2015 Conundrum Week Two: Traveler’s Notebook

I’m a little late getting this post up considering it’s the last week of the month, but choosing which planner I want to use this year has been more of a challenge than I initially expected.

Long story short, I’m still carrying three different planners around with me every day (The Mulberry from week 1 was ruled out).

So anyway, the second contender in my 2015 planner conundrum is a regular size Traveler’s Notebook. I started out using a standard Midori brand TN (which I do adore) but ended up switching to this lovely Gemini leather notebook cover in tan made by Chic Sparrow.

Closed

The reason I was attracted to this TN is the fact that it has four elastics in it to hold notebooks, rather than Midori’s two. If I was going to use something that incorporates bound books as my planner, I knew from past attempts and failures that I would need several layouts going at once to do the trick and the Midori wouldn’t hold everything I needed, no matter how many elastic bands I fidgeted with.

Normally, in a ring planner, I like to have a full year’s monthly view, the entire year in a weekly view, and maybe the current week (or even month, if I have the room in the rings) of dailies to view for details. The beauty of a ring planner is that I can take pages out and put pages in with ease. Not so with a bound notebook system like a Traveler’s Notebook

Fortunately, I was able to find all the refills I needed to outfit this TN from Midori. Everything of the Midori brand that you see pictured here was purchased from Baum-Kuchen.

First off, I added one of the Refill 004 Pocket Stickers to the inside front to hold small miscellaneous papers. See it there on the bottom left corner?

inside cover

Ring planners traditionally have plenty of cubby-holes and pockets, but most TNs do not, so these stick on pockets are fantastic. Next up you can see the 007 Card Holder refill. I don’t usually keep too many business cards in my planners, so I have a couple Hobonichi stencils and my Starbucks reward card in them at the moment.

An essential for me is the 020 Kraft File. Again, because your average TN lacks pockets, I use this to hold important papers, bills and the like. Dated or time sensitive stuff goes here, front and center, impossible to ignore. You can also see the front cover of the Monthly Calendar booklet  in orange. I have added a simple Post-It Self Stick Pocket to the front to hold clips and small ephemera.

kraft env

The 2015 Monthly Calendar refill is awesome, but you usually have to snap these up pretty quickly at the start of the year or they sell out everywhere. Fortunately there is also an undated version (Refill 017) that is pretty easy to find. I’m too lazy to write in my own dates though, so thankfully I was able to snag the dated one.

monthly

I use color coding to identify pay dates (green), holidays that my office is closed (yellow) and other significant days. US Holidays are not noted on these refills, so my yellow dots come in very handy. I also use blue for special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and red ones for date-dates (bow chicka wow wow!!)

The monthly refill is the whole year in one booklet. For the weeks, you get two notebooks with 6-months each (Jan – June and July – Dec). These are available as a dated 2015 Vertical Weekly Calendar, or as with the monthlies, as an un-dated version.

weekly

I only have one of the Weekly booklets in my TN currently, as I feel three notebooks at a time is about all I can stand. IF…and that is a big “if”…I added a fourth notebook, it would probably be an 002 Grid Notebook that would serve as a general capture tool (something I lack in this set up).

Oh, and I’ve also added a Hightide Page Clip Ruler from the Hobonichi store to mark my place in the weekly booklet. Mine is grey, but they also come in black, pink and blue.

Most of my detail work goes on the daily page, and on my favorite of the Midori inserts.

daily

They are Refill 005 Free Diary. I love these things! They are dated and feature a simple bar at the top for a quick title or keyword, and a spot for ticking off the day of the week. The rest is my favorite thing in the whole wide world…quadrille paper. One notebook captures two months. I use these as a day per page planner here in this notebook, and in another TN I have going I use these pages to journal on. They are wonderfully versatile.

Here is the back of the Kraft File, with more papers (though this time they are non-date sensitive) tucked into it.

kraft back

In the very back, I have the 008 Zipper Case. I’ve just got a pad of sticky notes and some calendar stickers in it for the moment. Admittedly, I went a little nuts with the pocket refills, so I don’t really need this…but I like it, so it stays.

ziplock

Just for the sake of being thorough, here is the inside back of this TN, with another Midori stick on pocket, this time 006 Pocket Sticker, added. This lovely Sparrow was customized to add a riveted on pen loop. With so many TN styles not including a pen loop, I find the fact that this one has one securely built in to be a key feature.

back pocket

In daily use, this set up almost worked for me. So close…it came SO CLOSE!

