Tag Archives: bullet journal

Writer Tools: Field Notes Dime Edition Review

One of the most difficult parts of being self-employed is constant self-motivation. As a writer, the easiest way for me to do this is to use tools that inspire me to pick them up. I’ve done some of my best work when I’m having the most fun just playing with my toys.

Field Notes Dime Novel Edition

The Field Notes Dime Novel Edition is a perfect, quirky writer’s tool. Inspired by the American Dime Novel (much like the British Penny Dreadfuls back in the day), it is a departure from the standard pocket notebook Field Notes is known for. I love that, despite being iconic in the notebook world, they continue to mix it up with their quarterly releases and not play it safe.

Instead of the usual 48 pages, there are 72 plain pages bound as three signatures. This creates a completely different look and feel to the standard ones, as well as giving more space to write:

Interestingly, the Dime Novel Edition has numbered pages, another departure from the usual Field Notes functionality:

Given the explosion of Bullet Journaling, more and more companies are incorporating the numbered pages into their notebooks. Even though I’ve been using a modified bullet journal method for years and would normally be super excited about this feature, for once it isn’t important because…

What will I be doing with mine?

I’ll be doing exactly what it says on the tin. There’s not quite enough space for a novel, but I intend to write out a short story in each of them. In one, I intend to use my coveted Blackwing 24 (The Steinbeck Edition). In the other, I plan to use one of my fountain pens loaded with J. Herbin Lie De Thé – a beautiful sepia toned ink that fits the aged theme perfectly.

As much as I appreciate the opportunities that the world of self-publishing has given me, it’s nice to be reminded that writing doesn’t always need to have an audience. It doesn’t have to be a book churn efficiency. Writing can be – and should be – fun first. I can’t wait to pen these stories for myself, written by hand in the cold winter mornings.

Main images in the post are courtesy of Field Notes Brand. Check them out.

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Tools of the trade: Field Notes Campfire Review

As a reminder, I use analogue tools for creative planning (including business strategy, idea generation and note taking). Therefore the items I use have to meet three criteria. They must be:

  • Attractive to use, so they make me want to write
  • Portable, so I can use them at my desk, office or coffee shop
  • Flexible, so they are appropriate in multiple scenarios

So how does the quarterly Field Notes Campfire release shape up against those requirements? Great, actually.

The different cover designs are awesome

Compared to the previous two releases (Utility and Black Ice), this edition feels like a Field Notes book. It has shades of Americana that people expect from a company like Field Notes. It is part of their brand appeal. For me, the two previous editions were innovation over functionality. They reduced the usability of a product that I want to carry with me at all times.

So are they attractive to use? Oh yes. A big tick in the box on that score. The three different covers add variety and they have a beautiful tactile finish on the covers. Nice additional touches include the different shade of grid lines in each book to match the key tones of their respective covers.

Attention to detail with the grid line colours

As for portability, Field Notes always have that covered. Of their 35 quarterly editions, only two have broken away from the pocket book size (Arts and Sciences and Byline). Both were great alternatives, but not as truly portable as the pocket size. Campfire Edition has the portability that we’ve come to expect from Field Notes and fits in all those standard carry cases as well as your back pocket.

Straight into my trusty Nock Co case

Finally, flexibility for use in both personal and business scenarios. Field Notes are never going to be corporate like Moleskine or Leuchtturm1917, but they’re not trying to be. At the same point, neither are they offensive or too gimmicky most of the time. If I had to pull these out in a client meeting, they’re the kind of notebooks that might attract attention, but in good ways. They don’t scream unprofessional.

As for the paper, I haven’t found it to be a problem with fountain pens, as long as I’m not using a big juicy wet nib and ink. There’s very little feathering or bleed through on the page, which means I don’t have to stop and think about the pen I’m using before beginning to write.

Very little bleed through on the page

Overall, I give this one a big thumbs up and can’t wait to see what the next quarterly release is. Fall is subscription renewal time for me, but I have a mountain of pocket notebooks still waiting to be used. It will be interesting to see if Field Notes pull something out of the bag that makes it impossible for me to resist subscribing for another year.

