Notes from Notebook Love
A Lust for Lists: How to Master the Art of List-Making. 0
Are you a list-maker? Do you organise your chaos, bullet-point your dreams and streamline your shopping with lists, lists, lists? If so, you are in wonderful, cooky, logical, productive, creative company.
Every list-maker has their own system and tools: bullet points, symbols, stickers, different colours, dividing the page or just throwing it all down in one big download.
The beauty of list-making is that there’s no right or wrong way of doing it.
But whether you’re a ticker-offer or a crosser-offer, perhaps some of these shiny tips and insights will help you hone your list mastery.
Or perhaps you’ve been part of the list-resistance for years, in which case maybe now we can convince you to crack the spine of that notebook and give it a go.
There are many reasons to list. Some do it for fun, some do it for business, some do it for EVERYTHING! That’s me! It’s also Richard Branson. He says,
“In order to make sure I achieve everything that not only needs to get done but also everything I want to get done, I make lists – lots of them. I have always lived my life by making lists. These vary from lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. I also have lists of topics to blog about, lists of tweets to send, and lists of upcoming plans. Each day I work through these lists. By ticking off each task, my ideas take shape and plans move forward.”
And goodness only knows how far forward Mr. B has gone. Space no less! - well nearly!
A LIST OF LISTS - Which Do You Use?
- Shopping lists
- To-Do lists
- Business ideas lists
- Story ideas lists
- Blog ideas lists
- Funny things the kids have said lists
- Things we need to sort out in the house lists
- Wish lists
- Goals, hopes, dreams
- Prayer lists
- Christmas lists (presents, food, tasks…)
- Bucket Lists
THE SIMPLEST WAY TO MAKE LISTS WORK FOR YOU
If you’re at a loss as to where to start, try this method for size and see if it helps you become more productive through the week:
- Create a Master List. Empty your busy head onto paper. Everything-but-everything goes down on here. Don’t worry about it being in any particular order. Just get it down as you remember things and you can always add to it later when tasks pop into your head. I do tend to have two lists (domestic and work/business) running in parallel as they’re such distinct areas of my life. But one list is totally fine to start with. You can play with layouts later. I also tend to put a bullet point before each item on the list.
- Once you have got your master list, circle the bullet points of the most important tasks, perhaps the things you really want or need to get done that week. That makes it easier to refer to your priorities at a glance later on.
- At the weekend I take a look at the master list and on the next two pages of my notebook, I scribble down a rough week layout. Then under each day, I allocate the tasks I will be doing that day or would like to get done that day. Sometimes there are carry-forwards and that’s OK. And don't give yourself too much to do. I usually leave a few extra blank lines under each day for tweaks and additions (and carry-forwards) as the week progresses. The whole planning process only takes a few minutes and really helps me tackle my week head-on and with so much more purpose.
- Then comes the satisfying bit. As I get through the tasks, not only do I tick off the tasks that I’ve written under each day but I can go back to the master list and it tick it off there too. Small pleasures!
- The master list never gets completely ticked off. After a few weeks, it has been well and truly bitten into but there are always things that hang about for a long time. I’m not procrastinating. I’ve just been effectively prioritising! Tasks like, clean the windows and sew on that button, can hang around for ages, but they do get done eventually! So once the master list is looking a bit scruffy and there’s no room for new additions, it’s time to start a fresh, new virgin list. And so the process continues and my life progresses. Bish-Bash-Bosh.
RICHARD BRANSON'S TOP LIST TIPS
And speaking of virgin lists, here are Richard Branson’s top 10 tips for making lists:
- Write down every single idea you have, no matter how big or small.
- Always carry a notebook.
- Find a list method that works for you. Doodles, bullet-points, charts. What suits you best?
- Make a list of small, manageable tasks to complete every day.
- Mark off every completed task. You'll find making each tick very satisfying.
- Make your goals measurable so you know if your plans are working.
- Set far off, outlandish goals. What do you want to have achieved by 2020? How about 2050?
- Include personal goals in your lists, not just business.
- Share your goals with others. You can help motivate each other further.
- Celebrate your successes then make new lists of new goals.
