Overheard, 12/05/2014

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Back when we lived in the suburbs, I never liked walking anywhere. The library was at the end of our street, about the equivalent of four city blocks away (but it being the suburbs, it was two long blocks). Do you think I ever walked there? Hah! Maybe ten times in the seventeen plus years we lived there. I always drove, usually on my way back from somewhere or on my way to somewhere.

But ever since we moved to the city, I’ve been walking everywhere, and I’ve been walking not so much because I’m thrifty and want to save on subway and streetcar tokens (although there is that, too) and not even so much because it’s sometimes the only exercise I get, but mainly because I really really like going for walks in the city.

It’s got something to do with the crowds of people, the different buildings, the life that’s all around me. I’m as fond of green space as anyone else, but still, there’s something about a busy city sidewalk that sings to me.

Not to mention the things I overhear. With my overactive imagination, it’s so much fun to take the thingsI hear while walking and spin some fun stuff with it.

Overheard #1

A man and a woman, walking in front of me. He’s wearing a beige suit, she’s in a spring-coloured dress, her hair in a ponytail. I’m a fast walker, and they’re meandering along, the way friends do when they’re busy chatting, so I overtake them and soon they’re behind me. And that’s when I hear this:

Man: They took out the chief executive who made the decision, too.

Woman: Really?

Man: Yes. Two shots to the head.

Seriously! I’m not making this up. I would really love to know what they were talking about.

Overheard #2

Two men are walking just ahead of me. Man #1 is tall, wearing a black leather jacket and jeans. Man #2 is short, wearing a blue shirt and khaki brown pants. From the back, they look young to me, early to mid-twenties. We’re in the financial district, so they look a little out of place among all the suits (and so do I, for that matter) – or dressed for Friday casual, although it’s not Friday. They’re walking at a nice fast clip, so they stay in front of me. These words drift back to me:

Man #1: Okay, so I guess we should talk about the whole divorce thing.

Man #2: Yeah.

Man #1: The money. You don’t think she will, but if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to watch the money. The money will get you every time.

Overheard #3

This happened about a month ago, but it was such a strange thing to say, and I’ve been wanting to mention it in a post. I was walking behind this woman who was walking and talking quite loudly on the phone.

Woman: So the party’s going on, and then he shows up and guess what? He forgot to bring the IUD.

And no, I didn’t hear wrong. At least, I don’t think so. She was talking quite loudly, and that’s what I heard her say.

I have such fun thinking up the different scenarios that might give some sense to the things I overhear!

The Fidget Fitness Experiment

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I was reading the post The Monitored Man in the New York Times the other day, in which writer Albert Sun discussed the different activity trackers he’s been testing out, and I noticed this interesting tidbit:

But even the best tracker can’t recognize all of your movements. As I sit writing this, my wrists are motionless, but my leg is tapping to music. My activity trackers don’t seem to notice — fidgeting won’t be reflected in the calorie counts they show me. That’s too bad, because there’s an interesting body of research suggesting that a propensity to fidget is one reason lean people stay lean.

Intrigued, I clicked on the link about lean people staying lean, which talked about a study conducted by Dr. James Levine in which it was discovered lean people had a tendency to fidget and pace around, and this might be what keeps them lean. What really interested me? This fidgeting and pacing has the potential to burn about 350 calories per day, without trips to the gym!

I Googled around a bit, and discovered fidgeting and pacing are known as NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis: “the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting.”

This was getting more and more interesting.

Until about five years ago, I was one of those people who could eat whatever they wanted and not gain an ounce. In fact, some of my most painful years in adolescence revolved around the whole issue of being too skinny and not being able to gain weight.

When I started gaining weight five years ago, I felt quite cheerful about it. For one thing, clothes shopping became much more pleasurable; clothes actually fit me, and I could stop frequenting the teenage-style stores I’d had to resort to before.

