What’s the Point

This post isn’t about planners, sorry. Or should I say you’re welcome, if you were getting kind of bored with all the Malden jabber.

Which knowing you, you probably weren’t.

It started out to be about a new section in my planner devoted to the fact that I have just signed up for Weight Watchers.

Yes…yes I did.

I discovered to my horror at my annual girlie exam this week that I have put on quite a bit of weight since last year. And by quite a bit I mean enough to make me gasp audibly and fight back tears.

Of course, I did have an injury to contend with that benched me for longer than anticipated – mostly because I ignored my doctor’s initial recommendations for crutch time, then got bored with physical therapy and quit after the second visit, and started working out three months sooner than I was supposed to (which of course led to a re-injury), blah, blah, blah I’ve been a couch potato for an entire year.

But those are all excuses. Point of fact is, I now weigh the most I have in my entire life.

Not cool.

I work with a woman who had great success on Weight Watchers and I saw the food she ate every day. This woman did not diet; rather she just learned to eat differently. She wasn’t crabby, she seemed to feel satiated and I even saw her put down a bagel and shmeer now and then. Yet she still managed to lose well over 50 lbs.

Knowing my penchant for pasta, cheese, red meat, chocolate and alcohol would sabotage any self-imposed efforts…at least initially…I decided I needed something  more structured.

And some accountability. Let’s face it, Sophie could care less if I’m shoving bean sprouts in my mouth or spray cheese, so long as I give her some. Her “will work for food” attitude is all enabler, all the time.

Even after we go for a nice walk, she makes me get an ice cream to share with her. I mean she FORCES me to. She’s cute but she’s just no help.

So, I joined for three months. I figure by then I will be in the swing of healthier living and won’t need to be watched over by any weight loss mother hens.

Initially, I got all excited to set up a section in my Filofax to track everything and of course write a blog post about it.

But wouldn’t you know, the new Points Plus system is largely digital. All the major platforms now have apps with handy Points calculators and food databases and the like. Far be it from me to track everything the old-fashioned way when they’ve gone and made an iPhone app and a “Kitchen Companion” app for my beloved iPad.

Okay, that one is all shopping ideas, menus and recipes…and we all know I refuse to cook…so it probably won’t see a whole lotta use, but hey. At least I know it’s there.

I had planned to post my start weight and body measurements here.

Then I threw up in my mouth a little at the thought.

I’m not going to get into the numbers here because, frankly, I’m disgusted with myself for letting things get so out of hand. However I will blog weekly to let you know how the program is going, at what rate I’m losing…

…and how much I miss whoopie pies.

Wish me luck!

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A Good Plan Today…

…is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

So says an old Proverb.  I tend to agree. We plan the best we can for today – with the best planner we can come up with – and deal with how we, and it, will need to adapt to what comes tomorrow.  Or next week.  Or next year.

To bastardize Ockham’s Razor (sorry William), while the simplest solution may not always be the right one, certainly metaphorically shaving off anything unnecessary will help to reveal the solution to any problem in its most basic form.  The key is to remove extraneous elements, but not slice off too much.

In response to some questions about how I specifically use my aforementioned planning system, here is what’s left after I did some time management shaving:

1 Plastic envelope – catch-all for receipts, coupons, transit passes, fortunes from lunch, etc.

1 Tabbed Section – entitled “Brainstorm”, this is a blank Franklin Covey tab with a Franklin Covey sticker of a lightbulb icon. Since this is my only non-calendar section, it is more brain dump than storm. Here you will find lined paper (from the Swing Pad) with random, non date-specific notes, a quote that catches my attention, the license plate of the a-hole who cut me off on the motorway. Not a static section, things come and go as they become/fail to be relevent.

6 Months of Franklin Covey 2Page per Day (Original) calendar inserts – the layout of which allows me to record daily To Do’s, Appointments and Daily Tracker items (I use this area to record the weather) on the left page and Notes on the right page. On the Notes page I record my Gratitude Journal items, what I eat and my workouts. There is ample room for all of that and more.

12 Months of Franklin Covey Tabbed Month on 2 Pages – which are generously included in the 2Page per Day Original pack referenced above. I keep the entire year so that, while I don’t have the daily pages for the second half of the year in there yet, I can jot down any future planning items on the monthly pages. Conversely, when I ultimately take the first half of the year out and replace it with the last six months, I will have the Jan – June monthly pages to reference for past events.

These refills also include pages at the beginning of each month for a Monthly Index and a Master Task List (for both personal items and business items), and at the end of each month for Expense Tracking.

