A Tale of Two Inserts

Here it is the end of October. The leaves are falling, temperatures are dropping and we’re all starting to shift our attention to hot alcoholic bevvies from iced ones.

Or, is that just me?

At any rate, it is also that time of year when I get antsy to settle on planner inserts for the new year. Meaning, I’ve purchased more insert brands than one girl could ever possibly need and now that the year is drawing to a close, it’s about bloody time to quit being a psycho procrastinating and choose one already.

This year I actually did pretty well.  I only bought two sets of inserts for 2012:

DayTimer Original, 2 Page per Day $31.95 (“Portable” size – same page size & hole configuration as Filofax Personal inserts)


Franklin Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 2 Page per Day $39.95 (“Compact” size -same hole configuration as Filofax Personal, but 1/2″ wider page size)

Long story not quite as long, when it came right down to it, I decided on 2PPD because I really do want to keep my Gratitude List on each day’s planner page going forward. Partly for ease of archival reference, but mostly because I just plain like having it there.

Throughout 2011 it seems I’ve kept it just about everywhere; I started out in a separate book (Moleskine, a small one) then decided that was too abstract & put it on my planner day’s page, then got frustrated with not being able to carry enough of the 2PPD inserts with me so I tried it in my journal…where it remains to finish out the year. However I use a daily Moleskine for my journal as well (a bound, dated book keeps me motivated to write every day and not get lazy & lapse for weeks – or months – at a time) and I’m finding my Gratitude List cuts into my journaling space on the page, so out it goes for next year.

As you know from my frequent bitching, I don’t like Filofax inserts due to several factors….paper quality notwithstanding, the foremost of which is how mind-numbingly vexing it is to try and tab the damn things the lack of suitable formatting for monthly tabs.

Both DayTimer and Franklin Covey have similar insert packs for their 2PPD layouts, and each have their strong & weak points.

Of course they do…if there was a clear winner, this would all be easy and I wouldn’t have to drink as much as I do.

But who am I kidding.  I would anyway.

I’ve done “mock ups” of each 2012 set up using the black & grey Maldens, and putting the same amount of refills in approximately the same configuration (as far as each brand’s products allow) in each binder, for your viewing pleasure.

The Black Malden will be the Franklin Covey mock up with the following inserts:

*1 plastic credit card holder

*Personal Info sheet

(Sadly, the FC Blank Tabs are cut so that there are a whopping 12 of them in a set, but the tabs themselves are so tiny my label maker won’t print that small and frankly, neither can I, so I kluged my tabs for comparison purposes, using what came with the 7 Habits pack until I can make my own out of card stock…)

*6 Kluged Tabs:

Eventually I'm going to decorate the tabs like so, but for now this one isn't glued down

Key Information
Tab 1 – Lists
Tab 2 – Quotes
Tab 3 – Blog
Tab 4 – Notes

*6 Months (January through June) of 2PPD diary pages in the “7 Habits” design.








The Grey Malden will be the DayTimer mock up with the following inserts:

*1 plastic credit card holder

*Personal Info Sheet

*6 Blank Tabs (personalized using a label maker):

Love the artwork on these old DT Shadows & Light tabs. Sadly they no longer make them










Phew, that was exhausting! Now for some photos comparing the two mock up binders…

DT on top, FC on bottom

FC on left (see the colors at the top of the pages?) DT on right

FC on top, DT on bottom

FC inserts (especially tabs) stick out to the edge of the binder

DT tabs are standard (same as Filofax) size & leave room for using the pen loop

Open: FC on top, DT on bottom

Open, this time with DT on the top, FC on the bottom

Ok, I’m bored with the comparison photos now. You can head over to Flickr to see the exhaustive full set of them after you finish reading.

I’m kind of torn between the two packs of inserts at this point. What the DayTimer ones have going for them is primarily that I really like the tabs. They were from the old “Shadows & Light” collection, which they no longer make. I really like the artwork, and the fact that the tabs could accommodate labels from my label maker. The other factor is of course that the page width is the same as Filofax so they don’t stick out and allow the binder to close properly.