My main issue is that, although I need at various times to see monthly, weekly and daily views, I most often leave my planner of choice open on my desk to the weekly spread so that I can see on overview of what I’ve got going on all week at one quick glance. In my ringed planners, as I have discussed many times before, I  traditionally use (with great success I might add), a DayTimer Self Stick Hotlist on my Page Marker Ruler, located right in the current week, to note down a running list of my tasks.

week with sticker

With no rings, and therefore no Page Marker Ruler, I have no place for my HotList except stuck somewhere right onto the week’s page itself. This of course proves problematic in that it covers up a day (and also it leaves a sticky residue that interferes with smooth ink flow when trying to write on whatever day was under the HotList previously when I move it around).

That sounds like a simple, stupid thing to get caught up on, but believe it or not it has been quite a stumbling block to this system being a win. I am very much an “out of sight, out of mind” person with my task list, so although I do note daily tasks on the daily page on which they are due, if my book is open to the weekly spread (which it most often is during my work day) it becomes too cumbersome to flip to the necessary day and jot down or look at tasks.

Another issue I’m having is the battle to get this thing to lay flat in whatever view I happen to need. After much tweaking I figured out to put the weekly view in the middle, because that is most likely to lay flat easily with it smack dab in the middle of the book. Still, it takes some backward bending each time I open it.

Lastly, although having no rings to get in the way of my hand when writing is very nice, those sometimes-pesky rings do enable me to put in pages and take them out as needed. There is no punching and sticking stuff in my planner with this baby. Yes, I can fold papers up and tuck them into one of the plethora of pockets I’ve added….but it’s not the same. Sometimes I just flat out need to add pages for a while TO THE PLANNER ITSELF, in the rings, easily flippable and all that. But I can’t.

This and the lack of a good spot for my sticky HotList are the deal breakers I’m afraid.

Those of you who use TNs as their only planner, how do you handle situations where you need to add pages (or take them out when no longer needed) but you’re stuck with a whole booklet? And where do you track your tasks?

As a grade I would give this system a D. While I do have an inherent love for Traveler’s Notebooks and I really, really wanted this to work, sadly, this is going to have to be classified as a Fail and although I love this notebook and no doubt will find another use for it, it won’t be as my daily planner.

Right.  On to the next…

Pocket Full of….

Sunshine? Miracles? Dynamite? Seems a lot of people have pockets full of a lot of stuff.

Me…I’m going to try my hand at a Pocket full of wallet.

Gillio pocket that is.

About a month ago, I moved house. You know how it is when you move…there seems to be a never ending stream of things you need, and often you discover you need things at the precise moment you realize you need it the most.

Case in point: The dishwasher in my new apartment didn’t come with a silverware basket. When I noticed this, I thought to myself, “That’s okay…I’ll just wash these by hand.”

And then I realized I had neither a sponge nor any dish-washing liquid. Because who packs and moves sponges and dish-washing liquid, right?!

So I jotted it down on a piece of paper and went about my unpacking.

Before too long, I had a few lists going…basic pantry items I didn’t bother to move, household utility things, decoratives to look for, etc.

The next morning I trotted off to at least get the grocery and pantry items so I wouldn’t starve, but when I got into the store I discovered to my horror that I had left the list on the kitchen counter.

In the last month I have created and misplaced more shopping lists than I care to admit.

I know what you’re thinking…just put them in your planner, you daft blonde! Ah, but when I go into a shop more often than not I ONLY grab my wallet out of my handbag and bring that in (because I’m too much of a wimp to carry a big handbag AND shopping bags).

So I decided to try a pocket size planner as a wallet, and use the rings for all of my lists.

Enter this lovely Gillio Pocket Compagna in Epoca gold.

closed
This stunner was passed along to me by someone who had purchased it new from Gillio, but who could not make the size work for her.

I can’t make anything this small work for me as a planner either (and trust me, I’ve tried. More than once) but since there were to be zero planning components this time around, I thought I’d give it a go.

Open Front
The set up is simple…in the front I have my three most often grabbed cards (since there are only three card slots); My debit card, my gas card and my driver’s license. In the nifty secretarial pocket I stash receipts, and in the handy little multi pocket at the bottom, I have some stamps.

