Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Bullet Ephemeris

I promised a review of this to someone on Facebook, so I figured why not write about it here and get a 2-fer.

I currently track the majority of my magical stuff in a bullet journal style ephemeris. I know there are some very awesome magical astrological journals and such (like this gorgeous one by Benebell Wen) but for me, there's something important about having my own journal.

First, it's always going to be more accurate. I track some things that are either less common (thanks to Gordon I'm a Decan fan) or completely personal (like times when the current astrological alignments match my personal horoscope). Things that I don't care about don't get in the way. Plus everything is in my timezone.

Second, there's a real power to handwrite the information in. There's skin in the game and a sense of ownership of the book. Plus unlike digital solutions, it's a real world object, which is important in my very digital life.

So what's a bullet journal? This is the best place to start -- watch the intro video, it's really short. Bullet journals are really hot right now and you can find zillions of sites with all kinds of journals -- from completely functional to stunningly gorgeous. But at its heart, it's nothing more complex than that video:

You leave a couple pages blank for an index
You number pages as you go
You create pages for whatever you need, for example:
* Month pages
* Week pages
* Day pages
* Lists
* Plans
* Tracking pages

Everything gets listed in the index as you go so you can find it. And apart from the index and page numbers there are no rules. Let me just say that again:


That can be scary, especially when you are faced with a brand new blank notebook. But it's also liberating. If you mess up, you just turn the page and move on. If you need some new thing, you just add it.

That said, it is interesting to see how other people do things, so here's a quick rundown.

What I don't do:

First, I do not spend a lot of time drawing beautiful creative artwork in my journal or prettying up pages with washi tape or stickers... because, bluntly, I have a life. If I had time to do that, I wouldn't need to keep a bullet journal to get all my shit done.

Second, I don't spend a lot. My journal is boring and inexpensive. I do have a very beautiful hardback book that I am creating a personal grimoire in (or will when I get over my absolute perfectionist terror at writing in it). So yeah, boring and inexpensive is the way to go.

Third, I don't sweat mistakes in my journal. This is not a book of shadows or a heirloom diary or that beautiful grimoire. It's a working tool for integrating magic into my life. It's also a way to give my personal stuff as much priority as my work stuff.

Fourth, I do not keep my entire schedule in the journal. I had 8 meetings yesterday alone, all with other people. That's gotta be digital. In fact, my work life has an entirely different system, mostly digital and segregated by confidentiality rules. My work already gets plenty of my attention though, so the journal is a way to give my magical/personal life as much clout.

Fifth, I don't track things I don't care about. Lots of people use their journal to track all kinds of things like the weather, their mood, etc. But I know I'm never going to look back at that stuff. Which means that right now I'm only tracking exercise and migraine headaches -- the former because I want to do more and the second because I can look back and see patterns that are useful (I have chronic migraines, this isn't an occasional thing for me). However, if you find it useful and relevant to your life or practice, you can keep part of the journal as an actual journal where you note relevant and important items daily.

So what do I do?

At the start of the book, after leaving a couple of pages blank for the index, I sketched in an annual calendar. This was a bit of a pain, but I only have to do it once a year. It matches my wall calendar at work, noting major events like travel, conferences, vacation, etc. This is actually super useful for long range planning (in fact I just had work order my 2018 calendar because I need to start putting stuff in). That said, I have way more travel than most people. So you may not need this.

I know what the different colors mean. Also, note I that messed up March -- and yes, that's embarrassing, but it happens and one of the joys of this system is that it's OK. That's good for someone like myself, who can get a little tightly-wound about this stuff.

Every month, I create a month page that lists useful astrological and personal information:

The columns from left to right are: date and day of the week, moon phase/sign/day, and solar sign.
Then I have a column where I write important items for that day -- magical operations, rituals, etc.
Plus there's usually a more boring todo section to the right, and a little calendar (my week starts with Monday).

