two reviews… more to come

I’ve struggled to write book reviews for the past few years. If I like a title I become tongue-tied to say anything more coherent than “go read this book now”. I’m slowly working my way through the backlog. My current NetGalley feedback ratio is 7%, they prefer a ratio closer to 80%! I’m slowly working my way through the backlog. Posted here are two I recently reviewed, the first is a title was denied early access through NetGalley, but borrowed from my local library once it was released. The second is a review of a book received through NetGalley.

deep-work-cal-newportDeep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
by Cal Newport
Grand Central Publishing (Hachette Book Group)
January 2016.
star star star star star

While one could potentially argue that Newport’s book about why deep work is valuable, meaningful, and increasingly rare (and how shallow work harms knowledge workers) is simply a rehash of plain common sense, I counter that it is a valuable read. He makes the case in a compelling and clear manner that left me questioning each of my daily actions and if they helped me contribute to the goal of helping my clients truly solve their technology (or yarn) problems. The book is divided into two parts, the first is to convince you of the validity of the deep work hypothesis and the second teaches you how to transform your habits so you can work deeply. Don’t turn into someone who has become so used to shallow work that when a deep work project comes along, there is no ability to think deeply and complete a successful project.

Please see my full review at PennyWise Consulting.

inventive-weaving-coverInventive Weaving on a Little Loom: Discover the Full Potential of the Rigid-Heddle Loom, for Beginners and Beyond
by Syne Mitchell
star star star star star

While the information within Inventive Weaving can be found over several other titles published over the past few years by different authors, it is nice to see a range of weaving information in one volume that could be kept by the loom for quick reference. Syne Mitchell has packed several weaving courses into this book and it deserves a place on every weaver’s bookshelf whether they are on their first warp or experienced and looking to take this oft-overlooked loom to new places.

NetGalley generously provided a copy of this title for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Please see my full review at little acorn creations.


2016 planner status update

It’s already the end of February (how did that happen?), so today’s post is a check-in with my 2016 planner system.

Overall? I’m still very happy with this year’s configuration. I love the size. I’m using it throughout the entire week. It works how I want, however, I am starting to notice a few trends in how I use everything … or not.


First, I love the cover, the notebooks, and my (custom) pen pouch. The multiple books are working brilliantly, for the most part.

As I suspected I’m not entirely happy with the layout I designed of my week plan book or for my task and routines. But that’s ok. I have time to think about it, trial new designs, and continue using what I have as they still work much better than anything I’ve had before. It’s also why if you follow my planning photos on instagram, you’ve already seen two new notebooks pop up in the past week. One is my teacher’s lesson planbook that I’ve had for years, the other is far from my normal picks for notebooks, it’s an A6 notebook!


While I love time blocks, I discovered I really don’t need the granular detail I designed for the time slots; what I do need is more space for mapping tasks to days. The teacher’s lesson plan book will likely influence the revised design for my next plan book.

One of the changes in how I work relates to the recording of my day-to-day work, more is being input electronically, and that’s ok. I don’t like to duplicate information and if the electronic system is working for me, I’ll embrace it. I love my newest logbook volume, a delightful Tomoe River Paper A5 notebook, however I discovered even before I first opened it that I’m writing only a half page most days.

That led me to wonder if a smaller size would work.

On Sunday I stopped by Kinokuniya and picked up an A6 Kokuyo Campus notebook. To my complete surprise, I’m loving the size. I also like that I can easily fold it to my current systems and it doesn’t stick out or feel like it’s not part of the system. I love ISO paper sizes! While I only have four days of data, it appears that I can easily record all that I need to, even on full days. The size works with any pen I take to it — my handwriting is often incredibly varied depending on the pen, nib size, and ink colour.


What’s working the best is that it fits nicely on the tiny table by the couch, so I’m writing more notes at night while we watch TV & finish up loose ends to the day’s work. This is a time when I’ve been struggling to record items and would often try to remember them the next day.

Now that I’ve discovered this size, I am definitely looking into the possibility of adding a Hobonichi Techno to my arsenal.

How are your systems working? Is anything urging you to try making a small change?


my 2016 planner system

It’s that time of year. I’ve had numerous questions over the past few weeks about my planner system, based in large part on my morning coffee posts. I’ve made a few changes since my last update post in October.

While I love the concept of having only one book to schlep around, I discovered I very much detest flipping back and forth between weekly, monthly, and daily views. I like to spread out and see it all at once.


Drawing all the pages of that planner took me forever. Ok maybe not that long, but I was tired and worn out by the last page. I loved the end result, but I knew I wanted to try to automate some of it. More on that in a bit. A future post will discuss how I manage my hybrid digital/analog system.

So I looked at just about every available planner I could find. I did not look at printables. Why? I knew from my experiment last year that printing my own was not a cost effective solution for me.

One day in October, after a client meeting in the morning and renewing my driver’s license in twenty minutes after lunch, I stopped in Kinokuniya, and looked around. I looked at all their offerings (many of which are difficult for me to search for online). Nothing quite grabbed me as being the planner, though it was nice to finally see a Hobonichi planner in person. They are nice and hopefully soon I’ll pick one up to facilitate my daily drawing practice.

