Friday, 22 July 2016

Current set-up in my Traveller's Journal

Traveller's Journal from
The Stamford Notebook Company

I've not really given you all an update about how the diary/bullet journalling system is going. Largely because I've not really made many tweaks and it's all still working well! In essence, there are three parts to the system: (1) a notebook with long-term planning and Goals to Next Actions; (2) a Traveller's Journal as my carry around with money, diary and space for notes; (3) an A6 notebook for daily planning/bullet journalling.

The Goals to Next Actions are still in the Leuchtturm 1917 and are the same as they were in this post so I'll not say any more. It lives at home all the time as I have no need for it other than during my Sunday planning sessions.

The Traveller's Journal:
The only thing I've changed significantly in this is the diary. I've struggled with the week plus notes diary that I got from The Stamford Notebook Company since I got it to be honest. There's just something about the layout that isn't working for me. Their layout is the days horizontally on the left and lined paper on the right, with fairly wide ruling. It was a combination of the wide ruling and the horizontal days that didn't work for me and so once I got to the end of the first booklet (January to end of June), I swapped out.

Hateful Moleskine with some washi tape

I've gone back to the format I had at the end of last year - eight boxes on the LHS and eight boxes on the RHS for a week. The eight on the left are Mon-Sun plus a space for tracking (though I'm not really using it all that much). The eight boxes on the RHS are for noting tasks relating to my Life Areas, plus a space for what's coming up next week (because I'm too daft to be able to turn the page over). Weekly tasks get noted in the appropriate Life Area boxes. I usually only label up most of the Life Areas during my weekly planning session as sometimes some areas need less than a block and two areas can share and others need more and spill over!

Deliberately dull week! Save me needing to redact things.

I've yet to find anywhere that makes a layout like this, so I've drawn it out for myself. Yes, that's tedious, but at least I have what I want and it probably only took the same time as setting up a mail-merge thing, printing it, cutting it and binding it. I've used a squared Moleskine cahier. I loathe, hate and abhor Moleskine cahiers but I have some and I'm going to use them up. I have some small day of the week stamps which I've used to label up the weeks. Otherwise, dates are written in by hand.

Close-up of LHS
Close-up of RHS

In the TJ, the contents are the same as they have been for ages: money in a zipper pocket/slip pocket insert (Midori 008 insert); cards in a Midori 007 insert and then the diary. Behind the diary is another hateful Moleskine cahier (I've almost finished using them up!) for jotting notes down while out and about.
So, that's my carry-around. I have my money, cards, diary and space for notes, all in something only slightly bigger than a personal size Filofax and smaller than an A5 Filofax. However, the day spaces in the diary aren't big enough for day to day planning/working and so I also have an A6 bullet-journal.

A6 bullet-journal:

Home-made cover

Each Sunday, I plan out when I will try and do tasks from my Life Areas lists and add them (in colour-coded pen) to the days in my A6 bullet journal. However, my days frequently end up with other small things needing noting that aren't part of my Life Areas but which need to be remembered, at least for a while. These are also noted in the A6. I don't really do bullet-journalling the way the original system does with one giant list of stuff. I'm far too over-organised for my brain to deal with that! No, I have my week plus notes in my TJ (and if anything arises that is week specific, it gets added to the appropriate week immediately) and I have day to day lists in my A6 notebook. This is a slight jumble of specific tasks, other tasks that cropped up that day and random things to note/remember. The A6 is small enough that it's always on me but has enough space to be able to note everything. Frequently, both the TJ and the bullet-journal are on my desk next to me. At the end of the week, I go through the A6 book and move any information that needs keeping to its final home, tick off things that got done (these frequently are ticked as they're done), think about the stuff that's not been done and either add it to the next week's list or discard it. Neither the diary nor the A6 notebooks get kept.

Cover open

The A6 notebook that I use is a squared Clairefontaine. I had been using two pages per day, but was barely needing that amount of space so have moved to a day per page.

Um... quiet day!