Being a fervent note-taker and list-maker, Branson actually seems to be bucking the more female-skewed trend. He even said it in another more general article about note-taking that he’d noticed how “women (were) more likely to be note takers in meetings because there is an unfair expectation on them to do support work. In other words as a society, we expect the office housework to fall to a woman.”
And it seems that it’s the case at home too. But possibly self-inflicted.
In her BBC Radio 4 programme, Listless, Jenny Eclair notes the same phenomenon about lists - it seems that the world’s list-makers are women.
LISTS IN THE HANDBAG
A fascinating art exhibition by Alice Instone seemed to confirm this too. ‘The Pram in the Hall’ featured to-do lists of public figures and they reveal so much about the juggling that goes on in women’s lives. You can read about it here in the fantastically headlined Guardian article: “Save the World then Ice a Cake”
There are no lists in her exhibition from men, “because, there hardly were any”. But, she observes in Jenny Eclair's programme, it seems that we have many self-imposed tasks on our lists like grooming, thank you letters, birthday cards and birthday presents, “Men don’t really seem to go in for that,” says Instone, “I think women suffer from guilt.”
What did feature in the exhibition were to-do lists belonging to public figures. It demonstrated the sheer spectrum of tasks - the fantastical and the mundane sitting one on top of another. Human rights activist, Shami Chakrabarti, had to:
“Buy a Christmas tree and re-read the counter terrorism bill.”
While Emma Freud had to “Call Jason Donovan and buy secret Santa gifts.”
And when asked if she could live list free herself, Instone relays a wonderful story:
“My memory’s not good enough to remember all the important things. I live in fear the whole time of forgetting something. I remember once it was the school photo and I got it wrong and I thought it was the dress-up Spanish day and I took my poor daughter to school in a Spanish costume.”
There you have it. We really do need lists to help us remember everything.
TWO REASONS WHY PAPER TRUMPS DIGITAL
So why, in this digital age, are so many still turning to paper? Well, it turns out there’s a double-whammy benefit to list-making on paper.
I can’t concentrate too well on the task in hand if I have so many other tasks and things to remember swimming around my brain. With so many to-dos tapping me on the mental shoulder all day, I get no peace and I’m less likely to remember them (or I remember at the wrong time, like when I’m driving and I can’t do anything about it). Getting it down on paper not only puts my thoughts into some sort of order but it also makes my tasks easier to remember.
It may be a subconscious decision on our part to opt for paper rather than the iPad, but…
THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE KEYBOARD
It is scientifically proven that the act of physically writing something down rather than typing it helps us remember things better. It lodges what we have written deeper in the brain. I like to think of it as pinning down those floating thoughts and mastering them rather than have them mastering me.
In a nutshell: Lists help bring order to our minds and they help us remember better - not just because they’re in our hand on a list but because they’re more deeply secured in our brain.
But there are some clever apps out there that may not help you engrave your tasks in your psyche quite as easily but they do make some nice noises when you ‘tick them off’.
DID YOU KNOW?
‘Productivity’ is the most popular category of apps out there and within that grouping are many list apps.
A LIST OF LIST APPS
- Check Check
- Daily List
- Google Keep
LISTS FOR FUN
And then there are the apps that make getting your tasks done even more fun.
Habitika is a gamified task manager in which you create an avatar that you effectively have to keep alive by completing good tasks while bad habits remove your character’s health. Talk about more guilt! The better you do in real life, the more content you unlock in the game. You can also play with friends to stay accountable in real life.
A cute idea and helpful for some for motivation perhaps, but honestly, for me, with a family of six to look after, adding another virtual dependant is the last thing I need!
Meanwhile, TaskTowers has a similar idea whereby every time you complete a task you get a brick for your virtual tower. But when you miss a task, your tower is knocked down and you have to start again. Seems harsh! I think I’ll stick to my ticks.
Li.st, which clearly states that it is not for groceries, is an app that steers us away from productivity and more towards procrastination and curiosity. Developed by the comedian/producer/writer BJ Novak (best known for his role as Ryan in the American Office) the app hosts a whole community of list makers and invites people to add to public lists and comment on others’ lists. Lists range from:
- Things I demand from a Rom Com
- Best Advice I’ve ever Received
- The Best Small Towns to visit in France
- Battle List: Pizza vs Sushi
- Three Happy Moments from Today
Other list apps for fun include Santa’s Naughty and Nice List, iWish, Bucket List. The list of list apps is endless.