It was around that time I stopped fidgeting and pacing. I’d made a concerted effort to stop doing so, although I can’t remember why. I didn’t stop completely – when in the middle of a particularly stressful deadline, you could almost be guaranteed to find me sitting in front of the computer with my right leg jiggling frantically up and down. But most of the time, whenever I sat, I stayed still.

Since then, I’ve gained more weight than my body feels comfortable with. Even when I was really thin, I had some years when I didn’t exercise regularly, during which I felt unfit – I’ve always judged my personal fitness by how much huffing and puffing I do when I take the stairs. With the extra weight, I’ve been failing the huff and puff test consistently.

So I’ve been on the fitness bandwagon on and off the past few years. I try to exercise regularly, but I’m just not one of those people who enjoy exercising very much. When the weather is nice, I walk a lot, and there are about three months of the year when I actually enjoy running outside. The problem is, I don’t like running when it’s too hot. Or too cold. As Goldilocks says, it has to be just right. Unfortunately, living in Toronto, Canada, means there are many months when it’s snowy and icy and about two to three months when it’s heat wave weather. In other words, I’m sedentary a lot more than I want to be.

Apparently, the tendency to fidget and pace is something you’re born with. Since I had been a fidgeter and pacer up until about five years ago, I wondered if I could re-develop the habit and perhaps enhance my fitness levels. Engaging in more NEAT activities won’t take the place of a daily workout, I know, but it seems like something that fits snuggly in the “surely it can’t hurt” category.

So I’ve been trying to be more aware of those times when I’m sitting and sedentary, and reminding myself during those times, “now’s a good time to do some fidgeting.” When I’m sitting on the couch reading, I’ve been doing leg lifts. At the computer, I bounce my legs up and down (I’ve been doing this ever since I sat down to compose this post). I’m planning on trying out a standing desk using some file boxes, and if it turns out I can actually type comfortably on my laptop while standing, I’m going to make this standing desk IKEA hack.

Have fidgeting and pacing come back naturally to me? Before today, I would have given you a cautious, “yes, I think so.” But something today cinched it for me. My sister called me on the phone, and I talked to her for an hour and forty-five minutes (you’ve had those kinds of calls, right?). It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized, I’d been pacing back and forth during the entire conversation.

It made me wish I had a Fitbit or some other activity tracker to give me credit for all those steps!

I found more ideas for incorporating NEAT exercises into your every day life here. I especially like the idea of doing strength-training exercises while you’re sitting – as a reader, I do a lot of sitting when I’m reading. Who knew that raising your heels while seated works out the muscles in the lower leg?!

I’m not sure whether my fidgeting fitness plan will have any particularly noticeable effects. But fidgeting is something I do naturally, so why not put it to good use, right?

My Two-Minute Super Bowl Sunday

Muted light gives the place a warm, intimate feeling common to the best pubs; its glow is a soft, all-encompassing glow, a welcoming gleam that blends everyone together. Happy, contented people fill the room; the noise is more than a din, less than a roar.

I perch on a tall bar stool, comfortably placed next to a wide ledge that’s just the right size for my wine glass and a couple of appetizers snagged from the trays offered by the passing wait staff. It’s hot in here, but not hot enough to feel oppressive.

It’s a scene, I imagine, that’s being played in bars and pubs across North America on this Super Bowl Sunday. With one exception: images flicker across the screen of the large television hanging on the wall, but no sound emerges; its volume has been turned off. A glance around the room reveals no-one is giving the television any attention.

And then, suddenly:

“Quiet, everyone!” The voice rises above the noise; it holds authority and more than an edge of excitement. The crowd gives a soft murmur, and the noise dies down.

Someone turns the volume on the television up, louder and louder.

It’s the Super Bowl.

All eyes in the room turn to the screen, and there is an expectant hush as the camera zooms in on the beautiful, smiling blonde woman.

