Feature focus: Month grid calendars

Posted October 24, 2014 by
in Pens, Paper & People, Planning Tips | Add your comment »

Several Quo Vadis planners including the daily Journal 21 and the weekly Visual, Space 24 and Hebdo planners have one of my favorite planner features ever: monthly grid calendars.

2 month spread cropped

Monthly calendars in a grid format with space to write each day are especially useful for planning ahead in day per page planners. Even in weekly planners the monthly grids are great for a quick glance at what’s coming up. I use mine to easily see bills due, holidays, travel, my kids’ school events, deadlines, blog post planning, on and on. Some people like to use monthly grids to record the weather, health symptoms, or nature sightings like when birds migrate, flowers bloom or leaves turn for easy comparison month to month or year to year.

Month grid closeup

It’s easy to see patterns in monthly grid calendars, especially for recurring events. I make a note in my monthly calendars on days I exercise, S for strength and C for cardio. I can easily see when I’m reaching my exercise goals, or when I’ve gone too many days without exercise. I also use my month calendars as an index of events, so I can quickly see what happened each day. It’s a great reference.

How do you use the monthly grid calendars in your planner?

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Pencil or pen in your planner?

Posted October 23, 2014 by
in Pens, Paper & People, Planning Tips | 5 comments »

Pencil  macro "close up"

In my planner I used to use only pen all the time. But this year I switched to pencil (because I got a really cool crystal-topped pencil that I wanted to use) and now I see the benefits of pencil-planning. I didn’t realize how much I used correction fluid, or just scribbling out, until I had the luxury of erasing my writing. It takes away some of the anxiety of planning when I know I can easily erase anything I write. Now I’m much more likely to write tentative plans than I was before. I still use archival ink in my daily journal book, but for future planning I’m loving pencil.

Do you use pencil or pen in your planner?

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Writing Wednesday: Life Journaling

Posted October 22, 2014 by
in Pens, Paper & People, Writing as Meditation | 1 comment »

Write In Journal
There are infinite ways to journal: through art, poetry, deep thoughts, goal setting, recording memories or plans for the future. Over the years my idea of what my journal should be has changed and evolved.

I used to write page after page of speculation and reflection, but I never looked at those pages again. But what I did look back at, over and over throughout the years, were my old planners. These were free of the angst of my young journaling pages, and painted a picture of what my life was like at the time.

Fast forward several years and my journaling became a record of the cute things my kids did and said when they were little. When kids are small they come out with noteworthy antics every day that are fun to look back on later. It’s amazing how much I would have forgotten about their little-kid stages if I hadn’t written them down at the time.

Fast forward again to now. My kids are older and don’t necessarily have noteworthy things every day, but I do still like to record events and fun things we do as a family. A couple of years ago I realized I didn’t have the time or energy to journal in a separate book so I started jotting everything into my day per page diary. That worked really well, and the dated page encouraged me to write something to record the day.

About this time last year a friend introduced me to the Bullet Journal concept so I switched over to an undated notebook as my journal and enjoyed unlimited writing each day. I have to admit I don’t stick to the Bullet Journal system, my journal is more like what this woman does in her journal (although mine is more simplistic than hers).

Now my journal is purely a record of my life, from the day to day details to the bigger things like family vacations and trips. I don’t speculate, I don’t project, I just record. And for me, this has been the best type of life journaling.

How has your journaling changed over the years?

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Bill Parcells

Posted October 21, 2014 by
in Editorial | Add your comment »


Fall means football time, and football for me is Vince Lombardi and Bill Parcells.  They have to be among the greatest motivators of all time.  They each have some great quotes about attitude, coaching, and accountability.  Tough, hard-nosed coaches, they focused on one thing: winning.  “You are what your record says you are,” said Parcells.  That’s pretty hard, but at the end of the day nobody cares about excuses. No one looked up to or paid to give good reasons why they lost.

“When blue-collar guys stop for their ‘coffee-and …’ on the way to work they don’t want philosophy, all they want to know is did you win or did you lose.”

When Parcells landed at the NY Jets in 1997, during training camp he was asked by one of his players what did he think about the coming season? (the Jets were 1-15 in 1996). “Look-it,” Parcells said, using one of his favorite phrases, “I ain’t no five-year-plan man.  I ain’t no four-year-plan man. I’m a win-right-now man. You know what? We’re going to be special this year.”

The Jets went to 9-7 in 1997 and 12-4 in 1998.

Bill Parcell Quotes





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Time Management Monday: Check emails? Don’t check emails?

Posted October 20, 2014 by
in Planning Tips | 3 comments »

My desk. Prepping for the talk at noon.

A tip I see often on time management websites is not to check your email at the very beginning of your work day, but instead to dive straight into your most concentration-intensive work. The reason for this is at the beginning of the day you are fresh and your brain isn’t fatigued from making millions of decisions, so you are able to focus and be most productive.

