Productivity

Moleskine, Field Notes & The Midori Travelers Notebook

NotebooksI am an analog snob. I have tried going digital on several occasions and every time I find myself grabbing a notebook and pen as I walk out the door. I’ve been quite particular about my analog tools the way some are particular about the car they drive or the PC they buy. I’ve had this issue for years, I remember getting ahold of a PaperMate fine point stick pen that I’ve never been able to find since the fifth grade. My search isn’t over either.

I’ve upgraded my choices since the Mrs. Kauffman’s class but, the passion remains. Currently I am writing with either a Lamy Safari fountain pen with an Extra-Fine nib or a Retro 51 Tornado – Lincoln edition rollerball pen. This lineup will soon be changing. I am going to try the Lamy rollerball pen, which will house the same refill as my Retro 51 but, will weigh less and is a special edition CopperOrange colored aluminum pen. I’m stoked about it.

What I’d like to really dive into is paper. Working for a Fortune 500 company has its positives and also its negatives. A major, turn my nose up at, moment I experienced was opening the supply closet to find the worst paper products sold. Not only is it Saran Wrap thin, it also allows my ink to bleed through as if I were using gauze to fix a busted copper pipe. I nevertheless shut the closet doors turned to the “Keeper of the Keys” and thanked her for the time. I would use my own materials for work.

I’ve carried the same notebook system since 2009. Having carried around a Franklin Planner for years I gave it up a in 2006. I bounced around different systems, many self created, until in late 2009 I came across the blog Scription by Patrick Ng and was inspired to go with a minimal system called the Midori Traveler’s Notebook (MTN).Midori Traveler's Notebook

The MTN is a simple and minimal approach, a leather cover with an elastic band in the spine to hold a blank, lined or grid notebook specifically made for the MTN system and an elastic band around the middle to hold it closed. With the addition of a second band inside, you can add two more notebooks to the interior and carry multiple notebooks. I carry a personal journal, a work notebook and a reading notebook in mine. Researching online revealed a number of systems one could come up with but, with me being a struggling practitioner of minimalism I find this a near perfect system.

The Midori notebooks are made with a thicker paper that accepts rollerball and fountain pen ink alike. There is little to no bleed through and because of the size (11 x 21 cm) there is enough room for me to really write. Staple bound with a simple Kraft paper stock cover the notebooks are quality notebooks for the price, just under $6 a notebook.

The initial expense of the Midori Traveler’s Notebook can be a turn off for some. The notebooks themselves can be purchased relatively cheap however the leather cover is a one time purchase that some people have a difficult time swallowing. It sells for roughly $57.00 and depending on where you live is only available online. I get a lot of interest in my MTN when out and typically after I’ve explained this to someone I get the question, “wouldn’t those black notebooks you see in Target or Barnes & Noble do?”

MoleskinesThose “black notebooks” happen to be the ever popularly marketed Moleskine resurrected from days gone by. The same notebooks used by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin. The once French – made pocket notebooks were brought back to life in 1997 by a Milanese company and have become one of the most popular notebooks around. I have a love/hate relationship with the Moleskine. I think what the company has done with these once basic notebooks is impressive. Originally only found in a pocket size version these notebooks have grown in variety not only in size but color and design. Today you can see the images of the Peanuts, Star Wars, and even Batman grace the covers of the notebooks adding a certain flair and individuality to them.

I’ve owned and continue to own them for various purposes. The tiny Volant series notebooks are perfect to track my mileage and car repairs in. In between the Franklin Planner and my MTN I was using Moleskine exclusively. They are readily available within and in an assortment of colors and sizes, hard bound and soft bound. The convenience makes it difficult not to pick the up if you are someone who writes regularly.