There is another elastic, so that when I'm running out of notebook, I can put another one in behind. I have a zillion of these books and will probably just keep going with them, but a significant part of my brain also thinks I could just use the notebook in the Traveller's Journal! I think what has stopped me from doing so thus far is the fact I've been using up the Moleskine cahiers in there and hate writing in them! I'll get the A5 version of the Clairefontaine squared notebooks and cut them to size and use them as soon as the Moleskine is used up!

Well, that's my system. It hasn't really changed much and has been working really well for me. What do people think?

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Guest post from Stuart Lennon

Today's post is by my good friend and writing buddy Stuart Lennon, who blogs over at http://stuartlennon.com/

Since we met, I've been dragging him over to the dark side of stationery, Filofaxes and fountain pens and he has kindly agreed to do a guest post about how he uses his Filofax for keeping his life in order. Over to you, Stuart!
[click on any picture to enlarge]


Stuart's trusty Malden A5

Late in 2014, I sold my business and set up a website, www.stuartlennon.com boldly declaring myself a writer.

Waking up without a business to run was liberating. My time was my own. Soon, I discovered that without focus, my time was simply evaporating.

In an online writer’s community, I met a certain Amanda and somehow or other, we got to talking about fountain pens and paper.

Within days, I was an inveterate stationery addict and began considering whether Amanda’s excellent ‘Planning System’ (which you can read about here) might help me get a grip on my productivity.

Size / System

I had used DayTimer in the past, and researched other US systems, such as Franklin Covey. I saw no compelling reason to go for US binding over UK/EU. On size, I knew that A5 was my favourite. If I need to have a planner with me – then it is not too cumbersome, but it is big enough to be easy to write in at my desk; where it spends most of its time. I carry an A6 notebook as my ‘portable’.

My wife has pointed out to me that I am therefore not able to commit to further appointments if I don’t have my diary with me. She is right (always!), but I see this as a benefit. It allows me to return home and reflect on whether I need or want to attend another meeting rather than be pressganged into an unnecessary one.

Planner Layout

I have traditionally used two page per day, with every moment of every day accounted for (and often billed for). I no longer need this. Amanda put forward a persuasive argument about the benefit of seeing an entire week at one glance. My intention was to use the planner pages for fixed appointments and time blocking. Notes and task lists were going to be somewhere else. Week to view looked good.

Week to view diary (by Smythson)

Planner Paper

I now use and enjoy a fountain pen. Modern Filofax paper is not well thought of by fountain pen users. Despite this, there seems to be very little provision in the market place for ‘ink friendly’ Filofax inserts. One possible solution is to print my own. Some clever and generous people at www.philofaxy.com and www.mylifeallinoneplace.com have designed bespoke layouts, which can be downloaded and printed at home. A less labour-intensive, but costlier solution is to buy Smythson refills. Being clumsy and incompetent at most craft activities, I went for Smythson.

Binders

I researched at www.philofaxy.com, another excellent recommendation from Amanda. Committed as I was to Smythson diary refills, one of their binders seemed a good idea. The price gave me pause. I settled on a Filofax Malden in Ochre. I prefer a little flexibility and soft feel over rigidity. There are two pen loops. I am able to fit my fountain pen in either. Inside front cover of the binder has a variety of slip pockets and a full height zipper pocket. The Malden goes for £112 on the Filofax website, but I found it at £77 at WH Smith online.

A5 Malden Filofax
Inside cover


Setup

Inserts: Week to view diary, section dividers, address pages and lined note paper – all from Smythson. Another section divider, address index, more note paper, neon Post-it selection and plastic wallet are from Filofax. Information pages are from both suppliers.

There is something reassuringly snobby about the Smythson information pages. A chap needs to have a wine vintage chart, the telephone numbers of the principal London Clubs and of course the the British Field Sport Season dates to hand at all times. Obviously.

Next come my Key Result Areas, and adaptation of Amanda’s planning system. These nestle behind the numbered cream dividers supplied by Filofax.