Renée Fleming begins to sing the American national anthem. The room is soft with the silence, its collective breath held as Fleming’s voice soars effortlessly. When she hits and holds that second-to-final high note there are many, many cheers. And when it’s all over, the room erupts with even more cheers, with whistles, with “bravas”.

Someone mutes the television again. The din returns. The game has begun, and once more, the images flicker silently across the screen. No-one is watching.

That, my dear friends, was how I spent my Super Bowl Sunday this year. The afternoon had started with the opening performance of the Canadian Opera Company’s The Masked Ball (Un ballo in maschera), in which my ten-year-old son, Dylan, has a small role as a supernumerary. Afterward, we headed over to the after party held at Fionn MacCool’s, a pub across the street from the Four Seasons Centre, where the Canadian Opera Company performs.

Yesterday was the first time an opera singer has sung the national anthem at the Super Bowl. And I had the pleasure of experiencing that historic moment in the company of a crowd of professional opera singers. It was absolutely priceless, a moment I will always remember.

What about you? How was your Super Bowl Sunday? Did you watch the game or do something else?

A (Sort of) Bookish Blast From the Past

Earlier last week, my sister Dawn posted a couple of pictures to Facebook that were definitely a bookish blast from the past.

Well, sort of. Because, unfortunately, I have no memories of giving her this book:

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Dawn also posted a picture of the post-it note I’d stuck inside:

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The note did jog some memories. I still don’t remember actually buying this book for my sister, who would have been in her mid-teens at the time (the "at school" bit means I was in university). But I do remember strolling through a huge book sale at one time or other during my university years – in my mind’s eye, I can see these long tables stacked with books, in a large room somewhere. I think the book sale might have been held at University College at the University of Toronto, which is my alma mater, but my memories of the event are terribly vague so I’m not very certain about that.

What makes me laugh, though, is this, from my note: "It’s kind of tattered, but it’s really old."

I obviously was worried my teenaged little sister would unwrap her gift and go, "Ugh. Why did Belle get me a used book?" So I was already protesting in advance – Yes, it’s tattered, but Dawn, that’s just because it’s really really old!

What possessed me to buy an old book of Tennyson’s poems for my sports-loving little sister who wasn’t really hooked on reading, I don’t know. But it’s sweet that she still has the book – and that she kept my little note!

These days, though, Dawn is a reader, so maybe somehow that younger me saw this happening, and knew Tennyson’s poems would be something she’d treasure one day …

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

I have this funny feeling most of my posts this month will be about goals, intentions, resolutions – all those things you want to change in your life that suddenly start popping up with real frequency and intensity at the start of the new year.

I’m starting to see that, if I realize every single one of the numerous potential changes I’ve been playing around with, my entire life would be very very different. Different for the better, of course.

This hasn’t happened to me in past years, at least not with the same kind of intensity, but I do know why it’s happening now. It’s that old adage, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. And never has this adage been so clear to me as it is right now, this moment – and frankly, in all the moments since 2014 started being a lot closer than “next year”.

This year I really have to get out of my comfort zone, mainly because it’s become more and more obvious that my comfort zone actually won’t be that comfortable for too much longer.

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There are so many things on my want-to-do list that have nothing whatsoever to do with maintaining my current life as it is. (See how I’m still ambivalent? I can’t quite call it a “to-do” list, because that implies I actually intend to do these things.)

Partly, it’s because things in my current life are changing, especially in the work arena (well, okay, mostly in the work arena), and I have to adapt to these changes, and partly, it’s because the things I want to do have been things I’ve wanted to do for a very long while, but up until now, I couldn’t resist the safe feeling of the comfort zone.

It’s time to really shake things up. I feel daring right now, and all I have to do is keep feeling daring. It sounds so simple when I put it like that. “All I have to do is …”

A funny thing. I actually sat down to write a post about sticking to a blogging schedule, and it morphed into this.

(By the way, I really did step out of my comfort zone with this post. I created the Neale Donald Walsh picture quote  above, using PicMonkey. It wasn’t as hard as I’d been thinking it would be.)