Functionally speaking the notebooks are well manufactured. I’ve never had any issues with binding or loose pages. They are structurally sound, however, my problem lies with the paper. I cannot write in them using my most often carried pens. The ink bleeds through and makes writing on the opposite side annoying at best. In the interest of frugality, last month I cut a Moleskine down to fit in my MTN and have been eagerly waiting for the time the notebook is finally full and can be replaced by a new one. The experience is just that annoying. I am a self admitted paper snob, just as any Apple loyalist would be if you asked them to use a Droid.

If Moleskine would change the paper they use in these notebooks I would, in all likelihood go back to them exclusively. I really like the look and feel of them and as of late am getting annoyed with the multiple notebook’d Midori. Writing in my personal journal is a minor wrestling match holding back the top notebook while at the same time writing. and, because there are several notebooks in the system I am never writing on a flat surface. I’ve gotten to the point where I am once again looking for something new.

Field Notes Cherry WoodI am for a while going to try the Field Notes brand of notebooks. I have tried these in the past but was unhappy with the edition I had purchased. Field Notes come in a standard edition with a brown Kraft paper cover and a seasonal edition which come in and unknown color scheme. The ever changing seasonal editions are some of the most coveted notebooks on the planet to a group called the Field Nuts, selling for as much as $300 on eBay for three notebooks.

FieldNotes are small pocket notebooks that are quick and convenient. I can carry one in my pocket without even knowing it’s there. Measuring only 3.5″ x 5.5″ with only 48 pages within they are what I call a working notebook. A Field Notes is not going to be used as a commonplace book, nor would you want to use as a journal. They are just too small for such writing. But, everyday notes, lists, thoughts, measurements, these are the perfect size. The paper is good and they are priced well at $9.95 for a sack of three notebooks.

Well, whatever the size that is right for you there is probably a notebook out there. Notebooks like most things are a matter of choice. Moleskin just happen to have the market currently and thus their popularity. I don’t think analog tools in the US has enough of a draw to get many of the other big names pushing the marketing of their paper, yet! I think with the likes of Brad Dowdy (The Pen Addict), Ed Jelley (edjelley.com), Mike Dudek (The Clicky Post), the folks at The Field Notes and countless others are having an impact on the analog tools we know and love, will help ignite the passion these tools once had in our cultures’ lives.

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Philosophy, Productivity

Century Gothic, the new Helvetica!!

Fonts copyI’ve been on a quest for nearly a year or so to change the opinions of many to change their default font to Century Gothic. I am not sure what the appeal of this simple font is to me but, prefer it to any other font in the library. The smooth curves of the letters and the simple straight forward design of each downstroke is appealing to me in a minimalist way. I believe the no-nonsense way the letters are displayed, the minimalist, no frills purpose each letter exudes when put to page (or screen) gives this font a characteristic that stands apart from it’s brethren and thus my appeal.

I first came upon the font only a couple of years ago when putting together a presentation for work. The company has the standard font of Arial Black, ugh. Not putting it down or anything but, Arial Black (though simple in its own right) is just bulky and seems, well bloated. I was not a fan of the script I was seeing on the slides I was creating for presentation, so I decided to play around a bit and began my quest for the better font.>

I had read about Steve Job’s obsession with fonts, which began in a college calligraphy class he had sat in on. This passion bled through to the fonts of the Mac and later onto all of Apple’s devices, much to my pleasure. Steve broke the boundaries of an industry steeped in stuffiness and “tradition”. He entered a world of the white shirt, blue tie arena with a pair of ragged jeans, t-shirt and well for the most part…that was it. Shoes were option if not neglected and well ties were not even a concept…though that changed once Apple gained notoriety and publicity but, that is another story.

Steve’s passion for perfection broke the molds of the industry. Helvetica, the most popular font at the time and most widely used was a saturation in the market. It was so widely used that a change was immediately seen. That change led to the realization that perhaps doing things as they’ve always been done need not apply. I believe Apple became the computer for the artistic partially in part because Steve Jobs refused to allow Apple to become ordinary. Apple began as a unique company and has remained so mainly in part because of Steve Jobs’ guidance.

