Doug: The Top Five List

Day Runner + D*I*Y PlannerThis week on is going to be a little different. I've asked each of the writers the question, "What five items for enhancing your productivity and/or creativity can you not be without?" (I'm lumped productivity and creativity together, since for many of us there's a decided overlap.) I've also asked for explanations and tips for those items, so we can get a better glimpse of how those things are used.

For my list here, I'm not going to include a computer. These are so ubiquitous, and so necessary for most work in this day and age, that a computer has to be understood as a given. So, herewith, are my other top five items.

5. iPod with Video

A friend of mine --a very imaginative and patient one, I might add-- has been living with the same young lady for a year. But things weren't all rosy. Besides dismissing his every creative accomplishment, she insisted that he not spend time with any of his old friends, she "appropriated" his favourite gadget, his iPod (he was forced to go buy another), and she spent every cent she made (and many of his) on purchasing various Barbie collectables. A few weeks ago, he discovered that his income tax refund, slated for rent, was instead diverted into purchasing air fare to a Barbie conference in the States, and things came to a head. To make a painfully long story short, he's now dating a thoughtful and attentive graphic designer, a goodly portion of his ex's collection was demolished by an out-of-control party given by her new roommates, and I --to whom he owed a big favour-- received a package in the mail, smothered by Barbie stickers. Inside was a nice little 30Gb iPod and the sentiment of closure. This lesson brought to you by the letter "K" for karma.

Oh yes, the iPod. It's now replaced by Palm in most ways, which I had been using for tracking my hundreds of contacts, and carrying the occasional note. These are now synchronised to the iPod. Instead of hurting my eyes reading ebooks on the Palm, I now carry audio books; currently residing on my favourite new gadget are David Allen's Getting Things Done... Fast! and Ready for Anything, D.T. Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, a number of podcasts, and a collection of old time radio shows. I also keep a number of episodes of the Granada television series Sherlock Holmes (the one with Jeremy Brett) and the new Battlestar Galactica to help me wind down in the evenings.

Another helpful way the iPod has helped me: it creates "a room of one's own." Since it's difficult to block out all the noise in the house (my office being next to the nursery doesn't help), I can put on some non-distracting music and carry on with my work. By selecting appropriate music, I can also stimulate creativity.

4. Eddie Bauer Guide Bag

It's a pity that my guide bag doesn't seem to be made any more, but I've been told there are plenty of others out there just as good. I keep this bag stocked and ready to go at a moment's notice. There are tonnes of compartments to organise things, and due to its small size I can carry it with me everywhere. It's currently holding:

  • Two index card stacks (see #3 below)
  • A Moleksine ruled notebook (see #2 below)
  • Three pens: a black Fisher Space Pen with stylus tip; a Pilot G2 0.7 black; and a G2 0.5 green.
  • A handful of art supplies, including a 0.3mm tech pen, 2B and HB pencils, soft and medium charcoal pencils, a torchon ("stump"), a kneadable eraser, and a small Staedler sharpener.
  • Business cards
  • A can of Altoids
  • A small book (currently Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones
  • Sometimes a Moleskine large sketchbook or my Palm Tungsten E/ Wireless Keyboard combo, depending on where I'm going.

Why did this make my list? It's always prepped and ready for productivity and creativity on the run.

3. Index Cards / Hipster PDA

Most people here are more than familiar with this item, so I'm just going to tell you my "configuration" (which does vary somewhat). I carry two stacks: one is oriented towards productivity, and the other towards creativity.

Productivity Deck : monthly calendars for this month and next, yearly calendar reference, Next Actions list (two, one for home, one for work), Waiting For list (home on one side, work on the other), a few project cards, occasionally a job tracker, some checklists, and a number of blanks. Major divisions are separated with colour cards.

Creativity Deck : filled with cards from the Hipster Creativity pack, including story ideas, plot cards, "item" cards, a checklist or two, and a lot of blanks.

I also keep a stack of blank cards beside my computer for taking temporary notes, and for writing quick one-off lists. For example, I have two cards propped up by my monitor right now: one for the dimensions of paintings in my wife's new gallery website; and another is the list of colours and CSS info for my new Sherlock Holmes blog in process.

2. Notebooks

If you've been following along, this should be no surprise. I generally keep two nowadays:

Moleskine ruled notebook : small enough to fit in my guide bag, this is where I jot ideas, gather inbox material (notes, numbers, reminders, etc.), and record things for on the road. The accordion pocket holds a yearly calendar and some index blanks.

