Inside my planner / 1

My planner Page 1
The first page in my planner

I thought I would split my planner setup into a couple of posts and today I want to cover the diary section, or true planner section of the book. Before I start, there’s a bit of technical information to go through. All the pages I’m showing today have been printed onto William Hannah’s plain paper which they provide punched to suit the disc system in their notebooks. I am using the A5 paper because I have an A5 notebook, but the A6 paper could also be added to these rings if desired. I use the Pages software on my MacBook computer to design the pages (I use the term ‘design’ very loosely – I’m not claiming that I have any talent in that direction; if I can do it you most certainly could) and my HP Envy 5030 printer fitted with HP inks supplied using their Instant Ink subscription service. I feed the paper through one sheet at a time because I had a problem with the punching if I put in several sheets together. I don’t print enough pages for it to bother me that I have to take my time. Now, the aesthetics.

As I open the lovely cover of the William Hannah notebook and turn the first cardboard divider, I am greeted by my Word of the Year, Vitality. I like this being at the very beginning because it keeps it to the forefront of my mind. On the reverse of the sheet I have printed a verse of a poem by Louis MacNeice because I like to have poetry or a quote at the front of all my journals and notebooks.

After that page it’s straight into the diary section. I’ve learnt over the past couple of years that I like to keep three months of my diary with me and that will basically work out to be the previous month, current month and next month. When the month turns I will take out a month from the beginning and add a month at the end. Any appointments that I make outside that timescale I add to either a sticky note or to a spare sheet of paper at the end of the diary section so I can fill in the information when I get to the appropriate month. I don’t have significant amounts of forward-planning in my life so I don’t really need to see the whole year ahead, although I do have an idea for a monthly calendar spread over three A5 sheets which I might look into incorporating.

Because I moved into this disc-bound system from a ring-bound planner in the last week of January, I didn’t bother to re-print the sheets for the first three weeks of the year. This means that my planner starts from Thursday 23rd January 2020 which is a little random. However, January 2020 was an unpleasant month for me and I am glad to be able to ignore it and treat it like an unwanted guest who stayed into the new year and who I was glad to see the back of.

Diary + Pens
My diary and pens part-way through the week

My diary pages are based on the column layout that the wonderful folk at Mark and Fold use in their Diary, which I heartily recommend if you’re looking for a bound weekly diary or planner. I loved using mine the past couple of years.

Diary Layout 1
My diary layout as the week begins

My first column is just lined and headed “Focus” so I write in a few themes I want to incorporate at the beginning of the week. These themes are often recurring, but some weeks I need to step back from my general goals and concentrate on something specific. I find it useful to have to think as each week starts what is most appropriate right now.

To the right are seven columns, one for each day of the week, which are ruled and have a slightly thicker edge under each third line, splitting the day up into six sections which I pretty much work through top to bottom. If I have appointments or things to do specific to the day, I note them in there as soon as I know about them. Birthdays go to the top and I’m underlining them in red to make them stand out. Any hugely important items, such as my trip to Helsinki, are noted in the space between the date and the first line. Anything that spans days is written as centrally as I can manage with lines to the edge of the dates it covers. I use the very bottom 3 lines for the day to fill in my exercise details (steps walked and calories burned, plus exercise minutes if I do a specific exercise routine rather than just my regular walking); I fill this in early on the following morning. If there is a TV show I will watch, I tend to note it in the section above where I will write my exercise information.

Finally there is a blank box at the bottom of both pages for more creative stuff. I try to fill in a quote or piece of poetry in the right-hand box at the beginning of the week, then if I find a quote I like during the week I write it in the left-hand box, or I can just decorate it.

I do think of this more as a diary than a planner because there really isn’t that much forward-planning in my life due to a combination of the kind of work I do (tends to be more reactive) and the type of person I am (if I plan to do something I will find a million ways not to do it, if it’s optional then I am much more likely to work on it).

When I first started planning a diary section that I would print myself, I was going to use a different colour for every month, but I have fallen in love with the turquoise blues and I think I will stick with them until I’m fed up, then have a change. The Waterman Inspired Blue ink is really cheering my days in this cloudy, chilly spell we’re having. I am having to force myself not to ink up every pen with it, and to use the pens I’ve got different coloured ink in at least occasionally.