Apple has gone so far as to even creat their own fonts for their products specifically for the reasons I was looking at Arial Black with disdain and irreverence. There was something so ordinary and plain about the font that I yearned for change. When I would write a paragraph in the font Arial Black I would often times find myself having to re-read certain sections of the text because the letters would often blend together and become blurs. Everything would become a fuzzy black streak across the page. I don’t have this problem with Century Gothic. The kerning as it is called (the space between letters) is too small compared to the width of the letters themselves and thus causes me, who speed reads, to blur the words.

Century Gothic does not enable this issue. The width of the letters in conjunction with the kerning provides a smooth flow across the page. I was quite turned on to Century Gothic after I saw it on the big screen during my presentation and a comment afterwards was made in private regarding my font choice. The facility manager came up to me to point out that he had noticed the change in font and that he’d been looking at the same font for the past twenty years and the change was nice. It had given the presentation an upbeat appearance and added youth to the presentation.

That alone was not enough to seal my commitment to the font though. It was after a conversation with my wife that bound us together, for better or worse. We were coming home from a wrestling match one late Saturday afternoon…(sidenote: we have a two wrestlers in the house a 9 & 8 year old and much of November through March is spent dedicated to the sport…our Saturday’s are spent traveling to matches & tournaments and so we usually have a good bit of time to talk about weird stuff like font choices…back to our regularly scheduled program)…and got on the subject of presentations.

My wife was trained in high school to give presentations and had gone so far as to regularly given presentations of various subjects to school and government officials at the youthful age of 17 so she was quite aware of everything that went into preparing a presentation. Though rarely did she use something like PowerPoint she is quite knowledgeable in font choices. So, I was talking at great length about changing the corporate font to Century Gothic and he face lit up. Not understanding this I further questioned her to find out that for quite some time she too had been using the font in her everyday job. She found the font easier to read and determined it a better font. That was the moment I knew forever more, Century Gothic was my font.

Thus far I have spread my passion for this font further into the company I work for with hopes to one day change the standard Arial Black to Century Gothic with the marketing department and guidelines. The font is a gives a good contrast to the page allowing just enough white space to show while at the same time enabling a person to read quickly the text provided. This is my plea to the world to give Century Gothic a try and let it into your daily writing.

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Productivity

Instapaper 6.2

Instapaper is one of my most used apps and it just had the best update ever, say hello to Instapaper 6.2.  I’ve been using Instapaper since mid 2012.  For those unfamiliar with what Instapaper is, it is an app that allows you to save nearly anything from the Internet for future reading/use.  I use it mainly for saving articles from my RSS feed for later reading.

I’ve never purchased the premium features but, with the latest release I am contemplating a change of mind.  In addition to the instant syncing and faster saving, Instapaper has made speed reading possible, a feature I am in much favor of.

I love to read and typically read on my Kindle every night.  I have the ability to read at around 600 words per minute normally but, have difficulty doing so on digital devices.  I was taught to follow my finger while reading and am quite successful doing so in a paper book but, unless I wear a glove cannot do so without turning pages.  I’ve used capped pens and even wooden chopsticks but, nothing feels natural.  I haven’t been able to replicate that natural feeling of reading on any digital device, until Instapaper’s speed reading.  Though not the same it is a phenomenal alternative.

Instapaper isn’t the first app to use these mechanics used to simulate speed reading but, I’ve never used any of them.  Instapaper’s blog wrote the following in describing the speed reading function:

“Speed reading in Instapaper uses rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP), showing you one word a time at the speed of your choosing. This method of speed reading is meant to help you eliminate subvocalization, that voice in the back of your mind repeating words as you read them, and reduce time lost scanning between words. The result is a more focused, faster reading experience.”

This feature is limited to 10 times per month unless you purchase Instapaper’s premium service.  I spent some time experimenting with this feature and am absolutely in love with it.  I’ve read the lengthy Jony Ive, New Yorker article at 650 words per minute as well as a few others and am hoping Jeff Bezos and the Kindle app team take some notes.  I wouldn’t give up my Kindle Paperwhite but, I would definitely use the Kindle app on my iPhone much more often.

