2014 planner status & how I fill my logbooks

We’re almost into the third month of the year, while I try not too think to much about that, it does mean that I’ve been using my current system for a while now. So, how’s it holding up?

I’m still in love with it and using it pretty much how I described at the end of December. Yes, there are a few things I’d love to change, but that’s ok. While I was preparing this post I came up with an easy solution for one of my complaints so that was a nice surprise.

To review, I use a hybrid system:

A5 Filofax Flex
with a week to view diary and multiple notebooks
A5 notebooks
stored primarily in the flex that hold daily log notes, knitting journal, and book reviews
Quo Vadis Trinote
that I received from the company to test-drive last year. I’m still using it for time-block planning.
text files
on my laptop to capture digital notes
google calendar
multiple calendars and colours that allow for quick and consistent categorization of events
digital project management system
that captures project-based and reoccurring tasks that can’t be lost in the shuffle

It sounds much more complex than it is. Honest!

My few complaints remain. I’m sad that the Trinote doesn’t fit in the Flex. I am also frustrated about the bulk of the week-to-view diary. Last week Laurie asked, “how much does your planner weigh“? and I was very surprised to discover:

my A5 flex with the kitchen sink inside (which just gets carried around my home office with this much of everything) weighs in at a hefty 838g today. i’ll try to remember the weigh the “normal schlepping weight” soon, that leaves a few notebooks out.

So today as I was scanning a notebook page for the second half of this post, I decided to pull out the scale and look at the numbers. If I take out the infrequent notebooks to include only required notebooks, it still weighed in at 581g! Most notebooks are about 90g each, but the diary was 227g! So I looked at how it was constructed and determined it wouldn’t be too difficult to pull out the first signature. So I did. That weighed 42g!

20140227-FlexRevision-42

While I loose the reference materials and anno planner, I think it will be more manageable this way. I haven’t used the reference materials or anno planner in the flex at all (I use the anno in the trinote). The diary is still a heavy but more manageable 185g. The next signature can be removed in mid-May. This isn’t ideal but it has lightened it!

20140227-FlexRevision-planner

I’m already thinking about how I’ll deal with it in the future, 620g is still heavy.

20140227-FlexRevision-620

Shifting gears, let’s discuss how I use the notebooks. I’ve keep a daily log notebook for years. I’ve written about my systems in their various iterations over the years and while I might sometimes use different methods of capture, the overall format has been pretty solid for a while. I like to list my tasks in a big chunk and any important time-based items. Then I keep a rough log of what I’m doing, need to review, etc.

When the bullet journal system made waves last summer I used it to fine tune my method a little more. What I liked was way it codified indicating different types of entry. I had no idea why I never formalized my own system so I wrote them (and my modifications) on the front of my notebook. I primarily use simple lined A5 notebooks though I have some grid notebooks waiting to be the next volume.

20140227-notebookcover

I still do a rainbow highlight of completed tasks throughout the week, and start filling in the box when I begin the task. I also use labels for repetitive needs, such as the weekly meal planning. I also use a nice punch from muji that perforates to make the corners easy to tear out.

20140227-dailynotebook

If you’d like to read about a few others experiences with the bullet journal system, check out some thoughts from Beverly and Kim.

As for the pen I’m currently in love with… it’s this hexagon shaped barrel 0.4mm with blue-black gel ink. I love the ink colour, I love the feel of the pen in my hand, I love how it writes.

I also now do two reviews each day. The first when I sit down after cleaning my desk with the flex, trinote, and my digital system open and ready. The second either right before I head upstairs to bed or when I’m already settling in for the night, this one is into the daily log book, reviewing what was completed, and starting the page for the next day. This twice daily review/planning helps me clear my brain and both focus and sleep better.

Next time I’ll write a bit about my digital system and how it complements the paper.

Of course I’m experiencing some “grass is greener” (or exists given this winter) with a new planner, there is an A5 version of the popular (and now in English) Hobonichi Planner. I don’t think I want to schlep around a page-per-day format and in Japanese, but it is definitely something I’m thinking about.

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, 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?).