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We are a community of people who see the value of paper as a medium for planning, productivity, creative expression, and exploring ideas. We encourage visitors to share advice and inspiration, and we love to see submissions for templates, kit images and story articles. We are also the official home of the free D*I*Y Planner kits. Please enjoy your stay, and make yourself at home!

"That's so stupid! I wish I had thought of it!"

Human Powered HelicopterBack in another life (not so long ago), I was a "Solutions Architect". Now, that's a fancy way of saying problem solver. Most of my clients were, in fact, quite sane, thoughtful and careful, but occasionally they... well... they weren't. Then it went like this:

  1. The clients would come up with an idea, often hare-brained or completely insane, which they were convinced would make tonnes of money, or led to superhuman efficiency, or totally revolutionise how everybody on Earth did something.
  2. I'd be called in to hear to the idea, on the precept that I could tell them how it could be done (well, in theory).
  3. While listening, I often realised that there was very little chance of pulling it off. (And of course, by association, my reputation as an advisor would be jeopardised.)
  4. However, somewhere deep down in the bizarre or ill-researched or badly-timed idea, there was often a seed. I soon learned that my success would depend heavily upon my ability to cultivate that....

Seeing this happen again and again, I soon came up with a brainstorming technique that was based on taking the worst ideas. Oddly enough, it was one of the most effective techniques I've ever facilitated.

Steve's D*I*Y Enemies List

My picture nameGreetings and welcome once again to Steve's Online Workshop for Do It Yourself Paranoia Organisation, formerly Steve's Paper-Based Planning Column Of Joy, formerly Steve's Paper-Based Planning Column of Insanity, formerly Steve's Guide To Dunking A Basketball While Operating A Food Processor, formerly Steve's Guide to Playing A Guitar In The Dark With Your Face, formerly... ah, what the hell, who cares?

Sorry, I'm kinda tired. My doctor finally figured out what was wrong with me (see my Hypocondriac's Disease Checklist) and although it's easily cured, given time, my doctor told me that essentially my condition was largely caused by --and massively exacerbated by-- working too hard. I am therefore now violently anti-work, which makes it a bit tricky to write a column for a site committed largely to organising your work schedule. I guess you could say my heart's not really into it. However, Doug Johnston keeps telling me that this site is about more than work. It is also, he says about dream journaling, script-writing and all kinds of creative activities. So, in that spirit, I offer my guide to constructing a Do It Yourself Enemies List.

Round-Robin Brainstorming

Brainstorming SessionInnowen is on the road today, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to contribute a little tip I've found invaluable in group brainstorming sessions. It was borne out of how I often generate ideas for stories and businesses: on index cards. This practise goes all the way back to high school for me, after reading an article in a writing magazine about generating and re-arranging plot points. A few years ago, I got to thinking of a way to use this within groups.

The method is quite simple and --thankfully-- should be easy for participants to grasp.

True Confessions, or My Palm and I

Palm Tungsten EFor the past week, I've been using a Palm again. (Pause for effect, let the gasps of the audience subside.) It's true, I swear: not a word of a lie. And it's given me pause for thought.

You may have tripped across my Hipster PDA kit and remarked with some degree of shock that I do indeed carry a Palm, a wireless keyboard, and earbuds in my bag. But it was mainly as a way to read news, carry encrypted documents, or listen to MP3s or audiobooks: I ceased using a Palm as an organiser about 18 months ago, when I switched to paper.

Just to put things into perspective, I've owned five or six Palm handhelds over the years, all the way back to an original Palm Pilot and Palm Pilot II. And I wasn't just an occasional user... I pushed each one to its limits through my work and play. In fact, for a job I had last year, I used to sync my Palm Tungsten E with two Mac boxes, a Windows box, and two Linux boxes, essentially to keep my data fairly consistent with whatever computer I was using at the time. Graffiti is second nature to me and has even affected my handwriting, and --at one point-- I even tried my hand at programming the little beasts. So you'd definitely call me a power user.

A little over a week ago, I needed to revisit a project I worked on a couple years ago, and it just so happened that all the data was stored in files on my Palm. As I was using it to retrieve and read through the material, I suddenly had pause for thought. What exactly did I see in the Palm? Why did I use it so heavily? At that point, I decided to try using it again for a week, to try to recapture some of my former portable geekiness.

In my absence, however, much like a lover spurned, my Palm has learned to hate me.

Christmas is coming!

Christmas is coming!

Christmas season is coming up, and I need to be extra-careful about my finances. I don't want to wake up on January 2 with plenty of gifts but no rent! It's a little hard to enforce strict limits when my checking/debit account's accessible from every store and street corner, but going analog might just help me--and you--splurge wisely this Christmas.

