Friday, 24 October 2014


Photograph is by Colin Nicol
See his website here
reproduced with permission

I’ve come to realise that the most important part of my weekly planning session is not so much the planning for the days to come, it’s reflecting on what has passed. Why did I clear my list so easily this week? Why did I get almost nothing done this week? It’s only when I stop and think back about why I did or didn’t do things that I can make better plans for the upcoming week/month.

For example, the last few weeks have been less than productive for me, but I know why. I can look at the plans I made with hope and enthusiasm and then look at and understand the reality that followed. Of course, reflection needs to be honest. Sometimes I know I didn’t do something I thought I would because I wasn’t well. Other times I know I didn’t get things done because I spent ages faffing about online, looking at notebooks or filofaxes or a zillion other things. Sometimes I realise I’m not doing something because I’m scared of failure, or because I don’t believe in it.

At other times I can get on and clear a to-do list before lunch and am powering through the day. Knowing why that day was productive is incredibly valuable. Was it because I was full of enthusiasm or energy? Or was it just because the Wi-Fi was off? Knowing that I will write much more (and much better) if I get my backside in the chair and start before 9 a.m. is also valuable knowledge and helps me plan when to do other things, so that my least productive writing time is when I sort the laundry or do the shopping.

I realise I have a very set ‘clock’ and if I schedule the wrong kind of thing into a time slot, I might as well not bother. Running (when I am well enough to do it – I am craving those days!!) is best in the morning, but that’s also when I’m the most creative, so I now know better than to expect creative juices to be flowing after I’ve spent half the morning running/stretching etc. Much better to run and then do chores. I also have a creative lull after lunch, but this is an excellent time to go for a walk (my current saviour as I’m not able to run) and when I come back, I’m often good at editing or making notes for writing.

It’s only because I’ve spent the time thinking about why things have gone well or not that I’ve really become in tune with my rhythm. It doesn’t work 100% of the time and life will always throw spanners (and I can always waste time browsing stationery!) but it genuinely feels like I’m making better plans as a result of taking the time to assess why things have or haven’t worked.

Does anyone else spend time reflecting? Have you found it helps?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Kindle v physical book

I love books. I love reading. I wish I had time to read more than I do. I have always loved real, physical books, with covers and pages. I have a brain that seems to remember where I have read something in a book (left page or right page? Halfway down the page? About 40 pages ago... that kind of thing) making it easy to flip back to find something if I need to.
I thought I would hate a Kindle. I resisted getting one for a long time. I thought I would miss the physicality of a book.

Well, I do and I don’t.

Why I prefer a physical book:
  • When I read a Kindle book, I miss the spatial memory – I have no idea how many pages back I might have read something and the left page/right page aspect is of course absent. That’s all crystal clear with a physical book.
  • Unless I am reading a physical version of a book, I frequently have no idea what the proper title of the book I’m reading is, or who the author is, unless it’s a book with which I’m already quite familiar. I assume this is because I don’t see the cover except when choosing to read it, whereas with a physical book, I see it every time I pick it up.
  • ‘Bookshelves’ on the Kindle are just not the same as real bookshelves. I also find it easier to browse real bookshelves with physical books – pick them out, flip to the back cover, read what the blurb says.
  • I can lend/borrow physical books. I can leave them in my will (assuming anyone has the same eclectic taste as me!).

Why/when I prefer the Kindle:
  • I keep a note of what I read and also whether it was on Kindle or physical book. The first year I had a Kindle, I read about twice as many physical books as I did Kindle ones. The next year it was about half and half. Now I would say that I read more Kindle versions than I do physical versions. I also note how long it takes me to read a book and, even comparing books of the same length, I read Kindle versions in less time than I do physical ones. I’ve recently got a Paperwhite and I think I will read even more on that than I did on the older version. I don’t know why I read faster on a Kindle, but I suspect that it’s because I can change the font size and line-spacing and can speed-read more easily.
  • When I’m travelling, I can just take my Kindle and have several books available to read (saving luggage space!!).
  • I have the Kindle app on my phone, which means that if I have a few spare minutes and my phone with me, I can read a few pages of a Kindle book, whereas I may not always take a paperback out and about with me.
  • I have terrible joints in my hands and the Kindle weighs less (even in its cover) than even the smallest paperback. The cover can fold back on itself and has a hand-slot so I don’t even need to hold the thing!

