Jibun Techo Unboxing

Not mine, but the captivating Meredith Moore from Wonder Fair in Lawrence, Kansas. I’ve watched all her unboxings now and I wish this was my local store. They have an online shop, but they sell bugger all on it, so you can’t order the Jibun Techo from them. I wonder if it’s a distribution agreement thing? Maybe you can order if you phone them up, like you’re living in 1991?

They sell the Hobonichi too. If you’re in the midwest you have to check them out. For bonus points, report in and tell us how the shop was IRL.

Review: The D1 Archer Planner

I vastly prefer a 2-page per day planner. Sadly these are thin on the ground. Although I made my own planner template, I don’t love ring binders, and I’ve always hoped to eventually find a bound 2-page per day planner. I was pretty thrilled, therefore, to find the Archer D1 Planner by The Active System Company, and I gave it a try for the second half of August.

The Archer comes in a set of three, covered in a classic unoffensive navy cardstock, each with a different color on the spine: yellow, red, or green. This is handy when pulling them off the bookshelf in future to find project details you need.

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Each planner measures 6″ x 9″, or 15.3 cm x 22.8 cm. Here it is compared to a Hobonici Cousin. It’s wider, too, coming out to the edge of the month tabs on the Cousin.

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In the planner world this is an awkward size, too big for a standard A5 journal cover. It’s also thin and needs a companion in any cover so it’s not too floppy. Luckily I have a tragically underused travelers’ notebook: a Chic Sparrow A5 Deluxe Mr. Darcy in Buttered Rum. It was delicious to have an excuse to get it back out again.

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Although it did technically fit within the dimensions of the Chic Sparrow cover – just – it looked noticeably awkward and out of place, like Rodney Dangerfeld at college.

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My current plotting notebook is a large Moleskine pro. You can see how much bigger the Archer planner is.

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I liked a lot of the features of the Archer.

Most obviously, the Archer offers you – ta dah! – two pages per day.

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Look at the size, look at the size! I have two pages to write on and I wants them both!

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It’s important to note that my planner must have been pre redesign; the pic on Amazon is of an updated 2-page layout, which I do like better. The tiny dot grid was no loss, and I much prefer the long notes section on the right.

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The planner is undated. For me this was good, because I got it half way through the month and could launch into it without feeling I was wasting pages. It can’t be denied it is a hassle setting the damn thing up initially, though. I needed PaperMate handy when I forget the 23rd existed. This isn’t a feature that would put me off using a planner though. The planner I’m reviewing next month is also undated and so far I love it.

A big pro is the pages are numbered. I like this way of being able to note what pages have important project details, or to refer back for figures etc.

My version offered the ability to rate a larger number of personal variables than I care to track, alhtough YMMV.

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The new version adds Energy and Optimism instead of Activity and Sleep, and adds a section to record more useful metrics.

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I would have used the metrics-tracking section, but rate your friends? Daily? Yeah, that won’t go horribly at any point. Rate my hair?? My clothes? I would crumble under this constant self-evaluation.

The inside cover has a useful Project list and quick reference section, for numbers you’ll be calling a lot, or info you need frequently that month.

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The planner opens with note pages and places to record the cities, events, shops, and restaurants you visit, books you read, TV shows/movies you watch, music you listen to, sports/games played/watched, recommendations received, milestones reached, and people met.

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At the back there’s another double page of note paper in lines and dot grid.

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Because the planner is so slim there’s no ribbon bookmark, but each top right corner is marked to cut when the day is done, so you can easily find the current page.

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Cons:

Using so much room to record weather AM and PM is pointless to me, and I would much rather have a Daily Top 3, so that’s what I repurposed it for, even though it annoyed me to cram 3 items into 2 spaces.

The paper quality is only OK. Even ballpoint ghosts, and forget it for fountain pens: it bleeds right through.

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The month view is a list.

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This does not work for me at all because I’m a visual thinker, and I need to see the month laid out in weeks. It wasn’t a big deal to print out a blank monthly layout, fill it in for August, and glue it into the front of the book. I ended up using the two monthly calendar pages for my August Master Task List, and it worked well for that.

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There is a monthly review in the back, although it’s basic.