Here are a few tips to control the holiday hullabaloo:

D*I*Y Planner Widget Kit 0.6 (for OpenOffice.org 2.0)

D*I*Y Planner Widget Kit (Sample)A little early Christmas gift for those budding template designers among you: a brand new version of the D*I*Y Planner Widget Kit for OpenOffice.org 2.0, stogged tight with graphical elements you can use to create your own forms.

The kit now includes:

  • Better standardisation of widgets, lines and fills to match the forthcoming D*I*Y Planner 3.0 kits.
  • Plenty of annotations and tips to help explain things, ensure consistency, and give a little peek into my process. (These are located to the sides of the pages, so you may have to zoom out.)
  • Several new widgets to round out the set.
  • A sample monthly calendar page that you can use to create your own months.
  • A sample weekly calendar (8 boxes on 1 page) so you can design your own weeks.
  • A sample page with various components laid out so you have something to start tweaking.
  • Colours that match the D*I*Y Planner standard colours (or should I say tones).
  • A new file format (OpenDocument) to take advantage of OpenOffice.org Suite 2.0, which of course is a free download. No guarantees are given for backward compatibility to the 1.x series, but since the new version of Draw is significantly better, I highly suggest getting 2.0 anyway.
  • The Blue Highway fonts (regular and bold), which should be installed prior to opening this file for the first time.

Guest Post on Communication Nation

RembrandtI was honoured recently when Dave Gray, the Founder/CEO of XPLANE and the guru behind Communication Nation, asked me to write a guest post for his blog. Today, you'll find that post. The topic is the "back-to-paper movement":

Dave has mentioned the back-to-paper revolution here, and he's right. Strangely enough, it's mainly a revolt of tech lovers against their favourite toys, junkies eschewing their drug of choice. It's painful, it's heart-wrenching, it flies in the face of our own self-identities, and it makes all our high-tech podium-thumping and evangelising suddenly look hollow.

Communication Nation: Why techies are leading the back-to-paper movement

OpenOffice.org Tips, Tutorials and Guides

OpenOffice.orgJust a quick little post here, so I can get back to working on the new version of the Widget Kit, being created in the recently-released OpenOffice.org Draw 2.0.

One of my most well-thumbed tech books of recent years has been the OpenOffice.org 1.0 Resource Kit, by Solveig Haugland and Floyd Jones. Till I bought this book, I wasn't aware of the true power of the free OpenOffice.org suite. I've been a strong proponent of both the suite and the book every since, and in fact it's been one of the only tech books I find myself advocating on a regular basis.

OOo 2.0 Resource KitI've been eagerly awaiting the new 2.0 Resource Kit (due this spring?), but in the meantime I've been quite happy to learn that Ms. Haugland has a blog devoted to OOo tips, tricks and ideas, and this week has been concerned primarily with OOo Draw. If you're interested in making your own templates for your planner, or --heck-- you want to learn a fairly powerful desktop publishing application that costs you nothing, this is a great place to start.

You might also be interested in the wonderful user guide and how-tos available at the OOo Documentation Project: there's plenty of material there for both beginners and advanced users. Once you're feeling a little confident with Draw, feel free to jump into the Design Your Own D*I*Y Planner Templates section.

Okay, back to work....

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Hobbits

My picture nameGreetings and welcome to Steve's Paper-Based Planning Column Of Joy, formerly Steve's Weekly Column of Sensible Paper-Based Planning, formerly Steve's Paper-Based Planning Column Of Insanity, formerly Slick Leon's Fun With Data (New Jersey Street Edition), formerly an online ad for Big Vladamir's Discount Online House Of Classic Soviet Typewriters ("Come for the quality, stay for the kitsch").

This week, well, let's just say I've had a revelation. Doug Johnston, chief cook and template wrangler 'round these here parts, asked for suggestions for Ver 3 of his Hipster PDA Planner ("The hippest thing in paper-based planning since Gutenberg got leather pants") and I gave him a suggestion. A good one. One that made sense. People don't seem to be able to deal with it. There's talk that I may have been abducted. There's talk that I may be an alien. Well, let me tell you, people, I've turned a corner and everyone can just deal with it. I've realised that I've been wasting my life writing silly columns and I've come to understand the joy inherent in giving good, solid advice. So, with that in mind, I present to you a review of a planning system so hallowed, so proven through the ages and yet so underappreciated that it must be seen, must be acknowledged, and must be understood. Most people consider Steven Covey's The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People to be one of the most influential works on paper-based planning and productivity, and while this book is insanely popular and extremely influential, what is not known is that it is, in fact, largely an adaptation of an older, far more ancient book, the subject of my column today: that most seminal work of paper-based planning written by that most famoustist of hobbits, Mr. Frodo Baggins, namely, A Halfling's Guide To How To Work Middle Earth Before It Works You: Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Hobbits.