Analog / Digital

A Digital Diatribe

iPod TouchThere's a corner of hell reserved for time management gadgets, and I've visited it often these past few months. Conceptually, the ability to manage appointments and to-do lists is so simplistic that 40 years of programming should have made this a no-brainer by now.

The scenario: I want the ability to keep my calendars and tasks in sync between my home, work and mobile gadget. Adding an item to one should propagate it to the others. I should be able to add simple notes, get access to info almost anywhere, and take advantage of the domain to copy and paste data from multiple digital sources. Now, don't get me wrong: I love me my paper planner, but there's only so much you can stuff in it at a time.

introducing me: the next planner and notebook addict

One of the best things about this site is the fact that no one here thinks you weird if you tell how many empty notebooks you have (about twenty), or how many planners you bought this year (three) or that you like to write with fountain pens (one of the five I have). This surprises none of you I guess. In my fist post as a new writer I want to tell you some things about me, and where I stand planner-wise.

I am a girl, 25 years old, a mathematician and living in the Netherlands. And I have always like paper and pens and stationery. I have been using a planner ever since it was first subscribed by our school teacher when I was 10. These planners have been just simple bound books with a week in one view. This was good, but then I discovered the existence of Filofax and Succes, and later Moleskine. Here my obsession began, and I have been switching around an buying too many planners until now.

Of course swithcing around isn't all bad. It does indeed cost a lot of money, and it wastes time. But it is a lot of fun playing around, and browsing in stores and looking at websites. But I find that I want to settle, to make it simple so that I can free up my mind for the things I want to do. So I try to stick with my personal size filofax, and an A4 notebook. We will see how it goes...

So what will I write about? I have some pens and notebooks to review, and a very good productivity book. And I have some ideas about simplifying I might get ready to share with you. Hope you will all enjoy.

What's your current work setup?

Levenger FolioSo, I'm addicted to writing and productivity gear. That's part of the reason for this site. I'm constantly trying new notebooks, new covers, new pens, new techniques, new calendars, new journals, new planners. And [cue Steward Smiley self-aware gander into mirror] "that's okay." I have fun, and no one gets hurt. I just make sure my monthly schedule never goes out of sync, since I'm careful to note my appointments and urgent lists in multiple places (iCal/Google Calendar/Backpack and my paper planner). I learned long ago that as long as nothing important slipped through the cracks, I could play to my heart's content. And, since I love to tinker, I do.

But occasionally I notice trends. For example, there's a strange "divergence" happening between my work and my creative gear.

As could be expected, my work gear is definitely more professional --I work in marketing/communications in my day job, so image can certainly be important-- and through my many trials it's more or less solidified into a Circa-based planner based somewhat upon the layout I mentioned in this post, heavily GTD-influenced. What's key to the setup?

  • Reliability: My monthly calendar is "synced" every Friday afternoon with my digital one, and periodically during the week. The pen and pencil I currently use for it, a Lamy 2000 fountain pen (with Noodler's Polar Black ink to prevent from freezing) and a Lamy 2000 0.7mm mechanical pencil, never fail me. All my current project dockets are listed, and all my recent notes are present in the Inbox section.
  • Omnipresence: I always have it handy. If I'm doing work-related things, it's either in my hand or five seconds away.
  • Portability: I have a 17" MacBook Pro at work. It's a great computer for my job, and I love it. But it's not exactly easy to tote around. While my planner isn't exactly light, it's less than half the weight and size, and the zip-around closure keeps out the sub-arctic weather.
  • Flexibility: I keep a lot of spare paper and forms in the planner, and the disc-enabled shuffling of sheets of different sizes and shapes makes it easy to re-arrange things on the fly. Plus, I can mix figures with text with doodles with diagrams all on the same page, with an ease that computers still don't facilitate (but rather emulate). Add a selection of DiyP index cards in the card slots, and I'm all set for almost anything.

In a little while, I'll post about my current home/creative setup. [Update: see What's your personal kit?.]

In the meantime, what's your current planner setup for work, and why?

