Slimming down

Not another New Year’s diet but a rationalisation of my daily work tools. I normally review my work habits and productivity tools as the year turns and this year is no different. The turmoil in my home and work life over the last eighteen months – emigration, job hunting, residency process, promotions and company-wide reorganisation – has left me with an appetite for the simpler things.

My desk around November time

Although I still miss not being able to use a Palm PDA in my work, I’m not sure I’d be still as digitally committed as I once was. Outlook is a necessary evil that I have learned to accommodate into my working life and, for calendar and email at least, it does most of what I need it to do. The company issue Windows Mobile wifi cellphone (with keyboard and 3G/GPRS connectivity to the company’s exchange server) is great for calls, email, text and the odd rare internet excursion but no good for taking notes of any length or project planning/management.

I have a great laptop but it stay in the docking station mostly when I’m in the office but I still have a need to capture meeting notes, ideas and be able to mind map thoughts and concepts. My solution to date was a Filofax A4 conference folder/ring binder (open in the middle of the shot above), with a notepad, pens and pencil on one side and key documents, metrics reports and the like (my mobile filing system) on the rings. Good but cumbersome to walk around with and hard to force into my laptop case along with all the other junk.

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Today I changed all that for a new lightweight version that I have wanted to try out for a while. Quite simply and for a cost of less than NZ$25, I bought an A5 ring binder, some dividers and plastic sleeves and three fine point pens and then printed, guillotined and punched selected A5 inserts that I downloaded from the superb D*I*Y Planner resource, created and led by Douglas Johnston, whose blog I’ve read since way back. is a community site whose focus is on paper-based productivity, planning, journalling and creative techniques. Here you will find the official D*I*Y Planner kits, as well as daily articles, scores of useful templates, handbooks and how-to’s, forums for discussing productivity in its many forms, images to clad your planners or inspire you, and so much more.

If you have ever used a DayTimer, Franklin Cover Planner, Filofax or similar planner, liked it but often thought “I wish I could get my own meeting planner/to do list/Cornell Notes/GTD page inserts instead of the standard ones”, this is the resource for you. I won’t go into detail here because if you’re intrigued, you’ll click through and look and if you’re not, you probably won’t. If this all works and I can settle to a core set of pages I use, then I’ll start looking around for a slightly more ritzy binder, though I quite like the low-rent look this one has – I caught my CEO looking at it curiously earlier today – so I might not.

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