Key Results Area cover
Key Results Area sheets

Then come the gilded royal blue diary pages from Smythson and the addresses section. I keep postal addresses here – for people with whom I correspond in the old-fashioned way. Electronic data and telephone numbers live with their devices. Finally comes a notes section and the utilities, such as the Post-Its.


My intention is to carry Rhodia shopping lists in the pocket on the inside of the rear cover of the Malden. These will serve as my task lists. Keeping them as pads will allow me to use them independently of the binder – perhaps open beside me as I tear through my admin chores for the day (Please God!)

Two Rhodia shopping list pads in the back notebook slot

Review

So far, I have found it useful to place the paper where I intend to write the most in the middle of the binder. This ensures a flatter surface than when writing on pages at the front or the back. The look, feel and smell of the Malden is gorgeous. I’m convinced that my vowels are more rounded, simply by carrying it. The Smythson paper is fantastic to write on. It is indulgent, but, for me at least, worth it. The Filofax inserts in cotton cream were not as poor to write on as I had expected, but do suffer in comparison to the higher quality paper.

Many thanks to Stuart for letting us peek into his Filofax!
 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Bullet journalling update: A6 for day to day stuff

The A5 is very much a work in progress, as is the A6, but using the A6 has been an eye opener!

I'm using an A6 Clairefontaine 1951 school style notebook with grid pages, from Bureau Direct. The paper is great, the size is perfect and they are really cheap to buy!

Cover
[I'm not sure why I've written the date range on the front as I shall be throwing it away once it's finished...]

I started using it a couple of days before I went away on holiday and had a day per page for the days before I went away. I used them to jot down everything that needed doing before we went away. I used a simple dot to denote a task to be done, which got crossed through once completed. A  dash indicated a piece of information (but wasn't really getting used). An arrow through a dot meant it was rescheduled.



I didn't leave space for the index. I only remembered about that after I'd started filling things in from page 1 of the notebook. My index is now at the back (which, in fairness, is where most are in books...). Also at the back is a page for 'waiting on' which notes not just parcels/orders I'm waiting to be delivered, but also email replies etc that I'm waiting for. In essence, anything I'm waiting for! Dots indicate still waiting; crossed through indicates arrived.


Another page at the back is for books - books I want to buy/borrow from the library. I managed to be marginally more artistic with this header and draw a banner rather than just a squiggly line. Again, dot next to a title means not yet bought/borrowed; cross means bought/borrowed. There's also a page for noting down blog post ideas, one of things to look up and one for general notes.

The real work is being done at the front though. After the days leading up to the holiday, there are single pages per day for the days of the holiday. I didn't want to take my journal away with me but I wanted to be able to fill it in when I came back, so each day while we were away, I noted what the weather was like (hey, I'm British. We just do that kind of thing...), what we'd done each day, anything else notable, something I was grateful for and something I was proud of. The notes helped me to write up my journal when I got back.

I was also aware, even before I went away, that I needed to remind myself about stuff for when I came back and I knew that I wanted to see if I could find a better system for day to day planning than the hateful ABP2 (which I have abandoned...). I decided I would use a double spread for each day and note things that needed to be done that day on the RHS page and use the LHS for time-boxing. I drew out the little flags and put each date in for each day (I'm seriously NOT very artistic!) and wrote the times of the day down the LHS, leaving some space at the top in case I needed to note things like birthdays etc. The right hand edge of the timed side is to note down anything else important - what my hubby is doing for example and whether the car is with him, or a timed delivery slot. In the picture below, this is what it looks like after things have been allocated, but before I do my day-planning.


The RHS is a combination of brain dump and tasks migrating from the monthly list in the A5. I realise I might be better off with it all in one thing, but A5 is too big for sitting open on my desk and carrying around with me and A6 is too small for the monthly lists, so a combination it is. Since I do a weekly review (and monthly), I can tick things off each week as they get done, during the review session. After I've done the review, I draw out the flags for the dates for the following week, add in the times and then allocate tasks.

My morning routine is to clear my head into the RHS list and review the day before, transferring anything over to the new day that needs doing (or just crossing it out if it's never going to happen!). I've not really done this yet, but the intention for forthcoming weeks is to put tasks relating to goals in colour (coded to the life-area) and brain-dump tasks in black biro/pencil to distinguish between them. The goal-related tasks will get allocated in the weekly review.

