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Hello, my name is Sandy.

Of fun times and fresh starts

The sun set strongly on the year. We spent Christmas week in Sydney, with most of the days down at the farm. I've never been there in the summer, and it was remarkably green versus what I was expecting. We spent the days eating and drinking and giving each other shit, then kicked off the evenings with tranquil hill views.

This is the first Christmas I've been away from my folks (not counting the year we went to Japan cos we still had a family Christmas a couple days before) and I missed them terribly. But I can't complain too much. I have three families now, and they're all pretty rad. Getting to hang out with the family with brothers was a rare treat I'm so grateful for.

rifle targets set up along a fence

We played with an air rifle on Christmas day. I bloody loved it. I have great plans to visit a gun range sometime this year and learn the art of marksmanship.

And I played heaps of Avernum: Escape from the Pit. It was exquisite to sink my head into a game and decompress - and get a strategy RPG fix to tide me over until my next D&D session. It was a bit surreal playing computer games and surfing the net at high speed in the sticks.

You know what was awesome, though? Writing. I only did a bit, but did it under a tree surrounded by birds and nature sounds. Is it the most productive way to write? Probably not. But wow, it felt good and I hope to make writing holidays a more regular thing.

a street performer squeezing herself into a tiny box

Back in the city, we saw a contortionist squeeze herself into a little box. I don't usually stop for busker shows, but I couldn't help it for this one. It was odd and unique, and kind of amazing to see what the (someone else's) human body can do.

giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit

Also saw a giant Sylvanian Chocolate Rabbit, which, after spending the last few months following @forest_fr1ends, was utter perfection. Merry Christmas, tw*ts.

planner, notebook and pen

Aaaaaaand now we're home and ready to start 2017 with a bang. Already, I've been rock climbing (bouldering), geocaching, karaoke-ing and gaming with friends, and it's only been two days.

I now have a navy blue Hobonichi Weeks and a cheapo little notebook to keep me on track, along with clear, achievable goals and some strategies for accomplishing them. I have felt like I could be doing more, working smarter, working harder... I wrote some thoughts about it in Soft Signal.

I've started asking myself, "What do I want to get out of this X?" Where X could be the day, the week, the month, the quarter. Let me share a couple of things I hope to get out of this week:

  • Working on my novel
  • Gaming with friends done 2/01
  • A crafternoon done 2/01
  • Working on my Pico-8 game
  • Visiting the Ninja Academy done 7/01
  • Visiting a shooting range (or at least finding a good one to check out)

What do you want to get out of this week/this month/this year? Find me on social media and let's chat about it.

My planning stack

Last year, I joined a planning group for ideas on how to organise my life better. Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like. It's a group for people who are into planners, diaries, notebooks, stationery, art and crafting. Want to see?

Anyway, when you delve deeper into the 'planning' lifestyle, you come across a concept known as 'planner peace'. Even without being ga-ga over this hobby, I instinctively knew what they meant by this. I think anyone with even a mild planning lilt will understand.

It's where you don't wish your planner, diary, notebook or journal was bigger. Or smaller. Or simpler. Or more colourful. The layout, shape, look and feel are perfect for the way you work, and simply flow into your day. You don't spend your time wrestling with your tools - you just use them as tools, with all your energy directed at the stuff you need to do.

So, with planner peace in the back of my mind, I muddled around with stationery, trying to tune into my needs as someone who is more maker than manager, yet only feels comfortable making when things are adequately managed. I think I've finally found a system that suits the way I work.

Planner peace is different for everyone, because we all do things differently, but I wanted to share what's working for me at this point in my life.

Life buckets with Post-It notes

my simplified life bucket system, expressed in post-its

Before adopting this system, I grouped everything by project. I have a habit of taking on too many projects at once, and things got unwieldy. I was constantly overwhelmed. Life buckets isn't a real system, just something I made up to try and cut down the number of categories I was working with. I wrote every major or interesting area of my life on a post-it note - football, martial arts, big projects, little projects - and stuck them on the wall.

Then I grouped them by similarity. Crochet, knitting and sewing, for example, could go together. I'm in the same headspace when I do those things, and tend to talk about them with the same people. My sports could have been grouped together, but they each linked to different activities and were connected to different groups of people, so I kept them apart.

Finally, I replaced each group of post-its with a new post-it bearing a collective name of the group. I ended up with 15 'buckets' - mental containers for stuff I do - a damn sight better than 30 odd projects. My life made more sense now, and I could see roughly where I was distributing my time. The buckets don't stop me from trying new things; they keep me aware of the sorts of things I gravitate toward, and provide a handy reference for ensuring I don't get lazy with stuff that's important to me.

Over the next 6 months, I refined my buckets so I wasn't juggling 15 things. I regrouped, renamed, made conscious lifestyle changes that would reflect the bucket pattern I wanted to see when I looked at my wall. I whittled 15 down to 12, and now I'm at 9.

I see this as applying konmari to an abstract model of my life. It seems to be working. When I feel I'm spending too much time writing, I move onto making or self-care. Or hanging out with my cats.

Week planning with Hobonichi Weeks

Hobonichi Weeks planner next to my old Filofax Metropol Pocket

Morning, afternoon and night. That's how I like to plan my time. In blocks, with respect to the week. Enter Hobonichi Techo Weeks, with days already split up into three portions, enough room to write and doodle, and a page just for notes. The special Tomoe River paper is super light, and bleed resistant. I can use watercolours on it, and the other side is still OK. Ah, combining work admin and art. Love it.