Thank you for dropping by to read about my set-up in the William Hannah notebook. I am very happy with this as my daily companion; it truly is an item that I know to be useful and feel to be beautiful. Keep an eye open in the coming weeks for the third part of the set-up which will be about the notes section and what I choose to keep in there.


Ready, set….

All set
Here comes 2020

Looks like I still haven’t done with ringing the changes, because for 2020 I am downsizing my planning into these two slim A6 books. I have chosen A6 because it’s the easiest to carry on a daily basis, but I’ll admit to a touch of trepidation over whether it will work out after a couple of years with A5 size planners. Then again, it’s two little books – hardly a lifetime committment.

My dairy is by Waterstones bookshop. It’s a horizontal layout which is another departure from the recent years. The pages are a pleasant shade of ivory which I know isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I rather like it. The paper is a decent weight; my initial try-out with fountain pens is acceptable, with slight bleedthrough with a couple of inks, but none with the basic cobalt Graf von Faber Castell. I will have fun finding my favourite ink to use with this paper. One of the things I particularly like about this diary is that it includes birth dates of famous authors. I want to read more next year so this should provide a little daily inspiration.

2020 Diary
Author birth dates

Regardless of whether the layout of the diary is horizontal or vertical and more important than the size, I have two requirements which any diary must comply with. Firstly, Saturday and Sunday have to be allocated the same amount of space as the weekdays. Some designers make us squeeze the two weekend days into one day’s space which doesn’t seem fair. My other must-have is a notes space so I can write in a quote for each week. Happily, this diary meets my expectations on both fronts.

I am pairing this diary with the little navy and rose gold notebook from WH Smith. The paper is white, relatively lightweight, and pretty mediocre quality, with a fair amount of bleedthrough with the inks I’ve tried. On the plus side, it is lined which is very much my preference with notebooks. This one is intended for quick jottings so it doesn’t need to be great quality paper, does it? Well, like I said before, it is a small notebook, easy to change if I want to. After all, if 2019 has taught me anything it’s that the most important thing is to remain flexible.

Bye-bye summer 2019

Berries & Lichen
The fruits of our labours

I can’t remember a year when the arrival of September has coincided so exactly with the arrival of autumnal days. Over the course of the weekend, the temperature here has suddenly dropped from highs of 30℃ to 20℃ and the sun that was scorching on the last day of August seems merely warm and pleasant now that September is here.

I am settling bit by bit into my new work role and letting my routines unfurl themselves in their own time to fit around the new schedule.

I unpicked the socks I was knitting and now I have nothing on the needles. Nothing has grabbed my attention and there are no pressing gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled. The ice-cream pink jumper will still probably be my next garment, although I don’t know when I will start knitting it; when the mood takes me is my best estimate. I have an idea that I should knit a warm hat for my Helsinki trip next February, but I’m not sure.

It is definitely time to be getting back into a writing routine, not only for my blog posts, but also back to working on my novel. I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman I met today who is also working on a novel, and it was inspiring in a quiet, comfortable way. It started when he brought out not only his 2019 diary, but also his 2020 diary which he was already carrying around with him – a very impressive action. In fact, if I had not been working at the time, I would have been very interested to delve into his “everyday carry” bag to see exactly what he was toting around; rather like a fully interactive, real-life YouTube video.

All in all, though tangible progress is rather hard to see, when I refer back to my Word of the Year (Establish), I think I am moving in the right direction.


Take-away from a stationery week

07-05-19 planners
The planner lineup, 7th May 2019 (it’s a dull and chilly day in Norfolk and this selection reflects that)

I promised a wrap-up at the end of stationery week. I have been pondering for a couple of days now what I am taking away from it and I think I have it straight in my head.

An excuse to shop

I think this type of week/day is most successful as a marketing drive and if I wasn’t on a strictly limited budget I would have used the opportunity to buy something special. On the other hand, there is a lot of fun to be had from looking at what is available even if you know you can’t buy it and I enjoyed my virtual window-shopping a lot. I limited it to just two purchases for Stationery Week – the set of colour co-ordinated fineliners because I thought I might like to colour-code, and a roll of washi tape which was just a general re-stock because I’ve almost run out. Use of the fineliners after my initial testing was minimal (although it outstripped use of the washi tape) but I can report that they are very nice pens and if you like colour-coding I would recommend trying to track some down. I won’t be using them myself, but I have plans for them.

