Sunday, 29 March 2015

Clocks change; filofax change

Actually, the change is much less to do with the move to BST than the fact that the de Villiers is getting damaged, but I did make the change at the same time as we 'lost' an hour!

The de Villiers is still glorious and still in many ways the perfect size for me, but I noticed last week that the spine of the binder has been cut by the ring mechanism...

It looks worse in this zoom-in!

and that the stitching on the back inside cover is coming undone...

Stitching coming undone

So, I decided that it should have a rest. I've swapped into the wine Holborn (the brown one has gone to a new home) but I can imagine that I will be in a Baroque again soonish. The set-up is exactly the same as it was a couple of weeks ago (see 'How have I ended up using four things for planning?') except since I have the space I have put all of the WO2P diary for 2015 in.

I don't really know what to do about the de Villiers. The rest of the binder is great (well used by a previous owner but still great) but I don't want its injuries to get any worse. Any suggestions?

Anyone else changing set-up with the move to 'summer-time'?

Saturday, 14 March 2015

My Morning Routine

I used to have a well-oiled morning routine that got me out of bed, into the shower, some breakfast inside me, onto my bike and into work ready to start the day. I used the cycle to plan the day ahead so that when I hit my desk, I could empty my head onto paper and then make a cuppa and plan my day, often before most colleagues were in the door.

Then I hit burn-out and was off work. I gained a stress-induced arrhythmia which has stopped me cycling and running. I lost my sense of purpose and any semblance of focus and concentration. Mornings became something that was in that space between getting up and lunch and most days that I tried to plan anything, I was left staring at a piece of paper, with my brain a horrendous combination of spaghetti and echoing emptiness.

However, I've finally managed to climb out of the murk enough to regain a routine. It's not one that will necessarily survive the return to work (whenever that might happen) but it works for me at the moment. It's (mostly) soothing and settling but not always hugely productive...

Once I am up and breakfasted, I try to do the following routine (assuming I don't need to be somewhere before about 10.30 am!):
  • Write my morning pages
  • Empty my head into the 'brain-dump' reporters' notepad
  • Meditate/do some mindful practice
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Sit at my desk with my brain dump/daily list and my weekly list and my A5 filofax
  • Time-box activities into time-slots (and try to remember to double the amount of time I think it will take me to do anything)
  • Turn over a 30-minute sand-timer and start the day

Depending on how box-of-frogs-like my head is, the routine can take from 30-60 minutes (or more) but it is a slow, steady rhythm and start to the day.

The Morning Pages
I am still doing these in the Paper Thinks book but have shifted to only writing on the right-hand pages as then I can use something nicer to write with than a biro (the pages have far too much bleed-through to contemplate being able to write on the reverse if I use a proper pen!).

The Paper Thinks book. I added the ribbon to fasten it closed

I found I could spend half the morning faffing about writing the morning-pages, so now I set a time-limit for them of 15 minutes. I still write almost three pages in that time, but the time-limit helps me to stay focussed.

The Reporters' Notebook for a brain dump
Once I have done my morning pages, I then clear my head into a new side in a scrappy reporters' notebook. This is literally a brain-dump and also acts as a scratch-pad over the day. It gets dumped each night, so the fact it is scrappy is fine. I list everything I could do that day. That doesn't mean I will do it, and I feel less guilty than I used to about transferring things to the next day's list of they don't get done.

Not normally this neat - I was playing with a new pen!

The A5 diary
Once I have my daily list, I then plan my day. I usually look at my daily list in conjunction with my weekly list and then allocate things from them onto the day. Because Filofax seem to think that people are less busy/less planned on a weekend, they combine the two days into one column and so I have to resort to a personal-size page with the corner cut off so it will go on the A5 rings. On a weekday, this kind of plan goes into the A5 diary.

Day plan on lined paper

That's my morning routine and it is working reasonably well for me (as long as I don't over-allocate!).

Do others have a morning routine that keeps them on track?

Monday, 9 March 2015

How have I ended up using four things for planning??

It struck me the other day that I seem to have migrated to using four things for daily planning:
  • the planning filofax
  • the daily carry-around
  • a vertical WO2P in an A5 filofax
  • a reporters' notebook
What??? I thought I was all streamlined into a compact filofax! How did this happen??

