.

I’ve made this one of my goals because my original intention was not to work in retail – I wanted an office job where I could refine my admin skills, but I just don’t really know where to look and the job I now have actually fits really well with where we live and where my boyfriend works so I just need to give myself permission to potentially enjoy it. I think I might be working in the homeware department so that’s always exciting!

Three – eat a bit more healthily and track my weight again
Now that we’ve moved and I’ve got a bit more control about what I’m eating (and I’ve rediscovered how much I love vegetables) I feel ready to start making small life changes to get back to the healthier lifestyle I had this time last year.

Being brutally hones, I’ve put on about seven pounds since my lowest weight of this year but you know what? That’s really not a massive setback and I can see lots of really obvious habits in my life that I can adapt so I’m looking forward to the challenge in a way.

Four – finish two books!
I made a good dent in catching up on my reading goal of 12 books for the year in September/October but fell off the wagon a bit with moving stress but I’d really like to be back on track by the beginning of December.

I’m currently reading ‘Our Stop’ by Laura Jane Williams and next I’ll be reading ‘The Black Book of Secrets’ by F. E. Higgins.

Five – NaNoWriMo/write every day
And last but not least – another writing challenge! This is what I’ve been training for all year and I actually don’t feel prepared at all but as with the first week of any writing challenge I do, I’m excited – the key now it’s to maintain that momentum.

Although the goal is to hit 50,000 words, I’m not too fussed about the word count because I haven’t had the time to plan the novel redraft that I wanted to write, I’ve got a masters to get and a life to deal with but my focus is making writing a habit. I will be writing a combination of my original novel, a bit of fanfiction and some creative writing exercises just to get words on paper. I did consider including blog posts and any uni writing I have to do but I feel like that’s taking the mick a little bit!

My wrimo profile is sophiecountsclouds, if anyone wants to add me!

So those are my focuses for November! Writing these posts always motivates me – I love a new start and a new month just gives me a little boost and after how hectic October was, I needed that.

Bonus question – I started drafting a blog post during the week of a ‘day in the life of a masters student’ and I started feeling very insecure about whether this would actually be interesting to anyone? So let me know if you have any thoughts on that!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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how I’m organising my uni work

2019, organisation, student

Hello!

Oh it’s been a hot minute since we’ve had a chat about organisation hasn’t it?

Whilst living out of a mate’s flat and my car being in the garage, I feel a little up in the air and figuring out how I’m going to stay on top of my uni work is a little bit overwhelming at the moment but because it’s me, obviously I’ve made approximately seven lists and writing it all out will be helpful for me and hopefully for some other people too! So let’s jump right in.

1. Make a visual calendar

It’s probably as easy to buy a calendar but I’m all about resourcefulness and being able to design my own planners – I’ve made a ‘week per page’ diary like section at the back of my uni notebook and I find it much simpler to visualise when Week 7 is when I’ve got it all listed out in front of me.

I can write down when my lectures are, when my assignments are due, any formative assignments, plan when I’m going to do certain work by, self set deadlines and even put some social life stuff on there so I know which days to keep a bit clearer. This is basically a duplicate of what’s in my bullet journal but I normally only design my bullet journal spreads one week ahead so to have a whole semester works well for my visual brain.

2. Have a list of all your assignments in the order they’re due

It’s easy enough to know you’ve written an assignment down somewhere but I think it’s so important to know exactly what you’re doing (so you can ask your lecturer questions on things you’re not sure about if nothing else!) and when it’s due. From there’s it’s easier to self-set formative deadlines.

For example, if you have a 2000 word essay due, you can look at the due date, see how many weeks you have a plan ahead – say you want all your research collated four weeks before it’s due, you want to have a full first draft written two weeks before it’s due and all your appendices and references done a week in advance so you can send it to your mum and your mates to once over.

I won’t lie – I love the idea of setting these deadlines and I still end up writing most of my essays the night before they’re due. But I’m a post-grad now so I’m hoping to take the mistakes from my undergrad and learn.