The Monthly index is very handy. I fill it out at the end of the month so that I can quickly reference at one glance pertinent information without having to flip through each day once the month has passed.

1 Swing Pad accessory – this snaps into the ring mechanism and holds a refillable note pad. When in use, the pad will swing out so that you don’t have to flip to the pad itself (at the back of the planner in my case) in order to use it. You purchase the Swing Pad accessory once ($8.95 and it comes with 1 note pad) and from then on you only need to purchase note pad refills (sold in packs of 3 for around $5).

Check out pictures of this baby in action here.

Although the Malden does have a note pad pocket on the inside of the rear cover, Filofax note sheets are obviously not the same width as the rest of my FC inserts, so that was a no-go.  The Swing Pad is nice, however, because it allows any planner binder to have a note pad, not just the ones with the pocket.

1 Franklin Covey Progressive Task List PageFinder – ingenious little buggers these! They have a layout similar to the Progressive Daily Task List found on FC pages (on the left page of my 2Page per Day inserts if you care) but are hole-punched heavy card stock so they can be easily moved from day-to-day. I keep my daily To Do items on each respective day’s page, but use this item for ongoing  tasks, or reminders, or my day’s grocery list. Suffice to say they come in very handy, and since you get 26 of them for $3.95 you don’t have to feel guilty actually using them.

And that my friends is IT. All the inserts I have in my planner. Everything fits, the pages turn easily and although it is fun in theory to have an array of tabbed sections for this or that (diet & exercise, writing projects, various lists, etc.), I found I actually rarely used the tabbed sections, so I decided I could let them go. Out of sight, out of mind for me I guess.

Certainly all circumstances in life have an infinite number of solutions; the right solution and any number of other solutions that are either mostly right, partly right, or completely wrong; the same goes for planners.

What I am finding works best for me is to record everything ON THE DAILY PAGE. Then, should I need to look back (with the help of the Monthly Index feature – and even searching through an archived year indexed in this way would be feasible), it’s all right there.

A complicated woman finding peace with a simpler planner.  Who knew?

Once You Go Malden, Your Planner Is Scaldin’

Hot that is.

Yeah, I know, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice.

Well, the Franklin Covey Compact mystery binder from days of old lasted the entirety of three days in use. One to set it up, one to use while convincing myself it was perfectly fine, and one to lament how decidedly blah it looked in comparison to my beloved Filofax Malden.

Check out the sordid path from a Pocket Malden to said Franklin Covey Compact binder here.

The Filofax Malden is truly an impeccable piece of work. The Filofax website claims, “It is the epitome of relaxed style” and I would have to agree. Constructed from buffalo leather with its unstructured feel, glazed sheen and zippy contrast stitching, since its release last spring it has been a huge hit among Filo-fans.

I myself have four of ’em…in the Personal size I have it in black and ochre. In the Pocket size I have it in black and crimson. Black is my absolute favorite but based on the review over at Philofaxy, I will no doubt pick it up in grey as well once the new colors hit the U.S.

Although I am thrilled to be into Franklin Covey inserts again, and have become convinced that the novelty of portability is far outweighed by tabbed months, finer paper (and by the way, is it my imagination or do the Pilot Frixion pens erase more thoroughly on this paper than the Filofax paper?) and more writing room, I found myself less than enthused to pull out my Franklin binder, which I had to do several times yesterday.

While I find the flowered interior whimsical when opening the FC binder at home, in the Corporate world, pulling out anything cutesy smacks of weakness and it is hard enough for a female executive to be taken seriously to begin with.

I mean, I love Hello Kitty too, but I would never use my Badtz-Maru thumb drive at the office.

After opening the FC binder yesterday to schedule a meeting and looking up to see a raised eyebrow and a facial expression that said, “Really?” I knew my quiet yet immediate pining for a Malden was not unfounded.

I came home and moved all the freshly re-copied Franklin Covey inserts into my black Personal Malden.

And felt IMMEDIATELY better.

The Flickr set can be found here.

So the pages stick out a bit further than I’d like.  So it isn’t puppy belly fat and square.  So my OCD has to cope with using one brand of refill in another brand of binder.  So what.

Once you find something that truly delights you, it is very difficult to make due without it. Be it fine chocolate, expensive champagne or that guy who gives you butterflies when he kisses you.

How does one enjoy a Hershey bar after indulging in Godiva truffles? How can one choke down Korbel after knowing the glory of Dom Perignon? And how on earth is it possible to tolerate a lousy kisser after the exquisite joy of butterflies?

Malden, I will never forsake you again.

Stuck In the Middle with You

Ok, my first post about planners.