AND THEN THERE'S LISTOGRAPHY
I like this idea as it almost turns making lists into a philosophy while giving novices a helping hand. It helps anyone with a fear of the blank page. Similar to the idea of Li.st, Listography is available as an app AND as many physical journals with list prompts.
Featuring examples and quirky illustrations, titles include Food, Parenthood, Films, Music, Friends, Future, Love and there’s even a compilation book with a selection of list topics to capture your autobiography, promote creativity and revisit memories. There’s also one for kids with prompts like: List your favourite things about your family. There’s even a retro board game where the best list wins!
Well all these list-lists have started to make my head spin. I probably ought to turn my attention to my own to-do list before ticking off ‘Notebook Love Blog about lists’.
WHAT'S ON YOUR LIST THIS WEEK?
I have a few oddities this week. In amongst the usuals of folding washing, the big shop and swimming lessons I have:
- Write baboon story
- Check University open days
- Book Primary School visits
I’d better get on and get some of these ticked off! But before I do, what’s the oddest thing on your list? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
And we’d also LOVE to hear about your own method of listing. Do you have any hints or tips? Please do share your wisdom. We might even start a new list of notebook lovers’ list tips. We’ll put it on the to-do list!
Back to School! Already?! Why stationery still feels so special at this time of year (even though you haven't been to school for years!) 0
I would by lying if I said I didn’t just do a little dance. I’ve just got in the door from our first school/nursery run of the new academic year and three of our four girls are safely deposited in their respective educational establishments… and I can have that cup of tea I’ve been meaning to make for the past seven weeks.
I love our kids, don’t get me wrong, but I do love this time of year. I do get excited about being able to sit down in a quiet room for five minutes without the four-year-old asking if she can paint rainbows for an umpteenth time (they are very pretty rainbows, mind you).
But, no, that’s not the main reason. The main reason I get excited at this time of year is because my brain still associates the slight nip in the air and the challenge of an early morning with fresh starts and more importantly, a new bag, new shoes and fresh stationery. Woohoo!
There was something so special about going back to school and showing off your new stuff – the things that didn’t have to conform to uniform regulations, the things that showed your personality.
There was nothing quite like curling your toes up in a new, cosy pair of shoes when your feet have spent all summer in sandals; or cracking the spine on your new notebooks and exercise books.
And it seems I’m not alone. According to psychologist Emma Kenny, it’s a well-known phenomenon, especially among women (dare I say). In a Telegraph article about why we fetishise stationery, she says, "Fresh starts encapsulate hope… As children we have few options for controlling our environment or expressing our individuality. Stationery is a way of doing this," Emma says.
“And,” the article goes on to say, “when it comes to notebooks and journals… we’re often attaching deep meaning to the literal blank sheet of paper.”
That's it! That excited feeling was so strong that it still lingers, even at the ripe old age of 37.
The first homework task would always be to cover them in wrapping paper or wallpaper, wouldn’t it? – another chance to show individuality, I suppose. Looking back, does anyone know why we had to do that? Apparently it was to help protect your books – text books I could understand, but why the short-lived jotters? Ease of identification? Keeping us busy while the teachers ease themselves into the new year? Who knows.
I find it difficult to put into words why I love stationery so much. But the fresh start and expressing your identity theories definitely ring true. Many think I’m mad. Others nod with utter agreement and association. Are you a stationery lover? Does this time of year get your stationery sensors fired up too or is it just me? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
- Kate Efomi
“Thanks, Teach’” Gift Ideas for Teachers (what they really want). 0
An apple a day keeps the teacher away. That’s how the saying goes, right*? Hands up who’s EVER given a teacher an apple? Nope. But I don’t think that’s why we give teachers gifts before the summer holidays. I’m pretty certain that they go ‘away’ very much of their own accord – usually somewhere sunny.
And I heard on the grapevine that teachers definitely prefer wine. But stuffing a bottle of pinot in your child’s school bag is probably not the most responsible of things to do.