The Franklin Covey set, however, wins by far with the three section To Do list and the overall feel of quality.While that additional 1/2″ of page width isn’t ideal, I am used to it, and I use a fat pen that won’t fit in the pen loop anyway, so I don’t miss not being able to use it (using the pen loop with the FC pages sticking out bends the tabs).

DayTimer’s scant To Do section relegated to the bottom of the page probably won’t be enough for me on most days and I admit that having room for separate lists ON THE DAY’S PAGE for work, home, personal To Do’s is downright exciting.

I like the neutral color scheme of the FC pages more than I like the green & white of the DT original. While I don’t need the black & white photos at the start of each monthly tab and on the bottom corner of every page, they are at least nice photos which are pleasant to look at.

What surprised me about both sets of inserts is that I could get six months in (of the 2 pages per day…obviously the entire year of monthly tabs fit in both) and still have room for my tabs. Granted, I can’t pack in the blank pages behind them, but I can fit 5 pages behind each tab and that is good enough for a week. Cleaning out the tabs once a week is probably a good habit for me to get into anyway to avoid loosing track of what I’ve got in there (something I’m bad at), and it’s more than worth it to have more months of diary pages at my disposal.

Right now, today, my preference is the Franklin Covey set. I can’t get away from being enamored with the three section To Do list. Another nit-picky thing I like about them is that the 2nd page (the Note area) simply has a narrow shaded column on the left. You could leave it alone for notes, or you could use it to tick things off if you needed the extra room for project To Do’s or you could number it if you were listing something.  The Day Timer 2nd page has a numbered column. I get why…and it would come in handy for my Gratitude List…but I prefer the flexibility of leaving it blank and letting ME decide what to do with the space.

Alright, I’m done babbling. Go look at the rest of the photos. You know you want to!

Siri vs. Filofax

So, I’ve had my new iPhone 4s about a week now and I am loving it more than I think I have ever loved an iProduct.

The new iCloud feature is great and every time I use the new 8 megapixel camera I’m stunned at how crisp and actually pretty good my lame little cell phone pictures are becoming.

But the star of the show has got to be Siri.

Dictating reminders to “her” and having changes to my schedule be as easy as the push of one button and a quick  verbal command is truly changing the way I go about my day.

Since it has historically taken me less time to jot a note, list or appointment down in my Filofax than to open up an app on my phone and awkwardly type it on that damn touch keyboard, my tendency was to default to paper first and add stuff to my phone later as a backup.

With Siri, however, the tables have turned. It is now far faster and easier to access Siri and have her create my reminders, lists and appointments than it is to write it down.  As is making changes to those things. Even with an erasable pen.

As Siri and I develop even more of a rapport;  as she “learns” about my habits and becomes even faster and easier, what will become of my precious Filofax?

In a word….nothing.

Every morning I sit down with my Filofax over a cup of tea and review my schedule & tasks for the day, as well as take a look at the general progress of my week. I also record some details like the weather, my mood, any health issues I’m having, and I typically jot down a line or two regarding what I most want to work on that day (re-framing my attitude, staying positive, watching my self-talk, etc).

While I could theoretically input all of that with my iPhone over tea (no doubt in less time, since Siri also interacts flawlessly with the Notes app), I don’t see myself doing that.

Pen on paper is part of my ritual. It’s not just a means to an end (organization), it’s the scent of the paper, the sound of the nib scratching on the page, the mindfulness of the act of writing. The way my handwriting looks. The feel of my favorite pen.

Tapping buttons with the pads of my fingers will never bring me to center

And while I have a deep and abiding fascination with all things gadget, speaking my day to a piece of silicon and plastic – no matter how elegant or cool it is – will never bring me the joy that creating myself on the page does.

