30 Jun

my hybrid systems for keeping myself sorted: analogue

I’m finally getting this post on my analogue organisation systems out. It’s been in draft since the beginning of June and it looked like I was going to get it up earlier this week, but I kept forgetting to take photos of my notebook in the daylight. I finally remembered to do it very early this morning. The light is quite blue, which I didn’t notice til now. Ooops!

Anyway, onto the story.

A while back, I was spruiking the benefits of my approach to managing my time and my to do list with a bunch of friends over dinner. I think they were all a little taken aback by my enthusiasm for my system and the tools I use to make it work, and by the fact my system involved paper and pens.

At that time, I was using a week to a page paper planner with hourly time slots. They wondered how I could manage that without making a mess of my planner, and I introduced them to the wonders of erasable pens (which I then bought them for Christmas to illustrate my point).

I’m no longer running a paper agenda that breaks my day down hour-by-hour, but I am very reliant on my Traveler’s Notebook to keep me organised.

Although I am very much a technology lover, I also have a great #loveforanalogue (check out the hashtag on Instagram). When it comes to to do lists, I feel most organised and centered when I’m working with paper and a pen. I need to see everything in front of me and I need to have it with me wherever I am. The more I’m juggling, the more reliant I am on my paper to do lists. If it’s not on my list, it’s not going to happen.

Last week I blogged about Midori Traveler’s Notebooks, and my MTN is the core of my paper planning. Actually, the one I’m currently using is commonly known as a fauxdori because it’s not made by Midori, but by an artisan who started out selling via Etsy. Inside my leather notebook cover, I have a bunch of different inserts, some I’ve made, some I’ve bought. I don’t go anywhere without it. Sometimes it’s all I take with me (along with my phone, which is of course constantly in my hand), with a bit of cash and a credit card stashed in a card insert I have in there.

My Butterscotch Wanderlust notebook from Foxy Fix. It's the regular extra room size and has four pieces of elastic inside.

My Butterscotch Wanderlust notebook from Foxy Fix. It’s the regular extra room size and has four pieces of elastic inside.

It takes up a bit of space in my handbag, but my everyday handbag is monstrous. Even when I have a smaller bag, it’s worth the weight and volume because I have absolutely everything to hand. And I love the feel of it. The texture of the leather, the weight, and the way the width sits in my hand.

So let me tell you a little bit about how I use my MTN (I’ll call it that for shorthand, even though it’s not actually made by Midori).

The first thing I should say is that my system is not fixed. It’s an evolution. I’m constantly tweaking it from week to week. And that’s the really great thing about using a MTN. It’s a flexible system and it can evolve as I need it to.

Inside my MTN

Folder insert

I made myself a folder insert so I can tuck things I need to keep in here. At the moment, I’ve got a receipt for pizza I bought for a class, which I need to claim (I hate the expenses system at work so I store up my claims for ages), a gift voucher for the bookshop at work which I got for participating in research I think, and an Instax pic of the kids. In the back half of the folder I’ve got some receipts for tax and a template I use when I’m ruling up my weekly spreads.

On the right you can see the front of my semester calendar.

On the left, you can see the folder insert, and on the right you can see the front of my semester calendar (see below).

Semester calendar

I need this with me for quick reference. I have cut down and laminated a copy, then folded it in half to fit under one of the elastics in my notebook cover. I use it all the time.

Whichever way I set it up, I was going to have a blank spot on one of the four faces of this insert so I made it pretty with some scrapbooking paper (see previous pic).

On the left, the first opening of my semester calendar.

On the left, you can see the first opening of my semester calendar.

As you can see in these two photos, my semester calendar sits inside my homemade folder insert, and both of these are wrapped around the first book in my MTN, my monthly planner.

Monthly planner

I have a month to an opening Midori insert (refill 017) on which I map various things, including the days I plan to be in the office, major deadlines, leave and so forth. I plot these things using colour coded little dot stickers and block out leave time with washi tape or just by drawing a line through the dates and labeling it.

My monthly spread for July.

My monthly spread for July.

I’ve decided I don’t go in for planner decorating, but I thought I might back when I set this insert up over the summer. Hence the pineapple washi. Which is adorable, but does raise some eyebrows in Serious Academic Meetings.

