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.

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.

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).

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.

Go Kokuyo part 1: Jibun Techo & accessories review

Japanese stationery brand Kokuyo is an up and coming competitor to Hobonichi. You guys know I love Hobonichi, and treasure my Safari cover as my everyday carry, but the Hobonichi planner isn’t the right choice for everyone. Many people find the daily layout offers more space than they need. And the universe knows, white space waiting to be filled with brilliance causes anxiety at the best of times.

If you relate to this, the Kokuyo Jibun Techo might be a better choice for you. The full Jibun Techo “3 in 1 Life Log Diary” is a set of three books: a yearly planner, a ‘Life’ book to record personal details and events, and a ‘Idea’ book – a thin gridded notebook made from Tomoe River paper.

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The planner offers only a monthly and weekly view (plus personal info pages), on beautiful fountain-pen friendly paper. There’s a regular edition, with color pages, and a monochromatic Biz edition. It has two built-in ribbon bookmarks, in black and red.

The Shiba Inu bookmarks up top are by the artist A Cloud is Born, from Hobonichi

The Jibun Techo comes in A5 slim or B6 slim. The A5 slim is 17mm (2/3 inch) narrower than full A5. It’s a compact size, great for an everyday carry. You can buy each book separately, but if you get the set it comes in a handy clear plastic cover with two outside document pockets and six slots for business cards/sticky notes/accessories.

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The set also comes with a shitakiji which has a riveted elastic band to hold the whole lot neatly together inside the closed cover.

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If you don’t care for the idea of the elastic Kokuyo also make a separate shitajiki to use as a ‘Today’ bookmark.

A5 slim Jibun Techo (left) shitajiki photographed next to a Taroko Shop A5 for size comparison

Kokuyo makes sticky notes to fit into their boxes, but the Hobonichi ones work fine too. You would have to be pretty darn OCD to mind the 2mm overhang. They also make index stickers to add to your pages and make navigation easier.


Belle Beth Cooper has done an extensive walkthrough of the Jibun Techo, and the Kokuyo website lists all the pages in the Yearly Planner and the Life book, with good images. Currently the Kokuyo website is only in Japanese, which makes ordering scary. There are some showing up on eBay and Etsy now, although the seller markup makes them pretty damn expensive. Do not worry about what cover color you buy: this is simply a trimmed piece of A4 (letter) paper slipped inside the clear cover. You can easily print and make your own.

Currently I’m trialling the Jibun Techo as a daily log, recording how I actually spend my time: all my time. Sometimes I don’t know where the hours go. Five days of recording down to the minute already tells me where I need to improve.

In part 2 of this post I review the Kokuyo A5 notebook cover, a well-designed and price-conscious choice which also works for a Hobonichi Cousin, Moleskine, Seven Seas, or Taroko journal.

My top 3 writing productivity apps

Productivity apps can be an energy suck. You spend so much time getting organized and setting up systems you don’t move on to the “producing stuff” stage. Many apps don’t add enough value to be worth it. Here are my top three low-setup apps. These have genuinely helped me improve how much and how frequently I write, with no learning curve or extensive workflow system development required *cough* OmniFocus *cough*. I’m on Mac, so Your Milage May Vary.

1. Brain FM

BrainFM plays frequency- & amplitude-modulated music. The channel I use sounds like EDM with a weird, trippy bass. I cannot explain why BrainFM works. As far as I know, it’s magic. Kidding. It’s science. All I know is I turn it on and the ADD part of my brain goes all quiet and happy, tucking itself into a corner of my skull and tapping its toes happily, and leaves the rest of me free to write. It’s kind of absurd how well it works for me. I can set it for 30 minutes, an hour, two hours, or infinity. There’s a wide choice of music/sound types to pick from, and themes for focus, relaxation. or sleep. Best of all there’s no setup required. Put your earbuds in. Push Focus. Work.

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BrainFM asks you to rate your sessions and then tracks your progress. It costs USD $6.95 a month for a month-by-month account. I love it so much I splashed out in December for a discount $39.00 lifetime sub through BoingBoing: this is still on offer for another 5 days (or 1 year for $19; 2 years for $29). I’ve tried other focus music options like Focus@Will. This is also effective, but not to the same extent. BrainFM is the one for me. I’m hooked.

2. Vitamin R

Vitamin R is a flexible pomodoro app: it times you for the duration of a focused work session. The differences between Vitamin R and a plain Pomodoro timer are:

a) Before you start a focus session the app asks you to define your specific objective for this work session. This helps me stop focusing on “working” and start focusing on “completing X task in this project.” The app remembers your objectives, so when you pick up the next day you can easily see where you got to yesterday.

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b) The app then asks which other apps you’d like to close to minimize your distractions. It will remember your choices, and offer these as the default next time.