The ability to speed read has saved me so much time.  I can understand it not being a part of the stand alone Kindle due to the e-ink display’s being unable to handle a refresh rate of 650 words per minute but, the Kindle apps that are used on iPhones, iPads and Android devices would be more than capable of replicating the speed reading Instapaper uses.

For those who use Instapaper I highly recommend the speed reading function.  Speed reading is a technique that has enabled me to not only enabled me to read more but, also retain more of what I’ve read.  Hopefully Amazon will see this function as highly desired and add it to their Kindle apps, until then I will be utilizing Instapaper for all my non-ebook reading.

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Productivity

How I Get My Day Done!

IMG_0382 I am a continuous improvement analyst for TE Connectivity,  a technology leader that designs and manufactures the electronic connectors, components and systems inside many of the products across the world.  I work in the Global Logistics Group as their Americas Regional analyst.  TE’s continuous improvement system is based on the Toyota Production System (Lean). 

I have been practicing Lean for ten years now and honestly didn’t “get” it until a couple years ago.  Lean is a game changer not just in manufacturing but, in all areas of business and life.  I have recently begun, much to my wife’s raised eyebrow, bringing Lean into the home. 

My job is to help teach continuous improvement by showing others to see, identify and eliminate waste.  Pretty easy, right?

Location: I work from home part of the week tucked against the mountains of south central Pennsylvania and in an local office in Harrisburg, PA.

Current Gig: Continuous Improvement Analyst at TE Connectivity

One word that best describes how I work:

Current mobile device: iPhone 5S (work) & iPhone 4S (personal)

Current computer: Macbook Pro (2014) & Lenovo x230 (work issued laptop…I’m not a fan).

What apps, software, or tools can’t I live without? Why?

For work I use the standard Microsoft package, (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, & Lync).  Beyond that I use Evernote for most of my documents and Gimp for work.  Personally, I still use Evernote, Pages (for writing) & TweetDeck on my Mac.  I occasionally use iMovie to edit videos of my kids wrestling matches.

Other apps I rely on, all on my iPhone 5S) include the calendar app, Mail app and Gmail app, Byword, Overcast, FeeddlerPro, SleepMachine (I miss the tree frogs in the winter).

I don’t use my personal phone that often only because I don’t like carrying around two devices.  I am trying to find a work around but for now I just monitor my personal phone and carry my work phone.

I am also a voracious reader and love my Kindle Paperwhite.  I will use the Kindle app on my phone in a pinch but, I definitely prefer sitting down with the Kindle.  I just wish Amazon would allow me to add my own fonts to the Kindle without having to jailbreak it. 

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook, I am a huge fan of analog tools and after reading the Patrick Ng’s blog Scription I fell in love with this simple notebook.  The Midori Traveler’s Notebook is more than just a notebook it is a minimalist system comprising of a leather cover, page marker, and elastic bands to hold several notebooks in place.  Measuring 22cm by 12cm the standard, out of the box system can hold two notebooks.  Add a second band and voila, two becomes four.  I currently have two notebooks (work and personal journal), a self made notebook for my Standard Work for work and Patrick Ng’s Chronodex planning system all stuffed in a brown leather cover.  I’ve carried the thing around for the past two years and haven’t given up on it.  It works for me.  I’ve tried going digital but, enjoy putting ink on paper too much to give up.  In addition I find I remember more by writing.  I also believe it is a quicker system than digital.

I would love to find a way to go completely digital and keep it all in my pocket, it would sure lighten my bag.  A recent webcast at work mentioned going digital in the very near future.  I am a bit nervous as to what was meant by that, not too many details were given.  I find writing to be relaxing and I enjoy planning out my week visually on my Chronodex every Sunday.  Old habits from the Franklin Covey planner days…

I recently picked up a pack of Field Notes, a pocket notebook I can carry around with me without the bulk of my Midori.  They work very well, especially taking notes while on the phone or in the car and while listening to podcasts.  I was skeptical at first about them but, they seemed to have melded well with my system.