The little clouds are sticky notes and were a necessity on this spread because I stuffed up in non-erasable pen. But I actually quite like the size and standout-ness because I can see at a glance when I’ve got something big on. Blue clouds are life things; white clouds are work things.

I use little colour dots to indicate specific things: green dots are work days when I know I’ll be on campus; blue dots are days I’m planning to work when I know I’ll be at home (I use blue dotes to indicate weekend days I’m working at home, not just work days I’m working at home, to help me keep track of my plans).

The washi tape strips on the calendar itself are functional: they block out periods of time to indicate specific things.

This insert is almost finished – July is the last month I can fit in here. Once it is finished, I think I will just draw up the monthly spread in my work notebook instead. I think I can easily draw this layout myself and it will reduce the bulk in my MTN a bit if I cut out one notebook.

Work notebook

My work notebook is up next, on the second piece of elastic in my notebook cover.

I don’t use a daily time-based paper planner. I used to copy my commitments for the week into a weekly planner insert so I could see exactly where I had blocks of time to get work done. For a while this worked okay, until I had probably the most important realisation I’ve ever had about the way I schedule my days and my workflows: I’m kidding myself if I think I’m going to get anything done on meeting days. When I’m on campus, I generally have meetings all day and any in between time gets absorbed in hallway conversations. So there is absolutely no point in having a visual reminder of where I’ve got time to work, because if I’ve got stuff scheduled, I won’t have time to work anyway. In addition to that, I need to see my to dos for the week on a weekly spread, and there wasn’t enough room to put them on my weekly planner page.

I use a Midori grid notebook (refill 002) to make task lists on a weekly layout. I use a two page spread split up into sections:

  • one large section where I compile a running to do list for the week, on the right of the spread
  • five smaller sections for Monday to Friday
  • two even smaller sections for Saturday and Sunday.

Some work gets scheduled for a specific day. For example, this week final grades were due on Monday and I also needed to send back students’ assignments, so that went on Monday’s list. On Tuesday I needed to get a complete draft of a project report out to the project team for review, so was on Tuesday’s list. I also note things that are due on a particular date in that day’s section.

In a perfect world I wouldn’t schedule more than one big task or three smaller ones on any day, but in reality, I blow that out of the water fairly often. To avoid over scheduling my days, I compile a running to do list for the week. I try to get through the whole list in the week but that rarely happens.

This is last week's spread. I'm in project completion mode so that to do list is really about capturing things for later, so I don't forget, rather than about doing them now.

This is last week’s spread. I’m in project completion mode so that to do list on the right is really about capturing things for later, so I don’t forget, rather than about doing them now.

On Sunday, I draw up the next week’s spread (although at the moment I’ve been drawing them up a few at a time in advance, to save getting the stamps out every week) and start transferring things over and plotting out what I need to get done for the week ahead.

So far, this hand drawn and stamped layout is working really well for me. I’d rather not have to draw it up, but it’s not hard and a small sacrifice to make to have the perfect spread. I could design a layout and print my own insert pages, but I really like the Midori paper. I’m thinking about buying some Tomoe River paper to print my own notebook pages on. There’s heaps of tutorials online for making your own notebooks.

I’m also going to add some teaching related spreads to this notebook, inspired by a YouTube video I watched last night on bullet journalling for teachers and academics. I want to create a content list for content I need to create, a topic planner, and a page to make notes about things that didn’t work that I want to change for next year.

Bits and pieces

Next up I have a couple of plastic inserts, including a zipper insert and a card holder.

First up, the zipper insert. It has a post it on there with a bullet journalling key, which I don’t actually use because I use modified symbols. They’re just in my head, not written down anywhere. The standard version is pretty intuitive and my version is even simpler, because I don’t mix notes and events in with my planning.


Inside my zipper insert, I have a little glassine envelope with some Midori paperclips inside (four or five of which came free in this envelope with a Scratch and Jotter order, which was a cute touch), some little cloud post its (super cheap on eBay), and a paper bag with some coloured dot stickers inside.


