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

Posted October 20, 2014 by
in Planning Tips | 2 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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Paper and communication in 1865

Posted October 9, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People | 2 comments »
Abe Lincoln's Personal Desk

Abraham Lincoln’s personal desk

I only just recently saw the movie Lincoln, which was excellent. I don’t know how I missed it when it was in the theater.

It’s an epic and historic film, so I’m a little embarrassed to admit my favorite scenes were those in the White House in his study where meetings were held. It was a great glimpse into paper and communication in 1865. Books and papers were piled on every surface. People took notes on paper and in little notebooks. They carried their documents in awesome marbled-cover folios. (Where can I get one of those??) And on the desk surface they used a wood secretarial writing desk. Seems like I’ve seen those somewhere before because I know they open to hold paper and other writing supplies. (Where can I get one of those???)

As much as I loved seeing all the stationery products, the method of communication made even more of an impression on me. In the age before telephones and email, when you wanted to speak with someone you had to go to them and speak to them in person. There’s a lot to be said for communicating within someone else’s breathing space where you can see each other’s facial expressions and body language.

What are your favorite stationery products from history?

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Writing Wednesdays: paper books vs e-readers

Posted October 8, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities | 3 comments »

Reading a book

I have noticed I better understand information when I read it on paper than on a screen. A recently-published study that my friend Nan drew my attention to has confirmed my suspicion: we have better comprehension and retention of information read from paper than from e-readers.

The article shows it doesn’t stop there. We tend to skim on screens, and read more in depth on paper. But as more people read information on screens, the ability to pay attention long enough to immerse ourselves in printed material is being lost.

Although I certainly see the practical side of e-readers, I’m not a fan. I hadn’t thought of an e-reader affecting my “serendipity” but the lack of control the article describes, being unable to flip through pages at will (instead of at the mercy of the touch screen) is a big reason why I stick to paper books.

You can read the entire article here: Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books

Do you prefer reading paper books, or on an e-reader? Or do you enjoy both?

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How do you use your Quo Vadis?

Posted October 7, 2014 by
in Editorial, Life Noted, Pens, Paper & People | 1 comment »


There is a diversity of ways people use their yearly planner.

Many people, probably most, use it as one place to record work, personal, school and family events, notes and appointments. But, I have also heard of these other uses:

-to plot out events for a novel

-breast cancer recovery/healing journal

-sketch book, because it lays flat and the paper is good

-project management tool

-wedding planner

-birding diary

-as a back-up for their digital calendar

-to write a daily meditation

If you have a unique or special use for your Quo Vadis let us know! Your ideas and creativity can inspire others (and may also get you a brand new 2015 refill or planner).



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Time Management Monday: Separate planners for work vs personal life?

Posted October 6, 2014 by
in Pens, Paper & People, Planning Tips | 9 comments »

Hebdo and miniweek

This is a topic that comes up frequently in my online planner conversations. Should you use a separate planner at work and another for your personal use? Or should you use just one planner for everything?

The answer, as with most things, is: it depends.

There are several situations where you might want or need to use a separate planner for work only. Some professions have security or confidentiality rules that forbid you to take information out of work. Another situation, which I’ve done and is very common, is to use an electronic scheduling system at work that other people can access, and another planner system for your personal life. Some people prefer not to think about work outside of work hours, to help their work/life balance.  If you have a job where your work time is completely separate from your personal time, and you don’t need access to your work schedule outside of work, you can have a separate work planner.

However, as it gets more difficult to delineate work time from personal time, there’s a lot to be said for the one-life-one-planner mindset. Even when you think your work life is separate from your personal life, there are still situations that cross the work/ personal barrier like remembering to iron your best outfit this evening for your big presentation tomorrow, or to leave work early to go to your child’s school event. And there’s always the issue of scheduling doctor or dentist appointments around work schedules.

Over the years, I’ve done both. While working in a big company, we all had to use Outlook for meeting scheduling so I used a separate planner for my personal life. But several years ago while I was working full time, taking classes and applying to graduate school, I had to keep everything visible in one planner so I could schedule everything around each other.

Do you prefer using separate planners for work and personal? Or do you prefer one-life-one-planner?

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