The process of figuring and planning days for magic makes it more conscious for me which means I'm more likely to actually do some magic. So for example, if you plan to do a ritual for the full moon for abundance or on the second Thursday for wealth, this process means you have to think about it in advance and consider your schedule too.

I just draw the lines in with a ruler and yes, I use a colored marker for the header and lines, but it's far -- far -- from beautiful. And I mess stuff up too... see that arrow above the full moon? Yeah, I got the wrong day. But before I know it the month is over and I can turn to a fresh new page and make some new mistakes.

September was a really quiet month (thank goodness) but when things get very crazy, I sometimes also do a weekly page where I just track everything going on in a week. I haven't gotten to the point of really needing a daily page yet (and I kind of hope I never do).

I also have a whole set of pages with headers like: Sigil Ideas, Days of the Moon, Daily Prayers, Reading Log (for Tarot readings, not books), ritual outlines, EBER Project stuff (project planning on paper, yes!). Even better, if you find a template you like someplace, you can sketch a version right in your journal or copy and paste one in.

If you are picky about the order of things, you could do this whole thing in an appropriately sized ring binder and add and move pages as you like, but I like the bound book for its sense of permanence.

So, last note, where do I get the magical data?

Site for Generating your horoscope
Site for where the planets are astrologically
Android app for where the planets are in the sky
Android app for magic planetary hours
Android app for lunar calendar and sign as well as lots of other nifty astrological stuff
Plus some off line stuff in books as well naturally

By letting go of perfection and admitting that the only planner that's going to be perfect for you is the one that you create and control, you empower yourself to actually do the things you want to do -- in your magic and your life. Which is pretty cool.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The EBER Project -- Connecting the Dots

OK, for those of you who work for a company, does your company have a mission statement? Do they have values? Do they articulate some annual or quarterly vision? (Quick Googling is allowed here).

Odds are they do (this is what E-staff do on all those off-sites and retreats after all). However, odds are lower that you know what those things say. And even if you are familiar, those lofty sounding and buzzword laden statements may not have any discernible connection to or impact on what you do every day at work. This is super common by the way, and has been the case at most of the companies I've worked for. They can't connect the dots between the strategic and the tactical. The strategy might actually make sense, but there's no link to your actual work. And the values sound good, but the company may not live by them.

But we aren't talking about companies here, we're talking about your life. And in your life you can do better. You are your own CEO -- who creates the strategy -- and you are the worker bee too -- who has to get up every day and live your life tactically. So how do you start? Let's start at the top...


Mission: who are you and what do you do with your life? What are you about? Try to keep this short -- the shorter the better. It's not a biography. Here's a list of top nonprofit's mission statements -- worth a review as you think about your mission in life. For example:

 Organizing enchantment at home and in the world 

But you can't use that one, it's mine. Missions can change of course, but this should be a relatively stable expression of what your driver in life is (apart from whatever roles you might currently be playing).

Values: As you go through your life, what values do you use to guide you? What are your core principles? Love? Integrity? Honesty? Patience?  They should be clear and short enough so that you can ask yourself at any moment "does this decision / behavior / goal align with my values?" Now, these should be your actual values and not just nice sounding things that you think signal the appropriate virtue. No judgement here. If your values include profit or pleasure, then that's what it is. It's not like anyone knows but you. If you are an adult, you likely already have core values, so this is a process of discovery rather than invention.

Vision: This one can be longer. Based on your mission and values, what is your vision for your life (remember, look where you want to go)? Bigger than just a single goal, this is an expression of the type of person you want to become. For example:
  • Vision = I'm a well-educated person who has the opportunity to share ideas through writing and discussion
    (goals might include "get masters degree" "start salon-style meetup" "find intellectual mentor")
  • Vision = We have freedom from wage slavery and a sustainable way of living that gives us enough to be comfortable and to share with others
    (goals could be "buy land" "grow food" "pay off debt")
Who do you want to grow into? Where do you want to end up? What kind of life do you want?