I have been surprised by how much I love my Kindle and how much I read on it in comparison with physical books. I haven’t shifted away from physical books entirely (I’ll keep my pledge to read the printed word!) but my Kindle is fab.

What do others prefer?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Trial swap into the Cavendish

In my last post, I said I had bought a compact Cavendish as a spare/back-up for the de Villiers. I have now moved over into it and will trial it until the end of October (though I suspect that I may need more colour and will then move back to the de Villiers...).

Everything moved across just fine. The binder is heavier than the de Villiers. Unloaded, the de Villers weighed in at 156g; the Cavendish was 183g. It’s also ‘puffier’ leather than the de Villiers (which has almost a lacquered feel to it). I needed to make a protective plastic sheet for the front, but since I have a box of overhead projector sheets, this was pretty easy! The ring size is the same (I think). Seven cards and two books of stamps went into the front slots; the rest went into the zipped pocket on the back. Paper money went into the back full-height pocket; coins went into the zipped pencil-case at the back (straight transfer from the de Villiers).
I think it’s because the covers are thicker/puffier but it feels bigger than the de Villiers. Not so much that I am thinking brick though, so that’s okay!

I’ll keep you posted. Right now I’m not convinced that the pen-loop and strap benefits outweigh the ‘feels bigger and it’s not colourful’ disadvantages.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Another compact...

Apologies for the silence!! Work has been hell and non-work has been busy (but in a really good way, so can’t complain there!)
Anyway, my news is that I think (think...!) that I have finally solved that personal/pocket conundrum.

Use a compact.

Not so hard, huh?

See, the regular-size personal can feel like a brick and the pocket-size, though lightweight, can’t cope with cards well enough to be planner+wallet. But, the de Villiers with its 10 card slots in the cover and small rings is just grand. So grand, that I have been on the look-out for another compact to have as a spare/back-up. There are a number of compacts out there, but if they don’t have oodles of card slots, they’ll have all the same problems that the pocket-size does – i.e. ring space gets taken up with card-holders.

Enter a Cavendish...

Nope, not the Cavendish with the humongous rings (have one of them... ‘brick’ doesn’t come close). A compact Cavendish. Same internal layout but with oval 15mm rings (11 mm in the smaller diameter).

I’ve seen compact Cavendish binders come up on eBay in the past and thought “Who buys a Cavendish with small rings??? Isn’t the point of them that they have HUGE rings????”

And then it turns out that I buy them. Who’d have guessed.

Anyway, unlike the big-ring version, it seems like few people (other than me) want the compact version so I got it for a pretty good price (about £20 including p+p). The rings are perfect and though it needs a bit of a clean, it’s otherwise in pretty good condition. I don’t think it has been used much and the dings in the leather are from storage I reckon.

It has exactly the same layout as its bigger brother, but with smaller rings. The inside left has eight card slots and a full-height pocket behind. The inside right has a full-height pocket and a ¾ height pocket in front (hmm... maybe nearer ⅞ height). On the outer cover (back) there is a zipped pocket. The pocket is not useful enough to put money in but is pretty good for spare cards that don’t need to go in the front slots and things like stamps and so on.

Back, with the zipped pocket

Unlike the de Villiers (and another reason I bought it) the Cavendish has both a pen-loop (smallish – fits my Zebra diary pen perfectly) and a strap to keep it closed. Also unlike the de Villiers it currently (empty) doesn’t lie flat-as-a-bat but I think when the contents go in, it will. It is also black (and I normally need a good colour-pop but we’ll see how I get on!).

Has anyone else ever had one of these “light-bulb moments” when after faffing about for ages over the different sizes they suddenly have a Goldilocks find that’s just right?