Well, it's actually not as bad as it sounds. Honest! I realise that what I have done is just reproduce the system I always used to have, but distributed it over several things in order to use a slimline as a carry-around.

My system has almost always (well, since I have had a 'system') included:
  • a goals to projects to next actions section (which is now in the planning filofax along with spare diary pages - see here for how I get that to work)
  • a week to view for an overview (which is still in the carry-around)
  • a daily list + a daily plan (which I used to have on DPP in the carry-around when I had the ring-space, with appointments/time-sensitive tasks down the left and the rest of the daily list on the right)
It's this last bit that has morphed into two separate things I suppose. Patty from Homemakers Daily did a good post (read it here) about the difference between a  daily list and a daily plan. For me, the daily list - the list of things I need to do today - is going in the reporters' notebook. Then each morning I am drawing up my daily plan which is getting time-boxed into the vertical WO2P in the A5.

I had been doing that on the WO2P in the de Villiers, with the daily-list on the right of each day-box and the plan on the left, but it was starting to get too crowded when I had lots of 'mosquito tasks' to clear and so I started scrawling things in the notebook. I could just move back to using a DPP, the way I always used to and keep everything in one place, but at the moment I am still off work and so still based at home on a daily basis and I have a big desk and an A5 diary to use up and a stack of reporters' notebooks to use up, so why either buy or print up DPP?

No doubt I will go back to the 'all in one' binder at some point, but this is working okay for me at the moment (and handily using up the A5 diary and rubbish notebooks!).

Anyone else find that they think they've started using a new system, only to realise it's the old system in different clothes?

Saturday, 28 February 2015

TWSBI Diamond 540

A zillion years ago, my very good friend Gerard sent me a lovely pen - a TWSBI Diamond 540 with a 1.1mm stub nib. After I got the Eau de Nil ink I thought I would (finally!) give the TWSBI a whirl.

The nib has more rounded edges than my Parker italic nibs (my 'go to' nib) and in many ways is more akin to the Lamy Joy calligraphy nib (a.k.a. the Lamy Joyless to me... see here for why!).

Clockwise from L: TWSBI, Parker italic, Lamy Joy(less)
TWSBI on left; Lamy Joy(less) on right
I absolutely LOVE the TWSBI and Eau de Nil combination!

The ink shading is especially nice.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Lovely things from The Lovely Desk

[no affiliation - just wanting to share a great company and their lovely products!]

Lovely haul from The Lovely Desk

Last week I posted about getting some gorgeous washi tape from The Lovely Desk and said that I may (i.e. HAD) put in another order from them.

Well, it arrived yesterday morning, beautifully wrapped in tissue paper and with a little note saying thank you. It couldn't have arrived on a better day as I had a bit of a shocker of a day on Monday, so some new stationery was definitely what the doctor ordered!

So, what did I order?

Some small diary stickers, with largely a food/tea/cakes theme; some decoration tape (again with a cake and tea and biscuits theme); some wide washi (28mm) with a variety of things on it, but again a bit of a tea theme and some washi tape with some cute cartoon animals on.

[pictures from The Lovely Desk website are all reproduced with permission; click on any image to enlarge]

So, here they are in detail:

1. The diary stickers

Image from The Lovely Desk, with permission
I have difficulty over decorating my diary in that I love to see decorated pages but when I do them myself they look too cluttered/messy and I can't see the wood for the trees. However, these little stickers are lovely and very small (most of them are less than 1cm in even the longest dimension). There are several of each design and quite a few different designs. I'm not sure how I will use 5 frying pan stickers (or 6 sauce bottles for that matter) but most of them will be useful and small enough to add a little bit of decoration to the diary without being bigger than the writing for the event.

2.The decoration tape

Image from The Lovely Desk, with permission
Image from The Lovely Desk, with permission

As you'll see in the post on washi tape, I have used narrow washi tape to separate off the memo space on my diary pages from the days. The decoration tape will do something very similar (as depicted below) or could be used to note meeting a friend for a tea/coffee in the diary (instead of using a sticker). The tape comes on a roller, like the roll-on correction tape (Tippex on a tape). There is a covering cap and it takes a bit of bravery to bend it back on itself to reveal the tape and pop the cover into the space in the casing for the cover but it does fold back okay (without snapping off) and does slot into the space!