Nice, huh? This is all very "up with people" and Tony Robbins and stuff. But there are a few caveats here. First, this process can be painful or difficult, digging up crap in your life or your past. But more importantly for us right now, none of this is very actionable -- which brings us to the next step...


Ever set a goal and then meet it and realize that it wasn't what you wanted after all? Or go though some long process and in the end you realize that you aren't where you expected to be? When you create projects that aren't in alignment with your mission, values, and vision, this is a real risk.

So, now that you know who you are and what you're about, you can create projects that tie directly to the vision you have for yourself, your family, or your household.

Goals: So what is it you want to accomplish with your project? When you identify one or more goals, make sure they are in line with your vision. And then make sure you define how will you know when you are done. I've written about goals before, both classic (here and here) and agile (here). Those posts have a lot more detail and might be worth your time. Make sure they really are goals and not tasks in disguise.

Plans: How do you want to run your project? Will there be different phases? How often will you review your status? Are there repeating tasks? Will you involve certain people? Will you need a budget? I've written about planning extensively in the past, but my EBER project will be agile, so I recommend that for more information check out the first couple of posts in my agile series.

Deadlines: When will you meet your goals? Are there milestones before that point? Will you include regular checkpoints? This may be one of the simplest steps, but also the most important. So make sure your deadlines are realistic and logical and that you include plenty of interim steps for a long project.

Phew. More actionable than before, but we're not quite done yet. Next time we'll go full agile and talk about "epics", "backlogs", "stories" and a bunch of other jargon that helps you get shit done.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

The EBER Project -- Goals and Tasks

Note: Big update to the Index Page...

One really common mistake people make in projects is confusing goals and tasks. It's such a common mistake that I recently slipped up on this myself during my last personal project (Project Ivy).

  • A goal is an end result that you want to accomplish. 
  • A task is a thing you will do to get to that end result. 

Goal: stop making pretentious and cheesy PowerPoint slides

First issue: mistaking tasks for goals

When I started my project (about this time last year actually) I listed "get more outdoor exercise" as a goal. Certainly, getting more exercise isn't a bad idea, but if you think about it, it's not really a goal. The end result I wanted wasn't "more outdoor exercise" -- that was just a means to an end. Really my goals were:

  • Be more physically fit (which in itself is kind of a crappy goal -- more on this later)
  • Spend more time outdoors
The outdoor exercise was just a way of reaching those goals.

So why is this a problem? Well, if you have a small project this may not be a big deal. For example, if in a fit of new year's enthusiasm you signed up for a membership at the gym, you may just need to focus on "get your ass to the gym" as a first step mini project. Once you get there, you hopefully have additional goals around health and fitness (anyone ever gone to the gym, sat in the sauna, hung out at the cafe, and then left?).

But for a longer or more complex project -- particularly one with a lot of unknowns -- confusing tasks for goals is a big deal.
  1. It limits your options. If you set your end result to be 100 push-ups then what happens if you tear a rotator cuff or need carpal tunnel surgery? If your goal however is improved strength or fitness, there are lots of ways to get that. This means you can be more flexible throughout the project. When the weather got really bad, I wouldn't go out... which meant pretty much no exercise. You'd think I'd know better, but in the day to day of life (as opposed to the 10k view of project planning), I didn't. I could have easily done yoga or cardio in my own living room. But by setting the goal wrong there was this tendency to be all or nothing.
  2. It can reduce enthusiasm/motivation. If you make your end goal "green smoothie every morning" well, by month six the very thought of a green smoothie may want to make you want to hurl and go back to donuts. Eating healthy (or even eating healthy in the morning) is a better goal that will allow you to keep trying new things to keep yourself going. Maybe you switch to plain yogurt with fruit or chia seed pudding or a scrambled egg / spinach wrap.
  3. It's way less agile. One of my Project Ivy goals was DO MORE MAGIC. And this, unlike my exercise goal is a real goal because that's exactly the end result I wanted (a life filled with magic and more kinds of magic). At the start of the project I had some tasks lined up for this goal. By the end of the year, I realized that I did almost none of those tasks... but I still met my goal. How? Because Gordon launched his membership option and I have been up to my ears in all kinds of magic ever since. If I made my goal "finish this specific course or work through this one book" I might not have jumped on the new opportunity when I had it. It's easy to think "well, I set this goal and need to have the will power to stick with it" when that's not really the goal at all! This is super important in our very chaos-driven, unknown-unknowns kind of environment.
  4. It limits your magic. If your goal is 100 pushups, well all you can really do is get down there and start doing 100 pushups. But if your goal is physical fitness, well you can do tons of different kinds of things to help make that happen -- including lots of magic. Sure, you have to do mundane things as well (like those pushups) but you can also petition spirits, make charms, do sigils, and so forth. You suddenly have tons of ways to leverage magic to reach your goal. If you ever feel like there no magic you can do to help you reach a goal, you may have a task on your hands instead. Because magic's not going to get your ass off the couch and on a walk (task) but it can help you end up more fit than you started. 

