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2015 in review

2015 summaries seem all the rage now so why not? I was genuinely surprised I had as many views as I did – this blog is still very new and exploratory for me. Should I dive deep rather than just continue to dabble my toes in the water?

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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expectations ruineth a man

I expect things. Stuff. From people. From myself. 

And most of the time I’m disappointed by the failure to meet them, of those around me who didn’t realise I was holding them to these set of expectations. I’m disappointed with myself as well.

And then I ask (to myself when no one’s watching), why do I keep expecting, even after experience shows it’s best to just…do your best?

Hm. Pre-Monday thoughts. Also, I need a thesaurus.

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organised madness

Someone asked me to share how I use my Hobonichi as a planner, because you tend to see it used as a doodle journal or a diary so I thought, why not? But first, you need to understand where I’m coming from;

  • I refuse to maintain multiple planners to record the same thing
  • I would love to decorate but honestly, I need the space 
  • I adore multi-ink pens 
  • My inbox is a monster that regularly needs to be slayed 

Before I fully embraced the Hobonichi as a planner, I had to come to terms with a few things that took quite a few bucks and multiple failed planners (yes including the Hobonichi Cousin at one point) for me to realise:

  • Without discipline, the best system in the world will fail me (or rather, I fail it)
  • Updating my planner needs to be a regular, active item in my day rather than something I get around to when I’m free
  • The planner needs to be mobile because my work can suddenly bite me in the behind without warning

Considering all that (and instigated by the fact that the love of my life gave me the 2016 Hobonichi English planner as a gift), here’s the system that I’ve come up with that, colour me happy and excited, is actually working.

Determine how your work comes in and how you’ll capture it

I use an amalgamation of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and the Bullet Journal system. Here, I follow the GTD principle in that;

  • You don’t keep anything in your head (besides your brain)
  • Do only emails/work that takes less than 2 minutes to settle. Leave the longer ones for later 
  • Log everything in a rough sheet first

So I blaze through my emails, doing only the <2 min emails and logging the tasks on a cheap notepad. Then I do the longer stuff and also log it on the cheap notepad.

Keep one thing in mind; I follow the GTD definition of a project as well; a project is  anything that needs a few days/weeks/months and a few steps to complete. This is important in a short while.

Then record your work in the right places

Referring to my cheap notepad, I do the following:

  • Events are logged in the yearly view of the techo
  • Project deadlines are logged in the monthly view using colourful post-its that are colour-coded
  • The daily pages are updated with the tasks that need to be done that day, either a standalone task or part of a project

Use it to log events

  

Use it to log project deadlines

  

Use it for your daily schedule & tasks

Here’s where the Bullet Journal system kicks in; 

  • Tasks are written down using checkboxes
  • If the task is being done, it’s filled partway
  • Done, I shade it fully
  • If it’s a bigger task/project that has several things I need to do on that day itself, the main task is recorded using a circle, the smaller tasks with a checkbox
  • I add signifiers to the tasks for example, an exclamation point to show it needs my attention that day; an arrow going in a circle to show that even though the task is done, I’ll need to do more e.g. follow up with someone; an arrow to the right means I need to push the task to the next day
  • And here’s another important key for me; if I have to move the task again, I’ll add the number ‘2’ to the right arrow to show this is the second time I’ve moved the task and so on. This is super helpful because it forces me to see why am I avoiding this task

 

How the signifiers work

 
The Master List

One thing you need to remember though is that you need a master tracker of your tasks/projects. Here is where I usually fail in the past because I keep it somewhere I always lose it or forget it, or I just plain ignore it because it’s not synonymous with my planner.

To avoid that, I got the Hobonichi A6 memo book (set of 3) and I tab a few pages for one section. This is also another key item–

Understand the grouping of your work

Generally your work will come in themes. As I’m in HR, my work comes in these buckets;

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Employment
  • Others/Projects
  • Exit

So everything, everything that comes in to me is classified under either one of these themes and if they’re a task, they get a smaller post-it and if they’re a project, they get a bigger post-it and then they’re placed in the appropriate tab in the memo book. See below;

 

Used to track tasks & projects

 
Why post-its? Because I’ve realised that I want to transfer completed tasks/projects into some place else as a record of what I’ve done so that I can totally wave it in my bosses’ faces during performance review haha!

And most importantly, I need to remember that I’ve done good work 🙂

Remember to review review review

And here’s the crucial part of my system which I haven’t fully implemented because I’m still in the process of cleaning up but I think it’ll work as I’ve experimented with it;

Pick a day in the week (I would recommend Friday) where you dedicate a block of time to review your Master Tracker and update your Year/Month/Daily view accordingly. 

Do this religiously and you won’t even need to use Sunday evening to plan your coming week because you got it done on Friday. You rock!

Anything else?

