Tag Archives: ducks in a row

I have a business called TYPE A, and as much as I like to think that it’s mostly a play on words, some days it’s more than apparent it’s not. I never thought of listmaking and daily habits as being contrary to the creative process – I do my best work when my ducks are in a row rather than scattered about. Right now, I am in the midst of the busiest time of year, when photography and writing and calligraphy design work take on the holidays.

I continue to be fascinated by all I am reading about the screens that fill our days – from our desks to the palms of our hands. Just knowing the amount of time it can take to refocus after stopping a task to check an email makes me see how much of my day is spent hitting reset. Or rather, how often I am thinking about too many things making it impossible to be in the moment.

The mystery as to where my focus has gone is solved. I assume that it will always be where I last left it. Instead, it’s a bit more like needing a trail of breadcrumbs to lead me back to where I was before the email, the text, the tweet, grabbed my attention. And it doesn’t always blend well with work that is constantly changing. Freelancing is a never ending calendar of deadlines and new beginnings.

I’m writing a lot more on paper these days. And back to my old habit of two or three books on my nightstand. My focus is still awful on some days. Others, I check off each project in my Day Designer with the satisfaction of knowing I did not let all the little distractions win. They add up.

I love the internet for about ten thousands reasons. I also love when I can step away and not feel that being unplugged is a loss. It’s bizarre to see how hard this is sometimes. Not because I lack all willpower, but because so much of what I do is made easier by the web. Figuring out how to navigate that is still tricky. The last three years things sped up so much.

So, I’m making a list of things I learned online in the last year. Things I’ve changed. Things I’m changing. Things I won’t change. Retrospect is kind of a pain in the ass but it can also teach me a thing or two. Strangely, technology is helping me to make better use of technology.

On the twelfth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year of this twenty-first century, I’m…

Sorry, but three emails just arrived, and I had to check them. And by had to, I mean I could not wait until I finished these few lines in order to see what it was all about. Yes, I am waiting on things but they could have waited a moment longer.

On the twelfth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year of this twenty-first century, I’m officially a work in progress.

Stay tuned.

In 2012, for the first time since I started carrying a pink Filofax in high school, I didn’t buy a desktop calendar or planner. Going paperless, reducing desktop clutter, streamlining everything via computer to iPhone seemed like a good idea. Productivity is enhanced by less clutter, right? Um, no. Paperless isn’t working. I have been waiting, longing, for a return to paper in 2013. So, when Whitney English first mentioned that her new planner, The Day Designer, had gone to press, I was beyond thrilled. The end of the year couldn’t come soon enough.

Whitney and I crossed paths because of our mutual love of all things paper – she as a designer and stationer, and me as calligrapher and writer. I’ve found great ideas for productivity through her blog series Finding Purpose. When I heard about The Day Designer, I told her that couldn’t wait to order one for next year. She then very graciously asked if I’d like one. Now. In my year of living paperless. If she only knew.

For the last few years, I’d been using a Russell +Hazel mini binder, filing their calendar pages with my own mix of post its and to-do lists and project plans printed from my computer on R+H refill paper. I don’t have a 9-to-5 schedule. I need a planner that gives me more room to  juggle various projects. That has more room for the workend-weekend than just a little box at the end of the week. A freelancer’s agenda. This. A planner designed by necessity by someone else who couldn’t find what she needed on the market. And did I mention the cream and black stripes? And the daily quotes?

I’d already contemplated whether to pre-order the blank Day Designer or the 2013 one, but her offer brought out the Veruca Salt in me. I didn’t want wait until 2013. I wanted to put it to use now. This yearlong paperless experiment? I was cutting it short. Or was I?

Ironically, The Day Designer arrived now, just before Rosh Hashanah. A new calendar for a New Year. Just not one that fits the Gregorian calendar. I started using it today, after spending some time checking out all its nooks and crannies.

Beyond the monthly and daily calendars, the tiered to-do lists, and other things that make my Type A-creative heart happy, the book includes charts and lists to help define longterm goals. Saturday and Sunday share a page, but it is a large one, with room for the to-do’s and tasks I often need to accomplish. No more little Sat/Sun box mocking me when weekends become workends.

I’ve been reading and writing and talking a lot about time management and technology. The more I read, the more I find myself needing to get back to pen and paper. The cognitive changes taking place the more our lives are spent staring at screens are having a real impact on my creativity. And not all in a good ways. I return to my well worn copy of Twyla Tharpe’s The Creative Habit. Seeking reminders of the importance in ritual. (That’s a whole post in itself.)

Lately, I’ve been discouraged and maybe even a little nervous. Focus had never been an issue. My memory and attention to detail had always been good. But changes have crept up one me. To stay focused, to pay close attention, is requiring more energy. Reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows has been both reassuring and alarming. Our brains are changing because of all the screens – from desktop to laptop to the palm of our hand. Some of these changes, some of what the screens bring, I love. But not all of it.

I want to use technology more selectively, and I plan to keep writing about what I am learning, what I’m reading and what I am experiencing firsthand. And by writing, I mean both with keyboard and Le Pen.

So I return to books. To paper. To The Day Designer.

Thank you, Whitney, for this very timely gift. (No pun intended.)

UPDATE: Whitney is doing a giveaway on her blog, not one but THREE Day Designers. Head on over to her site now to enter (through 9/26). Go on. Now. What are you waiting for?

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