Second issue: mistaking goals for tasks

This confusion of tasks and goals happens the other way around too. This is when you have a task on your list that's really a goal. For example, have you ever had a task to "eat better" or "lose weight"? These are goals, not tasks -- they tell you the what, not the how. Tasks need to be tiny, actionable steps you can take to get to the goal.

This one is much simpler to understand: since goals aren't really doable (they are the destination, not the journey) you just never end up doing anything to accomplish them. And yet we think in terms of goals all the time: "We really need to get a new car," "I wish I wasn't so out of shape," "I have to get out of this fucking school/house/marriage/friendship/town."

Thinking of a goal, stating a goal, announcing a goal, putting a goal on your to do list... has almost never, ever actually accomplished the goal. You have to do things -- tasks, sometimes lots of tasks -- to make your goals happen. Sometimes those tasks are mundane and sometimes magical, but with ongoing management, they will get you closer to your goal.

I covet this mug like woah           

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Friday, September 1, 2017

The EBER Project - It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

You know how it goes. You start some new thing (class, project, exercise routine) and it's all rah! and charge! and jumping in with all kinds of energy... and then a few weeks later, you get burned out and it's not so great anymore. Or things are going OK, but then you get sick or something else comes along and it doesn't stick.

This is really common and happens all the time. And it derails even short-term efforts and goals. But let's be honest, three years is a long time. My energy is going to flag. I will get sick (I haven't been feeling that great actually). Work will get really busy (like right fucking now).

Something will come along -- something always comes along.

Which is why this is my mantra for long and complex projects: It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

Camel toe optional

I'm currently planning for my project initiation and I've penciled it in for the autumn equinox. First, that's when I started my last project. Second, it's past Mercury retrograde. Third, it's when I usually have a lot of energy to start new things.

Still, that means about three weeks of just pre-planning before I even start the planning phase. So what will I be doing during this time?
  1. Turning the vision into high level goals: What does it mean to be prosperous? How will I know if we're healthy? What do I want to gain from the knowledge I acquire? We'll be talking about the different between tasks and goals next, because it's an area that's easy to mix up.
  2. Identifing some major project milestones: I'm starting this project from a position of very little information. I know that some large changes are coming (I can smell them in the air) but I don't know what they are or what it means for our household. So the first phase of this project will have a large research and divination component. If your vision was owning your own business, your first milestone might be around deciding what kind of business makes sense for you.
  3. Refining the toolkit: I have lots of options for magical tools to use, what I want to do is decide which ones I will kick off with. 
I need to start this process now because even in the first steps I need to keep the end in mind. Some of this is private or involves other people who deserve privacy, but here are a few examples:
  • Kid successfully launched into adulthood
  • Sustainable financial prosperity (this is very different than pure wealth or more money actually)
  • Environment privacy (more space around us basically)
  • Ongoing good health
Next up, goals.

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