No matter what the day, week, month or year brings, my iPhone will always look essentially the same.  There will be no evidence of what I experienced, learned, endured, triumphed over.  You won’t be able to see me in it. With the flick of one setting I can be wiped clean from it…as though I never even existed…and sell it to someone else.

But my Filofax is different. The leather wears as it tumbles through the years with me. You can flip through it and see the shakiness in my writing the day I was so stressed out.  The tear stains rippling the paper the day my heart broke. The goofy sticker that made me smile. The inspiring fortune taped to the page after a take out lunch with my best friend. The quote I found that gave me hope on a bad day. The epiphany I jotted down while I was stuck in traffic that reminded me that life is about the journey not the destination.

The little hearts scribbled in red pen like a giddy 16-year-old the day I fell in love again.

All of those things  simply cannot be captured digitally…they are miracles. They are us.

Siri may be amazing, and as AI technology advances I have no doubt that interfacing with an “intelligent assistant” will indeed be the fastest, most efficient means of planning, organizing and keeping track of one’s day.

But there is a reason paleolithic humans left red ochre hand prints behind and not merely scratches counting how many mammoths they killed on a given day.

Life isn’t as simple as what we do….we are not Human Doings after all…we are Human Beings. Doing is so much easier than being sometimes, isn’t it? We can quantify what we do. Track it. Check it off. Not so with who we are.

Siri may have dual processors, but what she lacks is heart,  a spirit and uniqueness of  mind.

So  I’ll use Siri as my assistant for doing, but my Filofax is what will continue to help me leave red hand prints along the way on my path of being.



iThing, I Think I Love You

If you read my last post, you know that I recently upgraded to the new iPhone 4s.

You’ll also be pleased to know that I managed to finally get that whole “drunken gibberish password debacle” sorted out and now not only do I have an iPhone 4s, I can actually use the thing.

Since I was only upgrading from an iPhone 4 (which I had dutifully performed the software update to iOS5 on already), I wondered if upgrading to a mere ‘S’ model was a waste of my hard earned money and I should just sit tight and wait for the iPhone 5 like the rational people.

But…you know me, rationality is generally not a factor (and neither is patience for that matter).

I’m sure you’ve already perused the ever-growing reviews online about the iPhone 4s, so I won’t bore you with technical breakdowns, specifications or comparisons to the iPhone 4. What I will bore you with is my own personal impression as a user.

First off, when they say the ‘S’ in these S upgrades is for speed, they mean it. The thing BLAZES. I read somewhere that this new processor is something like 7 times faster than the old one. Believe it. I really didn’t think it would be noticeably faster, but I was wrong. From boot speed to app downloads to the camera, its really amazingly fast.

Really, the ‘S’ can stand for whatever you want it to with this phone – speed, Steve,  or even sh*t this phone is awesome.

I know people are kvetching about the fact that there were no changes to the form factor.  Really??!!  I’m no fashionista, but I do tend to buy more than one case for my phone – different colors, sparkly vs matte, even the occasional character (aka Hello Kitty) – and since they tend to run around $20 to $35, I personally was THRILLED to find no external changes. This means I can go out and get that Angry Birds case I’ve been eyeing when it goes on clearance instead of starting my case collection from scratch. Again.

Buying a new phone without having to pony up for all new accessories too… Where do I sign?

As for me, I think the ‘S’ stands for Siri.  I used to have the app, back when it was just another app in the iTunes store and I loved it. I used it several times a week and found it to be far, far superior to other similarly themed apps which shall remain nameless (but that rhyme with “wagon”). To be honest, the fact that they took away my Siri and made it exclusive to the iPhone 4s was the main reason I coughed up the money to upgrade.

That and the fact that I’m a gadget whore.

Suffice to say, when I got my phone up and running (for reals, not drunk up and running), the first thing I did was play with Siri, and as a former user who already loved it, having it fully integrated now is pure, unadulterated genius. It’s like the old “Voice Control” but on ‘roids. Really, really good ‘roids.

