Planner Status, looking forward to 2014

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve made a few changes for my 2014 planning needs. There are still a few issues I need to work out, but so far this system has been working for me over the past few weeks.

Yes, I am still using a hybrid digital/paper system. It works for me and I recognize it may not work for everyone. I do not like using an app(lication) just because it exists or others use it. I’ve tried quite a few over the years and have written about my love of some of them. I do use some with the caveat that I recognize their imperfections and don’t allow their faults to cause my systems to fail. (Trust me, it’s happened.)

My unique challenge is that I need to be able to manage both businesses (PennyWise Consulting, LLC and Little Acorn Creations), keep up with my husband, and also whatever is needed at home. My primary place of work is in my office, but my planning often takes place throughout the house or at a coffee shop. I also need to be able to take the parts that I need to client meetings. So my solution needs to be portable, but not too tiny even though I can write very small if I want.

I like the ARC/Circa system for its flexibility and the junior size is right in my paper comfort zone. I love my filofaxes for the same reason. What I don’t like about these binder or disc systems, is that if I want to take just a section out to work with elsewhere … then the pages are either reliant on a binder clip or I need to transfer them to another notebook. That is frustrating and an extra step. Or I need to take everything with me. I tend to over-bring even for a trip to the grocery store, but I’m trying to stop bringing the kitchen sink everywhere.

I first learned of the filofax flex at Philofaxy back when the line first launched. I was interested in it, but not sure I wanted to plunk down money for yet another system I’d abandon a few weeks later. As it is I could give an office supply store a run for its money, I didn’t need more.

Yet, I kept returning to a collection of small light weight bound notebooks for knitting notes and common everyday notebooks. I like that if I just need my notes to knit, I can tuck just that book into my bag and leave the rest on my desk or if I’m meeting with a client, a planning calendar and my work notebook can come with me.

But how to keep it all together? In the back of my head, I kept thinking about the filofax flex. I first used a filofax in high school, and while I try to be brand neutral, there is something about that brand that has stuck with me over the years. I read many reviews that said large moleskines fit into the A5 size. I was tired of not having a way to keep them all together if I wanted. I contemplated purchasing a choral folder but I knew that wasn’t my solution either.

In August, I finally succumbed and purchased a grey A5 filofax flex system.

Upon opening the package, I was instantly in love. First and foremost, it is GREY! Secondly, I was able to put my handmade temporary planner into it, a knitting notebook, and the current work notebook. What really won me over was i could lay out the calendar and have a notebook open as well. I found that the pen holder was nice and the elastic could hold most of my pen choices.

I began searching high and low for different planners that would fit into my new filo. I contemplated the new turntable system Moleskine but I wasn’t too keen on a hardcover. I came close to returning to the weekly with notes, but I do like having extra space per day.

flexa5diary-example

I finally decided on Filofax’s own Week On Two Pages Diary. Even though the week breaks over Wednesday, each day has a very large size box and there’s a planning section. I was delighted to discover that it began on Monday 25 November, as it is a December-December planner. When I begin my weekly planning, I put items that are general to the week in the this week notes field. Anything that has a deadline, gets its own day. I then highlight the day-of-week and whatever items are completed that day. Most of the time I follow a rainbow highlighter progression throughout the week, but sometimes I grab the wrong one. It is what it is.

flex-size

The work journals are filled with tasks and notes that are organized in the system I’ve been using for years. One that is similar in many ways to the bullet journal that made the rounds of the internet earlier this year. I’ve just never formally written up a style guide for my own work logs. I create style guides for many of my clients (both businesses), I have no answer why I haven’t created one for these notebooks yet.

trinote-example

To supplement this and help me with time management throughout the day (something I’ve been struggling with balancing), over the summer I entered a contest at the Quo Vadis Planner Blog that offered to send a planner to someone willing to test drive one of their planners and to my surprise they sent me a Trinote! A few years ago I had purchased one, but couldn’t figure out at all how to make it work for me. I think I filled out perhaps 3 days out of the entire notebook. As I’ve been working more with time blocking, I thought the format would be a good one to try. I needed to wait until the first full week of December to start putting this planner through its paces, but I am really liking the format. I don’t know why this is working for me but it is. My process is that in the morning I pencil in a rough schedule, then as I go through tasks, I ink over how the time blocks really went. It’s really working for me, much to my surprise and delight.

flex-trinote-planningprogress

However, these systems aren’t perfect. I’m sad the Trinote doesn’t fit into the filo and I’ve not yet found a similar planner that has the layout I like (and I do like the Trinote tremendously) and will fit. It’s ok, the Trinote doubles as a layer of protection for those sheets of paper that I can’t fold in half, and helps pad a file folder. For the most part, the Trinote lives in my office, so it isn’t as frustrating that it’s not combined. I am on the lookout already for a planner that merges the good things of both planners. I’m also sharpening my indesign skills, though don’t hold your breath for that. I am sad at the large size of the Filofax Diary. I wish it was in two halves, Perhaps December – June and June – January. But it’s ok. It’s not excessively large, I just would like to get rid of parts that aren’t needed (as I rarely back-reference this planner). I may resort to tearing out. I need to look closely at how it’s bound together before I do that.

