Q1 2016: Productivity/Planning Update

I keep meaning to write monthly updates but my blogging mojo has been wintering somewhere warm, apparently. So, here’s a quarterly update:

Hobonichi Techo: Still using it, still love it. I don’t miss the weekly diary format as much as I thought I would. I use a Fine nib Pilot Metropolitan pen and it works well with the Tomoe River paper, which I love writing on.

I’m time-logging with colored Muji gel pens to mark work, daily/regular practice activities, chores, and social stuff. I’m happy to report that my Too Much Internet spells have decreased quite a bit.

I write daily tasks in a list on the right-hand side of the daily page. I try not to write more than 3-5 tasks a day, with the optimal being the three Most Important Things from the Zen to Done system.

Midori Passport: Still using it as my wallet and notebook. I like the idea of the Bullet Journal, but I just haven’t been able to get it to work for me. I need more than a daily task list and I don’t need a monthly list or index because I use a planner. So I abandoned the daily Task List/Notes system I had been using for the past year or so for a GTD Inbox-type dump list. Every few days I write the date at the top of a new page and write down everything I can think of that I need to remember to do, whether it’s to be done immediately or further down the road. Then I refer back to that list as I make my daily task list in the Hobonichi.

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Life without apps and other musings on productivity

It is no secret that I have a love-hate relationship with smartphones and always-connected technology. I developed and regularly teach a course on the politics of privacy in the digital age, and every year there is something new to add to the syllabus. Last year it was the Internet of Things (which continues to grow in importance). This year it’s backdoors for national security agencies, with the current Apple-FBI legal battle illustrating the larger problem. Although it’s impossible to use online resources and not sell your soul to one of the Big 5, I try to minimize my digital trail and encrypt communications where I can.

An aside: there is a story making the rounds about a USA Today reporter who supposedly had his email “hacked” (sniffed, actually, but everything is called hacking nowadays) when he was using inflight wifi. Aside from the fact that the guy who “hacked” his email was sitting right behind him (so he may have snooped the old-fashioned way, over his shoulder), this reporter was working on the Apple-FBI story using unencrypted email on an open wifi network. People, do not do this. Use a VPN if you use open wifi connections a lot, and for heaven’s sake, use email that comes with https at a minimum. Why a USA Today reporter is still using Earthlink.net is beyond me. But I digress.

A couple of years ago I switched from a high-end smartphone to a feature phone, in part to understand the online opportunities for people who don’t have high-speed mobile broadband or can’t afford fancy smartphones, and in part to control my social media habit. I eventually went back to a smartphone, but I’ve regularly switched it out for a feature phone. (A feature phone is a phone which has data access for email and browsing, but doesn’t have the range of apps and mobile access that iOS, Android, and even WindowsPhone provide). Not only is life more peaceful, because your notifications go way, way down, but feature phones tend to be smaller and easier to carry around.

One result of my feature phone use is that I use very few apps, and I really don’t miss them. Aside from Twitter I’m not on any social media, I never played games much (Free Cell and Sudoku are about it in terms of video or phone games), and while I love to take photographs, I don’t get the allure of Instagram.

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Organizing 2016

2016 planners

I was perusing my old blog to see what I’d written about planners and diaries and discovered that I had written organization posts in both 2014 and 2015. So it seems only right that I post about my 2016 planner setup. For the past four or five years I’ve been using only paper calendars, diaries, and task list systems, no electronic ones, and my class prep has stabilized into paper form as well (I’ve switched back and forth between paper and computer-based notes over the years).

For the third year in a row I’m switching up the type of planner I use. I really liked the bound weekly planner I used last year and I’d intended to use the 2016 version. But the one drawback was that even with 30-minute increments, sometimes I didn’t have quite enough room for all my appointments. My year is shaped by the academic calendar, so I have quite a bit of stuff to write down during the semesters and fewer routine engagements and meetings between them. Within the semesters, though, my administrative responsibilities bunch up in specific weeks, and I can have a dozen appointments in a day. Add to that having to change appointments because students or faculty (or I) suddenly can’t make a scheduled time, and the pages can get really messy and there’s not much room to rewrite in those slots.

I’d used a day-per-page diary in a Filofax a few years ago, but that format winds up being very bulky and you don’t get a good look at the week unless you add in a weekly diary (or it comes included). There are bound A5 diaries that come with monthly, weekly, and daily pages, but I find the A5 too big as a daily carry and again, they get thick and heavy. So I was really intrigued by the Hobonichi, a Japanese planner that comes in both A5 and A6 size, with the A6 also coming in an English version. It’s a daily format, but the paper is Tomoe River, which is very thin while still being fountain-pen friendly (another requirement of mine).

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