Then I’ve got my card insert with some discount codes for online stores, wifi passwords, and the little ticket for my graduation photos – from my undergrad degree, no less! I still haven’t ordered them, but the digital files for my PhD graduation came yesterday. Not sure if I’ll ever get round to ordering my undergrad pics, although I did order the proofs a couple of years ago.


Lists and stuff notebook

On the last piece of elastic in my MTN I have my lists and stuff notebook, complete with title card decorated by Miss 7.


This is a Midori grid notebook where I make lists and notes to do with life stuff. I use the collections principle from bullet journalling to create lists that I add to over time. I have lists for books I want to buy, TV shows I want to watch, movies Mr 7 wants to watch when he’s older, gift ideas, fabric I love that I might want to rebuy, names and contact details for tradies, lists of things we need to do around the house, lists of things I need to buy… I brain dump all of this stuff into this notebook, which has numbered pages that are indexed at the front of the book (theoretically – I’m crap at maintaining the index).

Notes about some doll's clothes I'm making Miss 7 on the left and dimensions for the homemade folder inserts on the right.

Notes about some doll’s clothes I’m making Miss 7 on the left and dimensions for the homemade folder inserts on the right.

Renovation notes.

Renovation notes.

Some things obviously need to be written down, like my renovation notes. Other things – like lists of books I want to read – might seem like they’re not necessarily a part of a productivity system. But the reality is that while this is not work stuff, getting it out of my head is an important process in reducing cognitive load. I don’t have to think about remembering this stuff because I know it’s been captured, which means less worrying about whether I’m remembering everything I need to remember. So this particular notebook is really important in keeping my head clear.

That’s it!

So that’s my analogue system for keeping my self sorted. I’m sure it will continue to evolve, but that’s the beauty of the MTN system. It’s infinitely flexible and customisable.

And that’s also it for #blogjune! I didn’t quite make it to a post every day this time round, which is a bit slack really, particularly seeing I managed more last year when I was finishing my PhD. But I got to a respectable 22 posts and I’m pretty happy with that. I’m even more happy with the great conversations I’ve had this month. There have been some great posts and I’ve really enjoyed reading them and reconnecting with people I haven’t talked to in a while. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it a little bit too much, using it as an opportunity to procrastinate! But it’s been a lot of fun. Thanks for the conversations and procrastination fodder, everyone!

#blogjune 22/30

27 Jun

my hybrid systems for keeping myself sorted: technology

Calendar* courtesy Dafne Cholet under a CC by 2.0 license

Calendar* courtesy Dafne Cholet under a CC by 2.0 license

Yesterday I posted about the principles that underpin my approach to managing my time and to dos. Today I’m following that up with the first of two posts about my hybrid tech / analogue system for keeping myself sorted. In this post I’ll talk about tech, and tomorrow I’ll talk about the analogue parts of my system, which revolve around my Traveler’s Notebook.

So, onto the tech. There’s nothing too fancy here in terms of tools, but I do have a whole bunch of systems I use with these bits of tech to keep my self sorted. The two tech pieces in my hybrid self management system are my work Outlook calendar and EverNote.


I use my work Outlook calendar to manage all appointments, both work and life. I used to try to maintain a separate calendar for life but there’s not a whole lot of divide between work and life for me so it didn’t really work. Since our calendars are visible to the whole organisation by default, I just make sure I make appointments I don’t want everybody to see private.

I sync my calendar across all my devices and rely pretty heavily on notifications to make sure I’m where I need to be, when I need to be there.

I have a few strategies I use to manage my diary that are pretty important in keeping all the balls in the air. I expend a fair bit of energy on managing my calendar but it has good pay off.

The first strategy is a simple one, but one that I find not everyone employs: I keep my calendar up to date. It’s really important for me that my calendar reflects my actual availability, rather than it just being a system for reminding me when I need to be somewhere. I need it to be up to date so people can see when I’m available, and I need it to be up to date so *I* can see when I’m available. This is pretty much the key for me in terms of keeping myself sorted. So I calendar like a crazy lady.