The whole Hobonichi Weeks book is as thick as my finger. Which makes it much easier to carry around than the Filofax Metropol Pocket I used to use.

my thick Filofax

Reference keeping with Filofax

doodles and recipes in my Filofax

I don't blame my Filofax for not planning my week very well. It wasn't what I bought it for. Originally, I wanted it as a reference diary - a place to keep evergreen information. As my penpals started sending me recipes and notes, I needed a place to stash them.

The default ruler marks the stuff I'm in the midst of using. If I'm in a cooking phase, for example, I'll stick it in there. I use a variety of page markers too for quick opening - washi and paper tabs, a magnetic clasp, and two conspicuously pink flamingo paper clips.

There are sections for penpalling (postage prices, notes), go-to recipes and cooking times, and project notes. Plus a few business cards and ephemera in the front pockets. Nice chunky, tactile storage for chunks of information.

Tracking with Wunderlist and IDoneThis

my wunderlist for today

My Wunderlist is a dumping ground for the tasks of today, tomorrow, next week, next year, whenever, whatever, blah! When I'm in a listy mood, I create a new list just for the day (or weekend, or week) and fill it with new items plus some old items from the dump list (labelled "Waiting list" in the picture).

At the end of the day, I do a little debrief on IDoneThis. Is it superfluous? Maybe. Is it helpful? Yes. It preserves the daily Agile scrum from my dev life, combined with a Done List approach.

Art journaling with Hobonichi Techo

a spread from my art journal

This isn't strictly planning, but sometimes treads into that territory. It helps me organise my thoughts and frame my perspective on things. I use an A5 Hobonichi Cousin Avec for a cross between scrapbooking and art journalling. I note high points, low points, ponder points, thoughts and lessons, and surround them in shape, colour and texture. The end result is visual and kinaesthetic feedback, simple mementos that trigger memories and mood. I guess it triggers a different part of my brain to when I'm just reading words, and I like having those zones lit up.

The d2p (day to a page) limit forces me to focus on what I can fit in a restricted space. I like having a lot of room, but I'm going small next year, downsizing to an A6 Avec.

Standard journalling with Moleskine and a fauxdori

my moleskine journal

Finally, my trusty pretty-much-text-plus-some-doodle journal for freestyle notes and thoughts. I use blank pocket-sized Moleskine Cahier notebooks or homemade hand-bound notebooks, strapped into a leather fauxdori.

A fauxdori is a homemade version of a Midori Traveller's Notebook, for people who want sizes, colours and materials that Midori don't offer. I got mine from Paperflower Design Studio and was delighted to learn they're based in WA. Yay, supporting local craftspeople!

I wish I had known more about leather when I bought it. I'm curious now about the tanning and sourcing process. But live and learn. I shall have to take good care of this fauxdori for a long time out of respect for the animals and people who produced it.

photo of my hobonichi from the side

So that's my planning stack.

I'm sure it sounds epic and redundant to most people, but there's not a lot going on here that requires any effort. Each of these tools fits nicely into the way I go about my day, freeing up my headspace or offering a welcome distraction when I just want a pen in my hand.

And when I don't feel like being facilitated at all, I simply shut down, close the books, make tea, and not think about any of it. I've come to accept that my habits are temporal - I need gridlines sometimes, blank spaces other times. I need structure and logic, and then for all that to get out of the way while I'm in the zone. I do words and pictures, and transition between long-term and short-term thinking. So this mishmash of tools suits me fine. I am enjoying my planner peace... for now.

100 Days of Teacup (Set 5)

Brush strokes set

Fuck yeah, I am done. Pardon my language, but after 100 days of commitment, I feel I've earned a few swear words. Promise I won't spend them all at once.

This is set 5.

Day 81: Coloured shapes cutouts

Day 81: Coloured shapes cutouts. Decorated my sketchbook with pieces of a Kikki-K sticker book cover.

Day 82: A teacup-shaped cryptic crossword about tea

Day 82: A teacup-shaped cryptic crossword about tea. I put a lot of effort into this, yet still it might not be any good. There's a printable at bit.ly/crypteacrossword if this is your sort of thing.

Day 83: Stolen coaster

Day 83: Stolen coaster from Dominion League in Perth.

Day 84: Brush strokes 2

Day 84: Brush strokes 2. Acrylic on canvas. Working on a set from day 68http://sanlive.com/100-days-of-teacup-set-4/.

Day 85: Brush strokes 3

Day 85: Brush strokes 3. Acrylic on canvas.

Day 86: Brush strokes 4

Day 86: Brush strokes 4. Acrylic on canvas. The set is complete!

Day 87: Hobonichi teacup

Day 87: Hobonichi teacup. I am in love with my Hobonichi AVEC Cousin, a beautiful planner/notebook from Japan.

Day 88: Stencil teacup

Day 88: Stencil teacup, done with my 20-year old Caran D'ache crayons. The stencilling was what sold me on them - soft gradients, lovely colours.

Day 89: Teacups in my house 1

Day 89: Teacups in my house 1. A drawing in a mini-zine.

Day 90: Teacup on a woven table

Day 90: Teacup on a woven table. This table was given to us by previous neighbours as they were moving house. The woven top is rotting away; I plan to replace it with wood. Maybe jarrah or plain ol' pine, or whatever nice thing they have at Perth Wood School.

Day 91: Sewing drawing

Day 91: Sewing drawing. