Pen + Paper = Planning Power!

TGIF, y’all! I don’t know about all of you, but work has been pretty busy ever since I got back from the new year. Even though we are down in the factory, I’m catching up on all the things I had been ignoring while on shift! Lots of protocols, data pulls, reports, and staring at the computer for extended amount of hours ._.

I’ve been sooo caught up, I totally didn’t realize that it has been a year since I first visited this part of Virginia to interview for my job! It blows my mind it’s already been 1 year since I started my final quarter in college. WHOOSH.

Anyways, as you can tell by today’s blog post title, I prefer using the old fashioned way when it comes to planning. Whether it be a day planner or my notebook I use at work, I prefer writing on paper first. I am  suuuuuch a lover of lists. It can be so daunting filling up a page so easily with a huge list of tasks or due dates, but once you start accomplishing what you need to, it can be addicting to cross off those items!

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Figure. Here is my planner for 2014! A pretty standard planner setup from Barnes and Nobles, but I like to cross out bills and due dates as I pass them.

Plus, what I love most about using pen and paper is that you are not restricted how you want to make your lists. I think it’s more fun and engaging. Electronic means sometimes limit my creativity because there is usuallya template that can only be manipulated so much. Or if it’s a portable device, you need to use a touch screen to type >_< I am way faster at scribbling notes with a pen than using a confounded touch screen (ask my cell phone).

Also, I am a very visual person. When I list tasks initially, I will associate a items on my to do list with sketches to jog my memory. Also, sometimes it helps me to organize my tasks in a chart. Then, I can put them into buckets that help me figure out how high it ranks on my priorities and how long it will take to accomplish. I also like to make up my own icons 😛

I take about a half hour to an hour every Monday making my lovely lists. Here is what I do:

  1. Brainstorm Cloud or List – Throw everything and anything on here! Just make sure to capture what you want to get done that week or near future so you don’t forget about it. Sometimes I’ll start clumping tasks if they are related to the same report or area (so I don’t run back and forth too much across the site, wasting time).
  2. Leave No  Man  Task Behind – Turn back and search! I look through old lists of yester-week to see what I have not addressed or crossed out. If old tasks are still being relevant or important to do, it makes it to the new week’s list so it doesn’t get forgotten.
  3. List for the Week – I write down all tasks I want to do and throw due dates on them: either Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.
  4. List for the Day – As each day rolls around, I make daily lists every morning very quickly, pulling from tasks from List for the Week section. I usually dedicate a page per day. It also has my notes and thoughts from the day.

One downside I have with my notebook system is that it’s hard to recall past information, even if I the dates on all my lists.

One notebook system that is similar to my own, but quite a bit more organized and systematic is the THE BULLET JOURNAL. It would solve my recalling issue since it’s designed with an index. I stumbled upon this video on someone’s Facebook earlier this week:

I think electronics are great at saving us paper, carrying less heavy books, or hey eliminating paper diaries and allowing us to blog on the web! But at the very least, I think I will stick to toting around a notebook with me everywhere for my daily thoughts.

Want more reasons to like paper and pen? Go here for an article for “Why pen and paper is still the best productivity tool”

So what’s your stance on the paper versus screen debate?

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Variations on a Word: The Synonym

I was writing up my investigation report  today at work, when I decided to pop onto http://thesaurus.com to look for synonyms. It featured this cool article on the evolution of two synonyms: gifts vs. presents.

It got me thinking about a technical writing workshop I attended before Thanksgiving. It was a great course overall, but it emphasized an important point:

  • The great (and sometimes complicated) thing about the English language is that we have multiple words that can mean the same thing, but with slight variations that can change the overall tone of a sentence.

Choosing the appropriate word for a document or situation reminds me of finding the right shaped piece to fit into an empty puzzle spot. It takes some trial and error, but when you find the right one, it can really help you communicate your message in a cohesive and logical way.

Another plus of careful word choice is that you can say a lot without using a ton of words. People like compact and concise sentences that still somehow leave a lot of impact on the reader. Contrary to what we have been taught in school, it is a lot harder to write shorter documents that still drive the same message versus filling up our writing with “fluff” to reach a specific page count.

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Figure.  A cute Language Arts poster I found from http://www.classroomcreative.com that displays the power of synonyms.

So next time you have to write a memo or write your resume, think about your word choices and how you can consolidate your document to be more reader friendly.

I’ll leave you with a quote (also shared from the writing workshop):

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter”

— credited to Mark Twain at the end of a 10 page letter to a friend, though the origin of this quote is disputed.