What about you? Do any of your new year intentions or resolutions or goals take you out of your comfort zone?

The Gift

This is my contribution to the 2013 Virtual Advent tour. When Marg and Kelly gave me my date – Friday the 13th! – I wasn’t sure what I was going to write. And then, this week, I knew exactly what I would write.

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This is Hobbes. He joined our family four weeks ago, a much awaited little brother for Creeper, who’s getting so big now. Hobbes hasn’t been a part of our family for very long, but he’s wiggled his way easily into our hearts.

A week ago Friday, after he’d been with us just three short weeks, Hobbes got sick. He was throwing up and had very severe diarrhea. The vet gave him a subcutaneous injection of fluids to deal with the dehydration, and took some blood for sampling. We had a very worrying couple of days, as Hobbes grew more and more lethargic.

By Saturday night, I knew there was a chance we might lose him. He was only eighteen weeks old, and two days was a long time for a kitten so young to be so sick. Visions of all the things that could be wrong with him – an obstruction from something non-edible he might have eaten, genetic kidney problems, various fatal feline viruses – danced in my head.

I didn’t want to think about a Christmas without him.

I was supposed to go to a Christmas party that night, but I stayed home instead. I Googled around and found a recipe for homemade Pedialyte, or “oral dehydration salts”. I prepared a batch and syringe-fed it to Hobbes, as well as leaving it out in the cats’ water bowl. I also switched his diet to one of plain chicken pureed with more of the homemade Pedialyte.

And on Sunday morning, he woke me up – to feed him! He was feeling hungry again, and while he wasn’t anywhere near his usual perky kitten self, he was definitely much better than he’d been the night before. He had drunk the entire bowl of homemade Pedialyte some time during the night. And he hadn’t thrown up the chicken mixture.

Long story short, he’s now almost back to 100%. We’re pretty sure the culprit is an allergy to fish – we hadn’t realized until that weekend, but all the flavours of the brand of cat food we were feeding him contained fish of some kind. I’d noticed, too, that one of his eyes would get all weepy after I syringe-fed him a mixture of his cat food and water. The same hadn’t happened when I syringe-fed him the chicken mixture.

That Saturday was a terrible, terrible day, but Sunday brought me an extra early Christmas gift.  I hear him running like mad through the apartment, wrestling with Creeper, meowing plaintively at his food bowl when he’s hungry, and I smile. I am so very, very grateful.

I can think about Christmas again. Creeper and Hobbes’ first Christmas with us.

And Creeper’s pretty happy to have his little playful brother back again.

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Bullet Journal: Two Month Update

It’s been a couple of months since I started a new planner/notebook system based on the Bullet Journal method. When I first discovered the system, I knew I’d found something that just might actually work for me – which was quite a big deal, because while I love the idea of a planner, I’ve never been able to really stick with anything other than remembering to put my work deadlines into Google Calendar.

I can say now that I’ve definitely found the system for me. I know this for a fact because after eight weeks of extremely heavy work deadlines, weeks during which nearly every waking moment had to be applied to whatever assignment was due next, I found myself still using the Bullet Journal. And not as a daily calendar, either.

I’ll likely continue tweaking how I use my journal, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far. Your use of the Bullet Journal method will definitely be different, because it is ideally suited for customization, and you really can’t use it without customizing it to your individual needs.

The Monthly Stuff

Mid-November, I realized the regular monthly calendar pages weren’t working for me, mainly because I use Google Calendar for entering all important dates and deadlines, and even though I dutifully logged in everything at the beginning of the month, I rarely needed to consult those pages, since I have access to my calendar on both my PC and on my phone.