Writing notebook : I may as well admit it -- I'm a writer. 95% of what I do for a living is writing. Although I often use a computer for second through final drafts, my preferred method of producing a first draft is long-hand in a good notebook with a G2 0.5mm pen. Since it's not unusual for me to write 30 pages a day, I don't use a Moleskine for this... it would prove far too costly. Instead, I get the most non-distracting "Wal-Mart journal special" I can find, which usually runs about $3 CDN and has fixed binding and a hard cover. When possible, I opt for cream-coloured paper, as it's easier on the eyes. Bonus points for finding one that fits in the guide bag.

1. Day Runner Classic

Like this is a shock? Here's why this is number one:

  • If you use several different systems (like me), you need a "hub" to collect and synchronise all your information. My computer calendars, my Moleskine, my Hipster decks -- all of these "feed" into the DR, and are in turn fed by it. For example, let's say I'm about to hit the road for the day. I copy down any new appointments into my Hipster calendar, using my DR as the primary reference. While on the go, I bump into a friend. He suggests getting together for lunch. I look in my monthly Hipster calendar to see if I'm free on a particular day, and if I am, I note the time and place. I collect his name and contact info on a blank card. Once I get back home, I simply copy the new information into the DR. The DR then becomes my centralised point of information, and my "trusted system."
  • The D*I*Y Planner project uses a classic size version as the main reference, and by using the forms I can decide what works and what doesn't. Sometimes the great ideas I have one day don't seem so practical once implemented the next. Through heavy usage, I can continue to experiment and refine the designs and prompts.
  • In a meeting, I've found that a Hipster PDA tends to solicit a few comments like "hey, that's cool!", a Palm or PPC looks commonplace to those who have them and are simply a source of envy to those who don't, and a notebook implies you take down information but says nothing about how you use it. A nice leather-bound planner, on the other hand, stuffed with stylish inserts for every situation and planning use, makes a bold statement: professional quality, professional image. Never underestimate the value of perception in business.
  • A typical planner holds a few hundred pages. It can hold your calendar, your contacts, your action lists, your project details, your inbox, your budgets, your business cards, your reference charts, your sticky notes, your grocery list, your calculator, and so much more. It can truly be a portable office, and without all the distractions that accompany a laptop.
  • A thoroughly-planned configuration, with sections, tabs and slash pockets, means you can find and carry almost anything pertinent to that day, or week, or month.
  • No power, battery or wifi needed.
  • Obviously, I'm biased, but I really like the wide range of opportunities, prompts and planning options that D*I*Y Planner version 3.0 offers. It strikes a balance (at least for me) between focus, flexibility and power, and it can be adapted to almost any situation I might find myself in.
  • Just carrying a planner makes me feel organised, even if I'm not. ;-)

So there they are, my top five. Tune in for the rest of the week to see what our other writers will choose. In the meantime, what are your top five?

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Great List!

I especially love the iPod story. Excellent!


musical inspiration

it may not be as hip, nor as expensive as an iPod, but my favourite productivity buddy would be early morning CBC 2 while I'm at the easel before everyone else wakes up.

Pregnancy and looking after a very active 19 month old could scramble my brain, and classical music helps me stay focus and my mind clearer. ("Scatterbrain syndrome" which Doug claims came on long before the onset of pregnancy would be the official term and is hard to avoid, but a good dose of Mozart is my first line of defence.) Next to that I rely on a walk and fresh air each day to keep energy up and make it easier to wake in the mornings.

Those are my current top two anyway. (-:

Wikipedia for your iPod

And now you can be organized, inspired and well informed, all with on e handy piece of technology. Click here to download an 800mb wikipedia for your iPod. You'll be so organized, it'll be terrifying:|

Steve Sharam

so cool!

i just read about how you can have wikipedia on yer iPod. However, I think I'll be waiting for the actual installer for mac as my video iPod still isn't 100% compatible with the PodLinux.

This is definitely one to watch tho!

So have you installed this on yer iPod yet?


I just pulled the trigger on a new 30GB iPod with Video. My trusty Mini was stolen out of my truck a couple weeks ago while I was covering a HS basketball game. I was PO'd! The jerks broke a window on my brand new truck to get a two-year-old iPod.

Anyway - I waited to hear if Apple was announcing a new 'Pod at today's event, but since they weren't I went ahead and bought a replacement.

I'll have to see about installing the Wiki!!