Other people’s posts

Perhaps the best thing about National Stationery Week was seeing other people’s blogs and Instagram posts on the theme. I saw some things that were new to me through photos posted on social media and that’s exciting. There is a surprising amount going on in the stationery world nowadays and most of it is pretty, not to mention relatively affordable. I must admit if I look back ten or twenty years, I wouldn’t have foreseen that.

Setting up the Kikki K ring-planner

This was a very enjoyable exercise and it got my creative muscles moving a bit, but ultimately it frustrated me more than it inspired me. I found I was even less productive last week than I usually am, and that is saying a lot. However, it was beneficial because shining a light on the details of a planner set-up has given me the opportunity to think about what I feel comfortable with and where I might go from here.

Likes and dislikes in a planner system

  • The paper needs to play nicely with my fountain pen inks
  • I greatly prefer the week-to-view column layout of my Mark + Fold diaries
  • I love having a marker for the current week which the Mark + Fold diaries don’t have
  • I like to have both my tasks and my appointments for the day in the same place
  • I like to track my goals (like creative writing word count and step count) on my main diary page rather than a separate tracker
  • I don’t necessarily need a whole year of dated pages available all the time
  • I like underlining things and drawing in separators with red ink
  • I don’t colour-code
  • The Personal/Medium size ring-planner is both too small and too bulky for my taste
  • I like having a pen loop
  • I adore having notepaper in the binder and being able to flip to it from the diary section without having to worry about a separate notebook
  • I really like the touch of prettiness in the dividers I made

Alternative formats

As I have said previously,  I will continue to plan 2019 in my Mark + Fold diary because it works very well. The thing that hasn’t gelled for me this year is setting up a notebook to accompany it and I intend to pay some attention to that over the next few days.

Heading towards 2020* I want to combine planning and notes in one book. That means looking at some options that are outside my usual sphere – the bullet journals, notebooks with removable pages, or custom-build spiral-bound planners. Plenty there to keep me interested for the rest of this year, then.


Yep, it is still fountain pens for me, every day, all the way. Fountain pens and inks. Nothing beats the feeling of writing with a fountain pen on decent paper.

*2020 – When I left school, this was always in my mind as the year I would retire. How times change! Then again, I would not have foreseen the lovely family that came my way, and all the things I would do and I would certainly not have thought of myself being still so young at heart this far down the line. Giving up on the retirement idea is a small price to pay.


A song list

15-02-19 Old New Tech
Old tech in the foreground, new tech in the background

As well as a quote this week, I’m going to share a song-list with you.  The quote is hand-written and shown in my photo. The song-list is playing along with it:-

‘Only The Lonely’ sung by Glen Campbell
‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ sung by Judy Collins
‘Crossroads’ written and sung by Don McLean
‘I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now’ sung by Harry Nilsson
‘Until It’s Time For You To Go’ sung by Glen Campbell
‘It’s Over’ sung by Glen Campbell

(For the record, ‘It’s Over’ isn’t the same song which Roy Orbison sang. I love both of them.)

Diary by Mark and Fold
Fountain pen inks by Lamy and Graf von Faber-Castell
Fountain pens:
Waterman Hemisphere (blue)
Lamy Safari (black)
12″ MacBook by Apple
Steel ruler made in Germany – just like me!


You know it’s coming

Kikki K & Filofax binders
Personal size planner/organiser binders: Kikki K – Filofax – Kikki K

Oh, so it’s that time of year, is it? The time when even monogamous me gets the pretty, flitty thoughts and starts digging about in her planner patch. In keeping with the general story of my life, I am in limbo at the moment and I need something to happen before I can make a decision about exactly how I will be planning/organising/keeping a diary for 2019. It seems that everyone has a different word for pretty much the same concept so I’ve offered a few options there.

I haven’t used a ring-bound planner this year, and I might not next year. Then again, I might, and if I do, it is likely to be in one of the above three binders, which are all the ‘personal’ size. For a couple of months now I have been thinking that I would really like a navy blue A5 Filofax Original, but Filofax don’t sell such a thing in Great Britain and I’m not going to break my habit and order one from abroad. The ‘why no navy blue?’ is a lament I have been singing for a few years (I would settle for cobalt blue if navy were too much of a stretch) and Filofax have indeed added navy blue options in a few of their styles, but not in the Original which is, as you will guess, the style I really like above all others – it is so sleek and minimal. I love my fuchsia patent Personal size shown.

