Review: Neuroplanner by Kar Villard


I joined the Kickstarter for this planner last year, but it turned out to not be a planner I wanted to use in 2018. It’s more of a productivity guide, as the weekly/monthly planning pages are interspersed with what is literally a small book on how to run your life and priorities. This would be a great planner for someone heading to college for the first time, or who hasn’t yet explored productivity, task management, and goal setting. Singaporean designer Kar Villard currently has a second edition running on Indiegogo, although with 3 days left to run this hasn’t yet gained enough traction to be funded.


It’s an undated A5 planner – so the exact same size as a Hobonichi Cousin – with a Monday start for both weekly and monthly spreads. The planner has two ribbon bookmarks in coral and powder blue. The bookmark colors mean that 5 out of 5 male Kiwi tradies in my impromptu focus group would not be prepared to use it (because fragile masculinity and peer pressure, aka bullying). In addition, the advice sections talk about “dating too many men,” “the cute guy who always sits in the same spot in the cafe,” and the attraction of “his hair and the smell of a good aftershave,” so although the cover colors are gender-neutral the overall tone of the planner definitely seems aimed at humans identifying as women and who perform normative heterosexual femininity. The designer, Kar Villard, projects a normative female identity, and from the tone of the planner this seems like a personal project in which she is speaking to other humans just like her.

The navy or black cover is vinyl (aka “vegan leather”) and there’s a notch in the spine so you can slip a pen in and carry it without needing an external pen loop. There’s a soft elastic band on the back cover to hold the planner closed. This is looser than I prefer, but I guess that leaves a lot of room for your planner to bulk up with use. It’s about the same tension as a Moleskine, but the elastic is a nicer quality with a slightly plush texture.

The cover is debossed with the Neuroplanner logo and name. The planner is 2cm thick (3/4 of an inch). Overall it feels very nice in my hand and looks smart and efficient. This is definitely a planner you could use in a professional setting. The paper is cream, with dark grey printing. It feels smooth, like Rhodia/Clairefontaine. I’m not doing a pen test, sorry, as I will find a good home for this planner so I want to keep it unused.

The planner starts with a five-page guide and introduction.


Then there’s a two-page quick-view calendar running from October 2017 to March 2020.


Each month starts with a two-page spread for focus/goal setting/brainstorming, then there’s the monthly spread, which is followed by five weekly spreads.



The month spreads only have 5 weeks, but there is enough dot grid below the layout to allow you to draw in an extra row for the 6th week on the couple of months that require it.


The weekly spread includes separate columns for Saturday and Sunday (which I consider essential). The days are divided into hourly appointments from 7am to 10pm, with a space at the top for a daily focus. The spread has room for a weekly mindset, three focus items, six home to-dos, and six work to-dos, as well as five habit trackers and an open dot grid area.

At the back of the planner are 13 pages of 5mm dot grid paper (6 sheets + one single side).

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Inside the back cover is a paper pocket with ribbon reinforcement on the gusset.


What makes this planner different is the productivity information. There are 48 double-page spreads on aspects of creating a productive life, incorporating handy tips from neuroscience (hence, the name of the planner).

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These spreads cover: creating a vision, setting and achieving goals, how to form a routine and how to learn, dubunking productivity myths, nutrition, fitness, multitasking and planning, creativity, non-romantic relationships, romantic relationships, future planning, and neuroplasticity.


While the productivity information is useful I really hate it being interspersed with the planner pages. So, you get monthly goals, the month spread, then an info spread, a week spread, an info spread, a week spread, an info spread, and then two final weeks – a total of four double-page info spreads per month. That takes up a lot of space. I’d much rather these pages were instead dot grid pages, and the planner came with a booklet of this productivity info, sized to slip inside the back pocket. I could paste plain paper over these info pages, but even if I use tomoe river paper that’s going to bulk up the planner a hell of a lot. It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting when I backed the project. I liked the idea of the neuroscience. It’s just that in person I realize I don’t want to actually use this product the way the planning and the information are sliced together.

My least favorite part of the planner is the section on Romance, in which Villard says, “physical attraction . . . [is the] first thing that draws us to the other person.” For asexuals this is simply not true. We are definitely talking normative NT sexuality, here.