Decoration tape used to separate off a section in my filofax

Plastic cover protecting the tape

Plastic cover folded back into its space

3. Tea time washi tape

Image from The Lovely Desk, with permission

This washi tape is absolutely delightful! I will use it to decorate letters to friends (it's a bit big for my filofax pages...). The designs are fabulous!

All of the designs on the tape

4. The cartoon animals washi tape

Image from The Lovely Desk, with permission

Again, these designs are just gorgeous and again, they will probably get used in letters to friends (we all know that I am in that rare breed of people who send hand-written letters!). Here is a picture of all of the designs on the tape:

Fantastic little animals on the tape

I'm not sure if my favourite is the giraffe or the cat. They are all wonderful! The donkey reminds me a bit of a tiny embroidery of a donkey on the Bayeaux Tapestry!

Anyway, that was my haul from The Lovely Desk. Jessica also popped a couple of other things in the parcel (as you can see in the picture at the top) - a couple of post-it note samples and some other washi tape samples on small labels.

As I say, no affiliation - I bought all of these for myself and have not been asked to do this blog post - but I always like to share new finds and excellent companies! If you have not yet checked them out, go and have a look now. You can find them at: The Lovely Desk.

Anyone else got some good finds to share?

New Inks

Well, relatively new inks. I got them a while ago and haven't posted about them!
Click on any image to enlarge.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Journalling and Mindfulness: cost-benefit?

Back in November when my mental health imploded and took out my physical health in the process, I was assigned to some counselling sessions which concentrated on using mindfulness to help me repair myself and develop resilience to the issues that had caused the burn-out in the first place. I have practised mindfulness in the past, but to be honest, my major way of decompressing was to run. If I needed to chew over things I would run long and steady; if I needed to get stress out of my system I would run short and fast or run intervals; if I was just generally wound up, I would run tempo for as long as I could and meditate while I was doing it. I was actually very good at mindful running.

Running is not possible with an untreated arrhythmia.

Hence, I started practising mindfulness (on a more stationary basis than I had in the past), but I felt as if it was a bit of a waste of time - that my brain was a box of frogs and that the time spent trying to focus on my breathing etc. was just time spent getting more frustrated at the fact that my mind was a box of frogs.

But, I persevered and tried to incorporate small acts of mindfulness into my day. The counsellor had suggested the 8-week course that is outlined in a book by Mark Williams but I still have not got past the first week of that, finding it nigh on impossible to manage to do the 8-minute initial mindful meditation, twice a day, for a week. Instead, I have managed to do some meditation at least once every day. At one point I was managing more (and could probably have re-started with the Mark Williams course) but more usually it is just once a day.

Is it helping?

Well, I'm still not back at work and I sense that the major test of whether it is helping on the resilience side will come when I do return, but I think it is helping me to rebuild my mental health.

I have found that in the morning, my brain is all over the place and meditating/practising mindfulness is largely what my counsellor would have described as 'practising frustration'! But with a small tweak (which is quite possibly just a large cheat) I am making it work better for me.

To try and help clear my head (and reduce the box of frogs feeling), I am combining the mindfulness/meditation with journalling. It can be either 'morning pages' or just a timed brain-dump: 15 minutes of getting things out of my head and onto paper. Sometimes I then convert part of that brain-dump into a to do list. Often I just ignore everything I have written - it was the writing of it that was helpful as it allowed me to process things and move on.

Once I have done that, meditation/mindfulness is a lot easier and has frequently allowed me to feel more productive afterwards - that the clutter in my head has been tidied away and there is now space to allow my thoughts to flow freely. The morning pages help to tame the box of frogs; the meditation then lets my brain rest and be quiet; after that, thoughts can flow well.

Doing the morning pages may well be a big cheat. I do realise that. I do realise that maybe I should be taming the box of frogs with meditation, but at the moment I just can't. I try to meditate and I just get frustrated. At least this way, I get my head clear and then rested.

So, cost-benefit analysis? Are those 30 or so minutes time well spent? I think so. I think that the unscrambling then meditating is helping me get through the burn-out and back to 'me'. I hope that I am also building resilience ready for when I return to work and that any return will not be curtailed by another implosion.

And of course, I'm getting to use some lovely notebooks and delightful pens in the process...

How do others decompress??

Saturday, 21 February 2015


I have a problem.

Well, I have LOTS of problems, but the one I'm wittering on about today is this: I love washi tape but, I find decorating my diary pages with it troublesome because it clutters the page up too much for me.