A couple of years ago, I finally took the opportunity to visit a Kikki K stationery shop in London and I bought the mint-green binder with silver speckles which I used a fair amount. However, not so long after my visit they came out with their ‘Creative’ theme which is all navy blue and red and I was finally able to buy a navy blue leather binder, albeit not quite as sleek as the one I had in my imagination. I didn’t use this very much at all, mainly because carrying anything not absolutely essential to my continued existence on an everyday basis became impossible from July 2017 to July 2018 due to the location of my workplace and the rigmarole of getting there and home again. Plus, of course, this year I have been so happy using my bound diary from Mark + Fold that I haven’t really been tempted by my ring-binders.

So, there I was yesterday, unearthing my binders and first off I took the mint green one out of its box and, oh, it brought joy to my heart – you know, that joy that Marie Kondo bangs on about? Then, when I got the navy one out, I felt a bit ho-hum, so clearly most of the time I have no real grasp of what I want at all. This is helpful, though, as it means I can stop obsessing about navy blue Filofaxes – well, for a few days at least.

After I looked at each binder, I worked on the more serious part of the process – removing all the inserts, separating them into used and unused, weeding out ones to be kept from ones to be disposed of, putting like with like. As a result of this, I know I can easily set up a binder for next year without needing to buy anything new – just need to print dated inserts – and that the binder would definitely be the mint green Kikki K, at least for part of the year. Finally, I got the completed years in order and stored in an accessible way in with my journals which is a big improvement. Although I regularly go back and forth between digital and paper for my planning/organising/diary, I have pretty comprehensive Filofax-style pages for 2014-2017 inclusive and that rather surprised me. I think I may be more on the paper side of things than I thought.

Once I have made my firm decision on how the planning/organising/diary will go next year, I will let you know.

I would also like to note just how much I am enjoying my Advent Calendar this year – the Milkybar one has proven to be a great choice. Here is a gratuitous desk shot of my coffee/Advent Calendar break yesterday (the calendar doesn’t live here – I brought it over to open it).

Coffee break 04-12-18
4th December 2018 – Coffee break with Advent Calendar

Do you plan/organise/keep a diary? Is it paper or electronic?


Stationery – Five things

Tomorrow, Friday 2nd November 2018, is Fountain Pen Day and in its honour I thought I would give you another glimpse into my psyche by telling you about five stationery items that exert their influence in my life.

5 things stationery
Mark + Fold exercise book and 2018 diary; Cross Apogee fountain pen; Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue ink

A favourite paper brand

I’ve said it before; I will say it again – Mark + Fold do some spectacular paper products. They use a fair amount of UK-produced paper in their line-up and that fits well with my desire to “shop local” where it is practical to do so without having to compromise too far on quality. They sell individual items on their website, but I currently have a subscription to their stationery box which arrives four times a year and is completely drool-worthy. I am already deeply regretting that I won’t be able to renew the subscription next February, but on the whole having my sanity is slightly more important to me and that means earning a much lower income than I would ideally like to. The unfortunate downside to these products is that they are really high-end when it comes to price. Are they worth it? Oh, yes, but only if you actually have the money to spend on them.

I use the diary every day and I love it to bits and it has been the single most-used item I have received, although remember that Graphite Writing Stick? Well, I am using that a ton too! As to the exercise book, well I am a big fan of exercise books in general because they are so portable and practical and I am still in love with the practice of having a “rough book” like we had at school to take random notes. Oh, dear – now I am overwhelmed by an urge to scrawl the names of the people I hero-worship over the cover. I must resist….

A fountain pen I own and love

Apogee 4
Cross Apogee Frosty Steel finish

Ah, the Cross Apogee. It is so pretty. It is quite large and quite heavy, at least compared to my other fountain pens. I love it so. If only I could find the magic way to get the ink flowing well again. I had this same problem with my other Cross fountain pen, and it resolved itself after many months of trial and error and sitting in the naughty corner. I still don’t know exactly what made it start working properly again,

I treated myself to the Apogee when I got a permanent full-time job; I had been admiring it in person and online for many months prior to actually buying it. It’s the only fountain pen I own with a gold nib and I must say I really like how it writes. Mainly, though, it’s the lacquer finish on the pen that has me hooked; the colour and the patterning are reminiscent of a man’s silk tie, subtle and resplendent by turns. Perhaps I need to buy some pen flush….

A fountain pen I would buy in a trice

Waterman Exception
Waterman Exception Slim fountain pen, blue with chrome trim

Oh, hello, lovely – wanna come home with me?

