Tag Archives: productivity

Settling In

I am finally—FINALLY!—feeling settled in. I moved into my new place at the end of January, and since then it’s been a madhouse of unpacking and keeping on top of my work deadlines, which have not slowed down at all. They’ve actually expanded, because on top of everything else I’ve been branching out and diversifying my services.

The first few days after the move were more on the depressing side—lack of sleep, coupled with the mess of tons of boxes. My new place is much smaller compared to my past homes, and with the clutter of so many boxes (because … books, right?) it was tough to even find a pathway from the living room to the kitchen!

But I persevered, and unpacked. And unpacked some more. And then some more.

The end result? I’ve decided a minimalist lifestyle is very much to my liking. I ended up giving away boxes and boxes of books, and I’ve also come up with a couple of new rules for myself:

  1. For every print book I buy, I must giveaway TWO from my shelves.
  2. Every month I will go through my bookshelves and pick books to donate or give away.

I ended up getting my living/dining room (it’s all one and the same, rather small, space) cleaned up, and I love it! But I will need to keep my eye on clutter, because I’ve noticed the moment I start heaping books and papers on my coffee table or the dining room table, the place doesn’t feel quite so cozy any more.

On top of that, I managed the feat of clearing/unpacking the living room by lugging all unpacked boxes up to my bedroom/office. These are the “difficult” boxes, filled with papers and miscellaneous things for which I have absolutely no room, so the plan is to slowly go through them one by one, while at the same time brainstorming and implementing some sort of filing system that will accommodate what I need it to accommodate. Plus there will be a whole lot of shredding going on …

And what I am I looking forward to?

  • The implementation of new habits and routines
  • Getting back to reading
  • Getting back to writing
  • Getting back to blogging

Most of all, I’m eager to start blogging about my reading again. And to kick things off, here’s what’s on my currently reading list right now:

Elegance

Elegance, by Kathleen Tessaro. This is a reread for me, one of the books on my comfort reading list. This may seem like a strange choice for those of you who know me and my reading tastes, as it’s neither mystery, sci-fi or fantasy, but aside from these genres, I also adore transformation/Cinderella stories. Since there is, unfortunately, no readily available genre of “transformation/Cinderella stories”, when I do find one I love, it usually ends up in my comfort reading list.

life-changing magic of tidying-up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. According to my Kobo, I’ve read about 60% of this book. It’s been helping me a lot. Not that I’ve actually been holding things in my hands and asking myself, “Does this spark joy?” (I find this doesn’t work very well with books, because I tend to say, “Yes!” to each one, read or unread). But somehow, just reading this book has made it easier for me to declutter. Things don’t feel as precious anymore, and I’m finding there’s nothing like that feeling of “letting one more thing go”.

Have any of you read Kondo’s latest, Spark Joy? I’m on hold for this one at the library, and I’m expecting great things from it.

miracle morning

The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod. I haven’t started this one yet, but I’ve heard so many good things about it. And I’m definitely in need of a new morning routine, one that will help me build fun, happy and productive days.

(Trying To) Conquer the Busy

I’m a bit of a planner nut—but I’m a planner nut who’s currently without a planner right now. And boy, do I ever need one!

I had one that was sort of working for me, a mashup of the Passion Planner (I used the free downloads) and some other bits and pieces of printables I found in various places online.

But then the summer happened. As many of you know, it’s been quite the summer for me. Big changes, endings, and new beginnings.

It’s been a lot to take in. And I’ve been doing it without the aid of a planner.

(Thank you, Google Calendar, for at least keeping me steady on my feet when it comes to deadlines!)

I’m moving at the end of the month, I’m trying to make full use of my coworking space, my son turns 12 this year so the homeschooling has to be turned up a notch, there’s work of course (plus I’ve expanded from indexing into editing), I’m starting to cook again, and then there are also all the things that have to be taken care of when a marriage breaks down, even if you are going to try and live under the same roof so you can co-parent.

It all adds up to a lot of busy. An awful lot of busy.

Despite all the busyness, I’ve come to this realization: I really have to sit down and set aside some time to put together a system that will work for all the things I have on the go right now. Because honestly, I have days where I feel like I’m drowning in “stuff I have to do/what have I forgotten to do/OMG how could I have forgotten THAT?”

It’s been all shapes of crazy, that’s for sure. So much so, last week when I was at the dollar store picking up index cards (hello, NaNoWriMo, here I come!) I also picked up a chunky little to-do list book.

Because it was braindump to-do list time. I tend to do these only when I get overly overwhelmed (which is a bit more intensity than just plain overwhelmed). And it was so nice getting all that stuff out of my head onto paper. I even felt lighter.