I love seeing pictures of other people's highly decorated diary pages and have thought in the past how great it would be to do the same and then after a week of it I think, "I can't see the wood for the trees" and stop.

I solved the dilemma a bit with the diary inserts I used last year, by putting just a bit of washi tape on the top corner to indicate different months - it was enough to make the pages a bit more colourful but it was tucked away enough for me to see the diary. However, this year's diary inserts don't have the same kind of space at the top (I'm using the Davinci Tomoe River ones... see here for details) so they have stayed undecorated.

Until now...

I spotted some really skinny washi tape on eBay at thelovelydesk (no affiliation, just letting you know where I got it all from; also check out their website - link in the list of places to shop on the right here).
[click to enlarge the pictures]
Two sets of skinny washi (6mm width)
Both of these sets are metallic

Why did I want such skinny tape? Well, the diary pages I'm using have eight equally-sized spaces - Monday to Sunday and then a box labelled 'memo' which doesn't stand out enough, so I am using the skinny washi tape to put a patterned line between the end of the Sunday space and the memo space, both to emphasise the memo box and to add just a touch of pattern. Much wider than 6mm and it would have taken up too much space.

Ta da!!

Three examples with the washi tape separating off the memo box

What do you think??

[Oh, I also bought some humongously wide tape with recipes on, but that's not for the diary, that's just to put on letters to friends but I thought I would share anyway.

recipe washi!
(the width is the width of one recipe)

And having discovered their website, I may possibly have just ordered a load more stuff.

Moving along...]

Friday, 30 January 2015

Today I choose...

... to have a lazy day.

To some of you, that might seem like nothing much to blog about, but I am not good at choosing to have a lazy day. Normally, I have a big list of stuff to do (and believe me, I still have a giant list of stuff to do that at least part of my brain thinks I should be doing!) and deciding not to do things off the list feels very difficult.

But, last night I had a very bad night's sleep, my arrhythmia is tapping away a syncopated rhythm and although my list of stuff to do is no shorter, I have decided to have a quiet day and not chip away at it. The world will not end if I don't do some of the stuff until tomorrow. Or the day after. Or never, possibly... Today, it's more important that I relax and take care of myself.

As I say, this may not be anything major for many of you, but believe me when I say how hard it is for me to see a list of things to do and decide to walk away from it.

Anyone else find it hard to ignore your 'to do' list?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Looking back; looking forwards

Janus - the god of beginnings and transformations:
He looks to the future and to the past (hence two-headed)

I have finally started to plan 2015. A bit late and still a bit haphazard, but at least I am able to think about what I’m wanting to do in 2015 (beyond the obvious – not end up with burnout again).

I always do a review of the past year – generally between Christmas and the New Year – where I look back over plans/goals etc. and also review my daily journal and see how the day-to-day went. This year’s review a) only took place a couple of days ago and b) was an eye-opener.

I suppose it wasn’t rocket science but it was striking to me to see just how many days towards the last half of 2014 that I noted that I had slept badly/had had vivid dreams or nightmares/was exhausted/kept waking through the night/that my arrhythmia was bad... Since both my mental and physical health were crumbling, all my other goals became affected too. By late November I had collapsed and could barely even plan on getting up. This utterly floored me as I have always been super-planned.

Anyway, doing the review helped me to think about my goals for 2015, central to which are to protect my mental and physical health. I’ve also read back over a couple of posts I did a while back, specifically this one (on ensuring that your goals are things you yearn to do). Finally, I have managed to get my sh*t together and draw up some sensible goals, from which stem the projects and next actions that are the core of my ‘system’. I’m not going to post on the system –see here (2012  set-up), here (my planning system), here (projects to next actions), or here (getting ready for 2014) for details on it. Essentially, the system that worked for me in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (until I hit burnout) will no doubt work for me in 2015! The only tweak I have made is to stay in the compact de Villiers binder. As a consequence I can only have four months of WO2P in the binder, and the monthly planning sheets and weekly planning sheets for everything other than the current month are kept in a ‘planning binder’ (navy Portland filofax) along with the pages outlining the goals to projects to next actions.

Here's hoping that 2015 ends up better than 2014 finished...

As I should remind myself every day:

If I'm not yearning to do it, or it's not essential... why am I squandering my life on it?