Thursday, 16 October 2014

Stationery Love

At first I read Library Goddess's post on "The Power of the Post-It", then came Twinset & Purls' one about her notebooks, and the sparked conversation on Twitter, #stationerylove.
So, really, I couldn't resist.
I've written a little post about my organisational tools on my French blog, last August, but didn't translate it for one reason or another. So, maybe the time has come to tell you here about my notebook compulsions...

I've been on the lookout for the perfect organisational tools for quite a while. It's quite an obsession really. I like to be on top of things, and that means that I need to always remember what, when and how... From a medical appointment to my writing projects or the training sessions I'm giving at work. I don't feel good if everything's not under control.
So I've tried a lot of online stuff, like automated to-do lists or specific apps... But, as much as I like a good spreadsheet, for my day to day mess, that's not working for me. The only digital thing I've stuck with is Google Agenda. It's the first thing I look at on my phone or when I open my computer, even before my emails or Twitter notifications...
But for all the rest, I'm a paper girl.


A long time ago, I decided to use only one journal for both my personal and professional stuff. I tried to have two different ones but I really prefer being able to write down everything in one place: if ideas for my grocery list come up in the middle of the day, it goes in my journal. If I remember an activity I wanted to try with a group of students in the middle of the night, it goes in my journal. Everything goes in the same place, so it's a bit of a mess, but at least I'm sure to have everything on hand.

My current journal, decorated by my lovely sister, Julia.

Why a paper notebook? Well, first because it's pretty. (Yes, it counts. A lot.)
And because it enables me to draw a little, to create mind maps and even to some art journaling when I feel like it, without having to try to find and learn to use the best software for whatever I want to create.
Also because I love writing by hand. I think better when I'm writing. Moreover, I write a lot during my commute and, you can say whatever you'd like, typing on a virtual keyboard isn't the most practical thing ever.
Finally, I'm a much faster note taker when I jot them by hand during conferences and workshops. Because I love abbreviations and big arrows that go all over the place. So I tend to think that it's worth it to have to type it all up when I come back from a study day. And that's always good to get some order back into the sometimes sibylline presentation structures of some speakers...

A bit of mind-mapping in an old journal.

To-Do Lists

One of the most important part in my journal are the weekly lists that I update every Monday when I arrive at the office. On a double page, I write down on one side my professional to-do list and on the other my personal one.
For my pro one, I use the technique of the Bullet Journal.
I tried their index system but quickly gave up: I just don't have enough pages about particular themes for it to be worthwhile. I might try and use this technique instead, that I learned about through @LibGoddess and @alkegw. It's simple and elegant. But for now, I use bookmarks made of masking tape. It's pretty and I don't have to number all of the pages anymore.

Masking tape bookmarks in one of my last notebooks.
The monthly calendar is not that useful to me either, since I'd rather use my Google Calendar and other paper stuff, but I really like the idea of the monthly to-do list, in order to highlight the big projects coming up.

Calendar and to-do list for August.
So one of the only things I've really kept is the "Bullet List" technique of the Bullet Journal. You do circles for meetings, squares for to-do items and sub-lists when there are several things to accomplish for one single project. I used to add colours by theme (Chartership stuff in light blue, training sessions in green...) but now I use colours to highlight urgent stuff instead (see below). And I use different types of pens to distinguish my professional lists (in felt pen) from my personal lists (in ball point).

My To-Do Lists from last week.

Finally, to decide on the priority level of tasks in my list, I use this technique: the idea is, instead of doing the easiest or least unpleasant first, to go through your to-do list by following this model:

To adapt this model to your own job, replace "training" by your main mission.
I do first things that would go in the area #1: those who will have the most impact on my training with minimal effort. Then I go to area #2 (high impact but lots of effort), #3 (low impact and low effort: those are often the most amusing tasks) and finally #4 (low impact, lots of effort).
Sometimes, I highlight my priority tasks with little stars in front of the bullet. Just because. And sometimes, I do low importance tasks before higher impact ones, because I'm just human and nobody's perfect. And it's much funnier to update the library's Twitter rather than running after unwilling tutors who don't want their students to be trained on EndNote.

The right journal

Last, I wanted to say a few words about choosing the right journal. I began with Moleskines, which are beautiful and practical but so damn expensive. So I moved up to random ugly notebooks that I found for free. But ugly doesn't do it for me. I want beautiful objects to write in. Beautiful and cheap. So, when my relatives aren't giving me beautiful journals (like the one at the top of this post), I try to diy my precious notebooks. I just buy a £2 notebook from Sainsbury or wherever and I cover it with beautiful paper from Paperchase and lots of glue.

One of my latest journals, hand covered an all pretty!
I'll keep doing it for my next journals except that I think that I'm going to move to 100 pages notebooks (instead of 200) so as to make my handbag a little lighter...

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