planner status, end of January edition

All too soon it’s the last day of January, time to discuss how the new planners and I are getting along.

Overall it’s going well, I’m surprised at what a difference a small formatting change can make. As I wrote in planner angst, I was nervous about the impact of those small changes.

Let’s start with task planning.

Last year, I migrated to a junior-sized hybrid circa/arc system for tasks. I like the circa planning pages but as I consider these a temporary record, refill cost is a concern. So for 2013 I opted for the Arc week/month refill.

This is a sample of the pages I used last year, immediately following a Monday morning planning session. Do you see my hack for dealing with repetitive tasks?

I use labels. I like the small return address label size. I type four lines of text in two columns per label and cut them in half to cram the most information onto each label as I can. These examples are out-dated and it was really hard to write up a sample week to scan and publish without it looking really silly.

Planner-Sample-prehighlight

I highlight tasks as they are completed, colour coding each day. That way I can see at a glance when tasks were completed and when something hasn’t been. I use a Zebra Mildliner Set (Mild & Fluorescent Color) with a mild grey and violet to round out the set. I purchased mine at Kinokuniya which is how I acquired the singles. I do wish I had a green instead of just the blue-green from my set, the blue and blue-green are very similar shades! The colours didn’t scan well and I did some amateur image correction so the yellow and orange would show up. Again, this is a made-up week, but it is representative on how it generally looks by Sunday evening.

Planner-Sample

For 2013 there was a long getting to know you curve for the arc format I chose. I’m still not 100% in love with it, but perhaps it will help make my week more efficient. I also have yet to print up new repetitive task labels. It’s not really bad as I do gain from rewriting tasks (more on that in a bit) but I do miss them. I also tried to not be so set-in-my-ways with the highlighter colours. After a three week trial, I decided I don’t like it. Last week I went back to my preferred rainbow order.

What are the format differences and how do they impact me?

Planner-2013-sample

First, the paper is wonderful. It works well with my highlighters and collection of pens (mostly the sarasa 0.4).

Changes I like: The Arc background shades alternate days. I like that more than I expected I would. I like the monthly divider tabs, not a surprise as it’s something I felt was missing from my Circa system. For the layout, I like that I can block Saturday and Sunday together as one task day, since Shabbat tasks don’t require a planner! I do have a colour for Saturdays and often tasks are coloured in if I need to check on something Saturday night. I like when there is not a lot of purple appearing for the week.

Changes I do not like: I do not care at all for the five months at a glance. I never look at it as the font is too small to see unless the planner is in front of my nose. I also haven’t figured out how to use 3 lines of notes at the bottom of each page.

However, what really bothers me is how the week is broken up across the fold. My week generally has a Monday-Thursday focus with Friday reserved for scrambling to pick up missing pieces and prepare for Shabbat.

I have felt a bit lost on Thursdays, though I’ve never gotten the hang of them in general. In an ideal world this new format would mean Thursday would become the new Friday (but without Shabbat stress) as the weekly work review day and bear the bulk of the scramble to get everything done, but that hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve not yet declared complete planner fail, but I do wish the 2013 junior sized inserts would go on extreme discount.

sample-day-planning-cardNow to the topic of my task rewriting habit…

Each morning over my coffee, I check in with the planner and basecamp and do a mini-review of open projects, the week, and what I need to focus on for that day. That results in an index card that looks much like this. The card often includes items that don’t make it into the more big-picture task planner. They are even more temporary than the planner, I only keep them long enough to write the next day’s list.

Does it work? For me, yes.

Is it efficient? For me, yes.

The repetitive writing brings the important things for that day to the top of my brain and allows what isn’t important to settle a little. That’s not a bad thing.

Please read Lifehacker’s article on remixing for a personalized productivity system for additional inspiration.

Finally, the big question, how is that big change in format for the desk calendar/diary record faring?

I’m still not 100% sure how I plan to fill this out. I have been writing entries in pencil (4H grade), but as that definitely didn’t scan well, I edited the image and typed up the daily entries. I used a free font based on a scan of my handwriting, so please don’t twitch too much with the bad kerning.

The biggest change is that there is no sketching of what I wore. This makes me sad but at least I’m writing the items down. Why aren’t there doodles? My plan was to work on my sketching skills, but I have a desire for this book to be perfect and I know the sketches will not be. Therefore there aren’t any and further, I’ve not been doodling much lately. I have a selection of books on sketching and doodling I’d like to look through, but the main thing is I need to get past this mind-block of needing perfection and start sketching.