When it comes to the summer holidays, more and more parents are buying teachers a thank you gift. And rightly so, don’t you think? They deserve that holiday and then-some for all the hard work they do for pay that doesn’t tend to increase all that much or all that speedily these days.
Did you know?....
According to a recent Mumsnet survey:
- Parents today spend an average of £10.60 on a primary school teacher’s gift.
- 1 in 10 parents spends £25.
- 83% buy presents for teachers.
- 75% buy presents for teaching assistants.
- 9% buy something for the head teacher.
- 8% don’t think a gift is necessary at all. (Pah!)
So what do teachers really want (apart from a well-earned holiday)
We asked a few teacher friends what they really wanted and we found that simple words of thanks in a card are genuinely the thing that means the most.
Emma, a nursery teacher said, “A parent taking a moment to quietly say thank you has to be the best gift. Especially when they say what they are thanking you for and how you have made a difference to their child or family.”
And Kaye, an English teacher and Assistant Headteacher, tends to agree “Wine and/or chocolate are always appreciated! It's usually the words in the cards that mean the most.”
(Bubble wrap in the school bag it is then!)
And Mumsnet teacher-mums tended to agree:
“A heartfelt message in a homemade card - this will always be Number One!”
But we insist!
OK, so the cards are the best thing (and my esteem for teachers is now EVEN higher for that little discovery) but if their card had to be accompanied by a gift, what would they reeeeeally like?
Mumsnet teacher-mums to the rescue again! - with a few honest pointers about what they really appreciate (and what they don’t really want). Here are some of their wise gift suggestions:
Canvas bag to carry marking home, personalised and decorated (and chose one with a gusset).
Stationery: pens, stickers, funky post-it notes, notebooks.
Vouchers for Amazon or John Lewis if you're a school that does class collections.
Wine, if you KNOW they drink it. Same goes for chocolate.
Costume jewellery, hair clips, scarves, etc of a type that you have SEEN them wear.
Homemade edibles are wonderful and the effort and thought is always appreciated.
Please avoid lotions, shower gels, etc as you cannot know what they like or might be allergic to. Same goes for scented candles.
Please, no more mugs.
Oh dear, yes. We can understand the mug thing.
So there you have it. The classic gifts are the winners but the cards and appreciation get top marks from most teachers.
Teachers, we salute you! Now go and enjoy your summer holiday! There's some wine in the Doc McStuffins back pack on cloakroom peg number 14. Cheers!
*I know, I know, it's really a doctor! ;)
- Kate Efomi
3 Ways A Notebook Can Make Your Holiday Even Better (and a shipwreck experience bearable). 0
Going away this summer? Got your tickets? Got your passport? What about remembering to pack a notebook? Whether it’s a romantic city break, a package holiday with the kids or a trip around the world, here’s how a trusty notebook can make your experience even better.
It could even make a genuine shipwreck experience feel more like an adventure.
Before I even leave the house for any kind of getaway, I’m jotting down shopping lists for our holiday essentials, things to do before we leave, items to pack – especially the last minute things you can’t put in your bag until the bleary-eyed morning of your flight - toothbrush, charger, house keys.
It helps to have a list for what you packed so you can check everything off for your return journey (if you really have to go back).
Notebooks are also great for research before the trip. What would you like to do when you’re there? What’s on your wish list of must-dos and –sees? Getting organised before you leave means you can make the most of your trip when you’re there. Tick those landmarks off as you go.
Angie Mercer is an Australian (with Yorkshire heritage) new mum and training manager at Dior. She also got shipwrecked (as you do) with my sister (Char) and now brother-in-law (Paul) nearly ten years ago, somewhere near Panama.
The Shipwreck (photo by Dave Mercer)
Angie and her now husband, photo retoucher, Dave, were traveling around the world when they shared this particular episode with Char and Paul. Trying to cross the gap between South and Central America, they decided to take a boat rather fly. But the Captain turned out to be somewhat inept and the sea was choppy, to say the least when they found themselves at a 30-degree angle one night with the side of the boat scraping across some perilous rocks.
The Shipwreck (photo by Angie and Dave Mercer)
You can read about the deserted beach, the lack of food and the villagers with machetes at their blog post ‘Sacré Bleu! That Continent Just came out of Nowhere!’ It has gone down in the annals of traveller history and was also featured in Wanderlust Magazine.