Though most of the learning I’ve done so far is ‘pick a practical course so I don’t have to write essays’. It’s working out for me.

3. Don’t plan to spend a whole day doing uni work

I mean, obviously everyone is different and I know I spent a lot of my secondary school days doing all my homework on a Sunday but now, I personally find it better to do one task a day interspersed with other things I need to do or more fun tasks.

At the moment I’m having to watch a lot of pretentious high brow foreign films and read articles, but rather than spending one day at the weekend watching three films and reading four dissertations, I’d rather spread it out over the week. Making sure I plan to do other things like catch up on the Circle, write blog posts, go for a walk into town for food shopping etc makes the uni tasks feel less heavy and overall make me feel far more productive.

4. It’s all about balance, give yourself a break

No one is productive every day. Nah, I’m not having it. I don’t believe it. I’m a busy, productive, organised person but I still have days where I can’t bring myself to get out of bed or binge watch YouTube on the sofa convincing myself I can ‘do uni work at the same time’ when I know it’s not true.

Find a balance and be kind to yourself – if you’re feeling stressed, bogged down and reluctant you’re probably not going to do any good work anyway so let yourself relax and come back to it another day, or maybe even a few hours later.

Obviously, the balance is the key bit – if you’re having these days more than maybe twice a week, reaching out to your lecturers or the welfare team at your school or uni might make you feel better to have shared the problem and those people can help you put plans in place to help you make those tasks easier.

I started school in the year 2000, my first year without education was in 2018 and in 2019 I’m right back at it with my MSc. I know myself pretty well and I’d like to think that I’m doing it somewhat successfully getting medium-high grades all round, but I don’t think we ever stop learning. We never finish figuring out how we learn best, how we work best, what ‘routine’ works best for us. Continuing to grow and develop can be daunting, but it’s exciting too.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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how I manage my finances without a budget

2019, lifestyle, organisation, student

Hello!

Figuring out my finances is something I’ve had to watch very closely this month – with buying a car on finance and the end of last month and spending my wages before I got them, this month has been and will be very, very tight but in the months leading up to buying my car and this month of tight budgeting I’m so proud of how well I’ve managed them that I’ve decided to share!

I’m someone who feels inclined to spend money when they’re sad so being able to tackle that and being at a point where I know I can save reliably and buy myself a car without dipping into my savings is a big step for me.

And the biggest thing for me is not having a set budget – I’ve tried apps like Yolt and Cleo and I just found they weren’t flexible enough for real life. Saying ‘I’m only going to spend £X this month’ doesn’t allow for spontaneous plans – paying for trains for a job interview,  having to pay for more bus tickets than expected or even going for a last minute coffee with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time can effect your budget and I just found that it didn’t work for me. So this is more about tracking your finances and making sure you can hit all your goals – whether that’s saving a certain amount, not spending over a certain amount (I guess that’s having a budget) or just making sure you can pay all your bills, these are my tips and tricks for flexible financing.

*obviously I’m not an expert and I’m not claiming to be, just sharing tips from someone who using half her savings to live last year and now has bought herself a car on finance*

1. Have somewhere to track your finances

I only mention my bullet journal in basically every blog post I write but for me I have a spread in my journal for my finances each month. On the left I have notes which I will expand on and on the right page is where I write down everything I’m spending as it comes out of my bank account. I don’t track cash spending because either I will have drawn that cash from my bank which I track or it’s cash that I’ve been given for whatever reason so it doesn’t effect my bank account. I tried tracking as I spent but then it got confusing with keeping receipts and it’s better for the environment if not so now I just track my spending as it comes out of my bank account.

Either way, I recommend writing it all down! Whether it’s a note on your phone, a notebook that you have specifically for finances or in a bullet journal like me, write it down!