Other nitpicks: Villard also calls humans a “race” of animals, instead of a species (section 37). And in section 40, Offspring, Villard says, “When you start to have children . . . ” I would definitely have been more comfortable with the phrasing “If you decide to have children . . .”

Kar Villard is doing a whole lot of promotion and expansion of the Neuroplanner concept, including an online community called Think Tank, and a separate booklet of the productivity pages which she recently Kickstarted. If she produces the planner without so very much productivity info it would be more useful for most people, but then I’m not sure what the point of difference would be. The current campaign on Indiegogo is asking US$40 for the planner, and for that you do get access to the online community, but in all other respects, it’s pretty much identical to any other weekly A5 planner like the compact Passion Planner (US $25) or the Transcending Waves Planner (US$19.97), although those both offer 30 min appointment intervals instead of the more cumbersome hourly spots.


Neoruplanner weekly spread



Transcending Waves weekly spread



Compact Passion Planner weekly spread


So, yeah, overall this wasn’t the planner for me, but if the neuroscience tips sound useful and you’re new to organizing your life and/or time, then this might work great for you. If you are in NZ and want to try this planner I’m happy to send this one to you for free: just email me.

Help Kickstart a Morgellons documentary

Remember my post about Morgellons and alpha-gal? Filmmaker Pi Ware is heading a team who just started raising funds on Kickstarter to produce a documentary on Morgellons. The participants look interesting: a mix of both “it’s a kind of Lyme disease” and “it’s psychological.”

Although film projects can be dodgy to back, apparently they’ve, “filmed 80% of our footage already . . . We just need this funding to get us to the editorial finish line.”

The Kickstarter campaign finishes 3 March. I hope they make it. I’m intrigued to see what they come up with.

An important lesson in defining goals

These are my blog metrics for the last week.

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The Omoshiroi memo block went viral, and at one point my blog post was the 2nd English language result on Google for people trying to buy one.

I got more visitors in 2 days than I did in all of 2015. Which translated into 0 book sales, 0 blog followers, and 0 email subs. Which is fine, of course. These are hits from people who are, like me, into divine stationery, but not, unlike me, into twisty and worrisome consent issues in gay porn.

But it does highlight the flaw in one of my 2018 goals, which was to hit 10,000 unique blog visitors.

Having a glut of blog visitors raises the question, “Why was this my goal?” XX visitors doesn’t relate to engagement, or readers, or people who want to swap pictures of yummy new inks.

Speaking of, I’m not the only person drooling over Takeda Jimuki Limited Edition Kyo No Oto Hisoku from Jet Pens, right?

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So, I’m discarding this goal. Here’s a better goal. My best ever writing month was January 2015, with 61,547 words. My goal is to beat this before 1 July 2018.

More words translates (roughly) into getting a new book out faster. Getting a new book out . . . ? It’s everything.

Now that’s a goal I can work toward.

*delighted screaming* Someone buy one of these!

See update at bottom of post for purchase info (Spoiler: it’s not good news) Updated: 18 Jan – you can preorder one!



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The Omoshiroi Block, from Japanese company Triad Inc, is a memo block, with an inbuilt pen holder, of 100 (non-sticky) pages. As you use each note you uncover a tiny sculpture, and the folded notes become a haunting, monochromatic landscape to surround it. They have other models, too, over on their beautiful Instagram, but this one, of Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto, is everything.


Apparently, these go for around US$50 to US$100, and so seriously, I will never have the budget to buy one, but I need some human I have at least a tenuous connection to, to own one and make my life complete. Forget the fact the notes are tiny. Write one word a day. It’ll be minimalistic poetry.

Update 15 Jan: WHERE TO BUY 

Basically, you can’t. There is no English language online retailer. The Triad-Inc server has crashed under the weight of traffic so I can’t ask them for purchase info.

Tokyu Hands in Umeda had some last week, but they are all gone. Kyoto Design House apparently had some as of the weekend 13/14 Jan, but they do not seem to have them listed on their website If anyone has a contact to actually physically go to their store, let me know if they still have stock. (Update 2: Kyoto Design House posted on their Facebook they are sold out).