In a way I understand that email can be distracting and a huge time suck, and by the time you resurface from the email flood it’s nearly lunch time and your most productive time of the day is done. But I can also envision a scenario where you crank away for hours on your project and then finally check your emails to discover a message detailing changes to the plan. Now you have to spend hours undoing what you did and start over.

Personally, I check my emails first but don’t get involved in things that can wait until later. I reply to things that need a quick response, incorporate new tasks into my day’s plan, and make note of things that need to be followed up on later. I limit myself to 30 minutes for this, then I get on with production.

Do you check emails first thing? Or do you wait until later so you can crank through work first?

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Feature focus: List boxes

Posted October 17, 2014 by
in Pens, Paper & People, Planning Tips | 1 comment »

Many of the Quo Vadis weekly planners such as the Trinote, Minister, and size variations thereof like the President and Prenote have designated list boxes on the weekly pages. These list boxes have icons to suggest uses like phone calls and emails, tracking expenses and notes, but they can be used in any way.

Trinote cropped

Each box can be designated to a person in a family or a team member to note duties, household chores, deadlines, or things they are working on that week.

2014-10-05 2014-10-05 001 013

The boxes can be assigned different topics like meal plans, exercise, tracking, reading lists and assignments. Or they can keep lists of things you need to do at home, at work, and errands out and about. You can even use the boxes differently week to week as needed.

2014-10-05 2014-10-05 001 012

How do you use your list boxes in your weekly planner?


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Work posture

Posted October 16, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities | 1 comment »

40+58 Hrmmmm

Now that we work anywhere and at any time on laptops, tablets and smartphones, what happens to ergonomics?

In a job I had 10 years ago in a very corporate office, we had all the ergonomic gear: lumbar supports to encourage good posture, gel pads to put under our wrists to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, and foot rests at just the right angle to prevent strain. I suppose it was a good investment for the company to make us as comfortable (and therefore as productive) as possible, and to avoid liability for workplace-related repetitive stress injuries.

But since then work has changed fundamentally as more people work away from an ergonomically-outfitted desk and spend more time with their computer on their lap, on the couch or at the kitchen table (my preferred location). And what happens to your body when you spend hours bent over your tablet?

When I know I’ll be typing for a long time I slip on my wrist guard to keep my wrist straight and prevent that tingly-hand feeling. But otherwise I have to admit I don’t pay much attention to my posture and ergonomics while working.

How do you prevent repetitive stress when working away from a desk?

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Writing Wednesdays: Internet backlash

Posted October 15, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Where to Go? | 6 comments »

Old books

Much of what I see online is, frankly, rubbish.

Even when I just want to read some news, I’m bombarded by ads and random information. And don’t get me started on my Facebook news feed. Just catching up with family and friends requires me to sift through heaps of nonsense videos, quotes and memes (and more ads) just to get to what I’m looking for.

Recently I had an internet backlash. I felt saturated with the meaningless stuff I was exposed to every day and craved something real, something intellectual and time-proven.

I went back to the classics in literature. Suddenly I had an interest in ancient Greek philosophy, Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s experience in the gulag. And I have to admit, I do feel better and more balanced reading works like these. Now it’s just a matter of finding time to read them! Of course the answer is: spending less time looking at drivel online…

How do you balance your media exposure and limit the types of things you don’t care to see online?

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Time Management Monday: When non-urgent tasks become urgent

Posted October 13, 2014 by
in Planning Tips | 3 comments »


It’s easy to push non-urgent tasks off week to week, but at a certain point they become urgent. A great example: while planning my upcoming vacation, it’s easy to procrastinate tasks because it’s hard to fit them into my already-busy schedule. But pre-vacation last-minute planning is stressful so I’m trying to fit things in as I go.

A solution to completing non-urgent but important tasks is to schedule specific time each week for completing these types of tasks before they become a crisis. Monthly or weekly checklists for recurring tasks like changing smoke alarm batteries and furnace filters help too.

What steps do you take to ensure your non-urgent tasks don’t reach a crisis point?

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Feature focus: Monthly columns

Posted October 10, 2014 by
in Pens, Paper & People, Planning Tips | 2 comments »

One of the features I love in the Quo Vadis Exacompta planners (which include the Journal 21, Visual, and Space 24) are the monthly column planning calendars.2 page month columns closeup


The columns have four slots at the beginning of each day’s line, which are intended to be used as an expense record but can be used to track a huge variety of things like weight, blood pressure, hours worked, miles run or cycled, etc. You could even use it as a daily word count total to help you reach your goal of finishing your novel or dissertation.

Month columns closeup

They can even be used as a graph to track mood, weather, and other variables.

The monthly columns are great for quick reference of holidays, travel, and deadlines.

What other uses can you think of for the monthly columns? How do you use your monthly column planner?



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