In addition to having all my appointments in my calendar, I also block out time in my diary for a whole range of things. If I’m not available to other people at any time, I make sure my time is blocked out. For example, I block out:

  • all my teaching contact times. I do this at the start of the semester and then edit as needed if my schedule changes.
  • commute time, when I know I have to be on campus or at an offsite meeting.
  • school runs – realistically, rather than just using the appointment as a reminder. For pick ups, I block out the time from when I need to leave home or work through to when someone else will get home and I can start working again. For drop offs, I block out the time til I’m back at my desk at home or at the office.
  • 8am til 10am every day as time I’m not available for meetings. I live on the Gold Coast and work is in Brisbane. My commute is minimum an hour each way, and often substantially more during peak hour. It’s also completely unpredictable. So I am very reluctant to commit to doing anything before 10am. One day last year the traffic was exceptionally bad and I had a 9am lecture. It took me more than two and a half hours to get to work that day so despite leaving home well before 7am, my boss ended up having to run the first half hour of class. Being stuck on the freeway when I’m meant to be in a lecture theatre is pretty stressful!
  • research days, so I can try to protect some time to write.

Since I work from home quite a lot, I use my calendar to indicate whether I’m on or off campus each day. I do this by putting an appointment in my calendar at 7.30am each day that says whether I’m on campus or off campus. This helps my team with scheduling stuff. They are also really good at looking for times in my diary where I’m clearly having a meeting day, and using those times in preference to others.

Every Sunday I check my schedule for the next fortnight and add or update my on campus / off campus appointments for the next fortnight and see what I’m up to for the coming week. That helps me with my analogue planning too.


I use EverNote to take notes in meetings because I often need those notes in electronic format to share with others, and it’s just really handy to be able to search for them.

I also use it to draft things like complicated emails, content for teaching sites, blog posts etc.

I use the business card scanning function to scan cards so I can get them out of my paper planner.

I also use EverNote to manage life projects too. For example, I scanned contracts and quotes related to our house sale, purchase and renos, using EverNote’s scanning app, Scannable. I also scanned product brochures so I wouldn’t have to carry bulk print material in my Traveler’s Notebook. My use of EverNote for these projects complemented my Traveler’s Notebook, where I made lots of notes in my life notebook and carried unpaid invoices and so forth in a folder insert.

I have a premium subscription for EverNote so that I can scan business cards and save email (among lots of other things).

Tomorrow I’ll post about the fun bit: my analogue approach to planning in my MTN.

PS. If you read to the end of this post, you’re a legend. I’m sure this is as boring as batshit to anyone but me. I’m not entirely sure why I think anyone wants to read this, but I think I’m partly writing these posts to record them for me, to come back to later. Memory keeping about my obsessive calendaring.

#blogjune 21/30

26 Jun

principles that underpin my productivity and time management systems

Public domain image courtesy Eric Rothermel at Unsplash

Public domain image courtesy Eric Rothermel at Unsplash

For pretty much the whole of June, I’ve been sporadically working on a post about how I keep myself organised, in response to Rachel’s post on the topic. It’s ended up incredibly long, so I’ve decided to split it into three posts: one on principles; one on how I use technology; and one on my analogue systems.

This post is about the principles that underpin how I organise my time and to dos.

Time and task management approaches

Like Alisa, I use a combination of bullet journalling and David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD).

I use bullet journalling approaches to managing my paper notebooks (more in a later post).

I also apply some of the basic GTD principles in a pretty lightweight way.

  • I use GTD principles for processing actions, but all of my actions go onto a single list – or onto a day in my bullet journal – rather than onto separate context-specific lists.
  • I use a lightweight version of the ‘someday/maybe’ approach to getting ideas down for later by using an EverNote notebook to record ideas I don’t want to lose track of.
  • I do a simplified weekly review, which is based around the process of migrating items in my bullet journal and organising my calendar for the coming week.
  • I try to operate with my version of an empty inbox, which is 20 to 50 items. I don’t know why, but I just cannot get my inbox under that. This is is something I’d like to change.

Over the years I’ve found that if I use a full implementation of GTD, I spend a lot of time managing my system. It becomes a chore and a distraction.