  • Do I need the Weekly book to do this? What if I forget what’s coming in the next few days? It doesn’t matter if you use the Weekly book or just the daily pages, if you don’t discipline yourself to review it, it’ll fail you.
  • How do I track my daily schedule? I like things aligned so my schedule is laid out in a grid because you need a visual reminder of how much of your day is taken up already. We have a tendency to overestimate our time; a visual clock helps you remember you don’t have that much so make the best of it

Anyway, that’s it! I hope that was helpful and if you have any questions, just ask~

Cheers.
 

 

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armed with a broken spoon…

…I attempt to dig my way out of a mess that’s part circumstance, and part me. A combination of factors got me here today, looking forward (not) to a weekend of speed-working my way through hundreds of emails while implementing a revised GTD with my Hobonichi planner that could hopefully prevent this from happening again.

Ah, it’s a familiar mantra. You work your ass off and killed that 500-email beast with grit and guts and you shout to the heavens, ye! No more! No longer will I allow such a beast to overwhelm me again!

And whoops there ya go, one week later it’s back to 500. 

Cue the stress-shopping, the late nights refusing to do work the more work you have and God, sometimes you hate yourself you know? Even when it’s a hard situation you’re in which is not entirely your fault and in some ways that’s almost as bad as being in crap that was entirely your fault. I guess because the latter is something you had control over and the former, not.

I’m wandering, forgive me.

I like the principles behind GTD; it makes sense. I don’t like using Outlook as my be all end all though. Technology has failed me, more than once. At least depending on myself will help me train myself to be a better me in the interim.

What’s your method to the madness in your life?

  

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be a time lord

Or at least, I’m trying to learn how to not let time rule me instead!

Being a corporate rat for the last 11 years made me learn harsh lessons over and over again and that is;

  • Planning your day/week/month/year is underrated. Don’t skip it, don’t take it lightly, do it
  • Overestimating my self-will and energy level trips me up every damn time
  • And more importantly (and rather ironically), there comes a point when you need to stop the obsessive planning and start obsessively doing!

It’s easy to let the rhythmic lull of setting up your planner pages, playing with your new Hobonichi (ahem) distract you from doing the work but in this post I’d like to talk about point #2 i.e. not overestimating my time.

Doing lists I’ve realised, is wonderful. It sets out in a clear, structured way what you need to get done. The only problem? You end up putting 5-10 items from your awesomely done overall work plan and at the end of the day, 3 or heck, 9 items are still not crossed off and you get annoyed and push the list to the next day and you know what? A week later and most of those items are still there!

For me, I’ve realised it’s because I always think I can do more and routinely refuse to recognise that interruptions happen, your own will weakens throughout the day and sometimes, shit just happens. So I played around a bit with Chronodex etc whathaveyou and here’s I think, what really works for me;

  • Plan your day on a clock-face type of schedule. Whether you’re a Chronodex-er or whatever, do it. Doing it on a clock face forces you to really see that your day isn’t that long.
  • Plan to do at most, 2-3 items. It’s fine, trust me. Because that feeling you get when you crossed off that 3 items and have time to do 1 more? Fantastic, baby.

And to make things even more interesting, I’ve come up with the layout below because I’m particular about things. I like realistically planning my day but I would also like it that my scheudle doesn’t take up half the page of my planner and leave me with too little room for notes. So my day is laid out in 1-hour blocks, and each block takes up 2 grid blocks of the Hobonichi page so I can schedule in half-hour length work/meetings. And the beauty is that I still get a type of clock-face, reality-driven scheduling and it’s neat and pretty.

Neat and pretty fuels my soul.

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peace is what you make of it

There’s a few reasons why I’m a stationery addict – a period of deprivation in my younger days, learning too young how buyingbuyingbuying might make me (temporarily) happy, and just poor financial habits – but I’ll give credit where credit is due. Stationery, or rather planners, help give me a sense of control in my life.

In these days of emails and video conferences and multinationals, work no longer respects your personal boundaries. You might have been woken up at 3am by the ding of an incoming email, or your manager in another country forgetting you’re not in their timezone and in this constant attrition of intangible, relentless barrage against your peace of mind, you reach out for something to physically redraw these lost boundaries.

Today, I figured out a different approach to that potentially eternal question of ‘what is my planner peace’. And so far, I’m pretty happy with it. Let’s revisit a month down the road!

  

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My To-Go Stationery Setup

PENGUINS CREATIVE

I tend to hoard stationery items. I love to see new things that comes out, and try to collect them all. As a result, I have with me a whole stack of wonderful pens and writing tools. However, today a friend asked me to show her my to-go stationery set up, and I realise that I ended up always going minimalist when taking my writing tools on the goal. In this post I will be sharing the items that I bring with me whenever I go out. It’s almost embarrassing to examine how simple the combination is, but here goes:

IMG_3403

(From Left to right: A portable watercolor palette, Moleskine Pocket Sketchbook, Tabiya leather pen case, and finally a Hobonichi Weeks (spring start) )

As you can probably guess, they are all super light and easy to carry. I want to eliminate the hassle of ruffling through my…

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