As far as I can tell, there are zero omoshiroi blocks left on the globe to buy. If I hear more I will update.

Update 18 Jan. Hat tip to Mike for letting us know Japan Trend Shop is accepting pre-orders for three styles of Omoshiroi block: Kiyomizudera Temple ( the one photographed above), Asakusa Temple, and Tokyo Tower, for USD$119 with $20 shipping, and stock expected Feb 1. Like Mike, I have no experience with Japan Trend Shop. If you’ve dealt with them before and found them to be a stand-up company – or not – share the info.


Meet my new toy

Stuck to the cupboard above my desk is a lump of Blu-Tack. Not because I want to adhere things to my wall, but because I use it like a fidget cube to distract my hands when I’m thinking. It’s kind of messy, it gets stuck under my nails sometimes, and if I drop it I have to throw it away, because tbh I don’t vacuum that often. But these disadvantages are far outweighed by how relaxing it is to pull and squish it.

But Blu-Tack no more! I found Crazy Aaron’s Magical Thinking Putty.

It’s a viscous silicone-based non-Newtonian fluid, which flows very slowly (but not as slowly as pitch), so for all practical purposes, it’s a rubbery, gel-like solid when you play with it. Just like Blu-Tack.

This stuff is totally old hat in the US, so Americans are saying “Jeez, duh!” and rolling their eyes at me here, but it’s only just hit popularity in NZ. If you’re a Kiwi, until Jan 31 MightyApe has some colors on sale in the mini-tins for only $3 (Whitcoulls stock it too). And for thinking purposes, a mini-tin is a perfectly cromulent amount. It fits in my everyday carry so I can get it out when I’m puzzling out a plot point. It senses as tacky to the fingers, but it doesn’t leave your skin sticky at all (magic!). Pro tip: don’t leave it sitting on the open page of a notebook while you take a bathroom break because it will sluggishly but inevitably drool all over the shop and it is not easy to pick off paper.

I got Super Scarab because it’s iridescent purple/teal and I am six years old. I put it right up there with Brain.FM as a key productivity tool. Possibly not coincidentally, I just had my most productive two weeks of writing since August 2016. For any aspies out there who like slightly sticky, rubbery textures, and have not yet tried putty as an executive-function-enhancing tool, give it a go.




Etsy artists screw up Thoreau

My daughter is about to go to the UK, in what would have been called her OE if she were going for longer, or was younger, but is probably now more accurately an extended holiday. Although, she’s chucking in her job when she leaves, and she has no plans for what she’s going to do when she returns. She hasn’t found her ikigai yet. It’s okay. I hadn’t either at her age. I want to let her know it’s okay to be floundering. That she doesn’t have to measure her life against the people around her. So I tried to buy her a keepsake quoting Thoreau, to take with her on her travels. Problem: on Etsy they all look like this:

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Well, this is just utterly wrong.

The original quote, from Thoreau’s Walden, is

“. . . if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

There is a huge fucking difference between “Live the life you have imagined” and “Endeavor to live the life you have imagined.”

Endeavor, man.

It’s about trying. Struggling, striving, laboring. It’s about exertion and slog. Doing the hard yards. Yakka. About getting up day after day and just bloody giving it a go, and failing, but getting up the day after that, and doing it all over again anyway.

And you might never get there. “Success unexpected” doesn’t mean you get everything you set out to achieve. Contrary to the beliefs espoused on reality talent shows, wanting it with your whole heart still doesn’t mean it will happen.

I definitely have a life I imagine. I earn enough from my fiction writing to pay all my bills, stash away some savings, look after my family, travel to a writing con or retreat every couple of years, and I can buy an espresso or a book each week without considering the cost.

I am not living this life.

But I am endeavoring to live this life. I am doing what I can to achieve it, one sunrise at a time, one sentence at a time. It’s fine if I don’t ever get there. I won’t have failed, because I will have spent my time on the journey. And maybe what I imagine will change in another 10 years anyway.

Whereas if I was judging myself through the evidence I was indeed “living the life I had imagined,” well, I’m a huge disappointment to myself.

Embrace the endeavor, talented Etsy makers.