One thing I’ve never been good at doing consistently, though, is keeping to a daily journal. At the start of this year, I bought one of those tiny Moleskine daily planners, thinking surely I’d be able to fill the small space for each day easily. Didn’t work. But I’m thinking now it might work in my planner. So I created a December Diary page, and plan to write just one quick line per day – kind of like a very simplified diary.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. I’d like to develop a consistent, daily gratitude practice. So I also created a December gratitude page. Here’s what they look like (They’re still blank. Which is my way of saying I haven’t yet gotten the "consistent" daily practice part of either the diary or the gratitude page down yet.)

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Chains

Another thing which has worked really well for me is my "chains" page. Basing it on Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity method, I created a page for November where I could create my chains. Seinfeld used his chain method to get himself writing daily, which was my number one priority (and for most of November, I did, until I got to the stage where I had to do more research. And I’m still at the stage where I have to do more research), but I also use the method for other good habits I want to maintain.

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(The "W" under E – for exercise – means I walked, instead of doing an exercise routine. I’m a little hazy as to why some of the squares have both an X and a W in them. And as you can see, I’ve been woefully behind on reading since October. The L is for litter box – see below – and it’s unmarked for those first seven days of October not because I didn’t clean the litter box for a week (!), but because I didn’t get the idea of using a chain for it until a week into the process.)

The two previous months I had chains for writing, reading, meditation and exercise, but this month, I added a research chain and an ideas chain.

"Dones"

My "dones" are based loosely on the chain method. These are chores that I need to keep track of, but which I might not do on a daily basis. When we had just the one kitten, cleaning the litter box was one such chore – I tried to clean it every other day. Now, with two kittens, it’s more of a daily thing so probably could be a regular chain, but I still lump it with the "dones". Clipping the kittens’ nails is another "done". With this method, I can see at a glance when I last did something.

Special Pages

Many of the pages in my planner system are "special pages" – meaning, I wouldn’t be able to tell you today what new pages I might add over the next few weeks. It’s a "whatever comes to mind" thing, and this is where the Bullet Journal method shines for me. When I get an idea for a new page, it’s as simple as turning to the next blank spread and starting whatever new page I need. For example, I woke up one morning from an extremely vivid and exciting dream, so I started a "Dreams" page. Haven’t added any more dreams since, but it’s there, waiting, for the next vivid dream I want to remember.

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Finding Pages

The index that you create at the front of your Bullet Journal is meant to help you find things in your journal, but I thought of an even better idea for finding those pages I use frequently: corner bookmarks! I love making these little things, but almost never use them because I’m one of those people who like to (yes, confession time) dog-ear book pages to remember my place in them. But they’re perfect for keeping track of frequently used pages!

The best instructions I’ve found for making your own corner bookmarks is here, courtesy of this post at Book, Line and Sinker.

So this is where I’m at so far after two months with the Bullet Journal method. I anticipate I’ll be putting my planner to a lot more use once I’m out of this crazy, busy work season (about mid-December, I’m hoping). I keep calling it my planner, but with the Bullet Journal system, it’s become more than just a planner. It’s my Everything Book, really.

Productivity, Here I Come: Starting a Bullet Journal!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I posted about my to-do list conundrum. I’m a lot busier these days, and I’ve been desperate to find a single journal/planner/to-do list method that would work for everything. Something I could use for work, for personal things, for my writing WIPs – for my LIFE, basically.

I couldn’t find a single productivity app or method that seemed capable of doing what I needed it to do. When I wrote the post, I’d decided to just go back to the DIY planner I’d made last year, as it was in a nice Moleskine and was still partially blank. And I would just date stamp the pages and put my to-do lists on there.

I had lovely comments on that post, some of them with great suggestions. I really liked Bernadette’s description of how she uses Remember the Milk (RTM), so I set up an account there, and downloaded the app. (I love the way you can have repeat tasks on RTM that are based on a time period "after" you last performed the task – their example was, "clean out fridge three months after cleaning out the fridge", which I thought would be pretty awesome for a lot of household chores.)