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But there’s no monthly planning pages/goal setting space. I printed out my August Momentum Planner and stuck that next to the month view, and I did the same with each weekly plan, although it was awkward having to jam each weekly plan into the middle of a 2-page daily spread. It bugs me I have to do this. With all that metric-tracking space the planner gives the impression of being for someone with a lot to juggle and keep track off. Forward planning and setting priorities is a big part of that.

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Here’s the worst con for me. Because I started mid-August I intended to use the planner through September as well. I was pretty shocked when I realized one planner would only work for me from Monday 14 August to Saturday 2 September: when I realized, in fact, there are only 20 days per planner.

Twenty days?? Seriously? This is a huge pain in the ass. That monthly Master list? I’d have to rewrite it. The monthly calendar, print out again. That useful project code list and quick reference list? Copy over. Each planner is thin, so I could definitely just staple two, or even all three, volumes together, but going forward, paying US$21.95 plus shipping for only 60 days – 2 months – of planning! No way. And it wouldn’t even cover a whole 2 months. I’d have to photocopy a layout for one day and stick the extra pages in to cover one 30-day month and one 31-day month.

I would gladly swap all those notes/recommendation pages for enough daily pages to finish out a full 31 days, but I’d also add monthly and weekly planning pages. This would bulk out the planner, but not by much, and would make it 300% more practical. One month per volume would even offer some definite advantages.

But would it be enough of an improvement that I’d overlook the price? Archer says you need four packs to cover a year, which costs $88, plus shipping, so probably not. But because of the 20 days thing, as it stands now, to cover a full year you’d actually have to buy six packs, for US$131.70, and you’d still have to photocopy five extra days worth of pages.

It pisses me off that so many page-per day planners ruin things by having a shared page for Saturday and Sunday, but to only include enough pages for four sets of five days per week? That’s not even enough in one volume for the weekdays of August, which would require 23 days. This is perplexing when a two-page per day layout seems designed for people with Shit To Do. So is this for people who don’t have things to do every day, but when they do, their days are very busy. Who is that? Who is the target market for this planner?

A full year of Franklin Covey dated 2-pages per day 2018 inserts is $32.95. You can buy that and a basic pleather binder for $82.90, leaving you enough left over for a Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen and a 2018 Hobonichi Techo from Jet Pens. Seriously. How would that even be a debate?

So yeah, when I realized the limitation of the number of pages vs price, I abandoned this sucker after only two weeks – which was only 6 days before I would have run out of pages anyway. The Archer is never going to work for me long term. On the other hand, maybe this will suit you. I have two volumes of the three-volume set left. If you want to give them a try drop me a line – or comment – and I’ll send them to you. Or if you want to splash out on a set for yourself, they’re distributed through Amazon.

 

 

I’ve been using my MacBook charger wrong

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Holy shit, you guys.

I was packing up my laptop today, coiling my power cable to fit into my cable bag, and the man next to me leant over and said, “Would you like to know a better way to do that?”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but I slowly nodded (on alert in case this was some kind of scam). He took my power cable from me, untangled its already-mobius-esque length, and did this.

Mind. Fucking. Blown. I had no idea those flaps folded out!

Makeup planner

Nine years after conception, I just found out this is a thing. Make up artist and Home Shopping Networker Trish McEvoy produces seasonal “makeup planners”: ringbinder cases for cosmetics.

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They come in seasonal colors like Kalahari Sky, Gold, Azure, Magenta Croc, White Sand, or Classic Black Quilted.

Screenshot 2017-04-25 15.07.32.pngThey’re sized in Petite, Medium or Large, and you can buy one pre-filled, or get it empty for USD $78 – $85 and build your own with refills, which McEvoy calls “makeup wardrobing pages.”

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Although the filled planners are pricey – USD $185 to $350 – for the amount of product you get I don’t actually think they’re too bad. And I admire the heck out of McEvoy for implementing the idea. I can see a big crossover market between the planner community and makeup buyers.

There’s something about the organization that comes with planners that makes part of me deeply content. I also get a huge sense of peace associated with completion and preparedness that comes with buying complete sets of things. (This may stem from an Erma Bombeck piece about a coordinated travel wardrobe I read when I was seven.)

I see these and just want to own one and play with it, to be like Eeyore taking things out and putting them back in again. Although I’m not a Trish McEvoy kind of person, in another lifetime I think I’d love to be.

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Dave Seah’s Emergent Task Planner (with free downloads)

Designer Dave Seah has a kick-ass range of free downloadable time management templates. They’re called the Emergent Task Planner range, and I love these suckers.