This is the pen I have been promising myself I will buy the next time I am really flush and have something special to celebrate. I was thinking of treating myself to it for my 60th birthday in 2020, but that idea is receding. 65th? 70th? How long will they keep making this beauty?

If I could only have fountain pens of one colour, it would be this blue, the blue of the sky crossing from day to night, and always matched with a chrome finish to emulate the stars. (My Cross Century II and my blue Waterman Exception are similar to this shade.) I particularly love the design of this pen; the square profile, the slight taper to the barrel. It is sleek and futuristic but in a classic way, never veering towards pastiche. Plus, I love the Waterman pens I currently own and they are really my most-used so another model from this brand is high on my wish-list.

A fountain pen I would never buy

Visconti Pentagon
Visconti Pentagon Blue fountain pen

By rights I should love this fountain pen. It is a lovely shade of deep, dark blue and see that marbling? You get that on fountain pens that are made with resin and it always looks spectacular. The chrome trim is spot-on and that design is interesting with its faceted shaping which carries through onto the cap. Visconti is a great brand, too, with a proud history of pen-making and this design is one of the more affordable in their range.

So what makes this in particular a pen I would never buy? It is the fact that, for me, it just misses the mark in every way. I own a Visconti pen and I so want to like it; I so want to admire the way the marbling highlights the resin of the body; to be entranced by the magnetic cap which clicks so satisfyingly closed. In some ways I do love it; but there is one big way in which it frustrates me and that is how it behaves with ink. It is what the pen afficionados term “a gusher” and I like my nibs to be dry, dry and hard, fit the pen with a nail if need be. Wet nibs are a feature of Visconti pens and a lot of fountain pen users adore them, but wet nibs and me, we don’t get along together. I find it too hard to find a pairing of pen and ink that actually works for me. Almost every ink I ever put in my Visconti has led to smearing of work when I’ve closed a book long after the ink “should” be dry. It has made me paranoid. I put the same ink in my Watermans, my Lamys, my Crosses, none of them smudge; the Visconti? Every single time unless I am writing on highly absorbent paper in which case the ink will feather or bleed through.

So the Visconti Pentagon is a pen that a younger me might have lusted over, but the current me will happily leave for someone else.

An ink I love

GvFC Cobalt Blue
Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, watched over by Avon

Okay, ready to chorus with me? “Graf von Faber-Castell”. This brand of ink suits me so well. I understand from people who really know their inks that this is quite a dry ink and I can certainly see that when comparing it to, for example, the Diamine inks which I always want to like (they have an awesome range of colours), but somehow don’t get along with. Also, just what compares to the Graf von Faber-Castell ink bottle? Classy, that’s what it is. That’s the ink bottle Jay Gatsby would have. (Daisy would have Pilot Iroshizuku in the deep pink Yama-Budo, but really we aren’t here to fantasise about inks for fictional characters are we?).

My personal favourite colours from the Graf von Faber-Castell range are this classic Cobalt Blue; Hazelnut Brown; Moss Green and Violet Blue. I have also tried the Garnet Red (too close to Hazelnut); Deep Sea Green (nice, but Moss Green is nicer); and Midnight Blue (ho-hum). I haven’t tried Olive Green; Turquoise (I never like turquoise inks for some reason); Burned Orange (I am not in any way an orange person); Electric Pink (I would be up for a try-out of this one); Cognac (I am so happy with Hazelnut for my choice of brown); Carbon Black (I’m a blue or blue-black girl, although it’s useful to have one black ink tucked away for a rainy day so never say never); Royal Blue (well, it’s not Cobalt is it?). For the life of me I can’t remember whether I have tried the Stone Grey. I feel that I have and that it was okay, but it might have been a grey from a totally different brand.

When I am trying out an ink, I always opt for cartridges (if the ink comes in a standard International cartridge it will fit my Waterman pens), or a sample phial if the ink comes in a proprietary cartridge that won’t fit my current pen collection. If I like it enough to use all the cartridges, then I will look at getting a bottle, but I prefer to limit the number of bottles of ink I have.

Well, that was a marathon session, hope you didn’t fall asleep before you got to the end. Happy Fountain Pen Day – if you have a fountain pen, please use it. If you are out and about and can encourage anyone else to try a fountain pen, please do. If you have never tried a fountain and are intrigued, see if you can find someone who owns a fountain pen and can let you try it out.