When the time came to abandon ship, Angie’s notebooks, a little soggy perhaps, came with them to shore. Precious? Yes. Multiple? Yes. But what exactly had she been using them for during their travels?
“I'm definitely a paper and pen girl. I still use a paper diary. One book was for Spanish study. We were also on a budget (about 10 months in when we decided to forfeit our last flight and go straight to my brother’s wedding in Bali, meaning we absolutely had to make our money last the next 9 months) so I used my notebook as a budget tracker.
“I was brutal with the budget (must be my Yorkshire blood). I remember being in Mexico and turning around to find Dave eating an ice cream and I was like, “Where did you get that?!” I had to write it in the book immediately. And at the end of each day, I would tally it up and put a happy or sad face if we were under or over! I was just so scared we wouldn't make my brother’s wedding if we spent all the money.
(They made it to the wedding. Thank you notebook!)
(Oh, and they were also rescued from their shipwreck ordeal after spending a few days with the local villagers.)
Relax and Reflect (no charger necessary).
Shipwrecks aside for a moment, there is something delightfully daring and rather refreshing about unplugging from reality and detoxing from your phone when you’re away. Fewer and fewer of us will probably do this now that the data roaming charges in Europe are finally much less than the price of your plane ticket.
But why not keep up the tradition of locking your phone in the hotel safe or banishing it to the bottom of the beach bag and give you brain some time off? Experts have been saying for a while now that you sleep better, concentrate better and are less stressed when you reduce screen time and that’s what holidays are about too, right? More rest and less stress. Why bring the stress with you?
So where does the notebook come in? Well, I tend to use one for quiet contemplation. While the phone is decidedly turned off, my thoughts, dreams, planning, and general contemplation levels are turned on and up.
Lying by the pool or on the beach, you’ve physically taken a step away from day-to-day life, so why not mentally take a step back and assess where your life is at? What tweaks do you need to make to get back on track? How can you take back control of your daily routine and the life you want to lead?
Pour it all out onto paper and shuffle it into some form of order. The effects are restorative, purposeful and surprisingly effective. I always feel ready and raring to go after a holiday when I’ve done this. I don’t feel sad about going home (although I will definitely always, always miss the sun), far from it. I’m excited to take life by the horns when I get back to reality and turn that phone on again. Thank you notebook.
If you have a more active trip planned then why not take a leaf out of Angie and Dave’s book – or notebooks, lots of them? Don’t just take photos write it down, draw it, stick in tickets and memorabilia.
“We travelled with a laptop and Dave tended to write on it as we went then upload it when we were back in civilisation. I kept paper diaries and wrote things down so if he forgot details or timelines etc he could check them with me. I also stuck in every brochure, ticket, pamphlet etc that I came across and love looking back on them.”
There was no electricity in their shipwreck hosts' village - only a heavy duty battery to charge the village TV for the football - so it sounds like Angie's notes really came into their own helping them remember the details of the whole experience. Now everyone can read all about it
A huge thank you to Angie for fishing out all her old notebooks and journals. Just the other day she said, "This whole process has been a really enjoyable trip down memory lane." Our point exactly. Thank you Angie (glad you're safe)! And thank you notebooks!
So whether you’re shipwrecked, on a staycation or something in between, make sure you pack that notebook. Happy travels!
Some Wedding Wisdom from a seasoned Mother-of-the-Bride 0
As it's wedding season, we're saluting the main players of the wedding party over on our Facebook Page where we're also running weekly competitions. This week we shine a light on the Mother of the Bride - without whom, let's face it, there would be no bride.
My own mother is a scary, cuddly pussy cat. An ex-RAF Officer and amazing wife and mother of three, I owe her a lot and she was an incredible "MofB" for me.
Her favourite poem is 'Warning' by Jenny Jones - do you know it? It's the one that starts, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple...". It's an impish, defiant poem about growing old disgracefully and it's scary how closely mum has taken it to heart over the years!
The lady in the poem goes on to threaten spending her pension money on brandy (it's sherry in mum's case) and "hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes" (replace the beermats with notebooks, knitting wool and buttons and you've got mum and her boxes) "And gobble up samples in the shops" (yep, mum again - also a dab hand at clearing hotel rooms of sachets and packets each night with the expectation of full replenishment each morning. She will have an eventual teabag and showercap-stuffed handbag by the end of any holiday).