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c) Then you define your own session length, from 5 minutes to an hour. The app tells you when your time slice will finish, and also links to your google calendar/iCal to let you know what other appointments/plans are in your day view. When you feel like hell, but have to work anyway, it’s useful to just do a five-minute slice. Achieve progress, no matter how tiny. When it’s your prime creative time and you’re energized and alert, crank it up to an hour.

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d) As you work there’s an intermittent tick-tick sound (you can toggle this off) to remind you to stay on task. The idea might sounds annoying, unless, like me, you’re prone to distraction. Then not only will you understand, you’ll love it. The tick acts like the bell in meditation; it reminds me to get back on task (I can get sidetracked easily, just by the birds outside the window). There’s also popups/voice overs to count down your time slice, e.g. “ten minutes left.” Again, you can toggle these off if you hate them.

e) The app tracks your time slices. Over weeks you get to see more clearly when long slices work, and when you’re fed up and short slices work better. This helps me plan my tasks. My gut tells me I work best in the evening. My stats tell me I’m wrong: if I haven’t done it by 6pm, I’ll struggle.

There’s also a notepad, but it takes two seperate clicks to open it while writing and I find that annoying. Using Notes – or a scrap of paper – works more efficiently for me.

3. Day One

I have a problem with fear. My productivity is low because I’m terrified of being judged for my inexorable imperfection. 2015 was a sucky fucking year for productivity for me. In the months of April to November inclusive I wrote only 26,336 words. In February, June, and October I wrote nothing. On 29 November 2015 I started journaling, inspired by my friend Chris (I do not attempt the arty stuff she does). In December 2015 I wrote 34,976 words. In January 2016 I wrote 61,547. In two months, that’s more than three times the word count achieved in the previous eight.

I have a paper journal too of course, but for my writing productivity, I use Day One. The interface is super-clean and extremely simple. When I sit down to write one of those Vitamin R time slices I feel the fear well up inside me every fucking time. Who the hell am I kidding. I can’t write. My books are terrible and no one wants to read them anyway. I’m a joke. When I try, and inevitably fail, everyone will unfriend me.

Before I start writing, I can click open Day One and write all this shit down. Get it out of me, like carving out envenomated flesh. I tell myself it’s all right to fail. I am nothing special, and that is what’s important. We’re all just flailing around , tiny whirlpools in the great energy of life. I can write because I don’t know what I’m doing, not in spite of it.

I can also write through plot issues, when I’m stuck or not sure what happens, or how it happens, or how a character will react. Here’s where Day One beats a paper journal: if I come up with something good I can just cut and paste it, or tag it to find later. I can easily add photos, drawings, and pics of book covers. The Day One interface on Mac couldn’t be simpler: click the + and write, click Done when finished. You can keep multiple journals if you want, and sync between Mac, iPhone and iPad.

The down side? Day One is crazy expensive: currently USD $49.95 I believe (NZ$59.95 = ouch!). It’s definitely a luxury. If you have Evernote you can use that for digital journaling. You shouldn’t need to double up. I own Evernote. I shouldn’t need Day One. But for me, it works, and it’s worth it.

I’m still working on overcoming my fear. It’s deep-seated and will take time. This is my number one priority for 2017, hand in hand with producing many more books.


So, these apps helped me. If you find any useful, or if you’re aware of cool features I’ve missed, shout out in the comments and let me know. And tell me, what’s your favorite productivity app?


“A bayonet makes a very acceptable toasting fork,” and other advice from a WWI diary

In 1914 my great-grandfather was part of the New Zealand Mounted Brigade who left New Zealand to fight in World War I as part of the ANZACs . They thought they were going to Europe, but they ended up in the Sinai Desert in Egypt, fighting the Turkish forces. I still have his army-issued 1918 diary. He wrote in cursive, often in pencil, and sadly I can’t understand most of it.

The journal is cool, though. It’s tiny: a smidgen over 4″ x 2 ¾”. It has a week on two pages with a Sunday start, but there’s practically no space to write for Sunday. Maybe one was not supposed to fight on the Sabbath.

