A Peek in the Pack

Day Runner + D*I*Y Planner

So, a few people have emailed me about my current productivity tools. They want to know if I'm using Circa, if I've given up on fountain pens, if I ever use software, and so on. One even deduced that the reason for my absence from DIYPlanner was because I had crossed from analog completely into the digital world. The latter is certainly not the case, and my forays into the land o' ones and zeroes have typically resulted in my throwing up my hands in frustration, wondering how some people live without paper. (Keep in mind I'm an IT professional and gadget freak, so I don't say this lightly.)

So, read on for a little summary of my daily gear at the moment....

  • Bags: You'll generally find me toting one of three different bags. For any degree of travelling or walking, especially in wet or extreme weather, I use a Swiss Gear laptop backback with a padded inner pocket for my laptop (either a 15" MacBook Pro or an Eee PC 1000HA running Ubuntu Linux). For my usual "grab and go" to the office, a coffee shop, or a business meeting, I love my Levenger Stanley leather briefbag filled with planner and papers. When I'm out and about in my spare time, or when I'm on a location shoot, I bring a Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW with a Nikon D90, a selection of lenses (a fast 50, a 100mm macro, a few telephoto and/or a Lensbaby Composer just for fun), a Sekonic L-358 light meter, and a SpeedLight SB-600 with a couple of small reflectors. The Gitzo ballhead and sticks sit in the back seat of the Jeep, just in case.
  • Planner: While I do still use (and love) Myndology Bare and Levenger Circa notebooks, I'm using a regular ring planner at the moment. This is mainly for two reasons: first, even with my "back-cover hack", the Circa planner still tended to slip around inside the cover; and second, the paper in that well-packed planner often got folded or bent alongside the discs in any attempt to thumb through the pages quickly, making it even harder to scan and flip through when I was in a hurry (which is quite often). So at the beginning of the year, I decided to go back to a "pro" 7-ring Day-Timer Aviator binder. It's not perfect: getting pages in and out of the front and back can be a little troublesome, but at least the page-flipping is smooth and the paper rarely gets bent. Who knows... perhaps come next year I'll try a disc-based solution again, especially when I finally get me one of Arthur's finely crafted modular covers.

    Inside the planner is a real Heinz 57 of D*I*Y Planner templates, blank paper, commercial forms, lined pages, a Day-Timer solar calculator, a Franklin-Covey pagemarker with my tall Harmony inserts, index cards, and some DavidCo GTD Coordinator tabs and inserts. It's a curious mixture, but one that's very uniquely tailored to my daily grind.

    Oh, and I'm now using two-page-per-day calendars, since the action list and calendar on one page are usually well-filled nowadays, and the "daily journal" on the right side is rapidly filled up with notes, promises, phone calls, supplier information, business ideas, and notes to myself. It's amazing how this new setup is working wonders for me. Several times a day I turn away from the computer to take notes, providing me a moment to re-focus. A form of meditation, almost.

    One little killer addition to my setup is Day-Timer sticky to-do pads. [Edit: "Movable Action Lists"- thanks, Nay Nay!] This, I use mainly for GTD-style "Waiting For" lists. I always keep one on tomorrow's page. As WF items become known, I flip the sheet, write the item, and flip back. Each morning I review the list, add any necessary items into my next actions, then place the list on the next page again. I could do this just as easily with regular Sticky Notes, but I like the tall aspect and the lines of the DT product.

  • Pens: Oh, boy. My big weakness. I have a stable of about 30 pens and pencils that I rotate. Let's see... right now, I have handy a Forest Green Parker 51 fountain pen and mechanical pencil set, a Lamy 2000 fine nib and 0.7 pencil, a Cross Roadster gel, and a Pelikan M205 fine nib demonstrator. I usually have one golden-age pen in the mix, perhaps a Sheaffer 1927 radite flat-top, a jade 1927 Parker Duofold, or a 1918 Waterman 52 flex nib. But if I have to jam something in my pocket quick, it's usually a Pilot G2 Mini that I can afford to break.
  • Journal: A regular size blank Moleskine with a Pelikan M800 pen. I'm not fond of the Moleskine's increasingly lacklustre paper quality --most evident with fountain pens-- and will be looking further afield for a good journal. Clairefontaine/Exacompte, perhaps? Any suggestions?
  • Digital mobile tools: I love my iPod Touch, although I have way too many apps that I never use. Top apps: iTunes for music/podcasts, Safari for web browsing, and Ambiance for the loops of thunderstorms to block out other household noise and help me fall asleep. No iPhone in the far north, so I have a BlackBerry Storm. Clunky when I first got it, but the new OS updates have really made a big difference. Top apps: email (of course), WeatherBug, Evernote, Bolt web browser, UberTwitter, Viigo newsfeed reader, Canadian Press news app, IM+ for Skype, Google Sync for calendar, and Remember the Milk Sync for tasks.
  • Desktop apps: I try to use mostly web apps on the desktop, since that allows me to toggle between all the various platforms and computers I touch in a day. Remember the Milk, Google Calendar and Evernote are perfect for me, since the data is accessible whether I'm on one of the Macs, the Linux boxes, the iPod Touch or the BlackBerry. I had to stop syncing with iCal and the like --I would sometimes get a dozen of the same events and tasks, and yet others would drop randomly. Grrr. Good thing it was all written down in my planner too, or my schedule would now be hopeless.

