ReaderWriterVille

Blog in progress

Category: productivity

Blog housekeeping update

Energized by the wonderful discussion that took place below my whine-and-complain post about the state of book talk today, I’ve made some changes and updates to my blog.

Format

I’ve finally stopped being a cheapskate and upgraded from the basic WordPress blog. I’m unthreading comments to see if that makes talking easier. We always preferred that at DA and quite a few multi-author blogs don’t thread their comments, so let’s give it a try. Sadly, we lose the reply button unless I move the blog out of WordPress. Which I may do, but for the time being we’ll have to muddle along.

The URL for this blog is now https://readerwriterville.com. The wordpress.com one will still redirect to the site, of course.

I’ve enabled Markdown for comments. If you don’t know what Markdown is you don’t have to use it, but if you do then you can substitute it for html codes for bold, italics, underlines, etc. It’s also easier if you want to embed links (it takes fewer keystrokes than html). I’m using Markdown to write my posts as well as some other stuff and I’ll post about that at some point. Feel free to hit me up with questions, although I’m a newbie.

I have a feeling I’m going to be playing around with the theme for a while. If I’m going to blog more I want to be able to have different kinds of posts, and I want to make sure that the theme is readable across platforms and renders comfortably and easily. Please let me know if the current theme (this one or future ones if I change it) is difficult to read or download. I don’t love the theme you’re looking at now, but it is versatile and it lets me have everything I want visible on the page. I’m especially interested in knowing if it takes a long time to load on less powerful computers and phones.

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Productivity 2019

For a number of years I was in the habit of writing posts on my productivity tools and habits every January, but then I fell off the wagon and missed a few years. This year I decided to write one again, but it’s taken me until March to put fingers to keyboard. Part of the reason is probably that I haven’t changed many things over the last couple of years. I bought one medium-priced and one inexpensive fountain pen in 2017/18, I’m using the same planner I have for the last three years, I use the same color scheme in my planner to make looking at teaching-related stuff easier, and I’ve generally been happy with my tools. My issue is not the tools but making sure I use them.

Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile having a record. I do go back and read previous years’ posts, marveling at how many different things I tried and how much seems to remain the same across time. So many notebooks! A range of planners! Pens, pens, pens. And of course computers and files and all the odds and ends that go in an everyday carry bag. I’ll do a “what’s in my bag” post at some point, but here I’ll talk about the actual tools and what I do with them.

Planners

I’m still using the Hobonichi Techo planner (the English-language version). It’s worked well for me over the last few years and I love having the full day-per-page format and the thin but fountain-pen friendly Tomoe River Paper. I’m also still using the compact leather cover I picked up a couple of years ago. I couldn’t resist the Alaska cover in this year’s collection, but I switch back and forth between the two. My pen is a Sailor Profit fountain pen with a 14k EF nib. It’s perfect for the Hobo because it lays down a smooth line and dries quickly. I also keep a small notebook in the inside back of the cover, and it stores my IDs and a couple of credit cards so I don’t have to carry a separate wallet.

This year I also started using the Hobonichi 5-year planner in the A6 size. I looked at it last year but didn’t get one. But it’s nice to be able to see past years’ activities quickly, or it will be after the first year. We do a lot of the same travelling every year, and I wind up digging out the previous years’ planners to remember where we went, what route we took, restaurants, etc.

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How I do morning pages

For the last year and a half I’ve been doing morning pages, a writing practice introduced in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I did them daily for the first few months of 2015, then fell off the wagon, returned in fits and starts for the rest of the year, and then committed to doing them as part of my 2016 productivity practices. I’ve written them daily (with two exceptions) since 3 January; there are a group of us on Twitter who check in with each other as well. Now that I’m on Twitter hiatus I’m not checking in but I’m still doing them.

I wanted to write about how I do them, because one thing that became clear was that the four/five/six of us on Twitter don’t all approach them the same way. Cameron is somewhat self-contradictory on whether there are rules: she says there is no “right” way to do pages, but she also says you should do them longhand and you should do them in the morning. She makes a distinction between journaling and morning pages, and she really does see them as the expression of your stream of consciousness. Her blog posts on the topic address quite a few of the questions that come up about the “best” way to do them.

My method has worked for me in part because I have followed the two basic directions, but also because they have been pretty low stress in terms of how I approach them, so even though what I write in them has changed over time, my ability and desire to write them hasn’t. I don’t always want to do them, but I know that if I’m really stuck I can just write “blah blah blah” over and over again. I haven’t done that yet, but having the option helps.

I have to do them in the morning, that much I’ve learned. It’s not just that I won’t do them later in the day, it’s that they don’t have at all the same function. My mind is in a different place at 3pm or 8pm than it is at 8am. Even doing them mid-morning rather than as soon after I wake up as is practical makes a difference in what I write and how I feel. And I really need that stream of consciousness approach. It leads to discoveries (intellectual, emotional, practical) that don’t emerge consistently any other way.

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Wake me up when November comes

I unsubscribed from my last remaining Tiny Letter this weekend and purged a few more RSS feeds. The Tiny Letter confirmation email asked if I would tell them why I unsubscribed. I like them, they’re not a company or overtly building a brand, so I answered.

Nothing personal, you are all fun to read. But I’m trying to cut back on my meta-reading, i.e., reading about people reading, and just read the things. Hope that makes sense.

I still follow quite a few individual blogs and get two newsletters, but I’m down to one large/corporate feed (I can’t possibly give up the Guardian Football RSS feed). I’m reading The New Yorker every week but ignoring the many blog posts it generates between issues. I’m seriously considering subscribing to a print newspaper again.

I also cancelled my Audible subscription. I have hundreds, probably more than a thousand, hours of audiobooks in my TBR and even one credit a month was more than I needed. They offered me the $9.95/yr plan where you continue to get the deals and discounts, but I haven’t bought anything because of an email blast in over a year.

Why the sudden purges? Partly because I do this every spring. When the semester ends we get ready to drive to the west coast, and we spring clean and organize in preparation for that. But it’s also a feeling that I spend way too much time finding virtual distractions rather than thinking, writing, working, knitting, and engaging with the physical world around me. Yes, I know that the online world is real and the people in it are real (and I have real relationships with quite a few of them). But TV is real too, and I don’t spend hours a day watching it.

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My ToDo list system

This is not a post about the wonders of the Bullet Journal. Just to get that out of the way so anyone looking for a BuJo discussion isn’t disappointed.

Now that I’m more than five months into my 2016 productivity setup I’d been thinking about writing an update, and a Twitter conversation today motivated me to do a quick post.

Standard caveat: Everyone is different, with different needs, interests, and psychological makeup, so whatever works for you is the best system ever. If anything I do resonates with you, or sounds like something that might work, feel free to ask questions in the comments or just go off and try it yourself.

The hardest part of my productivity system is figuring out a way to make ToDo lists that work for me, which means get me to do the things that are on them. I like lists a lot, but I hate having ToDo items hanging over me. These two feelings are contradictory, so I’m frequently tweaking whatever method I’ve adopted. Right now, what is working best, and has been working for the last few months, is combining four different lists in three different places.

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