Now at least I’m not as worried about forgetting things. But I do need to transfer things over from the braindump to-do list onto regular planning/agenda pages.

Any suggestions out there? What are you using and loving? I need something that will accommodate my daily to-dos as well as keep me on track and motivated to work on all the projects I have. If it gives me space to track how I’m spending my time, even better. And a week at a glance for the Sundays would be awesome.

Snapshot: June 25, 2015

Time: 1:05 pm

Feeling: Revved up and motivated—yay!!

Eating & Drinking: I have fallen in love with savoury green smoothies. Last week we bought a NutriBullet blender/liquifier and I’ve been having a blast with it. I searched for savoury green smoothie recipes, then ended up making up one of my own based on seeing what other people are using in theirs.

Basically I throw in a tomato, some cucumber, a handful of cilantro, a cup of plain kefir, a quarter of a small onion, a clove of garlic, a tablespoon of flaxseed, a half a tablespoon of potato starch and salt to taste. Zap it for about a minute, and it’s the most delicious veggie drink ever. And the bonus? It’s pretty filling, so easily substitutes for a light lunch.

Reading: I’m in a reading slump. Yes, I figured I should just bold that for good measure. I think it’s because I’m feeling both productive and busy, and I’m scared if I pick up a good book, I’ll end up sucked in for hours on end.

Whatever the reason, though, I haven’t picked up either a print book or a physical book for a week, other than continuing with my reading of Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. It’s not really a “how to write” book, but rather more a memoir type book in which Highsmith describes how she came to write several of her works.

But I’m headed to the library later today to pick up some holds, so something enticing might get my out of my slump. I can hope, anyway!

Watching: On the other hand, maybe what I just wrote above about being scared that picking up a good book will blow my productivity right out of the water is just an excuse. Because I started watching season 2 of “Agents of Shield” on Netflix last night …

Listening:

audiolistensJune.jpg

I’m skipping around between a bunch of things (which is often what happens when I’m in a reading slump): Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (I have the omnibus in print version in my TBR stack—all the books in the series will be rereads for me); The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, another reread/relisten; and Bryant & May: The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler.

Writing: I’m finally working on those first 20 pages of my dark fantasy, for my summer writing workshop class with Kelley Armstrong. Memory gave a me some great developmental feedback, and my older son also read my first draft and pointed out the things which puzzled him or weren’t clear. I’ve got lots of good points to work on now, and both of them tell me what I’ve got so far is very interesting, so I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Working: I’m back on a productivity binge. I’ve decided to try doing a daily braindump to-do on Trello and so far (for today, anyway), it’s been working. Doing the braindump turns out to be quite the relief for my poor brain which has been trying to juggle everything.

And having a list of things, big and little, seems to be helping, too. I pick and choose depending on my mood. Like this blog post.

I’ve already moved several things to the “done” list, which feels great.

Kijiji: Ward and I finally got around to listing something on Kijiji—a computer desk we no longer need or use—and I can’t believe how easy the whole sales transaction went. I listed the desk late Monday night, and someone emailed us at 7:00 in the morning the very next day. The desk was gone by early afternoon!

I have a friend who recently downsized from a huge house to a condo; she had a blast selling her too-big furniture on Kijiji. She told me it becomes addictive. I can certainly see how that could happen!

So that’s been my week so far. How’s your week been? Any tips for battling a reading slump?

Saturday Random: a bit of gratitude, planner woes and cat pics

Starting today’s Saturday random with a little gratitude. This morning Dylan was sitting next to me in bed, much as we do most mornings, only no schoolwork for him as he gets the weekends off. It was just me and him. I was on my phone and he was playing with a couple of LEGO cars he’d created. He turned to me and said, “I like it when it’s just the two of us in the mornings, and the cats.” I hugged him right there and then.

Mind you, this is the same kid who woke me up at the ungodly (to me) hour of 6:45 a.m.. I’ve been so tired, I actually had to take a short nap before I started writing this post.

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Some planner woes. After a week of using the Passion Planner to track my time, I’ve come to the conclusion it won’t work for me. The reason? The planner charts the day from 6:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. As you’ve probably guessed by now, my typical day is more like 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

So now I’m on the hunt for a planner that will accommodate my typical day. I suspect now I probably won’t find it in a ready-made product (with all the stuff I read online about productivity and your morning routine, I think a 6:00 a.m. start is not only more common, but also seen as more productive). I’m hoping there’s some freelance creative person out there who’s made a really awesome planner printable to help her account for her day, a day that looks more like mine than the typical planner does.