The right balance of working at home and on campus

I work at home quite a lot. The right balance for me in terms of managing my workload and minimising commute time is to have three days at home each week. That doesn’t always happen, but if I have any less than two days at home in a given week I start to fall behind on everything. That’s because I’m usually on campus for a reason – to meet with people or to teach – and my time is therefore fragmented. I also spend a lot of time in incidental conversations when I’m on campus, and I lose about three hours a day to commuting.

It’s also important to me to have enough time on campus. After three days at home in a row, I am desperate for some contact with other people and I really, really need to get out of the house.

Meeting free Mondays

This year I’ve been having meeting free Mondays. The idea is that I’ll spend Mondays at home and won’t have any Skype meetings. I haven’t managed to preserve them every week, but most weeks my Mondays have been mostly meeting free. My intention was to spend Mondays on research but the reality is I used them for preparing learning resources and shooting teaching videos. Even though I didn’t use the time for what I intended, having that day up my sleeve made a huge difference to my teaching experience this semester. Next semester I’ll be teaching Mondays, both day and night, so I need to find another meeting free day. It will probably be Tuesday.

Consolidating meetings

My biggest struggle in terms of workload management is carving out time to work uninterrupted, which is pretty essential for research and writing. I do a fair bit of diary wrangling to consolidate a majority of my meetings into two or three days a week.

Maintaining an up to date calendar

My work Outlook calendar is always up to date and always a true reflection of where I am and what I’m doing. I’m going to cover this in more detail in my post on the tech parts of my system, but in a nutshell, having an up to date calendar is a critical part of my system.

Realistic planning for task management

There’s nothing worse than getting to Friday and realising you’re still working off Monday’s to do list. I try really hard to be realistic with my daily task management. In a perfect world I wouldn’t schedule more than one big task or three smaller ones on any day. In reality, I blow that out of the water fairly often, but over-scheduling is really a killer.

I had a really critical realisation recently about the way I schedule my days and my workflows: I’m kidding myself if I think I’m going to get anything done on meeting days. When I’m on campus, I generally have meetings all day and any in between time gets absorbed in hallway conversations. I no longer schedule tasks for those days.

To avoid over scheduling my days, I compile a running to do list for the week, in addition to planning to tackle individual tasks on specific days. I try to get through the whole list in the week but that rarely happens. I reassess and migrate anything that’s still important on a Sunday when I set myself up for the coming week.

So that’s it for the basic principles. I’ll be back tomorrow with an overview of the techy parts of my approach to managing my time.

#blogjune 20/30

23 Jun

4 interesting articles i’ve read this week

For tonight’s instalment of seven days of lists, I give you four interesting articles / blog posts (shortish ones!) I’ve read this week

  1. The verdict: Is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it? In this article, the author talks about her experience with making her papers available in her institution’s open access repository, then blogging and tweeting about them, and the resultant impact on downloads. In summary, she suggests: “If you want people to find and read your research, build up a digital presence in your discipline, and use it to promote your work when you have something interesting to share.”
  2. Author Nicholas Carr: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains. A student in my undergrad Social Technologies class pointed me to this article. It’s a little bit older now but it’s really, really interesting. The author calls the internet an “interruption system”. The article provides understandable insights into the impact of the internet on our attention and what happens when our attention is chronically fragmented.
  3. Why the humble notebook is flourishing in the iPhone era. I wrote a post the other day about Midori Traveler’s Notebooks (MTNs), and I have another coming about how I use mine to organise my life and my thoughts. This post looks at bullet journalling, a system that I implement in a lightweight way in my MTN. This post is a reflection on how the bullet journalling craze is playing out.
  4. Why isn’t there a Grindr for straight people? My boss told me about this article. We have some incredibly random conversations because we are both very, very prone to making tangential links. I think we were talking about information environments and he was telling me about how this article said that people use Grindr when they’re sitting in gay bars to explore who is there and might want to hook up. He was telling me about how Grindr emulates the gay bar environment. Here’s a key quote: “All successful dating apps succeed because they recreate versions of older dating institutions and experiences in a new, digitally networked form. And what Grindr seeks to approximate are specifically sites of LGBT liberation and community: gay bars, bathhouses, gyms and so on.” I find this incredibly interesting. The convergence of online and physical.

What have you been reading lately?