There’s space for your top 3 tasks and 6 additional tasks, each with four hours worth of 15-min time trackers so you can record how long you actually spend on the work. The left holds an open time scale in 15 minute increments. At the bottom is scratch paper space, or room to write new tasks as they, well, emerge.

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This graphic is from Seah’s website and you should totally go there immediately and download the planners for free and try them out, and, if you like them, pay him $12 for the dated 2017 version. Seah also has a whole range of free productivity downloads you can find here (including a concrete goals tracker and a NaNoWriMo word count tracker)

You can also buy ready-to-go printed versions on Amazon. There’s an undated 3-month spiral-bound notebook, an A5 spiral-bound version, and an unbound version you can punch for your own Franklin Monarch etc. I’m annoyed at myself for not needing the 3-month bound book because I want one.

But I did buy a couple of packs of the Stickypad ETP.

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These 4″ x 6″ sticky notes fit into an A6 notebook, or on a larger planner page. The stickies  – and the A5 version – don’t include the time tracking boxes and I wish they did, although I can easily add in boxes by hand for the purpose.

Even when you don’t need a tightly scheduled planner, there are always those days where tasks, appointments, and meetings collide, and you end up with a jammed day. These planner sheets are perfect for that. You can print one off just when you need one, or add a single sticky to your regular everyday carry notebook.

Kanmido personal Kanban board

This will surprise exactly no-one who reads this blog, but when I’m letting my fear keep me from writing, I waste money on planning supplies. Here’s my new entirely unnecessary toy: the Kanmido 10 Min Work Life Balance Planning Board aka a personal Kanban board.

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Kanban was designed as an information tracking system for lean/just-in-time manufacturing, but it’s also super useful for keeping track of multiple writing projects simultaneously. I have a big whiteboard on my wall behind my desk I use as a Kanban board. I have columns for first conception, drafting, editing, cover commission, proofreading, and release. Each project gets one sticky note, and as the project goes into different phases the sticky advances across the board. Or, alternatively, the sticky stays exactly where it is for two years. This latter is more frequent. But the system does help me keep track of what’s where, what I have to do next, and why I absolutely cannot take on any new projects until 2022.

The Kanmido board is a variation on the idea. You’ve got columns for Today, This Week, and This Month, although of course you could change these to whatever you like. You use stickies for your tasks/appointments, and advance them across the columns – from right to left, like manga – as each becomes your priority. And unlike a whiteboard, you can tuck the board into your planner/notebook and take it to the cafe/office/meeting with you.

The back of the board has spaces for “whole life” tasks. No idea what these might be. Recreation? Apparently other people have lives outside of working. I haven’t got the hang of that yet. Maybe in my second half-century.

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Kanmido intends you to use yellow stickies for must-do tasks, pink for want-to-do tasks, and blue for appointments. Handily, the stickies are built in to the bottom of the board, and refills can be found, but a) not easily, and b) they’re pricey. Hell, the whole board is pricey. Should this speak to you, definitely shop around: prices on ebay vary by over 100%.

I tried Hobonichi Coco Fusen refills in the Kanmido board, but they’re so much shorter they don’t really work. When you remove a sticky the end of the stack falls out of the board at the back.

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Kanmido sticky on the top, two colors of Hobonichi sticky at the bottom
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Spot the interloper.

The boards come in A6 (105 x 148 mm / 4.1 x 5.8 inches) and B6 (125 x 176 mm / 4.9 x 6.9 inches). They’re 2mm thin. The A6 fits perfectly inside an A6 notebook like a Stalogy or Hobonichi Planner/Original. The B6 is smaller than A5, so it easily fits inside a Leuchtturm large, Moleskine large, or Hobonichi Cousin.

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B6 in a Hobonichi Cousin
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Can you see it inside my Cousin?

The Kanmido board comes with a weird paperclip thing, with which to fasten it into your main planner, by using a tiny clear plastic loop attached to each top edge of the board. This kind of works. It does stop it falling out of your planner if you’re walking around, but the lower edge of the board is still free to slip out of place.

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So, should you buy one of these?

Hell, no.

The process of tracking tasks/project status is great, but seriously, this is expensive for what it is. You can DIY this. Cut a piece of card to size and laminate it. Here’s one I made in sixty seconds with an unused divider and a sharpie, which fits the cheaper, larger, and more common 3M post-it flags.