What makes them work for me? I confess that I love that the covers for both planners are grey. I like the professional yet slightly quirky feel bringing a grey planner to the meeting table provides. I am happy to report that the filofax flex is just that.. flexible. I can easily replace the work notebook, without impacting any other part of the system. If I want just the knitting notebook to come along on a short road trip, I can take that out and leave the rest at home. While my day revolves a good deal about technology, I like that I can take a complete break from the computer or tablet or my phone and focus on figuring out what needs to be done.

And yes, the cats like them too. Shadow likes the Trinote (especially when I time block kitten snuggles), and Buddy likes everything.

shadow-trinote

I’m really curious how this system holds up over the coming months.

What are you using for your 2014 planning system?

Planner Status, Year End Review

So, it’s been a year already. How did my 2013 planner choices fair? There were three main posts about this saga: that time of year: planner angst, planner status, end of january edition, and planner status, heat wave edition. I think overall it was a good year. I made more changes mid-year than I wanted, but I think I’ve finally found a grouping that is working…

As hinted in January, the arc/circa hybrid was changed out pretty quickly. I just could not get used to the layout of the Staples weekly pages. I also found the notebook quickly became heavy and I would spend hours rearranging instead of working. Could I have easily purchased new refills and smaller rings? Yes. But I was drawn to the notebook because of the allure and message I thought using it would bring. That by using one I’d be automatically organized, put together, and feel fancy. Is that bad? No, but I hadn’t chosen the tool that was best for me. I still like both the Circa and ARC systems, they just don’t work well for me and the work I am doing right now. Now my challenge for 2014 is to resist the siren call of their new app system which I believe is brilliant.

The green planner, for weekly review and recording dinners that I was the most worried about?

Success!

I missed a few days of dinner recording (neither E nor I can remember what we ate), but I’m pleased with how it enabled me to briefly review each week and how in time it’s turned into a record of the year. I find it helpful as I’ve been neglectful of regular journal writing this year.

It was so successful, I purchased a new volume in the same format for 2014. This year I won’t be as afraid to set ink to the notebook!

While I was struggling with what worked best as the day-to-day planner, I had quite a bit of fun photographing my daily lists on instagram and with my tag #morecoffee. I’m not photographing every list anymore, but I expect there will still be updates to my flickr set.

2013-July-plannerHow did my DIY solution work until I could decide on an academic planner or wait until 2014?

It was okay, but I was very miserable.

Why? While I took time with the second version to set everything up nicer, something just still wasn’t right. I guess in order for it to be a proper calendar/planner for me it needs to be typeset and printed. Yes, in theory I could layout something with inDesign and a database of dates that needed to be inserted, but that’s a bit beyond my current skill set with the software.

Even though I had labels and lists of holidays, even if I was careful with my handwriting, it was too easy to be inconsistent with placement of holidays or other events and that broke down my ability to see certain facts quickly. So I became.. frustrated. All hope was not lost.

A few weeks after that summertime post, I purchased an A5 Filofax Flex binder in grey. It fits large size moleskines (both hard & soft cover), and my favourite A5 notebooks from Muji. After much debate I also acquired a 2014 planner from Filofax. Further, over the summer I received a Quo Vadis Trinote through a contest on their blog. I had to wait for both planners to start (the filofax began the last week of November, the Trinote the first week in December). Later this week I hope to update with how this new system is progressing, so far I’m still in love.

Both cats are in love with the planners too. Shadow really liked the Trinote last week.

shadow-trinote

What planner lessons did I learn in 2013?

  1. If it doesn’t work to the point I hate using it, change is good.
  2. I really like color coding each day, but I shouldn’t let lack of the proper color derail the system.
  3. I prefer bound notebooks over other systems.
  4. I need something printed with some basic information (dates, holidays, etc) included for consistency.

What lessons did learn from your 2013 planner system?

planner status, summer heat wave edition

We are now in the third quarter so I think it’s time to look into my current planner arrangement. I’ll pause to let you see where I was at the end of January. Yes, it changed again. Does that surprise anyone?

Progress, it's sluggish progress, but still progress!I partially blame that bizarre need to photograph my lists. (Yes, even after reading this.)

Each morning as I sit down with my first cup of coffee, I photograph my todo list. It initially fit on my favourite 3×5 index cards, but then, as lists tend to do, it expanded and needed more space. So I began to fill a composition book page each day.