Once I have my list, I time-box my day out on the LHS. If anything occurs to me during the day, it gets added to the notebook in the appropriate place. In the picture below, you can see the list of things on the RHS (some of which got re-scheduled, some of which got done) and the time-boxing on the LHS. The pencil is covering up a phone number I jotted down; the crossed out set of numbers was another reminder for something.

An example of what it looks like at the end of a day!


Advantages and Disadvantages so far...

Advantages:
I actually use it. I could have done everything I've just outlined in the ABP2, but I didn't because the line spacing was too tiny and I hated it.
I feel like I'm getting more done and am more organised (but that may be novelty value...).
The system is really simple - any notebook and pen could be used and you can invent your own coding for task/meeting/email etc.

Disadvantages:
I still need my diary. Which means that I now have three things on the go - my diary (in my TN which is also my wallet), the monthly goals (in the A5 - see the last post) and this day to day list. I don't have many appointments, but I do have some. I could have a monthly list in the A6 (in the bullet journal way) and add appointments to it, but I don't have that in there yet and I do like to see an overview of my week. I could draw up a weekly view in an A5 and combine the yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly plans into one place, but the size is too big. I could draw up weekly views in the A6 but that would take up too many pages. I could draw up weekly views in another A6 and put both that A6 and this day planner into the Fauxdori I made myself and go back to a wallet and A6 TN... and then I would forget one or the other when I left the house probably.
I could also easily stick with what I'm doing and just accept that things are a bit scattered while I work out what's for the best!

I've not quite cracked it yet... no doubt more soon!

How are others using a bullet journal? More conventionally (all in one book) or more scattered (or scatty?) like this?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Bullet journalling update: A5 for long-term goals

Just before I went away on holiday, I was experimenting with two bullet journalling things:
  1. long-term planning in an A5 Leuchtturm
  2. day to day planning in an A6 Clairefontaine grid book
I took both of them away with me; the long-term planning to get filled in (since I thought the perfect time to stand back and think about long-term goals was when I was relaxed) and the A6 day to day, to note things about the holiday so that I could write my journal up when I came back (to save me taking it away with me). I'll show you what happened with the long-term planning version here and save the A6 for another post.

Long-term planning:
A while back, I won a turquoise A5 Leuchtturm notebook, a turquoise pen-holder and a pencil as a set from Bureau Direct, and this was the set I chose to use.
The first thing I did was to set up the first few pages for goals relating to my life-areas. I wanted to make the pages of the book a little bit prettier but I'm not very artistic, so I used pennant washi for headers and wrote the life-area on top of it. I put year plans on the LHS and quarterly plans on the RHS; one double spread for each life-area. I shall be referring back to these pages over the year. The only one not too personal to show you, is the house/garden one.


I then drew up a list of things to get done in the remainder of April, again using the pennant washi for the title of the page. The contents are too personal to share, but here's a picture of the washi!


I try to do monthly reviews, so the RHS will be for reviewing how the end of April went (and may continue over the next pages too). I used more washi, but some small hearts rather than the pennant, and labelled it 'review'


The list of stuff to be done is partly drawn from the life-area lists and also just a dump of things in my head that I think I should be doing, following my bullet-journalling system of a dot for a task (crossed through when accomplished). A dot converted to an arrow will mean the task has been carried forward and rewritten on the next month's list, but I'm showing you the set up before I do my monthly review.

This isn't 'pure' bullet journalling (if there even is such a thing), but my way of trying to keep track of the bigger picture. It's a list of goals and is essentially the 'goals to projects to next actions' of my planning system, relocated to a book. By breaking things down into life areas, I'm hoping it will help me to balance everything a bit better (and not just focus on writing, writing and a bit more writing...). I will (since I bought the pens...) use different coloured Staedtler Triplus fineliners for the different life areas, to give me a visual breakdown of the balance (but I only took a pencil away with me! May will be more colour-coded than April was...).