What is my morning routine?

This is a tricky question.  I don’t sleep well or much so I tend to wake up early or not fall asleep until late corrupting the following day.  On average I go to bed around 10pm and fall asleep around 11pm.  Then I wake up at 2:30 – 3:00am and eat a bowl of cereal, put wood in the wood stove and lay down on the couch and reach a bit in the Kindle.  Between 5 & 6 I’ll get woke up by either a cat or dog and go back to the kitchen and make tea.  While drinking tea I’ll watch the sun rise and write for a half hour or so.  Lately I’ve been doing my writing directly on my iPhone in Byword.  After tea if I’m working from home I’ll go up to my office and fire up my laptop and get to work otherwise I’ll make something to eat and get ready to go to work.

Like I said my sleep pattern is completely messed up.  I’ve always been a night owl but, I’m to the point where I only get 5 – 6 hours of sleep on a good night.  I slept for only 4 hours the night of writing this post.

What’s my favorite to-do list manager?

I hate to-do lists!  I use them but, I still don’t like them.  Right now I use my Standard Work notebook for all my tasks for the week and my Chronodex planner.  I have tried digital but, never look at them.  Going forward I am going to try post-it notes and give digital another go around.

What do you listen to while you work?

Tim Ferriss got me hooked on Glitch Mob and have them as a playlist on Pandora, lately that’s all I’ve been listening too.  Before that was classical music or music by Hans Zimmerman on Pandora.

What are you currently reading?

Right now I am reading Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis and The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.  I am an avid reader and tend to go through books quickly.  My goal is to read 100 this year.

Mountain range behind my house in PA.

Mountain range behind my house in PA.

 

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

Definitely an introvert.  I am not fond of crowds and enjoy being alone a lot.  My ideal workspace would be a small gazebo atop the mountain behind my house looking out over the county all alone.

Being an introvert like I am I do regularly give presentations to audiences without freaking out.  I also have no problem asserting myself if need be.

How do I recharge?

Five FingersI love to run.  I have a horribly arthritic knee which prevents me from running often but, running is my meditation, trail running especially.  Pair of shorts, shirt and Vibram FiveFingers on my feet is all I need to peace out.

I also enjoy just clearing the mind through meditation.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see __________ answer these same questions.

Jony Ive

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?

I am a Harry Potter fan and love to spend time with my family watch and re-watching the movies.  I just recently got the books on audio and the kids love to listen to them while they play. 

I am a huge fan of pizza and would eat it daily if I didn’t control myself.

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Productivity

To Digitize or Not, to Digitize

iPad & Midori Traveler's NotebookThe use of analog tools in my life in this age of digitization is quite significant and I’m not sure how this happened.  I’ve been playing around with Evernote…I know I’m a bit behind in doing this…and really enjoy being able to store files for work in it as a reference file.  I then created different folders and really began to organize the paper files I had stored in my home office. I am fortunate to work from home part-time (2-3 days per week).  The remaining time is spent at a corporate office 40 miles from home (great commute for listening to podcasts) or traveling.

I have set up a small office space to work in and have for a long time kept paper files in piles in the office.  Since Evernote, I have scanned all the paper documents and organized them within the Evernote system and it is working awesome.  I use my iPad Evernote app to retrieve any document I want to read, most are pdf’s.  I then began to have the notion of going paperless and unshackling myself from the ways of old.  I began reading up on going paperless and living digitally.  My motivation level elevated and I was in full swing to throw out the clay tablet and stylus. 