22 Jun

5 books i want to read for work

This is a bit of a self-serving post. I’ve currently got quite a few tabs open to remind me about books I want to read for work and I’m trying to clean up my browser, so I thought I’d make a list here for today’s list post.

  1. Human Information Interaction: An Ecological Approach to Information Behavior by Raya Fidel
  2. Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – The Lessons from a New Science by Alex Pentland
  3. Not a book, but still a substantial read taken as a whole: First Monday Special Issue: A decade of Web 2.0 – Reflections, critical perspectives, and beyond. Volume 21, Number 6.
  4. Everyday Information Practices: A Social Phenomenological Perspective by Reijo Savolainen (I’ve read most of this before but I read it fast and I was looking for something specific, so I need to give it another read)
  5. Not open in a tab, but in my handbag: Technology as Experience

When I took this job, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to have so much time for reading. It’s going to be great.’ Hahahaha! Reading, thinking and writing. Probably the three most important contributors to academic career advancement. Probably the three hardest to find time to do.

How do you find time for professional reading?

#blogjune 18/30

21 Jun

7 things i’m loving right now

Here’s a list of things that are making me happy right now, in case you need some ideas for happy-making things.

    1. I hate to be predictable, but I’ve got to say it: S04 of Orange is the New Black. I freaking love that show. So many good one liners.
    2. Buttermilk scones made with the recipe from Phillippa’s Home Baking.
    3. My iPhone 6S Plus. I’m calling it. It’s my favourite device ever. I’m also really liking my Spigen Slim Armor phone case. It’s grippy (I haven’t dropped my phone once since I got it – touch wood!) and it has a little stand so I can prop my phone up and watch YouTube while I’m doing my makeup, eating breakfast, working on my laptop etc. I also have an iRing on there, which I think is also contributing to reduction in droppage and makes the bigger screen much more manageable with one hand.
    4. Ember and Jayne french pear candles, bought from my favourite florist Moss n Stone.
    5. Sub-20 degrees celsius temperatures today.
    6. Peanut butter on fresh sourdough.
    7. Blogging in front of the TV when I should be answering email in front of the TV.

#blogjune 17/30

21 Jun

10 things that energise me at work (and an intro to a week of lists)

This week, I wanted to make a post a day, Monday to Sunday, containing a list about something. I was going to base it on the Listers Gotta List challenge list for this week, but those prompts are all about summer things, and it’s not very summery here! So I thought I’d make up my own prompts on the fly.

But then I had a crappy day yesterday and I didn’t have any brain power left to come up with a prompt or write a post, so I’m starting today. I’ll still aim to post seven list posts this week though.

So, onto my first list!


Public domain image courtesy Unsplash at pixabay.com.

A few days ago, Ruth wrote a post asking people what energises them at work, because she’s thinking about how she can get her own energy levels up. At the time, I thought this was a great topic and I planned to respond, but it feels even more important right now because I’m in the final phase of a research project and I’m flagging. And I really can’t flag right now, because the deadline for pulling it all together is only nine days away. And there’s still a lot to do.

Here’s 10 things that energise me at work.