A more 'traditional' use of bullet journalling with a combination of tasks, notes, waiting on etc. is going on in the A6! More on that in the next post.

It's still a work in progress but has surely got to be better than no real system at all (which is how 2016 has been so far!). In time, I may move all of what's currently in the A5 and what's in the A6 into one book, but the A6 is working too well for me at the moment (in an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' kind of way!).

What do people think? Hints and tips from anyone? Is anyone using a bullet journalling type system to deal with long-term plans? Let me know in the comments?

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Triplus Fineliners

As part of my foray into bullet journalling, I have bought a set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. The set I bought has 12 colours in a magnetic 'magic' case. More on the case in a moment.

The pens:
The colours in the set I bought are a nice selection:


They (as expected) have both vibrant colours and a fine line. Here are the colours written out on ~A6 Clairefontaine paper, which shows off their colours well (and after all, I am mostly using Clairefontaine in my bullet journalling).


The case:
The case is a strange thing. I find the catch to open it very stiff (and on a couple of occasions have jemmied it open with a ruler). Once it's open, it can be folded back on itself so that the top and the base are now in contact and then you can keep rotating the two bits and open it out and the pens are now on the other sides.

Closed
Back to back
Opened - with the two sides swapped

While this is quite fun, I do find getting the pens in and out of the case difficult as the clips for the pens are quite firm. It also takes up a lot of real-estate and so I've transferred all of the pens into my pencil case. The case they came in is okay, but it's too bulky and stiff for my taste. However, the pens were the cheapest in this form!

I'm using them for colour-coding the to-do/next actions in my journal/planner, but if you have been bitten by the adult colouring books craze, they would be fabulous as the ink flows well, the tip is very fine and the colours are generally strong.

All in all, I think they were a good purchase and have helped with the colour-coding in my bullet journal.

[If you buy them from the link below, I get a few pennies.]

Thursday, 7 April 2016

More playing with bullet journalling

The bit of my planning that's been falling down recently has been my day planning/weekly list (which is another reason why I'm contemplating a shift towards more bullet journalling type stuff).

I've been using the ABP2 day per page from Quo Vadis as my day planner. It sucks. I've tried to like it, I really have (see here for the most positive I've been...), but those teeny tiny spaces (3.5mm to a line... 3.5!) are defeating me. When I get back from my holiday, I'm going to move to using a pocket (9cm x 14cm) grid Clairefontaine and do a combination of bullet journalling and day planning in a view. I shall do my morning brain dump into the RHS (which I will also use as general bullet journalling space) and then plan my day in the LHS, using time-boxing. The grid is 5mm so I shall have 10mm per hour instead of 7mm - only a small difference, but a significant one!

Image taken from www.bureaudirect.co.uk

It's a much smaller footprint on my desk too - 14cm x 18cm c.f. 17cm x4cm - but with pretty much double the usable space. In my weekly planning session, I'll add tasks to the appropriate day (the way I used to with the ABP2). Each morning I'll then do a brain dump, adding to that list, before planning my day on the LHS. The A6 Clairefontaine is also small enough for me to shove in a pocket if I do actually move away from my desk (which, in fairness, doesn't happen all that often).

Planning on the LHS; space for bullet journal/lists on RHS

In the past, I've bought these little books from Bureau Direct (no affiliation just a perennially happy customer!). You used to be able to buy them singly, but it seems as if they are only available in packs of 10 now, which is a shame for those wanting to just try them out. They have 96 pages, are fountain pen friendly and really cheap! See the listing here. I'm not really one to keep day to day planning - once the day is gone, I don't need the plan, so I won't feel at all upset to toss these once they're full. My writing buddy (Stuart) gifted me 30 of these small notebooks (Go Stu!!) so I have some to be working my way through!

I may possibly have (as in, I have) bought a pack of Staedtler Triplus pens too, in an attempt to pretty the thing up in some way... more on it all when I come back from my holidays!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Bullet Journalling... the notebook

In my last post (you can read it here... it opens in a new window) I said that I was going to try out a modified form of bullet journalling as a way to try and keep track of long-term goals and plans. I finished the post saying I now just needed to choose a notebook for this.