    As readers here know, I'm a big fan of mind mapping, and have spent significant time in MindJet MindManager, XMind, ConceptDraw Mindmap, FreeMind and others. Right now, I'm leaning towards XMind Pro as my favourite, although Buzan's iMindMap looks pretty spiffy. The latter is rather expensive, though, and I'm not yet sure it warrants that cost when compared to the competition. Bonus points for XMind, FreeMind and iMindMap for being completely cross-platform and even offering support for Linux.

  • Creativity tools: I've always been a big fan of Roger van Oech's A Whack on the Side of the Head, and normally have a copy in arm's reach. When space is an issue, I sometimes carry around its companion card deck, the Creative Whack Pack. I also appreciate ThinkerToys and Eno and Schmidt's Oblique Strategies. (The latter, and the Creative Whack Pack, are also available as handy iPod Touch/iPhone apps.) As you've likely guessed, I also create a lot of mind maps, either via software or on paper.
  • Other bits and bobs: Leatherman Wave multi-tool (haven't been without it for more than seven years); a multi-head multi-setting charger; a 10x loupe; a USB thumb drive or a USB Passport drive; a pocket Moleskine with a Lamy Vista fountain pen; a DavidCo GTD notepad/wallet with business cards.

I'm sure I've left out a few things, but glancing through the above is leaving me feeling exhausted. Do I really use all those things to be productive? Yes, but on a very selective basis. Otherwise, I'd be shambling around with a couple hundred pounds of gear hanging off me.

Ultimately, though, the only real essential is the planner. The rest provide the various little tools and nuances that flesh out my daily life. Which, I hope, does seem somewhat productive as a whole....

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Leatherman tool set

You have to be careful carrying this item in the UK. Our increasingly draconic knife laws mean that although you could legitimately have this in your car or your toolbox at home, carrying it on your person could be a problem.

A friend of mine had his confiscated by Police who spotted it on his belt when walking through a shopping centre. Another had herself reported to Police for having it on a campsite...

I keep mine in a small toolbox under my passenger seat. Thus it is always close at hand but not obvious.


Wow - at a campsite?

Yikes... crazy times we live in.

What a fun post

Thanks for the glimpse into your system. I love seeing other peoples set ups. I want to get a Lamy so bad but I think my husband would have a heart attack, lol. Have you tried the cheaper Safari version, if so, what do you think of it?


Doug mentioned carrying the Lamy Vista, which is just a clear version of the Safari.

Lamy Safari

As Michael mentioned, I do tote around a Lamy Vista, which is a clear version of the Safari. I also have a glossy red Safari, a matte charcoal Safari, and two AL-Stars (the aluminum bodied version of it --see my review). As you can tell, I am a fan. The Safari is a very different beast from the Lamy 2000, even though Lamy has produced an excellent pen in each.

all my best,

Post Its...

Are one of these the post its you are using? I like how you use it for Waiting For items... Great idea! Thank you for sharing all of this!




Moveable action lists

Ah, yes, it's the green one, the Movable Action Lists. They're very handy.

Thanks for finding it, nay nay!

all my best,

A Peek in the Pack

"I'm not fond of the Moleskine's increasingly lacklustre paper quality --most evident with fountain pens-" Have to agree that the paper in the Moleskines (2009)is not what it used to be. I find that regardless of the choice of ink for a variety of fountain pens it will always bleed through the current paper. I'm sure it only used to happen with certain fountain pen inks and/or pen combinations.

Interesting article - always intriguing to see how other people tackle similar problems and in the process frequently learn of products available in other places.



Looking for alternative to Moleskine?

Doug, Charles,

I've run across a surprising number of websites which revolve around the quest for the perfect notebook. www.biffybeans.com is a good place to start looking for links and a lot of these sites also comment on the fountain pen and notebook paper issue. I agree about the variable quality of Moleskine paper. Wish they would use better quality paper. I don't feel they're worth what they charge when their paper is so poor.

I bought some Rhodia Webnotebooks on sale at www.thedailyplanner.com. Haven't tried them yet (they're almost too nice to write in), but the Clairfontaine paper that's supposed to be in them is reputed to be great with fountain pens and inks.

Other sites that I recall are: www.notebookism.com, www.blackcover.net, www.notebookaddict.com, www.quovadisblog.com, to name a few.

My main notebooks are Circa notebooks with DIYplanner template pages on high quality 24 lb multipurpose paper. Use them with fountain pens all the time. I noticed the folded smurfs issue you mentioned, Doug, and try to be careful when turning the pages. Maybe I should try thicker paper.

Good luck!


"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai

Creative Whack Pack

Thanks for mentioning two of my products: the "A Whack on the Side of the Head" book, and the "Creative Whack Pack" card deck. Much appreciated!

Your readers may wish to know that the Creative Whack Pack is now a best-selling iPhone App.

Go to: http://budURL.com/whackpack for more information.

Best wishes and good luck!

Whack on the side of the head...

Hi, Roger!

I got your deck of cards years ago and still find them delightful. Nice to "meet" you!

- Maura

Lamy 2000 compared to other Lamy pens?

How does the Lamy 2000 compare to the other Lamy pens? My wife has a Vista and I have a Studio and a CP1. I've been seriously considering buying a 2000.

From what I've read, it looks like it is slightly higher quality than the rest of their pens (which is saying a lot! they are all great products) and it is the only piston-filler pen I know of from Lamy.


Piston adapters

You should be able to get piston adapters for other Lamy's. I've got two in my Safari's (well, one in a safari and one in a vista) and they work beautifully.

Doug: Do you use a paper


Do you use a paper calendar and task list or digital tools? I see you use both paper and computer for these functions. Thanks!