You can buy the Field Notes Campfire Edition here until they’re sold out.

Follow Up: Using A Bullet Journal For Creative Projects

One of the most popular posts on my site is this one about how I use a Bullet Journal. The other, in case you are interested, is the one weighing up the pros and cons of using a Moleskine versus Field Notes, which also has a Bullet Journal influence to it.

Given I started using a Bullet Journal approach when it was a new thing and not the hugely popular and artistic thing it is now (check out the Instagram bujo hashtag if you want to feel inferior about your artistic skills), I thought it would be a good time to do a follow up. Specifically, how to use a Bullet Journal for creative projects.

Firstly, the thing to remember is that the bullet journal methodology is not set in stone. Right from the start, it was a system designed to be modified to meet individual needs. For me, this has resulted in two separate notebooks: one for planning and the other for creative writing projects.

A creative Bullet Journal, by definition, will have different requirements to a notebook containing everything. But why did I separate them? Quite simply, I wanted to have all my book outlines and ideas in one place. When it’s time to pick a project to move onto, this dramatically reduces the number of notebooks I have to work my way through. Because it is specifically for longer outlines, rather than aha! on-the-go snippets, I can stick to an A5 size that is just large enough.

What to remove

Because I’ve got a specific use case in mind, I can ignore any features that relate to the calendar. (Side note, because I’ve stripped out the creative writing projects, I can use an actual diary in a modified Bullet Journal approach that is just as effective. If you want to know more, I’m using a Moleskine Agenda as described here). This means the Future Log and the Monthly Log disappear for me.

What to keep

The Index is the core functionality of the Bullet Journal system that is so simple, yet life changing. This is particularly important in this instance because I want to be able to easily review the contents at a later date. I can’t help but call it Contents though, rather than Index. Sorry!

Underpinning the index is the use of page numbers. This is a feature that makes the Leuchtturm 1917 brand ideal for Bullet Journaling as they are pre-completed. I find manually numbering the pages at the start of a new notebook quite therapeutic, so don’t worry if your notebook of choice doesn’t have them.

 

Because I might plan a story over the course of several weeks and have more than one in development at any given time, when it comes to review I don’t want to keep flicking back to the index to find the related project pieces. Instead I use a simple arrow system when linking larger blocks of related text. It is a simple thing to do before starting, but saves amazing amounts of time when reviewing:

This chapter continues on page 37

This continues from page 17

What about topics, bullets and tasks?

I still use these as a creative feature. There is much more to writing a book than plotting it out. There may be research tasks that need to be completed prior to writing and these can form topics in themselves.

Personal Opinions…

What is the best size for a Bullet Journal?

For creative projects, the A5 size works best. For ‘on the go’ notes and ideas capture, a pocket notebook is best (such as a Field Notes)

What is the best brand for a bullet journal?

Leuchtturm 1917 is the closest fit for the Bullet Journal system. Prebuilt Index and page numbers, as well as a paper quality that works for a wide range of pen types, including fountain pens

What is the best paper format for a bullet journal?

Plain paper allows for the most freedom, but I’m a huge fan of graph or dot grid. The key is that any ruling is subtle enough for it not to be limiting 

You can find the official Bullet Journal site and more information from Ryder here.

Moleskine Weekly Planner vs Hobonichi Techo – 2017 review

This year needs to be a very big year for me in terms of personal productivity. I will transition from full-time employment to being entirely self-employed within the next few weeks. I’ve always found it easy to be productive in the daily 9-5 job, but being entirely accountable for my own goals and planning is a new challenge. One that I knew my setup in 2016 simply wouldn’t be able to handle.

Last year, one of the problems I encountered with my productivity was a surfeit of notebooks. That’s really the best way to describe it. I used the Hobonichi Techo to record my daily events but not my daily tasks. They were instead recorded in a Field Notes book using a modified Bullet Journal method. I never actually adhered to the full Bullet Journal system because several features, such as calendared events, simply do not work for me.

hobonichi techo

Hobonichi Techo: great paper but no overview

In a larger A5 size notebook, such as a Moleskine or a Paperblanks, I wrote my daily gratitude journals and morning pages. On the road, this felt more like a burden than a productivity asset as it was always a minimum of three daily notebooks.