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This column system won’t work for you if you find the process of writing your to-do list out each day helps sift through what you can safely forget. But if you have a lot of tasks to complete in series it can feel fucking good to pull them along the columns and see the progress you’re making.

Still, I have two annoyances with the Kanmido To-Do Board.

  1. It’s hard to find pens to write on the stickies. A Pilot Twin Marker works the best, because that sucker will write on anything up to and including window glass. Frixion pens also work, but all the rollerballs I’ve tried smudge easily, or the ink pools and won’t form letters at all.
  2. Because stickies only have adhesive on one end, once you write past half way the free end starts flapping around and it’s hard to write neatly. I have to try to hold the end down to hold it steady. The stickies are tiny. My hands are not.

Something else to consider, generic paper post-it flags don’t seem to stick well enough; they peel off within 30 minutes. You really need to use more expensive film stickies.

Disappointingly – but entirely predictably – the Kanmido doesn’t add value to my life. Because I spent money on it I’m going to force myself to use it for the rest of the month and see if I can make it work for me. Maybe I can use it for all those mosquito tasks that never make it onto my actual to-do list, and I can pick one to work on each day. That might work. I’ll update in March. If you try the Kanmido, or if you hack your own, please let me know how it goes for you.

 

Go Kokuyo part 2: Jibun Techo cover review

In part 1 of this post I looked at the Jibun Techo by Kokuyo, a simpler and more compact competitor to Hobonichi planner.

Kokuyo also make a pretty ingenious trifold A5 cover, which not only will work for the Jibun Techo but also a Hobonichi Cousin, Moleskine, MD Midori A5, Seven Seas, Taroko journal, or any other A5 or A5 slim notebook. The cover is vegan leather (aka plastic) and polyester canvas (aka a different kind of plastic). It has three riveted ribbon bookmarks and closes with an elasticated band. There are outside pockets in both front and back, big enough to store my A5 shitajiki as you can see. One thing I appreciate is that the elastic band is so firm when it’s unfastened it doesn’t flop around, it sits nice and tight against the back of the cover (see right pic).

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The trifold design allows for easy carrying of the Jibun Techo 3 book system. In the photos I actually have a Hobonichi Cousin A5 notebook, not the Jibun Idea book. You can see how well it fits.

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The planner slips into the cover just like a Hobonichi cover. The Life book nestles next to it in the back cover. The Idea book or other notebook attaches via a clever split plastic sleeve, which swings out to give you the trifold. The same plastic sleeve design sits in front, although that one doesn’t swing out.

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The inside back cover has three horizontal slots for business cards/credit cards/sticky note holders, and there’s one more vertical one in the foldout sleeve.

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Hobonichi Cousin A5 notebook attached to the foldout sleeve.

Bonus: the cover comes with a free spiral bound notebook, and the paper in it is surprisingly good.

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One big advantage of this split sleeve system is you can insert either a spine-bound notebook or a top-bound jotter pad/note pad into the space.

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Rhodia jotter in Kokuyo cover

The whole thing makes a slim package convenient to carry or throw in your bag. The pen loop is elastic, and amply big enough for a Lamy Al-Star or even chunkier pen.

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Even with the Rhodia jotter pad in it, it’s very manageable.

But not only the Jibun Techo set will fit in it. Look! This sucker will hold a large Moleskine plus a notebook, a Hobonichi Cousin with a Hobonichi notebook, or a Taroko Enigma by itself (just), meaning it will also hold a Seven Seas Writer/Crossfield by itself.

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Hobonichi Cousin
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Taroko Enigma

One thing I see a lot is people saying they love the design of the Safari, but dislike the khaki color of the A5. The Kokuyo A5 cover comes in four appropriately sober and businesslike color options.

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I got my cover, including the notebook, on eBay for about USD$35. Shipping was free. Compare that to USD$118 for the Safari A5, plus another $20 for shipping and handling. My experience with this seller was fantastic. The cover arrived in New Zealand from Japan in a week (and remember, that was with free shipping).

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Hobonichi Safari Cousin cover

Yes, the Safari is better quality, with more pockets, and arguably will last longer. It’s more elegant, although the Khaki color is not to everyone’s liking. But you can’t argue against that price difference. If you’re looking for a sturdy, practical, well-designed and non-precious journal cover you should definitely consider the Kokuyo.