How I use my notebooks: Tournament of Books tracking

Most stationery blog posts focus on reviewing products and less on how people actually use all the paper, pens and inks that they buy. I thought I’d try to write a bit more about how I use my stuff, and not just on how cool is all the stuff I have.

This is my latest Field Notes, the Campfire Night. I use a binder clip to keep it closed as it bashes around in my backpack. Without the clip the pages get crumpled and torn after a few days of use. The clip used to be nice and copper coloured but now is just nice and worn silver.

Apart from my day to day to do lists, this notebook currently hosts my Tournament of Books trackers. There’s a list of books that are participating in the contest, divided per round. Those that I’ve read are marked off with blue pencil. This is for my personal use, so you’ll not see any Instagram level calligraphy here. I wasn’t planning to photograph this and blog about it when I created these.

This is where I’m logging who I think should win each round. When the tournament starts I’m going to log who actually won each round on the opposite page.

Since doing this challenge means reading 18 books in a very short period, I’m tracking my reading progress in this notebook as well as in my reading journal, just to make sure that I’m on track (I won’t finish reading these in time, as I’ve started too late, but my goal is to finish reading them all by mid April).

That’s it.

Advertisements
How I use my notebooks: Tournament of Books tracking

A few journaling tips

Notebooks are meant to be used, and I use many of mine for journaling. Here are a few journaling tips that I’ve found useful over the years:

  • Don’t constrain yourself to pre-dated or restrictive formats, just pick a not too fancy lined or blank notebook (or dot grid or squared). The notebook just needs to be nice enough and special enough for you to want to crack it open and write in it, but not too nice to be intimidating.
  • Start with a title and a date. The title is a neat way to get yourself writing, and to help you search through previous entries later on.
  • Even lined notebooks can be doodled in.

  • Stick bits and pieces of things into your notebook to make it come to life. Business cards are great for this (restaurants usually make their cards extra interesting and colourful), as are ticket stubs, clothing tags, labels, etc. Write a little something about what you put in, or just let the graphics speak for themselves.
  • If you just feel like writing a line or a paragraph, then do it and don’t beat yourself up about it.
  • If you’re having an extra busy day that you want to remember but don’t have time to fully log, bullet points are your friend. You can always go back and flesh them out later if you feel like it.
  • Write 2-3 things as topics for each day to avoid describing your breakfast and what you did at work. Just document a few things that made the day memorable, special, interesting, fun, unique, or even just a thing or two that are on your mind right now and you want to hash out.
  • Did you see a TV show or movie you liked? Read a good book or went to a good restaurant? Write about it as a way to relive and capture your good experience.
  • Be kind to yourself and others. Put cringeworthy things elsewhere, or you won’t want to open that notebook again. I work through pain and loss in my journaling sometimes, but never anger. Obviously your milage may vary on this one, just be careful not to make yourself be afraid to open a pandora box that you created with your own writing.
A few journaling tips

My 2018 Journals

I managed to journal almost every day in 2018, a tremendous personal achievement considering the chaos that was the latter part of the year for me. I use Moleksine large lined limited edition notebooks for my journals and Ti Arto/Ti Arto EDC/Ti Pocket Pro with Uni-ball Signo 0.5mm refills (UMR-85).

The four notebooks I filled in 2018. I filled five notebooks in 2017.

Why do I use Moleskines when I have better quality notebooks (Rhodia, Tomoe River Paper notebooks, Leuchtterm, Baron Fig)? Because they’re notebooks that I want to use. I love their limited edition notebook designs. I used to use Baron Fig notebooks for my journals but I like the Moleskine format better and since I switched to journaling with gel ink pens instead of fountain pens, Rhodia and Tomoe River Paper notebooks are pointless. Moleskine notebooks were easier to obtain than Leuchtterm notebooks, and Baron Figs were slightly bigger, bulkier and with thicker paper, that I no longer needed.

The point is, garbage paper or not, Moleskine’s make me happy every time I open them, so that’s why I use them.

 

First two notebooks of 2018. I was journaling a lot more then, so each one contains two months of notes, bits and pieces that I glue in, plans and doodles.

Why don’t I use my fountain pens for journaling? I used to, during the first two months of journaling, and then I switched them out for my beloved UMR-85 and BIGiDESIGN Ti pens. I love my fountain pens, but they are not the best EDC pens, to say the least. A lot of them are expensive, most of them are vintage, and so unlike the Ti pens which I just toss into my bag or carry in my pocket, I baby them. I don’t want them to get damaged, I worry about them leaking after I carry them around in my bag (my consistently ink stained fingers attest to how often that has happened). I can’t use ballpoints (I hate them and they cause me severe RSI flareups), rollerballs like the Retro51 are almost as bad as fountain pens when it comes to leaking and being finicky about paper, so gel pens it is. The Uni-ball UMR-85 is an excellent gel refill, and the Ti pens are fantastic and can take everything you can throw at them, so I that’s what I use.