Normally it’s neater than this, but having somewhere to really know how much I’m spending it important to me

2. Plan your month

I like to break it down with my income at the top of the left hand page, then a list of all my bills and when I’d expect them to come out (then I can tick them off and it’s very satisfying) and then a list of any costs I know I’m going to incur.

So this month I had to pay for a tattoo (because car and tattoo timing ended up being awful), two driving lessons, my savings challenge and bus fares and having it all written out makes it much easier to track.

My savings challenge, for anyone that’s interested, came from Facebook last year – you save a pound more every week for a whole year (so £1, then £2, then £3 etc) so it was really easy in January but now I’m saving just under £150 a month and by the end of the year it’ll be a lot per month but I’ll have over £1300 saved in a year which I’m so proud of and I haven’t done it yet, but it’s important to me and I want to complete it!

So knowing what my month is going to look like is really helpful – taking my bills and planned payments into account means I know how much money I have to play with and depending on how much I want to save and what it is I want to spend my money on I can figure out my spending from there.

3. Focus on what you need and not what you want

It’s so easy when you get an email about 20% off on ASOS or you fancy some Bourneville Buttons to just go and buy them, but if you really want to make the most of your finances you have to think about what you really want from them.

If a treat every now and then is in your budget then go for it, if you’ve had your eye on a jacket that really fills a gap in your wardrobe then go for it, but if you really need to save and you’re looking at buying a new notebook for the sake of it then you really need to think about if it can wait.

Another thing I find helps with this is having a post it note or section in your journal towards a ‘big spend’ – if there’s something that you want or need to spend slightly more money on. I have a big spend post it note that I transfer to each monthly finance spread with each month and what I would like to be my ‘big spend’ if I can afford it. It’s meant that because I could plan it out, I bought myself a Nintendo Switch in May, a new car in June and I’m hoping to be able to get prescription sunglasses and pay the deposit on a rented property in August. It really is achievable if you set your mind to it!

It’s a difficult skill to master discipline and nobody’s perfect, but trying your best is the best you can do.

So there’s my top advice for helping manage your finances in a more realistic way than most of the apps will let you. I personally find them all too fiddly and they never track my bills right, but maybe I’ve just not put the time into them.

I think I’ll always be a pen and paper gal myself, but I hope this helps in some way!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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planning for moving

2019, lifestyle, organisation, student

Hello!

It’s only been a week since I found out I’ve been accepted onto a masters course at Oxford Brooke’s and I’ve already gone head first into planning to move because I’ve only got 2 months to figure it all out! Renting is all quite a quick progress so I don’t know when I’m actually going to find a property with the right time span

But regardless of the fact I don’t have anywhere to live yet, there’s lots of things I’m planning to do different than when I lived alone as an undergrad student so I thought I’d make a list for two reasons – 1) I love planning and thinking all these things through and 2) it holds me accountable so when I do move, I stick with the plan!

1. Having a cleaning/laundry day every week

I’ll be honest, I’m not very good at cleaning where I live – it’s something I never got round to teaching myself when I moved out but in the era of Mrs Hinch it’s not hard to learn! I just know what I’m like so setting a day aside to do the bathroom, the kitchen, hoover everything, do all our laundry will make sure I definitely do it and I think it’ll be a nice relief from uni work. Get some music on the Alexa, comfies on, sounds like a pretty good day actually!

2. Making proper meal plans

Doing one bulk shop at the beginning of the month then using stuff out the freezer to make it last (especially because I’ll probably be cooking for one most nights when my boyfriend’s away working!). Something I really want to focus on is making an effort not to buy as much food on the go – the occasional McDonalds as a treat is okay but popping into Tescos or Costa every day is expensive and not that healthy, so it’ll be good for my healthy eating and for my bank account to plan ahead!