  1. Starting things. I love to start new things but I don’t love finishing them. I am not good at the back end of a project. Need ideas? I’m your girl. But I’m certainly not your girl if you’re looking for a completer-finisher. I can do it, and I do get stuff done, but I have to do deals with myself and engage in some stern self talk to get stuff done.
  2. Shiny things (aka distractions). I’m easily distracted but I draw energy from the things that I see out of my peripheral vision that grab my attention. The promise of opportunities, new things (ideas, tech, projects, possibilities), learning, conversations. I often think I need to put blinkers on and stop noticing all the shiny things so I can get stuff done, but when I do that – when I force myself to be really focused – I slump.
  3. Teaching. Going into a class, my energy is often low. As an introvert, it can be overwhelming to think I’ve got three hours of constant engagement with people ahead of me. But the conversations I have with my students, watching them make connections, seeing them progress… Those things do energise me, even though they are tough for my inner introvert. I leave classes talking and thinking at break neck speed, and when I teach at night, I’m grateful for the time my commute gives me to wind down.
  4. Being under pressure. I operate best when I’m under pressure. It gives me energy and pushes me forward.
  5. Buzz around me. I’m really affected by the energy around me. A noisy, energy filled office gives me energy. This is an ironic thing to have on my list because my office is deathly silent, all the time. It really saps my energy.
  6. Working independently, together. Sometimes I’ll spend time working in a collaborative space with a colleague or two. For example, on Sunday, a couple of colleagues and I spent the day in the office, working in our meeting room. We did some pomodoros, working fast and hard, then stopping and chatting.
  7. Being creative. It’s really important that I have opportunities to be creative and to make beautiful things. I try to find little opportunities to be creative every day. Making graphics for my teaching sites or creating pretty slide decks gives me a creative fix.
  8. Talking / debating / arguing about ideas. We’re working on establishing a domain of research and some related concepts, and every now and then, we’ll stop and have a conversation about definitions, what these things are and aren’t, and how they relate to other concepts. It’s all so new that there aren’t any fixed answers and we’ll often get into some quite heated debate and I really love it. I love the banter and the back and forth. I love how it pushes my thinking forward.
  9. Seeing others succeed. My colleagues, people I’ve been informally mentoring, my students, graduates… I love watching the people around me succeed and I enjoy contributing to or supporting their success.
  10. Concerts in my car. I’ve always had a habit of listening to dance music really, really loud on the way to work. It psychs me up and gets me ready to smash it out when I get to work. I’ve done this since my retail days, when I really needed the music high to set me up for a day of selling, or standing around on the shop floor, looking for things to do to make the day go faster. I no longer need to look for things to make the day go faster, but if I’m not in a great mood, I’ll have a car concert on the way to work and it always helps me start the day well.

What about you? What energise you at work?

And now I’m off to have a concert in my lounge room, seeing it’s a work from home day!

#blogjune 16/30

18 Jun

midori traveler’s notebooks: a bit of analogue perfection

If you know me, you probably know I’m a bit of a gadget girl. But you may not know I am also a great lover of analogue, particularly when it comes to planning and organisation. I’m drafting a post on my analogue system for keeping my shit sorted (prompted by Rachel), but before I post that, I wanted to share about the thing I’m obsessed with that forms the core of my analogue organisation system: my Midori Traveler’s Notebook (MTN) (and my MTN-style notebook cover from Foxy Fix).

Midori Traveler’s Notebooks are a system of notebooks that combine a leather cover with individual notebooks that you insert into the cover. The cover has an elastic strap that runs down the inside and you insert books into it by opening them up in the centre and slipping them under the elastic. When you close the cover, you pull another piece of elastic around it to hold it closed.

You can put more than one notebook in it by using a rubber band to hold two notebooks together, and then sliding the rubber banded notebooks under the elastic, with one notebook at either side. And you can even get a third notebook in there too, by putting it under the elastic, between the two rubber-banded notebooks.

It’s probably tricky to picture how the system works and in particular, I think it’s very hard to picture how inserting multiple notebooks works, so I’ve made a short video to demonstrate.

Midori make a whole range of inserts (they call them refills), from monthly calendar pages, to a weekly diary, to plain lined notebooks, to grid notebooks, to sketch paper books, to plastic card holders, to pen loops… There are 24 different refills for the regular sized notebook.

It’s such a simple system: just a piece of leather and a couple of pieces of elastic that hold together any combination of notebooks you like. And that’s really the beauty of the system: the fact you can mix and match refills to create your perfect notebook.

I won’t talk too much more about how the system works, because other people have already done this much better than I can. For starters, there is this comprehensive guide from Jet Pens.

Besides the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, there are many other versions of MTN-style notebook covers made by other sellers, very often artisans who sell through marketplaces like Etsy. These MTN-style notebook covers are commonly referred to as fauxdoris. The two big sellers are Chic Sparrow and Foxy Fix, both of which have their own websites, but there are many, many other sellers on Etsy. I haven’t bought from Chic Sparrow, but I have bought covers from Foxy Fix.