Last two notebooks of 2018. I managed to lose the Star Wars one on a plane, but I got it back, so I finished the year in it. 

I’ll make a post about my new journal for 2019 and how I start a new journal probably later this week. My posting schedule is a bit erratic lately, but I’m dealing with serious family health problems these past few months and so this blog has suffered somewhat, I’m afraid.

P.S. Say what you will about Moleskines, these notebooks can take a beating, I’ve carried and used these daily for eight months (four months each), and they are bulging and a tiny bit battered at the very edges, but otherwise like brand new.

My 2018 Journals

New Year’s Resolutions

For the last three years I’ve been making and tracking yearly goals in a Baron Fig Three-Legged Juggler Confidant. I call my new year’s resolutions my yearly goals because unlike resolutions, goals are something concrete and well defined that you continually strive to achieve.

The goals are personal, so I’m not going to share them here, but I am going to go over how I set them up, in the hopes that it might help and inspire those working on their own yearly goals.

  • Set yourself up for success by picking goals that you:
        1. Actually care about.
        1. Are measurable.
        1. Are achievable even if your year goes horribly wrong. The trick is to set up easily achievable basic goals, and then “bonus” or extended goals that go beyond them in various tiers. So if you aren’t reading at all and you want to read more a good basic goal would be “read 4 books a year”, with extended goals of “read 8 books a year”, “read 12 books a year” and so on.
        1. Are a mix of things that you track all year and one time events ( for example: participate in X number of races, and run X kilometers a month/year).
        1. Aren’t focused on one area only (to avoid boredom and burnout).
  • I use a paper notebook to track my yearly goals and the “Streaks” app to get my streaks going. The notebook is something I open and update at least once a week and so is constantly on my desk, resting against my laptop. It’s a physical and constant reminder of what I need to do. I can’t emphasize enough how important the physical aspect of putting a check mark or crossing out a box is for this to work.
  • Be ambitious only with extended goals, or you are going to disappointed and discouraged very quickly. Human beings are terrible at assessing deadlines and the amount of effort required to achieve a goal. Cut your goals by 25-50% at least from what you think you can achieve. Yes, it’ll make them easy, but the point is to create a momentum of action and success, not frustration and failure. If you know you’ve missed all or most of your goals you’ll stop looking at them, and by March 2019 you’ll be done.
New Year’s Resolutions

How I Started Reading More (Again)

A few more insights into how I got back to reading, beyond using a reading journal, as it has come up in conversations lately (people are gearing up for 2019 resolutions, I guess):

  • I started with detective novels, easy reads, things that were fun and not too challenging to dig into. M.C. Beaton, P.G. Wodehouse, John Scalzi were my friends. I was trying to rebuild a habit, and so the last thing I needed was to start with books that I would resist reading. My mind had to learn to treat reading as a pleasant pastime and not “homework” anymore, so the more challenging books came in only about a year after I started.
  • I used streaks to challenge myself to read 10 minutes a day, every day. Why 10 minutes? Because I felt that this was the minimal amount of time required for me to start easing myself out of the choppy, constantly distracted and interrupted reading habits that I had picked up after years of using social media.
  • I deleted the Facebook and YouTube apps from my phone, and after a great deal more struggle and a few relapses, Twitter. Instead of browsing them when I had a minute or two to spare, I used the Kindle app.
  • I put reading in my new year’s resolutions (yes, I have been doing those for the last three years, and I’ve been pretty successful in meeting them for the last three years, but that’s a different post). At first it was just for a certain quantity of books (24), and then it was for a certain number of books of each kind — challenging books and long books.
  • I set up a Goodreads account and started a reading challenge there. As with the resolutions, it’s important to keep the goal not only attainable under normal circumstances, but also attainable when things go horribly wrong with your life. Start lower than you think, and ignore other people’s goals. You’re doing this for yourself. If it’s 5 books, 10 books, 20 or 20, it should be what you can do. I chose 24, because that was 2 books a month, and something that I felt I could get to without resorting to reading only short and simple books.
  • I cut out TV almost entirely from my life. This wasn’t just about reading, it was about making more time in my day for things that were more important to me, but it definitely helped with my reading. I cancelled my cable subscription and I watch about 2 hours of TV a week.

This has been my journey back into reading. Take from it what you wish, but if I can distill them they’d look like this:

  1. Decide you want to do it. If it’s not coming from you, it won’t happen.
  2. Set up systems of daily reminders and goals. These can be private or public, they can be analog or digital, as long as they help you keep on track.
  3. Make it pleasurable. Start with easy reading in a genre that you enjoy, maybe with a writer that you know, and keep your goals easy and attainable even not on the best of days.

