Productivity 2020

by Sunita

I’ve been promising myself I’d write a productivity post. I like having them to look back on, and I read other people’s posts on how they organize their work and general lives and enjoy them, so the least I can do is contribute one. Things haven’t changed that much, which I guess is probably a good thing. I’m not a big experimenter anymore, although I still read posts and discussions about productivity; you never know when you’ll come across a great idea.


I’m sticking with the Hobonichi Techo as my main planner, and I managed not to buy a new cover for it (which is good because I have several already). I switch the cover out at various times over the year; right now I’m carrying the adorable Polar Bear cover from a few years ago. My new planner addition is the Hobonichi Weeks, which is a slim weekly planner with a thick section of numbered pages for notes at the back. I got it because I wanted something that would combine a calendar with notes for work purposes, and so far it’s working well. I take the Weeks to meetings and I can also write weekly stuff on the notes page facing the week-on-one-page calendar. I still put all my work calendar stuff in the Techo but this way my personal info and notes aren’t in something I take to work meetings. It does mean I’m carrying two planners back and forth during the workweek, but the Weeks is small enough that it doesn’t take up much room or add weight.

I never did fill out the 5-year Hobonichi, so I wound up giving it to the son of some friends. We hooked him on planners, pens, and notebooks when he was in middle school and he hadn’t seen this one. He’ll make good use of it.


I have severely cut down my fountain pen rotation to the point where I’m just using three right now. I bought two new pens last year, a Pilot Prera to replace one in which I somehow lost the nib while on a trip (I have no idea how that happened, it’s pretty unheard-of), and a TWSBI Vac Fill Mini with a Fine nib because I was curious about the filling system and wanted a pen that would hold a lot of ink. The TWSBI has a steel nib that I find very comfortable to write with. It’s a heavy pen for being a mini, and it’s really not that mini in my relatively small hands, but it’s comfortable to write with when I need a fine point (e.g., for my Hobos and when I’m writing on crappy paper). The third pen is a Montblanc Mozart with a wet Medium nib. I use that when I write up my class notes and for longer-form writing. I also borrowed TheH’s Vanishing Point (M nib) and I like it but it’s a bit heavy for long stretches of writing. I probably need to add another M or European wet F nib into the rotation, because the Mozart is just a bit small when writing steadily and for a long time. I have plenty of those to choose from.

I keep my extra stuff in the same Hobonichi “drawer pouch” I was using last year. And I still use Muji gel pens in different colors to write down class times, office hours times, and Liverpool matches. It’s the only colorful part of my planner input because for some reason all my fountain pen inks are various shades of blue this year. I am so boring.


In addition to the Hobos I use a binder and a folio, both in A5 size. These are the same ones I’ve been using off and on for the last few years. The grey binder holds my class notes and other admin notes that I don’t want to put in the Weeks (e.g., notes that will need to be shredded). I’ve been using looseleaf paper to write class notes on for a few years, because it allows me to insert notes from previous years when appropriate or keep them at the back of the section for reference. I tried using bound notebooks for classes in the past but I wound up with multiple half-filled notebooks and a lot of flipping back and forth.

The dark blue A5 folio is for research notes and writing. I can tell how much I’m working on my own stuff by how much use it’s getting. It’s not a perfect gauge, because sometimes I’m working on hard copy drafts without taking additional notes (e.g., when I’m doing revisions on a co-authored paper), but if it’s not getting used, it’s a sign that I’m not doing much new stuff or just-for-me stuff. Last fall was one of those times, but this semester looks much more promising.

I also have a small pocket notebook that I use for random notes and the occasional get-it-out-of-my-head writing. It sits in the front pocket of my backpack and I pull it out when I need it. It’s so unobtrusive that I forgot to put it in the photo. 😉

Hardware and Software

I’m still using my Surface Go, but I swapped my Lenovo 500e chromebook for a Google Pixelbook I found as an open-box special. The Lenovo was too underpowered to run the Linux container smoothly, and while I love the keyboard, it’s heavy enough to make it impractical to carry around much. I’m not using Linux as much as I was in early 2019, probably because so much of my time was taken up with work stuff which was just easier to do in Windows. I do run the Crostini Linux container on the Pixelbook and it works well, but using a container on my work computer was kludgy and I kept having to switch back and forth. If I really want to switch to primarily Linux I’ll probably have to get a dedicated, fully-featured Linux machine like a Dell. The workarounds have just enough friction to make them less attractive to me. And the Go is such a great small computer for travel that I don’t see giving up Windows completely. I still want to use Linux more than anything else, but I’m going to have to commit some money to it and I just haven’t pulled the trigger.

I’ve been listening to Spotify a lot more than I used to. I still use my high-quality Sony Walkman occasionally, but Spotify on the phone is great for laziness; it has podcasts, albums, and my personal playlists, all downloaded for offline listening. I should probably hand in my Audiophile card.

I’m still using my Samsung Galaxy S8, which is now two models behind but works very well for my needs. Going on three short- to medium-length trips without a computer and having to rely on the phone has made me realize how much I can do with it, and while it’s not particularly interesting, it’s fine for my needs. And the camera is good enough that it’s my default camera. We take the much better Olympus mirrorless camera on vacations and trips to cool places, but for everything else I just use my phone. And there goes my Serious Photographer card.

Social Media and Online Engagement

Last year I still had Goodreads. This year I’m down to LibraryThing (which is cataloguing rather than engagement), reading other people’s Twitter feeds, my RSS feed reader for blogs, and lurking on Reddit. I have been going to Ravelry more, but it’s for information and to update my own knitting records. I basically have no social media interaction outside this blog. Are blogs even social media? I don’t think so, except that they are social in the sense of being interactive in the comments and they contain media. I gave up all my reading challenges, which has made my reading more relaxed, but it’s also meant that I don’t have anything to push me to get through a book. I’ve been reading two novels for the last three or four weeks, and in previous years I would have made myself finish them by now. I am enjoying both books, but I don’t feel compelled to pick them up because I’m falling behind my expected reading rate. That’s good, but it also means I don’t read as much as I would like to (because when I’m reading steadily I enjoy it and feel good).

On the other hand, I’m knitting more and that has been really fun. You’ve seen some of the products on here, and I have plenty more in the pipeline. Basically, as long as I don’t go down too many internet rabbit holes, even with a full work schedule I have time to read and knit. That’s a pretty good outcome.

Read more, write more, knit more. Internet less. Some things about productivity goals never change. 🙂