I have what I like to call a “thing” for them.

Do the finger quotes. You know you want to.

What this means is, my life is rather chaotic and has been pretty much since birth, so I try to create the illusion of control over my own destiny by planning the living hell out of it.

At least that’s what my therapist says.

I think that, as a writer, I simply have a penchant for ink on paper. Preferably really good paper, that smells the way good paper should smell, and the oh-so-satisfying scratch of a fine nib upon it.

You know what I’m talking about.

It is true that I can (and do) create adequately on a computer, but when I really get down to the kind writing that is like my very soul giving birth, I have to do that the old-fashioned way, with my favorite Montblanc, one of a stash of a zillion blank Moleskines and in my zany, loopy handwriting.

Similarly, you may find me extolling the virtues of Google Calendar on my iPhone while at the same time jotting down the very same meeting (but with more detail) in my trusty Day Planner.

I find the two balance one another fantastically – on the one hand, my Planner does not beep to handily remind me of an upcoming event which has slipped my mind, but on the other hand, nor does its battery run down at the most inopportune time.

One of my most profound planner challenges has been and continues to be choosing one system/page layout and sticking with it for an entire year. This year has proven to be no exception.

I began the year using a Filofax Pocket Malden with Filofax One Day per Page inserts for my daily planning, supplemented with a separate section of Filofax Month on Two Pages for overview planning.

This has been working fine, although I find it ridiculous that despite several other planner brands (Day Timer, Day Runner, Franklin Covey to name a few) providing for a tabbed monthly overview that can be used directly with each month’s daily planning pages, Filofax refuses to. In fact, their pages are printed back to back, so one cannot effectively hack a way to tab out the months, period.

Although it releases annual updates to its high-end, costly planner binders, Filofax insert calendars have been essentially the same since dinosaurs walked the earth. Also knows as the 80’s.

But I digress…

My Filofax system had been working just fine and I do enjoy that I can take the small Pocket size planner virtually anywhere with me, in any handbag, due to its compact size – and there is no denying that the Malden line with its scrummy vintage buffalo leather is mind blowing and reality altering all in one.

However, as Q1 became a thing of the past, I realized that a few key factors were lacking and, not only were they lacking, but they were niggling at me:

1. I really missed having the month tabbed for easy reference, right there with the daily pages at hand.  Turns out I used that quite a bit for very broad planning items such as recurring meetings, paydays, bills, etc. Items I don’t want redundantly all over my planner. Having the monthly pages relegated to a separate section somehow made them too much of a pain in the ass to use.

2. The Pocket Filofax is highly portable, yes, but the pages are also very, very small. See reference to zany, loopy handwriting above.

I had been writing appointments on the left side of the page and my To Do items on the right.  The small page size meant that a single To Do item typically used up several lines, and virtually no detail could be recorded with appointment items, lest it run to the next (or the next after that) hourly tick. Vexing. Messy. No good.

3. Since the beginning of the year, I have been keeping a separate daily Gratitude/Positive Thought list. As the year progresses I have committed to adding more and more things to each day’s list.  This book stays at home on my coffee table.  Quite often, however, I think of things to add while I am out and about and I end up jotting them down willy nilly in my planner.  I found myself wishing I had room in my planner to add this list to each corresponding day, so that when I look back over any given day for the year, I can see if and how the two influenced one another. Pretty neat idea, huh?

Long story short, I decided that, although the portability factor is indeed very cool, I wanted more space.

Although I adore Filofax binders, as I have mentioned I really do find their inserts to be lacking. My favorite inserts of all time are Franklin Covey. I like the quality of the paper, I practically pee myself over their Prioritized Daily Task List on each day, and I crave the…say it with me…tabbed months.

Trouble is, Franklin Covey Compact size inserts are approximately 1/2″ wider than the corresponding Filofax Personal pages, so while one can use FC inserts in a FF binder, they stick out pretty far and quite often having the pen in the pen loop will get in the way or cause the tabs to bend, or some such annoying thing when you have mega OCD like I do.

One thing I really dug aesthetically about the Filofax Pocket (that is not shared by the Personal size) is the fat/square factor. A nice, full FF Pocket is almost perfectly square (almost – truth is, it’s an inch off) and fat like a puppy’s belly. Think about it.

Filofax Personal…meh. Very rectangular.

Due to the page size being wider, Franklin Covey binders in Compact size also have that fat/square thing going on;  being about one inch off from perfectly square.