Then, as you can see, I just have a bunch of note paper for my various lists. I’m working on a new grocery one as we speak.

Open Cards
I stuck a piece of cardboard in after the note sheets to give me something stable to write on, because next come the rest of my cards.

Not bad…just three Filofax pocket size card holders did the trick.

Back Zip
The back has another secretarial pocket and a small zip pocket. I have coins in the zip pocket, and that orange thing you see tucked into the secretarial pocket is a Midori 2015 monthly calendar booklet  just in case I need to check a date or something and this is all I have with me.

Just In Case
Will I ever use it? Probably not. But for some reason it makes me feel better to have it in there. It is passport size, and I got it at Baum Kuchen.

Wallet Pocket
Aside from the zipper pocket, the other key feature that screams “wallet” to me is the nice large pocket along the back that all the Compagna models have. When I have cash (which, let’s face it, isn’t often) it will go in there.

I haven’t tested this in the field yet, but all in all just from putting it all together I have a pretty good feeling.

compare
The footprint is not really any different than the Dooney & Bourke wallet I have been using, so it won’t take up more room in my bag.

Side

Top
My one concern is giving up the security of a zip around for a snap closure. The only loose papers that go into my wallet are receipts, and I think they will be fine in the secretarial pocket…but it is nice to know when you’re out and about carrying your wallet as a clutch, that you can just zip the whole thing up and NOTHING is coming out of that sucker.

So we’ll see.

I need to find a small/short pen for it, but other than that I’m excited for my next shopping trip to give it a try. Hopefully I’ll discover that I’ve got myself a pocket full of win 😉

2015 Conundrum Week One: Mulberry Agenda

The first week of the great planner experiment of 2015 (or, let’s face it…knowing me it’s more like the first planner experiment at the very least) has been completed. This week’s contestant was the lovely  Mulberry Agenda in Oak natural veg tanned leather.

MB closed

There is absolutely no doubt that this is a gorgeous planner. The leather is thick and wonderful, its style is classic and understated and the A6 size is portable and handy.

I have this set up as a planner only…for the purposes of this four-week evaluation I am using a separate wallet so as not to convolute my decision making process more than it already is.

MB open

In the front of the planner, I have the usual ephemera of daily life…business and appointment cards, stamps, small miscellaneous papers. The stunning dashboard was made for me by the wonderful and talented Tweetiepie Collage on Etsy. She does fantastic work and although a dashboard isn’t something one technically NEEDS in a planner, personally I love having something meaningful and motivational to look at right when I open mine up each time.

Anyway, moving on to how I have been using this planner all week…

MB tabs

Since one thing I know I require out of any planning system is tabbed months (or the ability to add tabs to monthly pages), I picked up a set of Girl of All Work Peel and Stick tabs from Amazon. These are colorful and easy to read. On an A6 page I was able to create two rows of 6 months each.

My monthly pages were made by Kiddy Qualia on Etsy. They are month on four pages (similar to how Franklin Covey prints theirs) so that I could add the tabs and incorporate the weekly pages, which I’ll get to in a minute, in between the months.

I especially like them because they are printed on quadrille paper, and given the choice, everything would be on quadrille paper in my world.

MB monthThey are very clean and simple in design, which is perfect for my needs. Since I use my monthly pages as an overview, I don’t need any clutter here….I just want to have ample room to write what I need to write and get on with it, but one thing I DO need is lines. And these give me lines a-plenty. I was even able to request a Sunday start and a note column on the right or left.

Love them!

I had also purchased weekly pages from KQ, but once they arrived it became apparent that the daily blocks were unfortunately going to be too small for both my personal and work scheduling. Which was a bummer because I really like the way they look.

MB weekly

For my second try at weeklies, I went with Piaric. Typically, I do prefer the standard week on two pages layout, but  I decided to go with a custom design of two days per page. This gives me plenty of room for both personal and work scheduling. I do sacrifice the ability to see my entire week at one glance however.