It probably won't come as any great surprise to those who know me, that I've gone for an A5 Leuchtturm notebook. There are a number of reasons:
  1. I have a few of them in the stationery emporium, waiting to be used
  2. They have space for an index at the front, ready made
  3. The pages are numbered already
  4. There is a space for filling in the date on each page (though I may not always use it for that, but for indicating the topic instead)
  5. They are fairly fountain pen friendly (though there is always some ghosting/show through)

I've not done much with it yet, as I am about to go on holiday (before the madness of the book launch starts...), other than label up the life-areas and fill in the index for the pages used so far. I'm going to take it away on holiday with me and fill in some of it there.

Pictures when I come back!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Dipping my toe into Bullet Journalling...

Hello all you lovely patient people who amazingly still follow this blog, even though I haven't posted anything like as much as I've wanted to recently... It's all The Wrong Kind of Clouds' fault, and my author blog over at www.amandafleet.co.uk!

Anyway, recently, I've been chatting to my lovely friend Helen (*waves*) about my lack of ability to manage my long term plans. I drew up a plan for the year, way back in January, which charted, week by week, what I was hoping to get done. The big problems have been that a) I'm evidently rubbish at guestimating time for projects, b) a whole heap of other stuff came up that I hadn't budgeted for, c) I only put writing plans on it and none of the other life-areas (which were still getting done and still taking up time...) so it wasn't a great representation of life, and d) my levels of productivity and levels of procrastination have swapped roles and I've been b*ggering about too much!

This has really struck home now that Q1 is finished and I'm supposed to be drawing up Q2 plans and thinking about something other than publishing The Wrong Kind of Clouds (which, admittedly, has taken over my life a bit...). I genuinely have no real idea what I'm supposed to be trying to do in Q2, beyond my writing goals and wishing I were a bit thinner and a bit faster at running.

My current planning system (I use the term loosely!) is working okay (ish!) for week to week stuff, but isn't really doing much beyond that and is getting a bit scattered, too. I know how to fix that (and more on that in another post) but I'm really not doing well on my longer-term goals.

So...

I may have a go at a modified version of bullet journalling. Modified in that it will really only be long-term stuff in it and not the daily log aspects.


The sorts of things I think I will have in the notebook are:
  • Index
  • Year goals for each life area on a LHS with quarterly goals arising from these on the RHS of a spread (one double spread for each life area)
  • Monthly goals (broken down into life areas; drawn up month by month, rather than in advance)
  • Monthly reviews (done just before drawing up the goals for the next month)
  • Quarterly reviews 

There probably won't be any weekly planning in there, because that will still get done in my week + notes diary in my TN, using my long term goals as guidance. That said, if I get into the bullet journalling, maybe I will embrace the whole lot and do yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and day stuff in there.

Now... just have to choose which of the zillion notebooks I have, to use as my bullet journal!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Sorry!

I can't believe that the last post I wrote on here was the one on Spotlight Stationery reviewing their January box! Their March one is about to ship.

So, why have I been neglecting this place?

Because everything went bonkers with publishing the book, that's why! I had covers to agree and sign off on, proofs to check, correct, check again and finally sign off on... just a zillion and one things to do that I either hadn't realised would need doing, or hugely underestimated the time it would take to do them.

I read a quote recently that said you couldn't run a marathon until you'd forgotten what the last one was like, because it wasn't something you would do if you knew what was ahead. I'm beginning to feel like that about the books. The thought of launching another one fills me with horror. I shall have to wait until I've recovered from this one!

Anyway, for those who are interested, this is the book:

Cover of The Wrong Kind of Clouds
The Wrong Kind of Clouds

I'm offering £2 off pre-orders of the paperback. Go here and use the offer code CLOUDS (it needs to be in all capitals).