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The journal is missing the cover and the end pages; it starts on page 7 with a guide to flags.
Then there are sections on:
Headings for reports
Field Kitchen (i.e. how to dig a trench to set one up in)
Penetration of Rifle Bullets
Rifle Definitions
Rifles used by Fighting Powers
Calender for Five Years (1916-1920)
Some Useful Knots
List of Abbreviations for Military Terms
How to Set a Map
To Find the North by Your Watch
Control by Whistle
British Orders and Medals
British, French and German Guns
British and German Rifles
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Conventional Signs & Lettering Used in Military Field Sketching
V.T.C Badges of Rank
Hints for Judging Distances
Finding Your Direction by Night
First Aid in Case of Accidents (Accidents?? Not in case of, you  know, being in a WAR??)
Aeronautical Terms and their Meaning (the “enclosed shelter for the pilot of a biplane” is a nacelle, not a cockpit)
The Position of Main Arteries and Points of Compression
French, Belgian and English Money Table
Bugle Calls (Reville, Cookhouse, Lights Out, Alarm)
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Soldier’s Vocabulary. (Fancy some tea with dood and teeny??)
Semaphore Signaling
Semaphore Alphabet
Morse Alphabet
Special Signals
Station Signals
Badges of Rank
The Soldiers’ Guide to French (“La dirigible attend! Ou trouver a manger pour nos chevaux?”)
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March Discipline
Care of the Feet
Relative Rank of the Officers of the Navy and Army
Daily Wants’ Dictionary (a “load” of straw = 36 “trusses” of 36 lbs each)
Calendar for 1917
Calendar for 1918
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Each weeks’ two-page spread also contains useful field knowledge along the bottom edge – just like the way a Hobonichi has a quote;

Make a Salt and pepper shaker from bamboo
Hint to keep the head on a hatchet
How to keep eggs fresh in camp
How to cut a bottle
Make a canvas belt into a first aid kit
How to build a camp oven
How to carry a rope
Make a soap shaker from bamboo
A novel camp fire stunt (collect ashes in your kettle to light the gas for light)
Make shift trench cooking utensils from “knick-knacks” e.g. the titular bayonet, use a steel helmet as a wash basin.
An emergency pack sack (made from a sack)
How to carry safety pins
Use an old cocoa tin filled with oily rags as a lantern
How to break large sticks
Extracting salt from the sea
Pin your bedding down with kilt pins to prevent draughts at night
Make a sling from a roller bandage
Diagram for a handy bicycle kit
Protecting food in the open
Make a portable cot for a bivouac
How to sew a pocket for your signaling manual
Make a handy brazier from a petrol tin
How to trim a lamp wick
Cure squeaking boots (this involves getting “two wooden pegs” from “your shoemaker” and driving them into the centre of the soles)
Admiral’s flags
An ingenious lamp from gun oil
How a head woodman marks trees for woodcutters
Types of spurs
How to “slip” (unhook) railway carriages
The mark for condemned equipment, clothing, and stores
War department markings
Using a bucket to help a yacht beat a strong tide
Train tail lamps
Ascertaining n a vessel’s speed
The sign which indicate telegrams may be sent from this railway station
The compound eye of a beetle (I get the feeling the authors were scraping the bottom of the barrel by now)
How porters light the lamps on top of trains
That the long pennant flown on a vessel is called a “whip” and is to show that Britain – “Mistress of the Sea” – “could whip all other countries from the sea.”
 Choose a penknife with a clutch and spring to prevent slipping
How an electric bell-pull works
Signals of distress
How to keep the tongue of a shoe in place
The meaning of numbers on ladders (spoiler: it indiates the number of rungs)
If you burn a fingertip, “a good cure” is to put the fingertip on your ear lobe for “instant relief.” Apparently.
Special “India rubber bands” can be bought for bicycle handlebars to protect the metal plating
Horse chestnut trees are marked with tiny horse shoes
A skull and crossbones on a sign means people should not approach
How to pierce a coin using a cork and a sewing cotton bobbin
How to make a homemade weather glass (a barometer?)
Erect your tent like a sundial to get a “bar of sunshine that will travel round the interior”
The purpose of hoop guards on telegraph poles
Harbor signals

And you know, 98 years later, I would still love 90% of all this stuff in a journal. It could be a Just In Case survival planner, with guides on snaring animals, fishing, first aid, and field survival. Think we could persuade Hobonichi to do a 2018 centennial superflu slash zombie edition?


Hobonichi, ADHD strategies, and a free planner template download


The lineup for the 2017 Hobonichi Techo planners was announced this week. I drooled and swooned over the new covers. Especially this one:

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The 2017 Mina Perhonen Hobonichi Cousin cover

The techo with this cover costs $170 in Kiwi dollars, before shipping. Ouch. But I love the Hobonichi. I love the paper. I love the careful design. I love the binding. I love everything about it except it doesn’t work for me at all.

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My 2016 Hobonichi

Reason one: there’s only one page per day and I need two (more about that in a second). Reason two: I customize it anyway. I print out (and buy) habit-tracker stickers because apparently I have reached the point I can no longer remember if I have taken my meds each day unless I see proof. I had an actual self-inking rubber stamp made for tracking if I hit my daily writing goals. Reason three: the Hobonichi is supposed to be complete in itself, so you can’t add pages. But I need pages, for projects, and weekly reviews, and blog post ideas, a To Buy When I Have Lots of Money list etc. It’s been kind of ludicrous this year. I’ve been running five planners simultaneously: Blogs, Projects, Weekly/Monthly reviews with forward strategic planning, the actual Hobonichi for my weekly planning, and my everyday carry journal in which I was doing my daily planning as well as journaling.