Realizing I was going to miss my train unless I left the store soon, I picked up a monthly book to give me some time to make an ultimate decision. I chose an inexpensive A5 book that offered lots of blank space and began with October. I already was sketching out projects throughout 2016 and needed something better than the post-it notes that were accumulating in the back of my logbook.

I also picked up a new notebook cover, I wish I’d known that JetPens had them as I like the format of this one better, but it’s ok. I’m very pleased with the one I brought home. I added two eyelets to the bottom and threaded elastic to turn it into a new traveler-esque A5 notebook. It’s much sturdier than my old filofax flex and my pen pouch from Miriam fits much nicer (note: mine is a special custom pouch and wider than standard). I love the outside pocket that wraps around the cover, in the front I keep a few index cards and I found a sheet of paper (US letter size) folded in half fits beautifully in the back.


Inside the front cover is the monthly notebook. Is this book perfect? No. Will I change it? Not right now. I have plans but they first require that I learn more about integrating data files with inDesign.


The back cover holds my book of drafts: book review notes, meeting scribbles, anything that ultimately is recorded elsewhere, but I don’t want mixed up in my general log book. I also have a notebook of lists: books to review, more books to review, what knitting is in which project bag, those sorts of lists. They aren’t very photogenic. I tried.

The elastics in the middle hold the books that I’m constantly cycling through. The order changes frequently as I pull a few out to work on, then put them back in. The order doesn’t matter. That’s the beauty of this system and that I’ve finally started to buy notebooks with unique covers (and label them).


One notebook is my current knitting notebook.
Another is my logbook. This is one I’m going to modify in the future and have some of the basic format waiting for me each day. I do like a new page per day and focus check boxes to assist my daily planning. I believe having some of the structure waiting for me when I first sit down will help me plan easier.


The next two are magic, custom books that I designed and were printed and bound by FrasizzleMade. Taylor did a beautiful job checking that it all worked when multiple sheets were bound together. Her paper choices are fountain pen and highlighter friendly. The printing is crisp. The following images that show the interiors of these notebooks are samples spreads I created in Photoshop so you could see something without my blurring everything.

The first covers my weekly overview list of tasks and progress on my routines. I love it! This layout and breakdown works. I’m looking at it daily. I’m not overwhelmed. As I work on a task it gets a highlighted dot. When it’s complete, I highlight the entire line to check it off.


The second is my week plan book. I am very pleased with this first version. This book will last until June so I have time to make design change decisions. The vertical planner at the top of the spread is for time blocking. Weekly planning, bookkeeping, and the weekly review are all hard coded in. Below are granular planning blocks for various tasks and day-specific routines. I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to do with the right column so I left it a generic lined box. Last week after using the book for a month, I realized it would be perfect for recording income and expenses so that’s what I’ve started to do.


I hope you enjoyed this tour of my current planner system. In the coming weeks I hope to add additional insight into how this system ties into my digital planning systems. I am also editing a framework to help guide you through navigating and evaluating all the various planners systems that are out there and finding what works best with you and developing a daily planning habit.

Happy New Year!

my 2015 planner system

Over the past few weeks I’ve watched the stats for my various planner posts rise. I’m sure there’s curiosity as to my 2015 system. I’ve not purposely kept silent here about what I’m doing.

I’m curious too.

I decided to continue with the DIY route I first mentioned back in early August. It’s slow going. I’m currently on version 4 or 5 of a couple of weeks printed out to work with and then I revise the format again. If you follow me on instagram you’ve likely already seen bits of the planner pages most mornings.

One of the main things I wanted to have in my custom system was the information that is important to me and lacking in one way or another for most printed planners. At least I wanted to automatically add my local shabbat times, holidays, and the refuse/recycling schedule. I’ve manually added candle lighting and used labels for other repetitive items in the past, but that updating is tedious. It’s also easy to mistakenly turn two pages at once and then it’s a bit of a mess to clean that up.

The first few planner iterations were a two sheet system: a traditional weekly planner and my planning blocks. This worked quite well for a while, but I found I ignored the traditional planning pages. I began to look into a way to better integrate and started to play with different formats.

I then decided to expand to a full letter size page that included the best parts of both pages. It’s a big mental shift but so far it’s working out pretty well after a few small adjustments. I still begin my day sketching into my log book, but I find with this revised planning system I’m recording more electronically into various (text) files while I work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it streamlines billing but it’s another huge mental shift, but don’t worry I’m not giving up on my log books! They’re still useful for notes during the day.

There are some big downsides to the current layout that I still need to work out. My preference and entire setup is based on the A5 paper size. When I work outside of my home office, I don’t have a good way to carry these larger letter sized pages that don’t fold in half neatly. Yes, the crease in the wrong place frustrates me! I hope in the next printing to convert it into an A5/half-letter sized book similar to my earlier versions, but I’ve not yet worked out the best way to rework the file to do that. I still haven’t found a way to integrate the paper and electronic time blocking. The data file I’m using grew over time and is now almost unwieldy. I know when I reformat it, the integration should go smoother. Last week, I started experimenting with rolling month planning sheets that just include key basics. I definitely like the big picture view. In time I’ll figure it out, but for right now, I think it’s all working.

It’s very weird, despite all the making I do not to purchase a 2015 planner!