Maybe it is because it is back to school time

I used to have a thing for stationary. When I was a kid, shopping for school supplies was the highlight of the back to school routine. Reams of paper bundled in clear plastic film, boxes of unsharpened pencils, notebooks and pads, pens, erasers – all pristine and full of the promise of a new year.

Once school finished, I kept up my love of all things notebook. In the pre-electronic device days, Daytimers were my stationary of choice to stay organized, holding my To Do lists, appointments, journal and various bits and pieces. I was using them so heavily that I would often rip pieces of paper and tape extra pages onto sheets for a day to keep myself organized. Each month I would take out my previous months filled up calendar and stick it in a box – an analog record of my achievements that month. At one point, I had about 5 years worth of filled daytimer calendars from my work life circa 1988-1992 archived (which I foolishly and carelessly discarded about 10 years ago with a “why am I carrying all this old crap around”).

Then the electronic devices came and, being a big fan of being productive and organized, I jumped on board. Not only did I see these devices as the next evolution of time management and planning, but anyone who has seen my handwriting knows that it borders somewhere between prescription writing doctor and psychotic asylum inmate off his meds. In the early 90’s I sported a unit that looked something like this:

It was my first handheld electronic device and from there I never looked back. In the mid 90’s I graduated to a PDA (oh how I loved my Handspring) and, eventually, a smartphone and tablet leaving the paper in the dustbins of history.

Once I went electronic, I looked for every opportunity to ditch the paper, and that feeling really accelerated when I got my tablet. I became anti-paper. Anything done on paper was a waste. I despise printing documents on a printer. I took notes in meetings using my tablet or laptop, used blogs for journals, brainstormed on wiki pages, and kept my To Do list with a hundred different apps searching for the right one to keep track of my tasks and projects (for awhile I was really hooked on Workflowy, a simple, but powerful web based system that is built around the humble bullet list).

But lately I have been feeling scattered, fragmented, and have, for the first time in probably 20 years, found myself longing for the tactile. I’ve been missing stuff as I juggle my way through life and work. My system isn’t working for me right now. So, I’ve decided this fall I’m going to go back to paper for awhile. Not for everything, but for my basic work to-do list.

My first instinct was to go back to a Daytimer, but there has been something of a revolution in stationary in the past few years with many more analog options are out there, including some really beautiful (and expensive) handmade journals that have brought back all those old back to school stationary love pangs of my youth.

A few weeks ago while vacationing with my family in Seattle we happened upon a stall in Pike Place Market who made these beautiful leather journals. My 7 year old son (so into fantasy and epic stories right now) fell in love with them and bought a journal, using up half of his holiday money in a single shot. He was so happy and proud of his book, and has been using it every day since (right now he’s keeping a list of Minecraft mods he wants to add).

While I love this journal, the handmade paper seemed like it was a bit too, well, out of place for what I wanted to do. With this type of book I would feel like I want to write SOMETHING IMPORTANT, not boring old to do lists. As much as I love this book, it doesn’t seem quite practical enough for what I want to do.

So, over the weekend, I went shopping for a notepad – something that was a bit above the standard Hilroy that makes me want to write stuff by hand.

I checked out all the cool kids fave these days, Moleskin, but, as nice as they looked, I’m much too cheap to part with $25 bucks for one. And it felt too much like I was buying into a brand.

In the end I settled on trying out a couple of different notepads that look and feel nice, but are more affordable – a 2 pack of Miro Utility notepads (which cost me $9 CAN), and a Rhodio DotPad ($6 CAN). I was hoping to find the classic orange Rhodio thinking it would be easy to find in my bag among my other black devices, but couldn’t find one.

I’ve started with the Miro and, even though it has only been a few days, am already starting to feel like I am more in control of my tasks. I like the canvas cover that is flexible enough that I can slip it into a pocket and not have it feel bulky. Makes it easy to carry around with me for notes. And the dot grid is a nice change from standard ruled lines that makes it a bit more flexible as I can make my own little boxes.

In addition to moving to paper for my to do list, I am also going to work on developing a few new productivity habits this fall. For my brand new paper to do list, I have been mulling over different ways to use paper to stay organized, and am intrigued by the Bullet Journal method and am going to give that a shot.

I am also going back to checking my work email 2 times a day at 11am and 3pm. It is easy to get sucked into working to the Pavlovian response of email and end the day with nothing really accomplished other than answering email. This system has worked well for me in the past and allows me the freedom to dig into a task (like writing thousand word blog posts about productivity and notepads).

Finally, I want to take a post out of Doug Belshaw’s blog and start a weekly recap of my activities. I don’t spend near enough time reflecting and too much time responding and I want to make a conscious effort to begin to spend more time reflecting. Doug’s idea of a weekly recap seems like a good excuse to do just that (and, with any luck, I’ll have a bevy full of notes from my ultra productive week stored in my notepad to pull from). I’m not sure if it will be public here on the blog, or if I decide to do it somewhere else (maybe handwritten it in my Miro?), but I’ve added it as a reoccurring appointment in my calendar each Friday at 1pm. And yes, I am still going digital with the calendar. I have absolutely no desire to ditch that and revert to analog.


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out


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