Break Your Projects Down with Chunking

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), there is a concept called chunking. In chunking, a person takes information and either breaks it down into manageable parts (i.e. focusing on the details, or breaking down the information into smaller pieces so that it makes sense in relation to the big picture), or takes a detail and asks questions to fill in the big picture around that detail. Chunking can be a valuable tool to use when you want to understand the different layers of a project. However, chunking can also be used as a method for organizing how you approach a project.

For instance, I use chunking to break my writing projects into manageable projects that don't leave me feeling overwhelmed, or worse unhappy with my progress. Whether I'm researching for my next book or writing it, or writing a newsletter or article like this one, chunking helps me to not only maintain an awareness of the big picture of my project, but also lets me attend to the details of the project. In chunking, I can measure the actions I've taken against both the big picture and the details and know exactly where I am in my project.

The Importance of Memory

Memory is something we deal with every moment of the day, even when it seems like we’re not actively using it. Right now, I’m using my memory of the keyboard to type the words I’m writing. My brain focuses on the content, but while I’m doing that, I’m also remembering what keys to hit in order to make words appear on the screen in front of me. Of course, while I type, I'm not recalling how to type on a conscious level. It's a part of my implicit memory. Today I'm going to talk about memory recall and how you can use the two types of memory to help yourself stay organized.

Memory plays a big role in our life. It allows us to remember skills that we’ve learned, or retrieve information that is stored in the brain, or recall a precious moment that occurred in the past. Memory also organizes information so that when we retrieve it, we can apply that information in the proper context and use it in the current activity we are involved in. In general, we use short term memory to recall information we’ve learned very recently. Long term memory is used to recall information that we’ve learned anytime in the recent past to childhood. In neuroscience, there are some fascinating studies about the types of memory we have access to as well as how memory contributes to the sense of self a person has.

One page per month undated - Classic

It's an undated month on one page for Classic sized planners. This one is intended for left-hand binding.
It's just the ODG file. I use it with a mail merge to put the dates in.

month on one page.JPG
Usage advice: 


It's an undated month on one page for Classic sized planners. This one is intended for left-hand binding.

It's just the ODG file.

Personally, I use a mail merge to populate it (see the mail merge instructions also posted by me elsewhere on this site).


Paper size: 
Classic (5.5 x 8.5)
Creative Commons
Applications required:

Planning for Fiber Artists

This article, was originally a sub-section of last week's article on Fabric Art Journals. However, I ended up having a lot to say about that (go figure, seeing I'm not an fabric artist) and the thoughts about planning seemed to interfere with the goals of introducing you all to fabric art journals. Therefore, this week we'll take a look at how fabric and fiber artists plan their projects.

Now I know that if I don't write my long-term artistic projects down somewhere and keep them together in my Project Folder system, then when it comes time to "create" I get lost and spend more time looking for all the items I want to use rather than spending that precious free time making art. And that's just from a purely paper-artist standpoint. Fabric artists need to keep their projects in line. Is there an organizational methodology that could work for knitters? What does a knitter who always has a rotation of 3-4 projects going on at one time do to keep all their projects in line? Read on to find out more.

Let Yourself Go: Harnessing the Power of Meditation

Each morning, before I start my day, before I even look at my planner or eat my breakfast, I meditate. I sit down in a quiet room and stretch my body. Then I regulate my breathing as I take it through a series of breathing exercises. These help to ground and prepare me for my day. Finally, I perform one final meditation exercise to organize my mind for the day ahead. This is similar to hypnosis. Whereas the usual definition of meditation is to empty one's mind, I use this one to vent the mind. Venting basically means getting rid of extraneous information, while also organizing the information I do need for the day ahead.

This article explores how I meditate and how it can help you focus and prepare yourself for your day. Think of it as another tool you can use to help organize yourself and get ready for your day.

Knitting Stash Spreadsheet

I have a friend who uses this spreadsheet to track her knitting yarn stash. The template is pretty self-explanatory and includes an example row.

I'm posting it here with her permission.

Usage advice: 

Just look at the fields to see which info goes into the columns. You can also edit the columns to add more info, like needle gauge, etc.

Paper size: 
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
Microsoft Excel (or Apple Numbers)