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The requisite cat photos. Mainly because I still haven’t gotten around to designing a Saturday Random graphic yet, and the way the blog works, I need to have a graphic in each post or there will be a yucky big blank square beside the post title in my “latest posts” list on the sidebar.

Creeper says “hi”.

 Creeper says hi, sort of

And so does Hobbes

Hobbes says hi

How is your Saturday shaping up? 

Saturday Random: pens, overdue books and IRL book friends

#ProductivityTip: if you take out of your penholder all the pens you don’t like and will never use, you’ll save some time. I did this earlier this week when I cleaned up my office, and I’m amazed at how much time I save now, not having to scrabble through all those other pens to find one I like.

A really bad picture of my penholder

A really bad picture of my penholder

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I need to create a Saturday Random graphic, so I don’t inflict really bad pictures of particularly meaningless things on everyone just so the post has an image in it.

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Has this ever happened to you? I check my library books each week to see which ones have to be returned. This week, The Gift of Darkness was due back, and when I went to renew, I couldn’t. Because there are another 100+ people on hold for it.

TheGiftofDarkness.jpg

I saw that and I was like, OH! Obviously this must be a book everyone’s reading. So of course I buckled down, finished the current book I was reading, so I could get to this one before it was due. (I am incredibly vulnerable to bookish peer pressure.)

I managed to finish it last night. It was an okay book. There were some scenes in which head hopping occurred—POV changed back and forth between characters—which I always hate to see in a book (I always feel editing should catch that kind of thing). And the story was difficult to follow in places. Oh well. The book was due back yesterday but my library doesn’t open on the weekends so at least the fine will be small.

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Remember earlier this week I was so embarrassed because I’d forgotten an appointment to meet with someone I’d been introduced to through Linkedin? We rescheduled, and I finally got a chance to meet with her yesterday – and now I have an IRL bookish friend with similar reading tastes (fantasy and mystery)! Who lives just down the block from me!

It’s so exciting. I love when things like this happen. And she’s been running a sort of book club with some of her other friends, and I’ve been invited to join in on the next meeting! I believe we’ll be reading The Baker’s Boy—I’ll have to check with her on that, as I didn’t take notes and there was a great deal of wine flowing …

{2015 Goals} Goals for the other parts of life

(Update: I changed the title of this post from “Goals for the rest of life” to “Goals for the other parts of life”. As Bryan pointed out, it “Goals for the rest of life” sounds like I’m goal planning for the rest of my life, which would be pretty awesome but so not me.  I’m definitely more of a “this year my goals are” type of person (and in previous years I wasn’t even this), and not a “in three, four, ten, twenty, fifty year I see myself …” type of person. I can barely remember what I have planned for next month as it is!)

Yes, I have more goals! These are the ones that don’t fit in the two major categories of my life, reading and writing. But since this is my year of change, I figure these other, rather practical, goals are important too.

1. Take a course or a workshop.

Online or offline, it doesn’t matter. But I feel like I need to start actively learning something again. I’ve been thinking about photography courses, art courses, writing courses, pottery courses – I’m sure there are a ton of things out there just waiting to be learned. I just have to figure out what I want to learn!

2. Make chores fun.

I’ve never been a very neat or tidy person, but I’ve been finding as I get older that I tend to notice messes more than I used to. I’m not sure why that is, I only know that’s what’s happened to me. So one of the things I’d like to do is find a way to make chores more fun. I have some ideas, like these chore stickers, or using HabitRPG (which I’m going to be using for basically all of my goals).

3. Go through my clothes and get rid of every single thing I haven’t worn in the past 12 months.

I’ve been meaning to do this for ages. This summer, for example, I didn’t wear any of the summer dresses I had hanging up in my closet. And now that the weather is colder, I’m finding I’m not wearing over half of my winter clothes. I open up my dresser drawers, look inside, and it’s like the clothes in there are invisible. They just don’t feel like me any more. Which is a good thing, anyway, because we’re short of space in the condo and I only get the one chest of drawers and one side of the very small walk-in closet.

4. Let people take more pictures of me … and eventually, take a selfie!

I HATE having my picture taken. But now that I’ve been doing a lot of meditating and rocking out to Eckhart Tolle’s fabulous stuff, I’m starting to get that my dislike of the camera when it’s pointed at me is all about ego, period. So I’ve told my husband he can take more pictures of me. But he has to tell me first. And I can say, no, not now. Because it will take me a while to get used to this new habit.

And one day this year, I’m going to take a selfie. I can’t tell you how much resistance I have to this idea. But I figure I’ll take a selfie with my son Dylan, and that should count, right? I imagine I’ll need an entire year to work myself up to this one, so it’s not likely to happen until December.