Thanks to everyone who has been supporting me and to all of you still following the blog. It's been a  bit of a roller-coaster of a journey. Hopefully things will be a bit calmer soon!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Spotlight on Spotlight Stationery

Spotlight Stationery is a stationery subscription service. You can order a one-off box to see if you'd like their stuff (you will), a bi-monthly subscription, or a monthly subscription. The boxes cost £25 plus p+p (£2 for the UK).
Each month, the team at Spotlight Stationery put together a collection of stationery, using only premium brands and including things you may not find on your high street. They also include postcards by new illustrators, helping to support young artists once they've left university. The box of stationery is a surprise - you don't know what you'll get before it arrives - but they offer a no-quibble, money-back guarantee. If you really don't like what you get, you can get in touch with them.

Intrigued by all this, I ordered a box. I have to confess, it arrived a few days ago but this is the first chance I've had to do a post on it! Apologies for the poor lighting in the photos... it's Scotland and winter and never stops raining and I really struggled with or without flash to get decent pictures!

The box is approximately 235 x 165 x 23mm, or just bigger and thicker than an A5 notebook. When you open the box, inside you find your goodies wrapped in tissue paper, tied with string and with a card saying Thank You on one side and information about the support for National Star, a charity for young people with disabilities.

Box, showing the message on the lid!
Thank you card, attached with pretty string
Reverse of the card, showing the message about supporting
National Star
Once I peeled the sticker and string off (as carefully as I could!), inside was revealed a notebook and an envelope with my name on:


I opened the envelope first, and discovered a set of postcards, some information about the illustrators and 6 spiral paperclips:

The four postcards, an information card and 6 spiral paperclips
These are all lovely designs (especially the cat one) and the information card was extremely helpful.

The red and black A6 notebook is by Paper-Oh. Inside was a leaflet explaining that the notebook was a product of their passion for book binding and their obsession to make things better than what already exists. I haven't road-tested the notebook (detailed reviews of the stationery in the box will follow!) but it lies very flat and seems like a fantastic little notebook. I will of course extract a page and do the usual pen-test on it, but if the paper is good, then this will be a super little notebook.

Delving deeper into the box, I found another A6 sized notebook, with the same design on the cover as one of the postcards:

A6 size notebook with dog and crow (front)
back of the notebook
The notebook has 18 pages (36 sides) of plain paper. Again, I haven't had a chance to pen-test it and a more detailed review is to come!

Beneath the two A6 notebooks was another Paper-Oh notebook in A5 size. This one is lined rather than plain:

A5 Paper-Oh notebook (front)
A5 PAper-Oh notebook (back)
I must be utterly honest and say that I haven't had time this week to even take the wrapper off, but I'm fully expecting another great notebook, given the quality of the A6 version.

As well as the three notebooks, the postcards and the paperclips, there were two Palomino Blackwing Pearl pencils and a Stabilo worker rollerball:

Palomino pencils
Stabilo worker pen

I've been using one of the Palomino pencils all week. Full review to follow but if I'm honest, this was my least favourite thing in the box. I'd heard so much about Palomino Blackwing pencils and I was excited to try them but I am far keener on propelling pencils than ones that need sharpening and probably because I almost always use a propelling pencil, I found the Palomino not great at keeping a sharp point. I've already sharpened about 3 cm off the pencil in just a week. If you sketched rather than used it for writing, it may be much better. It was certainly good to try it out though (and at least I know I don't need to buy myself a box!).

The rollerball is very nice. It has a soft-grip feel and the line is quite wet when laid down. It certainly kept up with my speed of writing and was incredibly smooth to write with.

Group photo!

All in All:
This was a fabulous collection of stationery, beautifully presented and worth at least £25 to my mind. The Paper-Oh notebooks are certainly not easily available to me and the inclusion of new illustrators is a great touch. I love the fact that some of the money is going to charity (though I would have liked to know a little more about what kind of amount - a penny? a pound? more?) and the surprise aspect was fun. You don't have to sign up for a subscription - you can try a box out and you get contacted in advance to check that you want the next box, even if you have opted for the subscription service.

If you love stationery, like a surprise and to discover new products and artists, go and sign up for February's box!