But RTM didn’t work as well for me because of all my lists. Not to-do lists, but just lists of things, whatever things happened to be on my mind. I do that list thing a lot, you see. And you definitely can use RTM to make lists, but on the iPhone app, if there’s no set due date for an item (which I wouldn’t have on a "books to read" list, for example), you have to choose "never" and I didn’t really like the sound of "never".

So I searched around for some list apps for the iPhone, figuring I’d just use that in conjunction with RTM and Google Calendar (with which RTM syncs really nicely) and ended up downloading an app called Quick Drafts, which has the ability to turn any list you make on it into a to-do list.

And there I was, all set to be super productive. And guess what? It didn’t work. There were too many pieces to my system and the only thing I really used was Google Calendar because I’ve got so many deadlines and I find some days I’m having to scare myself into working by pulling up a monthly view of my calendar and staring at it.

Then, this past weekend, I came across this: the Bullet Journal. I actually discovered it when I was searching (yet again) for a productivity app on my iPhone. One of the apps I was looking at included a line from someone’s review in the description, and the review said something like, "If you use the Bullet Journal method, this might be an app you could use in conjunction with it."

That had my head spinning. Bullet journal method? What the heck was that? So then of course I had to Google it, and I found the site, and I watched this video:

And I was hooked. I was so hooked I spent another couple of hours searching Google to see how others had implemented the system, because it’s such a flexible system and I was in the mood for more tips and ideas. Unfortunately, not too many people seem to have written about their own personal implementation of the method.

I did come across some cons of the system, like not being able to plan ahead, but honestly, I plan to do forward planning in my bullet journal and it seems easy enough. I figure when I have something that comes up in the next month, I’ll just add that month’s page right then and there, even if it might be a few weeks away. Since the index is the fabulous thing that holds the bullet journal system together (and you can imagine how much I love that, being a professional freelance indexer and all), all I’d have to do is add that month to the index and away I go. If I got at all concerned about being able to find the various monthly calendar pages (I probably won’t, but anyway …) I’d just highlight them in the index.

Anyway, I was so thrilled and excited by the Bullet Journal method, I immediately rooted through my stash of notebooks to see if I had just the right thing. Only to discover I didn’t have a blank Moleskine of the type that I wanted – the hardcover squared, in large (which is about 5" X 7"). So I ordered it then and there.

And it just arrived today!

I will be happily occupied getting my life completely organized over the next few days. (Well, I’d settle for nearly completely organized. Actually, who am I kidding? Even partially organized will do.) I even plan to do bullet-point journaling in it. I’m really hoping the Bullet Journal method is exactly what I’m looking for. One place for all those notes, lists, scribbles, ideas, thoughts, to-dos and events. Plus Google Calendar, of course.

Our Week of Opening Nights: ‘La Bohème’ and ‘Peter Grimes’

A week of opening nights. Or at least, that’s what it feels like.

August and September were the months of rehearsals, and October is the month of performances. With both Ward and Dylan having supernumerary parts (ie non-singing) in two different Canadian Opera Company productions, our calendar looks pretty wild!

Here is Ward in costume for La Bohème. He’s the one on the left – and he looks very different here than he does in real life!

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There are twelve performances, so if you’re in Toronto during October, dinner and La Bohème would make a great night out. La Bohème opens on Thursday, October 3.

Dylan plays one of the fishing village boys in the COC production of Peter Grimes. It’s quite a tragic tale, and a very powerful and intense experience (there’s a scene in Act III that always sends shivers down my back when I’ve watched it during rehearsals).