Why was I not writing in my cica-arc hybrid notebook? Even with the arc paper, I find it expensive for something that is intended to be recycled very soon. Also, all my rings are 1″ and while that is nice to hold a year’s worth of paper at once, the resulting notebook (even with a change of front cover) is still bulky and heavy. I have my eye on a set of smaller rings but haven’t yet been able to commit to the purchase.

Tuesday please just hand over #morecoffeeSo welcome, the humble, cheap wide ruled composition book, comfort food of my childhood, teen years, college days, and beyond. How I love you. But you do have one serious character flaw, the spacing between each line is vast. As you can see (click to make bigger), my handwriting is … atrocious. I yearn for a grid or dot system. And the paper is so thin… it disintegrates before I finish the volume, so am I really saving any money?

I held the demise of the last composition book at bay for an extra week by quickly sewing a simple cover out of scrap fabric. The only thing I forgot to add was an elastic closure. Oops. It holds a pen (or two), a highlighter, and in the bigger pocket is an eraser and some post-it flags.

quick-cover

This helped, but last week saw the end.

I then pulled a slightly more expensive book off the shelf, a grid composition book and set to work setting it up. only four days in I’m happier to have paid just a little more for this book. My handwriting has improved and due to the smaller grid size, even when the list is impossible, it isn’t frightening because it doesn’t take up the whole page.

daily-grid

So why do I like this set up over all the other planners I keep purchasing and abandoning?

It’s customized to me and my needs. I first set up a 3 week rolling view, then follow with three weeks of relevant daily pages. Why 3 weeks? I find it’s helpful to see more than one week at a time, and when I do two or four weeks, they just aren’t right. Plus with the rolling, I am no longer caught with surprise at the start of a new month.

three-week-rolling

While I love the flexibility of a traditional filofax or circa/arc system, I need everything to be attached in one book so I can find it later if I need to. Yes, these books are meant to be temporary records, but I still need all their pages attached while I’m working with them.

I do wish my calendar could auto populate at least some events on the pages without my needing to write them out and transcribe them (or affix labels). I’m sure if I looked into inDesign programming I could probably make it happen, but then I’d be back into the issue of needing to print a custom notebook or going the circa/filofax route again.

I bet if a planner company (or individual) set out to offer planners in 3 month (aka a quarter) chunks with various layouts… I’d probably be one of the first in line to purchase.

The other complaint right now is very silly. It bothers me that I have a discord in paper sizes, though that does allow for me to very quickly pick up the one I need. I confess I’ve been eying this system once again. (A5 smooth grey cover, then either slim moleskines or other A5 notebooks. I think.)

Yes, I’m still using the green moleskine planner for weekly review and recording dinners and I very much like that arrangement as a diary record of 2013.

anno-log

Least you wish to join the chorus in complaining that while I work in technology, I rely too heavily on paper, please remember that paper is technology and so are books.

Pesach Planning 5773/2013

Since it’s Ta’anit Ester today, I guess it’s time to start Pesach/פסח/Passover planning.

We sort of started last week when we discovered that our local supermarket had already started displaying the pesach items. I was sad because I was hoping for some super discounted Valentine chocolates not my choice of bulk matzoh!

In any case, I’m determined to be more organized this year. Don’t worry, I’m not yet sure what that means (not a new issue). The holiday coincides with the planned launch of several large projects so hopefully I’ll gather together my lists and my calendar and planner and settle down early next week to figure out how I’ll get through March and April in one piece.

Are you still in denial? What’s your favourite tip for Pesach prep?

For further reading:
OU Kosher’s Passover Resources, Star K’s Kosher Consumer Passover Resources, and cRc Passover 2013 Resources.

morecoffee

For reasons I don’t understand beyond I’m obviously not yet awake — a few weeks ago I began to photograph and share my weekday morning mug of coffee with the tag #morecoffee. I really don’t drink a lot of coffee, just a mug and a half a day. About a week ago, I began to include part of my task list for the day in the frame. I mostly use instagram because it is easy to use for distribution and the silly filters help me crop out and blur stuff pretty easily. So I send it to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Flickr. I apparently impress people with the hour at which we generally wake (it’s later than when we lived in Brooklyn).

Quite a few friends have commented that they love my mug collection or they are fascinated by my task lists. So I keep taking these photos to the amusement and bemusement of my husband each morning.

I really don’t know why I started or why I continue to do it. Believe it or not, there are positive benefits from this odd habit. Now I actually write the list out in a timely manner each day (whether I look at it later is another story). In order to take a clutter-free photo, the dining table has remained semi-clear (though I need to wash that table-cloth). And I no longer burn my mouth on that first sip since it cooled slightly while I was fussing with the photo (then it gets microwaved an hour later).

#morecoffee with task list