She can manage your calendar. She reminds you of stuff. She can “learn” who the important people in your life are and text, email or call them by whatever you call them. Now I use Siri, not several times a week, but constantly throughout the day. I can’t believe how beyond useful this thing has become.

“Remind me to go pick up blah, blah, blah when I leave work” and it will cue me when I pull out of the office parking lot. You read that right. It can remind you of things when you arrive at a location or when you leave one.

“Do I have any appointments on x day at y time?” and it will check my calendar for me.

“Schedule a meeting with yada, yada, yada, tomorrow at 2pm” and she does!

I say ‘she’ because the English US voice is female. I was mildly bummed that I couldn’t use the male English UK voice because he only apparently works in, say it with me, in the UK. But I can live with it. I don’t need my personal digital assistant to sound like a hot guy…I just need it to keep track of my life.

Yes, you can ask her pointless things like, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood” (the answer by the way is 42), what the average penis size is for an American male (which got a reply of, “I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear that”) or whatever entertaining thing you can come up with for hours upon end, but I’m here to tell you that when the novelty wears off you will be amazed at the USEFUL things she can do for you.

Here are just a few ways I’ve already come to rely on Siri:

1. “Wake me up at…” – As my alarm clock every morning. While I have always used the built in Clock app as my morning alarm, in my job different days have different schedules so I had a lot of custom alarms set. Now before I go to bed I just tell Siri to wake me up at whatever time the following day requires.

2. “Send an email to…” – My one beef with the iPhone over, say, a Blackberry has been the lack of a real keyboard.  Simply stated, I suck at typing on the little touch keys. But now I just tell Siri to compose my emails and text messages and voila, no more fodder for the auto-correct blunders websites.

3. “Remind me to…” – Three words, Re.  Mind.  Ers. Unbefreakinglievable how much better the already pretty cool iOS5 addition of the Reminder app becomes when you add Siri to the mix.  No typing required, you just hold the iPhone 4s up to your face (with it on, obviously), listen for the Siri tone and say, “Remind me to…” and a reminder will be set for you. I make SO much more use this tool now that I don’t have to type my reminders out.  And, if you are using iCloud, your reminders will show up everywhere. No excuses for missing anything now!

4. “Where the heck is…” – Last night I was invited to an event in a town I had never even heard of. Before responding, I wanted to know what I was getting myself into. So I asked Siri. She showed it to me on a map, provided me with driving directions and told me what the weather was forecast to be when the event was being held. She even found me several pet friendly hotels close by.

5. “When is …” – Yes, it will remind me of when my next dentist appointment is, but you can also query when your next meeting with So and So is and if you suddenly realize you are in no way prepared for it,  you can have Siri reschedule it.  You can ask when someone’s birthday is (then set a reminder so you don’t forget it again), when Daylight savings time begins or ends, what day of the week Chanukah falls on this year. You get the idea.

I think what impresses me the most is that you talk to Siri just like you would a person standing next to you. Naturally. In common vernacular.  And it understands, not only what you say but also what you mean. I don’t know how (and frankly I really don’t care) but it is far and away the easiest most intuitive bit of technology I have ever used.

To beat a well-worn phrase into the ground, it just works. Siri works right out of the gate, but even after only a couple of days it is learning. About my voice, inflections, my key people, their nicknames, etc.

I never expected to open up a new device and within 24 hours be able to say to it, “Text my sister and tell her I’m on my way” and have that be that.

Another thing I never expected, was how downright endearing a productivity tool could be.  Now that I think of it, its probably a good thing Siri doesn’t have a male voice, or I might just fall in love…

...I rest my case

Tequila: the Great Teacher

Okay, so Friday night I was invited to a fancy dress Ball by a friend.  A Battalion Ball to be exact.

I know what you’re thinking…”stop saying ‘ball’, it’s distracting”.