(Side Note: When I moved into this size last year, I was using the Mulberry week on 2 pages inserts and they were ideal. The line spacing was perfect, the paper quality was awesome and I couldn’t have been happier. For 2015 though, they decided to go to a vertical weekly format and there is no way on this earth I can write small enough to make that work in anything less than an A5 size)

MB weeks

As you can see above, there is ample room in this format. The line spacing is wider ruled that I like, but when shopping for A6 inserts, beggars cannot afford to be choosers.

Because the ring sizing is the same as Franklin Covey pocket size, I am able to use my FC page marker ruler with a DayTimer Self-Stick Hot List  sheet tucked in it for my weekly tasks. I’ve been doing this for years in all of my various planning systems and it works really well for me.

Other than my calendar planning pages, I also have some subject tabs in this set up.

MB top tabs

Again, using sticky tabs from that Girl of All Work set I bought, I have “Schedule” (for my calendar pages), “To Do” (for general tasks that don’t need to go on my Hot List, and shopping lists), and “Notes” (for…you guessed it…notes).

The tabs are stuck to awesome dividers made by the Lady Karen Louisa (find her on Facebook in the Mulberry Appreciation Group, as I don’t think she has an Etsy shop).

colorful tabs 1

colorful tabs 2

colorful tabs 3

Isn’t the paper she used perfect with the dashboard and GOAW tabs??!! What makes them truly awesome is the fact that, on the back of each divider, she included a pocket. Win!

MB pocket

So that was the set up in Contestant #1 this week. Technically, it did work. I love Mulberry products and thanks to some extremely creative Etsy friends, this was a very enjoyable piece of kit to carry around.

There were a couple factors that consistently got on my nerves though:

1. The tiny pen loop. Normally I use a big, fat Coleto multi pen that incorporates three different ink colors and a pencil component. This allows me to schedule tentative events in pencil first, and to color code (which I do throughout my planner). But this week I had to accommodate that dinky pen loop. I used a combination of two skinny Cross products; one was a click gel pen (the robin’s egg blue one in the photos) and the other was a mechanical pencil (the black & gold one in the photos). So while I could still do my scheduling in pencil first, there would be no color coding for me this week with out my Coleto.

Could I have carried a pen bag? Sure, but normally I don’t…and frankly I didn’t want to have to start. Could I have stuck said Coleto in the MB rings? Yeah, but that is sort of a pain in the butt when you just want to pop open your planner and quickly jot something down (trust me, I tried it…it lasted about 5 minutes). Could I kluge a stick-on or clip-on pen loop somewhere? Of course, but if comparing apples to apples this week, I wanted to go on what features each planner has out of the box.

2. The lack of truly optimal weekly pages. Now don’t get me wrong, both of the weekly pages I tried were well made and for normal, non-OCD whack jobs like myself they would be fine and dandy. But I am oh-so-picky when it comes to things like font, line spacing, paper feel/writability and dammit I really liked the Mulberry weekly inserts best. The paper was white-white, the lines were a subtle grey, it felt great when turning pages, it took ink superbly and they even had those handy tear off corners so you could quickly and easily flip right to the current week. If MB had not have changed their format to stupid vertical, I more than likely would have never moved out of this planner to begin with.

3. Having to order custom, hand made inserts makes me use them very sparingly. Let’s face it, here in the US A6 is not a size you’re going to find at Staples. Things like To Do sheets, note paper, my beloved quadrille paper…all have to be custom made to order (thank goodness for Etsy!).

Mulberry itself only makes very few inserts for their Agendas; ruled note paper, plain paper, address sheets and the weekly calendar (yes, they also make a Games sheet which is glorified Hangman…but I’m talking about useful inserts here), and they are not cheap.

I have been finding myself debating whether or not something is worthy of writing down in the Notes and To Do sections because I only have so many of those sheets from Etsy and it’s only January. It’s difficult to use your planner as a capture tool if you’re worried about burning through your paper too soon. Just sayin’.

As a grade after one week I would give this system a C. It didn’t fail, but it didn’t work as a seamless organizational tool for me either.

One thing I still intend to do is take this binder to my local cobbler to see if it would be possible to integrate a piece of elastic into the pen loop to accommodate at least a Uni Style Fit (my #2 choice for a multi pen).

If MB changes back to a horizontal weekly format for 2016 I would give this another look in a heartbeat. But for now I can’t say I’m at all disappointed to move on to the next planner in contention.

Stay tuned for week two featuring the Midori Traveler’s Notebook………………..

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…