2013-daily-log

Overall I am pleased with this format even with the page break on Wednesday. The oxide green is a very nice colour and it makes me happy (hah I hadn’t noticed my font colour until I edited this post).

I admit to eyeing the new 18 Month Turntable after I learned about it, but that is more curiosity than my having any real need for it. It has features that remind me of ways I’ve tracked tasks in the past and I love that it can easily be used two different directions and changed weekly if desired!

I want to end with how I use the anno section, a section that many apparently struggle with, regardless of brand. In my anno section, I record what I made for dinner. I’ve been doing this for a while with different formats. This list is typed with that font because again, I’ve not yet inked anything into this planner.

anno-menu-filledout

How are your calendars and planning devices faring so far this year?

that time of year: planner angst

It’s the time of year with beautiful mornings when I realize there are only a few pages left in my planner and I wonder what I’m going to do in a few weeks.

Yes, I still use a paper planner. Are you surprised given my work? I do not advocate using a tool just because it exists or everyone else uses it. I look for solutions that are the best fit for the needs of the individual. I’ve tried to be digital only. It doesn’t work for me.

I use a hybrid system of a paper calendar for appointments/records, a separate planner for tasks, an electronic calendar for reoccurring appointments and shared needs, and various work logs/journals. With the exception of the work logs, most of the time the planner lives on my office desk.


For the past few years, I’ve used the large moleskine weekly with notes. This year, my radical change was to purchase it in red (the only non-black colour available for 2012, I am NOT a fan of red (or yellow)) so that I could quickly differentiate it from the other moleskines in my bag and on my desk.

It works, but my needs changed this year, I find myself recording more per day.

I’m not ready to go to a page-per-day because I like to see the week-as-a-whole. I’ve looked at many different vendors (this is a good list) and have come to what I believe is the right decision. I’ll try it. If it fails, I’ll try something else in February (and probably snag a good discount sale while I’m at it).

I also do not want to change the size because this is the size paper I love. A5 and A5-ish is my comfort-zone. I cannot explain why, I love index cards and tabloid size too on occasion, but for my notebooks this size works for me. Yes, I miss my composition books but I do not care to make the entire planner myself.

The planner in question has become more of a desk calendar and a diary record of my day than the carry-around book of all things that it was this time last year. Yes, I still keep track of what I wear, books I’ve completed, what I made for dinner, and various appointments. I now also keep record of mum’s medical appointments and the doings of not one but two businesses. For the past few months I’ve struggled to fit everything in the space available despite my collection of super fine point pens. A few months ago I began to use a disc notebook for project and task management, therefore there isn’t as much for the moleskine’s notes page and it is generally 90% blank at the end of the week.

I plan to purchase the large weekly horizontal planner, most likely in green. It’s not perfect, there are many things I don’t like about it (I’d like Shabbat and Sunday to be the same size as the rest of the week), but I hope it is a gradual change (since I’m staying with the same company) and not a radical departure from a format I’ve been using for years. I plan to continue to manage my tasks in the disc notebook, most likely using this refill. I’ll try to post more on how I handle tasks soon. I’ve tried a lot of systems. I’ve found this works for me.

Do you use a hybrid system? Do you have a calendar format you adore above all else? Why?

Do you know where your addresses are? Mine are (surprise) in a hybrid system, I record home addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, family info and things in an address book and keep emails with email. We had a database of addresses, but it’s now seven years out-of-date (oops?).

travel planning

Summer boldly announced its arrival here in the North East this week. While I have little desire to leave the naturally cool sanctuary that is my basement office/studio, my wanderlust is quite strong and thankfully isn’t fulfilled by distance traveled, but by new experiences.

Sometimes it’s simple enough to mix things up and break the routine to make it feel like an adventure. How? We try to find an alternate route to the grocery store or I’ll run one of my routes in the opposite direction from my general habit. The new perspective is refreshing.

At other times more needs to be done and we try for a Sunday adventure. There are tons of websites offering advice on road trips long and short– the internet has completely changed what is an off-beat attraction and how to get there. I love the integration of information and maps even if I do miss the hours spent sitting on the floor (or the bed) surrounded by messy piles of research materials and notes.

I don’t have a specific destination or trip in mind, but I’m having fun exploring and imagining the possibility of the new site Road Tripper. I wish I had thought to plan ahead and check a recent short excursion on the Weather Channel’s Trip Planner, bringing a sweater would have been nice. I still virtually turn to The New York Times Travel section and refer to various general travel books. For local events and things to do, I find that I’m turning often to the local Patch.

What resources and websites do you turn to for help planning your next adventure?