This is the first time I’ve been able to come out from under the covers (and/or have stopped puking long enough to write) and I doubt I’ll last long, but here is a summary of the pointers I learned (the hard way)…in case any of you find yourselves at a formal event in the near future:

1. I would like to start with this one basic rule: NO. TEQUILA. SHOTS. Period. No matter how much the wife of one of the Colonels begs you.

2. Get a sense of your surroundings. Don’t, after shot #2, meander up to the DJ who has been playing country music and “blah, blah, blah, America, blah, blah, blah” songs all night and request “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mixalot because you think it would be funny to see everyone’s reaction.  And don’t, when he stares at you blankly because he’s never even heard of that song, ask for “anything by anyone who doesn’t wear a cowboy hat for a change”. You will offend him.

3. And, he WILL honor your request (probably out of sheer spite) and crank up some Lady Gaga and poof, just like magic, the dance floor will become desolate and it will be entirely your fault.  Don’t then take it upon yourself to “liven things up” by going up to random military personnel at whichever table is closest and pulling them (in full view of their stodgy wives, whom you are almost certainly younger and cuter than) to the dance floor and proceeding to dance provocatively with them.

4. When, by a stroke of pure and utter luck, rather than drag you outside and skin you like the minx you are, said stodgy wives actually get up and start dancing with their husbands, and one leans in and says what a great dancer you are, do not, and I repeat DO NOT say, “thanks, I used to be a stripper”. Even in jest. Because trust me, she won’t know you are joking and that rumor will spread through the ballroom like wildfire through dry brush.

5. Once you do damage control in the Ladies Room and finally convince all the women you are not, nor have you ever been a stripper, this would be the time to quit while you’re ahead and try to either blend in and stay under the radar for the rest of the night or maybe even try to make a friend or two.

6. OR…you could regale some gentleman with a lot of little colored bars on his chest with your opinion of the pros and cons of the “dressy outfits” versus the “camo outfits”. Because the camo outfits have name tags on them. The dressy outfits that everyone is wearing tonight do not.  With the benefit of the nametags, I might have chosen someone else to keep saying the word “outfits” to like a total maroon.  Besides the General.

7. Also not a good idea is giving the unattractive wait staff serving your table descriptive nicknames like “Brunhilda” and “Quasimodo”.  If you must though, keep it to yourself. Don’t let the stodgy wives in on it.  Or, for that matter, the wait staff. If, that is, you have any hope at all of seeing a piece of that Red Velvet Cake that’s coming out for desert. Which in case you were wondering, I did not.

8. When you finally do calm down and get your date out on the dance floor for a slow dance, when the next song comes on (which will be something fast…you can tell by the look in the DJ’s eye as he stares at you malevolently from across the room) it’s not going to be good for anyone if you start grinding on your date like he’s a  brass pole. This may amuse the men in the room, but remember all your hard work in the Ladies Room quelling the “I’m a stripper” firestorm?  Yeah, well, you just un-did it.

9. If by chance toward the end of the night, you can find your way to said Ladies Room but somehow get lost in the bowels of the banquet hall and wind up in the restaurant part on your way back, should a handsome, waaaaaaay too young for you maitre d’ kindly offer to show you back to your party you might want to think twice about flirting openly with him like a disgusting, drunken cougar. No good can come, either, from scribbling your number on a cocktail napkin and coyly tucking it into his blazer pocket.

10. And if all of that weren’t enough, probably the most critical lesson of the night (apart from the first one, which common sense says would have prevented the entire debacle if observed) don’t…seriously now, I mean this one…DON’T then go home and decide to set up your new iPhone 4s.  Because you will somehow manage to change your Apple ID password to gibberish.  And although it made perfect sense the night before, you absolutely will not remember it the next day.  Or even the day after that.

The only upside to the story is that I managed to make it home before the projectile vomiting started.

Ok, hope you enjoyed my little run in with Mistress tequila.  I’m going back to bed now……..