I decided to have a trial run with this and decided to pack my analog tools into a small bag and keep with me (just in case) but, not readily available.  My system was quite simple.  I’d use the iPad for note taking thanks to Evernote and 53’s Paper app.  Scannable on my iPhone to scan and file paper documents I received throughout the day.  Outlook (work) for email and calendar management, unless I’m using my laptop (which I hope will soon melt…I do not like it at all).  I had everything set and prepared and was off to work.

Once at work the first 3 days was spent trying to retrain my muscle memory not to look for my pen, notebook and Chronodex planner.  By Thursday I was sweating because the battery on my phone and iPad were dying before I was done with my day.  I wasn’t surprised since my iPad is the 2nd generation and over 2 years old.  I crave for the new iPad Air 2.

I woke up on Friday morning early, just couldn’t sleep and was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of tea and craved for my journal.  I’ve been keeping a handwritten journal for the past ten or so years. This was the first time in a long time I hadn’t had it used it at some point in the week. 

I walked upstairs to the office and sat down at my desk and stared out the window watching the snow fall in the mid-morning darkness then, glanced at the shelf above my desk.  There sat my Midori Traveler’s Notebook staring at me with puppy-dog eyes begging me to use it once again.  Glancing around the desk my eyes fell upon my pen cup and there sat some of my most cherished possessions, I’m a pen nut.  The apex came when I again looked up an there was my Lamy Safari Charcoal Black Fountain Pen with EF nib…just a “starter pen” as far as fountain pens go…it is my favorite pen.  I knew it was loaded with my favorite ink and I crumbled.

I pulled the Midori Traveler’s Notebook from the shelf, pulled the elastic band from around its waist and opened it to my journal, grabbed my Lamy and began to write an apology letter to it and my notebook for the neglect I had shown it the past week.  Now I know I sound really odd to many but, to the few Pen Addicts out there…you understand.

I think I wrote for over an hour straight without looking up.  My tea had since gone cold and only the chill in the air stirred me from my writing.  I realized at that moment that though paperless was easier as far as I wouldn’t have to carry as much stuff, it would mean that I’d have to give up many of the things I enjoy doing and having with me.  I love to write and journal.  I like keeping my schedule in my Chronodex. I enjoy “taking” notes in a physical notebook and using pens. 

I took a course in college called the Nature of Media.  The final project was for us to describe in any way our definition of the nature of media.   During the semester we discussed digital v analog and at the time I was just beginning to read books on my Windows based phone.  I had my head up my digital backside for lack of a better description.  Now, after many years of discussing, contemplating and experiencing I think paper has a place that is necessary.  I’m not saying digital is junk or that those who are solely digital are crazy…if it works for them, “Peace out, homey.”  I function well somewhere in-between. 

Heck for these first two posts I’ve used Byword on my iPhone while lying on the couch early in the morning watching the sun come up and the fire in my woodstove come back to life.  I then, print out the article to edit, make changes in Byword and then send to WordPress for final review and posting.  However, I learned that I prefer taking physical notes and keeping a notebook for both work and life.  I prefer keeping a physical journal that I can pull off a shelf and read whenever.  I prefer owning and using my pens. 

I have always used analog tools, I’m just old enough to not have grown up with tablets, smartphones and such…analog tools were necessary.  Perhaps it is a generation thing, perhaps not.  I just know that for the time I will continue to use the analog tools I have and buy more of.  I enjoy putting ink to paper and carrying my Midori everywhere I go.

I think we all need to experiment and try new things and find that perfect balance that works for us all.  No one system is better than the next if what you are doing is the right system for you.  I applaud those ingenious creators who reveal their systems and allow everyone to see how they may fit into their lives.  Steven Covey, David Allen, Patrick Ng, David Seah, Merlin Mann, The Omni Group, Phil Libin & Stepan Pachikov to name a few, thank you.  I have at one time or another incorporated some or all of their products/ideas into my daily productivity.  I have fit it to tweak my productivity to best suit me.  It is something we should all do.  Analog has been with me since the beginning but, digital has enhanced my system in so many ways.  The two can be meshed and function quite well, just takes some practice and patience.

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