Here’s Dylan with the other "super" boys, and tenor Ben Heppner, who plays the title role:

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And here’s Dylan in costume for the church scene (he’s the one in the middle). I’m not sure if he’ll have the hat on for the performances, as he didn’t wear it in the most recent rehearsal:

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And in his non-Sunday, running around clothes:

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One of the best things about Dylan’s involvement in Peter Grimes has been hearing him sing, when he comes home from a rehearsal, some of the lines that Ben Heppner sings as Peter Grimes. Dylan’s one of the understudies for the role of John, the boy apprentice, so he’s had a great opportunity to watch and listen to Heppner – and it turns out he has quite the musical memory. I’ve watched far more of the rehearsals than he has, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to sing any of the lines for you! (Well, aside from a little ditty where the chorus sings "John’s a fisherman, John’s a fisherman" …)

Peter Grimes opens on Saturday, October 5. Another great opera to catch if you’re in the mood for opera in October!

The To-Do List Conundrum

I’ve always been fascinated by planners and productivity blogs and things like that. I’ve even given GTD (Getting Things Done) a try. And nothing’s ever "worked" for me before.

Now I know why.

Last year, I went the DIY way and made my own planner, which I used to a certain extent before my excitement about being productive fizzled away. The reason, I’ve realized, is this:

I never really had a whole lot of different things to do.

Not that I wasn’t busy, because I was, especially with all the indexing I was doing. But back in the day, my to-do list tended to be the same every single day: Index. Write. Exercise. That was it.

No wonder I got bored with my planner.

But now, here we are, and boy, has my life changed. In other words, I am busy, really busy, but unlike the busy-ness of before, when I’d be swamped by a deluge of indexing deadlines, I’m busy doing a lot of different things. There’s still the indexing, but now also the freelance writing and blogging, plus the marketing required for this new branch of my business. And the personal side of life, which has been really heating up, since both Ward and Dylan are in upcoming Canadian Opera Company performances. Not to mention the fiction writing, which still obsesses me but now that I’ve gotten back into a daily writing habit, it’s not an obsession that’s frustrating any more, thank goodness.

Last week, I took a look at all the things I had to do each day – big things, little things, important things, not so important things – and I knew I had to get a handle on it all.

But the big conundrum: electronic or paper?

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I’d been using the Carrot To-Do app for a few weeks. It’s a fun app to use (there’s nothing like being called a "lazy human" by your productivity app) and after a while, you realize you really don’t want to make Carrot upset at you. But I was finding I needed more than an app that lets you list and prioritize your to-do’s, no matter how much fun the app was to use.

I downloaded a couple of other to-do list apps, but they just didn’t feel right to me. A planner/to-do list system is just so personal to each user, I think, and no amount of tweaking worked for me.

So why not print? Well, the thing I’ve discovered is this: I almost always have my phone with me, even when I’m at home (which I usually am during the day, although at night i can often be found shepherding Dylan to and from his many different activities.) To make a to-do list function well for me, I absolutely have to have what I’m using close by at all times.

But I really like paper-based systems. I like the feel of my pen writing things down on the paper, and if that paper happens to be gridded, I’m even happier. But unlike my phone, if I use a paper planner I won’t always have it on me.

Or would I?

I decided, finally (last night, actually) that it’s just a matter of developing a new habit. I can have my written to-d0 list right in front of me when I need it, as long as I make it a habit to always having it nearby. Right?

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So I found that DIY planner I’d created last year, and I opened it to the first blank page (I’d used up about a third of the book last year). I stamped a date on each open spread, starting with today’s date (I stamped about two weeks’ worth of spreads) and then I put a "must get done today" list on the right hand side of the first spread, and a running to-do list of things I’d like to get done but which aren’t urgent, on the left hand side.

There’s room for doodles, and I plan to draw a box and brainstorm ideas every night, too. The book is a sturdy Moleskine with gridded pages (yay!) and although it’s hardbound, it’s not so heavy that I’ll feel like I’m carrying an elephant on my shoulder when I stick it into my handbag.

It’s here in front of me as I write this blog post (on the list for today: "write blog post" – hah! You see? It’s working already!).

We’ll have to see how it goes.

What about you? What kind of planner/to-do system do you use? I’d love to hear about your methods, since I’m still tweaking the one I’m using!