When I logged into the Hobonichi website I fully expected to choose something to order on 1 September when they go on sale. Instead I went and spent $60 on FranklinCovey Classic inserts, because they have two pages for a day.

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I need both those pages. I may actually have adult ADHD, who knows (more probably I am just lazy and unmotivated) but I sure find it helpful to live my life according to the same principles that are recommended to adults with ADHD. The Adult ADHD Toolkit is my bible, and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who struggles with executive function aka Getting Shit Done.

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I need to write everything down.

My daily to do list starts out with Have a Shower, then Eat Breakfast, because if it’s not on the list, life looks too hard. There’s just so much to do when you’re trying to adult, you know? I can very easily spend a day lying in bed. It helps me beyond belief to write everything down. Every step. Every hour. I need a list of tasks I have to do. And then, very importantly, I need a place to write what I am actually going to do right now, in this next ten minutes. The next action required for whatever I’m working on. I know it’s horribly anally retentive, but it works for me (you can see why I wonder if I do actually have ADHD).

So with the FranklinCovey inserts, I get the space, I can cull my other stuff to fit one single binder, and run it for everything (except my journal).

But then I was bitching to my friend Chris that I was going to have to tape and re-punch the FC inserts, because FC binders have seven holes, and the rest of the world has six. And because she is a genius Chris suggested instead of taping and re-punching literally 365 pages, I print my own inserts instead.

Have you noticed how many times Chris has improved my life over the last couple of years? I certainly have. She’s like a productivity/effectiveness deity.

Having enriched the FranklinCovey coffers with a bushel of money already, I bit the bullet and designed my perfect printable daily planner insert. It holds everything I need. And now I’ve made a template for myself, I figured I’d share it in case anyone else wanted to either use it, or adapt it. You can download it in pdf from the link.

writer’s daily planner sheets A5

planner sheet

It’s undated, and designed to be printed on A5 paper (dear Americans, this is the larger Filofax size, and basically the same as Franklin Covey Classic. You’ll have to cut down from letter size, but there are no crop marks for this).

Let me list to you its features, as you peer into the workings of my distracted, flitting mind.



A) What blog post will I write/post today? Sized to fit 1″ PostIt flags, so when I almost inevitably fail to write the post I can move the task to the next day’s page.

B) Three key priorities per day maximum. What I must focus on to achieve my goals, instead of making planner templates.

C) All those things I need to do every day (not necessarily all at once). If it’s not ticked off I haven’t done it. Also forces me to not “forget” to exercise.

D) 8 tasks to do for work, 4 for home, and bills to pay. My To Do list is always much longer, but I can’t do everything in a day. Making myself choose tasks from my full list forces me to focus my attention on the most important tasks and work effectively.

E) My writing goals for the day. No Zero Days can mean whatever you need it to mean. If I only write a sentence then at least it’s not a Zero Day. I made progress. I didn’t just lie in bed all day (this happens).

F) The one important thing I need to remember that day. Designed for a 1/2″ PostIt.

G) Each square represents one Pomodoro. There’s a total of 16, making 8 hours of work. I cross them off as I work. I actually use a double Pomodoro of 50 minutes, with a 10 minute break. That way I get to cross off two at once *celebrates*. Before now I’ve been using this awesome checkbox stamp from CoolJapanSTAMP.

H) Summary of my daily word count, and time spent actually working, according to Rescue Time. Without this I can fool myself I worked hard when I only spent 20 minutes actually writing shit.

I) Daily schedule, running from 6am to midnight. Fun fact: for about two years I woke up at 3.40 so I could write before I left for work. This schedule would not work for that. I fill this out in pencil and PostIts, like I did my Hobonichi up above. Every task has a time slot, including recreation.

The reverse is a simple lined page, for Next Actions, or, for humans who unlike me can hold more than one thought in their head, notes and extra tasks.


You can see I put the Daily Plan on the left, and the Next Actions on the right. This is because I’m right handed. I can take the Plan page out of the binder to plan everything the night before. Then the sheet I use throughout the day is Next Actions, and it’s much easier to write on it without the rings by my wrist. For lefty use, reverse position.

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I have this 6-hole punch, which I bought on Etsy. It’s cheaper and sturdier than the Filofax ones.

So, yeah. That’s how I schedule my days, including weekends. As always, there are no affiliate links on my blog. If I recommend a product it’s only because I like it. And now I have to find someone to buy an unopened 2017 FranklinCovey Classic insert pack.


EDIT: There’s an A4 version of the planner here: writers daily planner A4