As much as  I loved using the Hobonichi, I realised this was less about the layout and much more about the paper. As a huge fountain pen fan it was great knowing it could take literally any pen and ink combo that was thrown at it. I enjoyed the variety that different form factors provide. But pleasure aside, it just wasn’t practical. I was doing less, not more, and friction in the system became a problem in itself.

As part of my 2016 yearly review, I decided to very consciously choose a planner that would suit my changing circumstances. After considering all the options, I settled on an A5 Moleskine 12 Month Weekly Planner.  I’ve been using it consistently for 8 weeks, so now I’ve got enough information to provide a fair review of how this is working.

Key Features

Of course, it starts with the obligatory information page. I have no idea why these are included anymore, as no one ever fills them out surely? In the age of widespread fraud, the Field Notes approach of email address and reward waiting checkbox is all you need.

Moleskine Weekly Planner

Passport and credit card numbers? No thanks!

The planner style is more than just a ‘space per day’ diary. On the left hand page there is a daily spread, but on the right hand side there is a lined page. This allows free space each week to make notes or, in my case, to plan out additional goals. If you need to record lots of meetings and appointments, then this might not work for you.

Moleskine 12 month weekly planner

Daily and Weekly planning combo – ideal for modified Bullet Journal

There is also a monthly spread at the beginning. This is quite similar in size to the one I used last year in the Hobonichi, so it allows for bigger picture planning. Unlike the Hobonichi, there is more space at the bottom of each page for additional notes, taking advantage of the larger A5 size.

Moleskine Weekly Planner

Monthly overview – ideal for larger project planning

By far the biggest downside is the number of lined pages for additional notes at the back. With just 4, I already only have 2 lined sides left. Given that this book is narrower than a standard Moleskine A5 ruled book, this is not due to a thickness issue. Cost saving? Quite possibly, given that the usual address book pullout section wasn’t included this year either. I’ve spoken to other people who have Moleskine diaries in other formats and they didn’t have one either. So it is slightly disappointing if they are doing that, given they don’t exactly sell these as inexpensive items and they’re certainly not reinvesting the saving into better quality paper.

Moleskine Notebook

Seriously, no more pages left and February isn’t even over!

So far, with the caveats mentioned above, I have found this system to be working absolutely perfectly for my needs. Though the paper is nowhere near as good quality as the Hobonichi (understatement of the year) I have found that by sticking to a fine nib and a relatively dry ink I can still use some fountain pens with this. But on reflection, I’m approaching this year with functionality over fun and beauty.

So, to recap, the pros and cons of the Moleskine Weekly Planner…

Pros

  • Good layout for weekly goal setting
  • Monthly view for high level planning
  • General sleek and professional form factor you would expect from Moleskine

Cons

  • Paper quality (I’ve heard Leuchtturm1917 do a similar style, so this may be a better choice if paper really matters – if anyone has tried this then please let me know in the comments as I’ll consider alternatives for 2018)
  • Not enough lined pages at the back for additional notes
  • No address book section

The layout has been the winner for me. Without masses of daily appointments and meetings to keep track of, I can use a modified Bullet Journal system within the planner itself and feel like I’m keeping all my work plans and goals on track. But I’m not blind to some fairly significant weaknesses in the product.

Everyday carry for a writer

Over the past year, I’ve become endlessly fascinated by people photographing and describing their everyday carry. Of course, because I don’t live in America, I still find it odd to see so many knives and guns as part of that. The knives I can understand from a practical sense, but the prospect of having a gun as an integral part of your everyday life still baffles me.

Anywho, I am a person who has a few items with them 99% of the time. I might not have them with me when I go out for a special occasion requiring a little black handbag, but that’s about it. So below is my everyday carry:

IMG_0054

I adore my nockco holder. Whenever I have an idea I just pull the whole thing out, rather than having to ferret around in the bottom of my bag to find a fluffy pen and an old receipt to scribble on. I have three notebooks with me most of the time: my current notebook, the Shelterwood Field Notes which contain details of a series I’ve been working on for a decade and the black nockco dot dash contains all the notes for the manuscript I’m currently submitting. For the writing utensils, a mechanical pencil, a retro 51, my sheaffer, pilot metropolitan and a lamy safari. I love to have a reliable selection of varying nib sizes and colours.