P.S. Sadly, all of the above is 100% true.  Stay tuned to see whether or not I get invited to the Christmas party ; )

A Jobs Well Done

As the world is now all too aware, the iconic, revolutionary genius Steve Jobs has slipped his mortal coil and left this life.

Like so many, I learned of his passing on one of the devices he created. That’s been said all over the web today, but really think about that for a moment.  I mean, wow.

Another thing I’ve heard like a zillion times today, “he lost his battle with cancer”.  And I don’t like it. Maybe it’s just me, but the word “lost” smacks of failure. And this man did not fail.

I believe he was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (one of the nastiest of the cancers, by the way) in 2004, a year prior to his absolutely amazing commencement speech at Stanford; that my friends was seven years ago.

At the time of his diagnosis, he related during that speech, the doctors told him to go home and get his affairs in order, and gave him no more than six months to live.

Six months ended up lasting seven years.  I don’t know about you, but that isn’t “losing”.

I think I’m so sensitive to hearing that phrase, “lost their battle”  because my own beloved Mother also died of cancer. Breast cancer. She had first been diagnosed (and similarly told to go home and “say goodbye to your baby daughter” I might add) when I was one. She turned what was then a very optimistic 5-year survival rate for the disease into forty-four years.  That’s not losing a battle; that’s kicking ass.

But I digress.  Back to Steve Jobs…

This guy has been a part of my life for more than half of it.  I can still remember my first computer, a Mac Plus. I learned to type on that thing.

I began to dream of being a writer because of it.

Eventually I went mobile and got a Powerbook 100.  And I think I was like the only person who actually bought a Newton.

(Cue the sound of crickets chirping in the silence of the evening as you furrow your brow and wonder what the heck a Newton was. Go Google it, you’ll be surprised. I’ll wait.)

Those devices shaped who I am. I hatched my future on them.

Okay, maybe not on the Newton…

Fast forward to a decade later when I visited the Apple Campus in Cupertino with a Design class. I was privileged to meet the man himself, only that one time, but to be honest once was really all it took. The iPod wasn’t even out yet, but that impromptu lunch single-handedly turned me into a lifelong she-geek.

I have owned every iPod released, including the very first one. I remember as though it was yesterday, going to Fry’s Electronics with my then boss over lunch break the first day they hit the stores.

Even a decade later, I still get chills when I remember how it felt opening my very first iPod box that day.  Five gigs of music in my pocket?! “Insanely great”. And it really was.

Today, thanks to Steve, I can take for granted that my entire music collection is in my pocket, along with a few of my favorite movies (most of them Pixar films as it happens – I was offered a job there before Toy Story, but turned it down for a start-up that has since gone under. A brilliant move in my long history of face-palm worthy brilliant moves that have kept me poor but given me good stories to write about.)

I watched the keynote for the iPhone 4s yesterday on my iPad2 and I am writing this post on a MacBook Pro.  This man was my Disney. I don’t have Mickey Mouse anything. My home is filled with Apple.

I’m nobody.   No one of consequence by the world’s standards. Just a spunky east coast girl who decided to get as far away from home as she could without crossing an ocean and attend college in California, who was fortunate enough to intern in Silicon Valley and who happened to one day shake hands with a man who truly revolutionized the way we all experience and interact with the world around us.

The legacy Steve Jobs leaves behind is obvious and remarkable. But business savvy, technological genius, elegance of design and wicked cool gadgetry aside, the personal legacy he leaves behind for one little nobody is this:

To “stay hungry and stay foolish” of course. To be yourself no matter what. To never give up on your dream even when people think it’s crazy. That if someone shakes their heads at you and calls you stubborn, to take it as a compliment.  To always keep learning. To trust your gut (and your heart). To never stop evolving.

And, no matter what happens, no matter what your path brings you to, no matter how big a brick life hits you over the head with…no matter what, no matter what, no matter WHAT…

Have faith in your inner voice and keep connecting the dots. You may just discover

One.  More.  Thing.