Thing is, I seriously don’t care for many of their binders. Most zip – I hate that – and the leather isn’t nearly as nice as a Filofax.  Sorry FC, it simply is not.  Yet they are still pretty pricey in their own right.  Right now there is one Compact binder on the FC website that I could tolerate, but $80 is steep to merely tolerate.

I have a FC Compact binder, of course I do, from a previous lifetime when I used their products.  I probably switched due to my inability to collect FC thanks to their selection. Or lack thereof. Who knows really. I certainly don’t and it’s my own brain we’re talking.

Anyway, it is black leather (decent leather, thankfully), has a snap closure, a cute neutral flowered interior, a stretchy pen loop and adequate pockets. I forget the model…it is several years old and you can’t get it anymore.

Long story long, I ordered up some 2011 Day on Two Page Original refills for the sucker and made the executive decision to do a Q2 switch.

They arrived yesterday and the re-copying of the entire year (including the year to date of my Gratitude/Positive list…can you say hand cramp) thus far has now officially commenced.

You know me, I obsess until stuff gets done. I should be fully re-copied by tomorrow.

Insights so far:

1. Love, love, love the larger page size as well as the layout. Having the entire right page for Daily Notes allows plenty of room for my happy list and anything else I feel compelled to write down. I know it has only been one day, but I find I am stretching out into the added room and jotting a lot more details about my day.

2. Totally missed the FC paper. The Original refills have a pale green/white coloring that is very easy on the eyes. The feel is that of a more substantial weight and it does not bleed through.

3. This binder isn’t so bad. Does it have the trendy, yuppie factor of Filofax? No. But the ring capacity is also greater so it holds more pages and it is undeniably fat & square, which somehow makes up for the lack of British coolness.

And, should I come to eschew fat/square for retro 80’s chic, the whole shebang will fit into my Personal Malden if it must. Eventually, it probably will, who am I kidding?

Once again I find myself stuck in the middle between these two.  In the stage of hell I like to call FiloFrank.

Check out the Flickr set here.

I love Filofax, I do.  For everything except their inserts. And I really don’t care for Franklin Covey; not the (IMO) sub-par binders nor the cult like manner in which they imply theirs is the only way to plan. But I cannot deny that their calendar inserts are what roll my socks up and down.

Sigh.

I’m sick of all the constant switching around and re-copying, for reals.  I’m sure you are too. I know I’m not the only one who does it. We need to get tee-shirts made or something. Seriously.

Perhaps the lesson is that, just as life is not a static thing, planning is not either. And perhaps just as we don’t unreasonably expect life to be perfect, we should not expect our planning system to be.

No one thing ever remains that same one thing for very long. Change is life and life is change.  Like all things that exist, we as well as our planners, can be no more than a work in progress.  An evolution.

Maybe the best we can do is simply continue to adapt.

And learn to ice our hands…

What Were You Expecting?

In case you find yourself wondering why you are here…reading this blog, not like the bigger, existential question of what your purpose is on this planet – I’m good but I’m not that good…here are some things you can expect to find me blathering on about in my little corner of the blogosphere:

  • Planning/organizing systems:  I am one of those trendy über nerds who, despite being thoroughly wired in, also carry a leather  day planner filled with high quality paper and a ridiculously expensive pen with which to write in it.  Being a collector, I have a lot of ’em.  Also being somewhat neurotic, I tend to switch in and out of planner brands and formats at the whim of season, fashion and/or mood.  For some reason, I will assume you will be as excited to read about this as I am to write about it.
  • My weight: I am woman, hear me unwrap a whoopie pie. I have been gaining and losing the same 10 pounds since college. Sometimes I win the battle of the bulge, sometimes the bulge wins (and brings friends). Problem is, I love food, wine and socializing and all the eating, drinking, going out and sleeping in the day after tends to cut into my gym time.  Who am I kidding…what gym?  Some day I hope to blog about embarking on a healthier lifestyle. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you, however.
  • iThings:  I have an iPhone, an iPad, several iPods and iLovethem.  So from time to time when I stumble across a thrilling new app or one of my iDevices affects my life in some profound way, you may find yourself wondering why you are bothering to read about it. But you’ll read it anyway because by then you will have become addicted to my wry humor and pithy insights.
  • Men:  ‘Nuff said.
  • Whatever I think is humorous, important, vexing, unimaginably stupid, heartwarming, heart-wrenching or inspiring going on in the world. Or my world.  Whatever. These are the bits that will no doubt piss people off.  Look at me…do I look like I care?

So throw off your expectations, sit back, relax and enjoy. I won’t promise you knowledge, enlightenment or an expanded world view.  But I can promise you this…

…it will never be dull.