3. Move in parts – not all at once

I have a lot of stuff – ornaments, books, personal stuff and I’m definitely not going to be able to move it all in one go. Being in the Oxford area (rather than in Southampton where I was for uni!) and being able to drive (hopefully) between there and home means I can go pick up more of my stuff whenever I want, rather than having to lug it all on trains. My plan is to take the bare minimum and then as we unpack and figure out storage we can take more belongings or buy new things (I’m hoping for a new TV at some point!). Doing it more gradually will just be easier for everyone, luckily my mum’s happy for us to leave stuff at home!

In terms of actually starting uni – I’ve got my conditional offer, I’ve sent off my references and proof of my degree and applied for student finance. Once my boyfriend and I have taken our next driving tests (lol) we’ll figure out more in terms of logistics and then my mum reckons renting property is a quick process so we’re not really going to start looking until nearer September and then it’s all packing and actually moving, which is stressful enough!

I’m excited though – this is the most progress I’ve made in the year since I graduated (which is exactly a year ago tomorrow, 10th July!). I’m so ready to live independently and go back to uni and hopefully make a start on the rest of my life. Any advice is more than welcome!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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how I make my monthly bullet journal spreads!

2019, creativity, organisation

Hello!

In my head, I’m still getting used to it being 2019 and somehow it’s nearly June? How did that happen? I really don’t know where the time had gone.

This year’s bullet journal might be my greatest pride and joy – it’s much more organised and structured than last year and each month has it’s own sections, whilst still being adaptable.

So I thought I’d do a little run down of how I start my monthly spreads! It’s nothing ground breaking but it’s got a colour scheme and I really enjoy it, therefore – going to share!

Where does a new month start?

Sounds like a dumb question, but it’s something I actually plan – so the last weekly spread I do before I start my monthly pages is where the new month starts. To explain more clearly, this June starts on a Saturday so the last weekly spread I’m doing before starting a new month is the week 27th May – 2nd June, so the month has already started when I do the monthly pages.

That might be the most repetitive and least cognitive paragraph I’ve ever written? But you get it, right?

First page!

I just write the name of the month on the right page and leave the left page blank to stick in my monthly colouring/drawing page from the previous month. Pretty simple.

Second page!

June content! Even though I’ve been pretty shoddy with sticking to schedule recently (work and mental stability has to come first!) I do actually plan to post four pieces of content a week.

On the left, I have a list calendar and colour coordinated highlighters to signify what days I need to post because it just makes it easier for my brain to comprehend it all. Then on the right I do a few notes or a reminder for my future self about what these random ideas were meant to mean.

Pretty simple, nice place for me to make notes for my next goals and favourites posts and videos.

Third page!

My monthly goals! Currently looking a bit bare because I haven’t had time to think about them yet but how I like to set them out is to write them on the left page and then at the end of the month I do a little review of how I’ve approached each goal I’ve set myself and how successful I’ve been.

Some months it’s quite discouraging when things don’t go to plan or I don’t have time or I don’t progress as I hope but some months it’s so motivating to know that I really focused and worked hard. Most months it’s a mix of the two, but it’s a format I’ve been working on and refining for a year now and it’s getting better.

Fourth (and final!) page!

Finances! And sometimes I write the right month I swear! (I only realised as I was writing this post that I’d written May and not June).

As with every other spread, I have a layout for each page – on the left I do more planning, this month is pretty simple because I’m trying to spend as little as possible (potentially upgrading my car this month…). On the right I document everything I’m spending as it goes out of my bank account, I find that much easier to track than basing it on when I spend the money because then things get forgotten and it’s confusing for my tiny brain to factor in all my bills and everything.

I’m not particularly strict – I don’t have an overdraft or a budget at the moment, it’s simply a case of I get paid on the first and it has to last me the whole month, but I’m trying to save as much as I can for the future and travelling etc. Monitoring my spending and putting an overall figure on how much I’m spending really helps me realise how much I’m spending and make me much more aware.

And that’s how I plan out my month! If you’d like to see more of my bullet journal let me know and I’ll write about it – I love finding new ways of organising and planning and writing all about it!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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