 

How I Started Reading More (Again)

My Reading Journal, or How I Taught Myself To Enjoy Reading Again

Ironically enough, by the time I finished with my MA in English Literature a few years ago I had “lost” the habit of reading. From someone who used to read at every available (and not so available) moment I had turned into a non-reader almost entirely. This bothered me so I set up to rectify it by “gamifying” reading until I had tricked myself back into the habit again.

Field Notes had just come out with their Arts and Sciences, the perfect format for my plans. The idea wasn’t only to create a journal where I would log my thoughts on each book as I read it, but create a little set of “achievements” that I could unlock for each book as I read it. For each quarter of the book I read, I got an achievement, a little logo that symbolized the book which I drew on a separate page. The accumulation of those silly little symbols was enough to push me forward as I learned to enjoy reading again. I kept that up for three Field Notes Arts books and then when I ran out of them, I simplified the format and moved to the Moleskine Two-Go, which had just come out. The Field Notes Arts notebook wasn’t fountain pen friendly so I used a Karas Kustoms Render K, a Blackwing pencil and the Caran d’Ache Bicolor 999 double sided coloured pencil.

On the first year that I tried using this system (from March 2016) I got from not reading any new books (just my old familiar favourites) to reading almost 20 new books. On the second year (2017) I got up to 42 books. This year to date I’m at 58 books, and I’ll probably read 60-61 books by the end of the year. I no longer need to spend time drawing little “achievement badges” as my reading habit is back here to stay. I do, however, still keep a book journal even though I’ve started using Goodreads since 2017. It’s a satisfying way to keep track of my reading and organize my thoughts on the books that I’ve read.

You can check out the format of the entries for fiction and non-fiction below. The unlined left side of the spread (verso) is where I do a little doodle that reminds me of something central in the book, and explain the star rating that I gave the book in each category. I really recommend that if you choose to create your own analog reading journal, you create your format yourself. Mine has changed over time, particularly for non-fiction, and it works with my reading goals for the year.

This is the index, which is useful for reference later on and is a good way to check my reading progress throughout the year.

My Reading Journal, or How I Taught Myself To Enjoy Reading Again

“Triggers” Daily Questions and a Moleskine Pocket Peter Pan Limited Edition review: All Children, Except One, Grow Up.

Ever since I’ve read the book “Triggers” by Marshall Goldsmith about six months ago I’ve been searching for ways to track the progress of my Daily Questions (“Did I do my best to…”). I tried using my journal for several months, then used a Google Sheet for two months, and in both cases something was missing. The Google Sheet was great for statistics and tracking, but not as satisfying and meaningful as writing my daily scores down (and I didn’t really find the statistics useful). The journal was much better, but as my goals changed it was time consuming to create a new table each time, and I needed a way to for me to justify my daily scores.

Enter tracking system number three: a Moleskine pocket Peter Pan limited edition notebook and an index card. Let’s start with the notebook:

The Peter Pan Moleskine limited editions showcase some of Moleskine’s best design work in recent years. Both the colourful covers, the drawing and the lettering evoke the spirit of Peter Pan without resorting to Disney-esque tropes. They’re naive without being childish, colourful without being brash, and the quotes on the covers are brilliantly selected.

Inside the covers are more illustrations in the same vein and even the famous “In case of loss” is set in a hand lettering like font. The palate of the entire Peter Pan line is limited (navy, orangey-yellow, green and white) but it never feels that way.

The back cover. Again, extra points for aligning the design so well with the back pocket. It almost seems like they’re flying into it:

This edition comes with stickers that are a lot of fun and well drawn in a naive style:

And the B-Side of the sleeve instructs you on how to build paper planes and also uses quotes from the books or that reference the book:

So that’s the review of the notebook itself. I highly recommend all of the Moleskine Peter Pan notebooks — they rank alongside the Denim and some of the Harry Potter limited edition notebooks as my favourites of recent years. I didn’t buy it specifically to try to use it as a Triggers Daily Questions tracker, but it was languishing in my “to use” pile and a used notebook is better than an unused notebook, so I decided to give it a spin.

The idea of writing down my Daily Questions each time was what made me stop using my journal for this purpose in the first place, so I decided to write them down once on an index card (which I would slip in the notebook’s back pocket), and then number each question, and date the card. Every day I would write down a score for each daily question, and a very short justification for the score. The justification is short to make it easy to write them down (if it’s a hassle I’ll have a hard time sticking with it), and that’s why I chose the pocket notebook (it’s also light and easy to carry around). When I feel like I need to change the questions up, I’ll create a new index card, put an end date on the old index card and archive it in the notebook’s back pocket. Every day will be dated in the notebook, and I use the appropriate index card if I really want to reference that particular day in the future. This may seem a little clunky for reference purposes, but as I learned over time, I don’t really go back to reference my past answers, so that’s not a meaningful setback.

I’ll check in a few months and document how it goes, but judging by my previous experience, this looks like a pretty good setup for now.

“Triggers” Daily Questions and a Moleskine Pocket Peter Pan Limited Edition review: All Children, Except One, Grow Up.