I bought my first MTN-style notebook cover from Foxy Fix in their seconds sale. It was a thin, hard, green leather. I used it for a few days and decided I really liked the system but not the size I had bought (Foxy Fix do a range of non-standard cover sizes). And I really wanted one of the limited edition blue MTNs and I managed to find one on eBay so I snapped it up. I love it. It’s my favourite cover to use and hold. The hold part is important, because this is a gloriously tactile system, and one of the delights of the MTN is the way it feels in your hand – the texture of the leather, the weight, the thickness.

But I’m into compartmentalisation and I wanted to have more notebooks inside my cover. So for Christmas last year, the kids bought me (i.e. I bought myself and passed it on for gifting) a Buterscotch Wunderlust Foxy Fix cover, in their ‘regular extra room’ size. I love my Butterscotch Wunderlust for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that I can jam so much into it, and there are two features that make that work. Firstly, it doesn’t just have the single internal strand of elastic that a proper MTN has. Instead, it has four strands of elastic, which means you can slip four individual notebooks inside without using any rubber bands to join notebooks together. I’ve had up to three notebooks in my blue MTN, but the centre one sits out a bit further than the others, partly because of the single strand of elastic, and partly because of the width of the spine (see the video above). Which leads me to the second feature of my Wunderlust that makes it so great: it’s wider than a Midori cover. When it’s stuffed full of notebooks, the effect of the extra width is that it makes the spine wider. So combined with the four strands of elastic, this extra width means I can fit four notebooks, a card insert, a zip insert, two homemade folder inserts, and a homemade semester calendar. Basically, everything I could possibly need.

I made another video showing how this four strand notebook works, because I think it’s probably a bit tricky to understand from a text description.

My  little obsession with MTN-style notebooks is a rather expensive one, because I’m always trying new inserts or refills to fine tune my system of notebooks. But I really enjoy using my notebook and it is my constant companion. There’s something really reassuring about the weight and the feel of it, and about knowing that everything I need is inside.

There are heaps of videos around about this system, but these are two of my favourites, because they focus on the notebooks and not on heavily embellished scrapbook-style page layouts, which you’ll see all over YouTube and Pinterest:

I mentioned JetPens’ guide earlier, and Australian seller Bookbinders has a nice guide too. For inspiration on using an MTN, check out beautiful stationery store Baum Kuchen’s blog, where they publish stories about how people use their MTNs.

In Australia, you can buy Midori Traveler’s Notebook covers and refills from:

More on my analogue system for keeping my life in order soon!

#blogjune 15/30

16 Jun

synonyms and wriggling toes

Busy. It’s a word we hear – and say – a lot.

And there are some others, which basically mean the same thing, that I catch myself saying and hear other people say too: Pressed. Stressed. Stretched. Overwhelmed. Under the pump. Overloaded. Time poor. Frantic. Slammed.

Then there are phrases we use to explain why we’re in the state we’re in: It’s a busy time of year. The usual end of semester chaos. I’ve been inundated by marking. My inbox is like a blackhole.

And the hope that things will change: When I finish my PhD… Once we get grades entered… After this paper is written… Once we’re into the swing of semester… When semester is over…

Everybody around me is so busy. Colleagues. Friends. Family. We’re all *insert synonym for busy* here.

As therapy for my foot, I’m supposed to spend a few minutes, several times a day, attempting to scrunch up a tea towel laid on the floor with my toes, and then practice bending my toes up and splaying them. I can’t do anything else while I’m doing this because it takes conscious thought to get my little toes to move. I’m also supposed to spend time with my foot submerged in a container of uncooked rice and move my toes around to retrain my brain about sensation, which involves actively thinking about what I’m doing – i.e. engaging my brain to retrain it. So again, I can’t do anything much else at the same time.

And because I’m *insert synonym for busy here*, I haven’t been doing these things. Partly because amongst all the busyness, I just forget to stop and do them, and partly because when I do think about it, I shrug it off because I can’t do anything else while I’m doing them. It’s not necessarily that I need to be doing something else with the time (though sometimes that is why). It’s also that I’m so used to being go go go that the idea of sitting and doing nothing but think about my foot wriggling around in a container of raw rice seems enormously boring. The effect of being busy all the time is that I don’t really know how to stop and… feel the grains of rice.

And on that note, I think I’ve got a date with some basmati. Sounds a bit like busy, doesn’t it!?

#blogjune 14/30