I also carry a set of worry dolls down around that were made for me by my sister a looooooooong time ago. They’ve travelled quite literally around the world with me and have huge sentimental value. No matter where I am or what is going on, I always have my family with me that way, all tied up in a little bag. Wait, that sounds sinister. Never mind…

The other things are purely practical: Swiss army card (has got me out of a few scrapes over the years for sure), a wallet ninja, lip balm, ear plugs (a sign I travel so much) and a USB stick, because you never know when you might have to grab documents on the go.

So, no guns or knives, but still the tools of my trade!

Capturing ideas wherever, whenever

Intuitively I felt like I was capturing so many more thoughts and ideas as I moved through 2015. So at the end of the year I collected together all the notebooks I had completed into one place to confirm the theory. Yep, I had indeed had a lot of thoughts:

2015 notebook stack

Because I’m a bit of a GTD fan, I was in the habit of capturing things to do the moment I thought of them, but story ideas and general everyday thoughts and feelings, not so much. I made much more of an effort to do that and it shows. I have a whole treasure chest of ideas for stories I can now return to, as well as all the highs and lows of the year that I’ve recorded for posterity.

Broken down into three notebook types:

  1. The filofax was my daily log book for 2015. For 2016 I’ll be moving over to a Hobonichi which is already proving to be an amazing experience.
  2. The large, hardback notebooks were for novel plotting and extended meditative journalling, including daily gratitudes to set my days up right.
  3. Pocket notebooks (especially Field Notes) were always in my jeans or handbag for keeping track of what I had to do each day, but also for those random confluences of inspiration that happen when I’m out and about. Now I can capture them immediately (I’m guaranteed to forget them if I put it off until I get home).

2015 Notebook collection

I made leaps forward in my writing processes and achievements in 2015 and I fully intend to keep building on the momentum in 2016. More than ever I believe the best way to succeed at anything is to just write it down!

Putting the wheels back on the wagon

This isn’t my first blog about Getting Things Done (GTD for short) and it probably won’t be the last. Also, I always want to spell waggon with those two gs, but apparently that’s been classed as archaic now for a century. Clearly I really might be as old as I feel some days.

Anyway, I’ve had my GTD system set up for so long now that I’ve forgotten how to live without it. Or, at least, I thought I had. Then it became abundantly clear that I’ve been slowly sliding towards chaos in both work and personal areas. Luckily for me, my version of chaos is most people’s version of normal, so nothing slipped or became a problem. The only problem as such was in the way I felt. Like I was always on the edge of forgetting something important. It was horrible.

So on Friday I completely got things sorted on the work front: projects identified, next actions defined, emails and tasks list all up to date. It gave me a wonderful sense of freedom. One which was also, unfortunately, a false sense of security in how easy it was.

On Sunday, I then spent my day working through this:

GTD+workflow+diagram

By the end of the day, you know where I was at?

Step 1: Stuff to in (or collect, for those of you who prefer the term).

All of those things that had been lying around, pieces of paperwork, random receipts, half held thoughts in my head, were actually at least captured all in one place. For most people who pick up Getting Things Done, I think they fall at this hurdle. Don’t get me wrong, it is massively overwhelming. I burst into tears at one point and I am not a person prone to random crying. Well, not at this stuff anyway.

So why keep going? Because I do know what it feels like at the other end. To be able to be mysteriously more productive and still have time for creative thinking. Having this system will essentially allow me to have two jobs: employee and writer. The bills still need paying and without a system, the one I love the most would be the one I have to sacrifice.

That’s how you put the wheels back on. You remember that the two days of 100% overwhelm will be followed by many more days when you know exactly what has to be done and how you are going to do it. I’d rather do that than run through every day at 25% stress and go to bed each night kicking myself for making progress on everything other than the things that matter to me most.