Oh and mum LOVES purple.
So it's no suprise that this is the notebook that sums her up the best. And it's the one we're giving away on Facebook for our Mother of the Bride Competition.
It's bold, dazzling, and unashamedly bright and well…
... Much like this lovely lady.
I asked her for some Mother-of-the-Bride advice and tips and it made me chuckle that the answers in her email were written in purple! Here's some of her wedding wisdom for this year's MofBs:
How many times have you been mother of the bride?
Of the Bride, twice and of the Groom once and all within the space of 20 months. Add to that the marriage of a niece and God-daughter in the same period and I was becoming an expert who just stopped short from scoring the various elements.
Which was your favourite wedding? You don't have to answer that one!
My own of course! All three of you kids had different styles of weddings but each was special and memorable in its own way.
What were your most memorable moments as Mother-of-the-Bride?
Has to be the chicken!*
To explain, we called mum's bluff on her insistence of a "pretty, fluffy-legged chicken" as a dowry. African grooms would usually be given a long list of dowry requests (money, clothes, alcohol, livestock!) from the bride's family. Instead, Consol went the more western route of ring and down-on-one-knee after asking dad for my hand in marriage. Dad said yes of course. Then mum heard about the dowry tradition and jokingly asked for at least one chicken for her daughter. (Nice to know my worth). Well. She got one. This is a picture of her trying to act very cool about just having been handed a chicken in the middle of the wedding reception.
How did you choose your outfit(s)?
With the father of the bride as my sartorial advisor. Yes, I know that is unusual but it works for us. One fashion related tip - each outfit held special memories which could never be replicated so I decided to freeze those memories by "releasing" the whole outfit the following week to the dress agency. By acting so quickly the outfit was still in season, some other "wedding lady" got a chance of a lovely bargain, I had lovely photos and money back in my purse.
What tips would you give to a mother of the bride-to-be?
Always remember MofB is NOT the star of the day. so never outshine the bride in dress, bling or behaviour. However, you are a very important part of the inner circle and should be dressed rather specially.
White wine is better for spills than red! Go very, very easy on the alcohol. Mother of the Bride enjoying herself helps everybody to relax. Mother of the Bride out of control and drunk not a pretty sight, can lead to all sorts of problems on the day and indeed in the ongoing extended family relationships.
Which one element of wedding etiquette do you like the best and why?
The formal greeting line does help to ensure that you have met everyone (just keep it light and quick). Dad and I worked together to craft the Father's speech and I loved finding the props to illustrate - in Kate's case a copy of her favourite childhood book the Rabbits’ Wedding and a doormat just to name a few.
*Edit: This is mum's version of the chicken experience...
Have you ever had that moment of perfection, fresh from the make-up chair, hair is stunning, your outfit is just wow (even if a tad pricey) and all eyes are on you? Now let’s just overlay that ridiculously smug feeling with a gradual realisation that this could all get rather messy in seconds.
But I get ahead of myself. Daughter No 1 (Mrs. Notebooklove) was about 100 minutes into her marriage to her Congolese husband - all the guys in kilts, speeches in French and English, 18 nationalities present and great cultural engagement all round…….. until the box appeared.
Cries of “foul” at a wedding can be alarming but as the box opened I realised the best man was bringing me an all-together more challenging fowl. Yes, the “notional” dowry payment for our daughter from the groom’s family was a gorgeous and very alive chicken! For just five seconds my face continued to radiantly smile as the brain speed processed: - live chicken; best dress; scratchy claws; sharp beak; the “other end”; must reject; insult the in-laws; international incident; must accept; grand-dad was a farmer; I can do it; clamp the wings; stroke gently, speak softly, smile for the camera; chicken asleep.
No chicken was harmed in the making of this wedding – she had a very happy, egg laying retirement, where she could sometimes be heard clucking of her 5 seconds of fame.
Spot us in this month's issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine! 0
So excited to make a wee appearance in the May issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine! Spot the discount code to save this Spring (also there's free 1st class Royal Mail shipping on all UK orders until 30th April!)