5. Keep my desk uncluttered.

I lived with a cluttered desk for the greater part of this year – until I just couldn’t stand it anymore and cleaned things up. I’ve managed to keep things fairly tidy ever since and I must admit – I like it! What I’ve been trying to do is a quick tidy-up right before I go to bed. Seems to be working so far. Plus it’s an easy way to get points for HabitRPG.

Desk before and after

I posted this before and after picture on the day I embarked on my 365 days of blogging. Getting decluttered really has made a huge difference in my life! I look at the “before” part of the picture and I can’t help but shudder. How on earth did I manage to get any work done with all that STUFF piled up beside me? (My laptop sits to the left of the desk.)

6. Develop consistent social media habits.

I know this is the opposite of what a lot of people have on their goals list, which is to spend time off social media. But this past year, because of everything that was going on, I did just that, and I missed having it in my life. I also have a tendency to go through periods where I’ll be really intensely on social media ALL THE TIME, and then you won’t hear a peep out of me for weeks and even months on end.

Now that I’ve come back to social media, it’s been really lovely. Since I’m self-employed, I don’t have an office watercooler to hang around (although I’m sure most of you who work probably don’t have an office watercooler at work either, but you know what I mean). With social media, I get to interact with people and it does liven up my day. Plus, if I build it into my routine, I also won’t let it take over my life either. Consistency + moderation – that’s the key!

7. Stay motivated and productive.

I think this last goal is the key to staying focused on all my goals this year. I’ve mentioned before that 2014 was one of my most unmotivated, unproductive years. Seriously, I felt like I was going absolutely nowhere (because I was). And when things happened, I just spent a great deal of time in total reaction mode, and then when I finally slipped out of that mode, I did absolutely nothing other than meeting work deadlines.

So I’ve loaded up my Feedly with all sorts of productivity and motivation blogs. And I have a long list of productivity and motivation books on my to-read list. I’m hoping to get many of these in audio, which should make going through them a breeze. What I’ve learned this year is that the best way to stay productive and stay motivated is to read about productivity and read about motivation. It’s like getting tiny refresher courses every time.

So those are my non-bookish, non-writing goals. What about you? Did you set goals in the more practical areas of your life too?

Using Byword

I’ve been trying to get back on-track in terms of being more productive, especially right now when my work deadlines are lighter than they will be come winter. One of the things I’ve been exploring is using my iPhone to do some of the things I’d normally do with my laptop, because I’ve noticed, when I’m not working, I’m on my iPhone a lot. (I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.).

I’m developing a kind of “system” using a number of iPhone apps, and I’m finding I’m using plain text files a lot, and syncing them to Dropbox, so I can have easy access to whatever I’m working on, on a number of different devices. Because of this, I also wanted to be able to use Markdown for formatting.

Byword

After looking around on Google, I decided on Byword, a Markdown text editor for IOS that has an impressive set of features. These features include:

  • easy Markdown editing
  • Markdown preview
  • syncs with Dropbox or iCloud
  • highlighted Markdown syntax
  • several exporting options
  • premium upgrade for publishing

Premium upgrade

A premium upgrade from within the app gives you the ability to publish to Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger and Scriptogram blogs, as well as saving formatted notes to Evernote. The upgrade makes it much quicker to publish your posts,, but if you have the app for your specific blogging platform already on your device, you can just copy the HTML and paste it into the app.

What’s nice about publishing directly from the app, at least when it comes to WordPress, is that you can set your tags and categories, and also set your post status to draft if you prefer. (I’m just going by what I’ve been reading in reviews online, since I haven’t yet purchased the premium upgrade. For this post, I’m just copying the HTML and pasting it into my WordPress app.)

Images

The one thing Byword doesn’t do is upload images, which would be quite a nice feature if you’ve also purchased the premium upgrade. You can, however, use Markdown to link to an image URL. If you’re using WordPress, one workaround is to upload the image you want to use via the WordPress app and then use the image link to embed it on Byword.

Like this (I took this picture on my walk yesterday morning):

Flowers I Saw During this Mornings Walk

This is a test post

Basically, this is a test post, to see how Byword works for me when it comes to blogging. I’m really hoping it will make me more productive, both with my writing and with my blogging.

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.)

Photo 2013-12-04 1 34 51 PM

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.

Photo 2013-12-04 2 00 24 PM

(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.

Photo 2013-12-04 1 35 10 PM

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.

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?

carrot-to-do-app

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?

Photo 2013-09-23 12 52 54 PM

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!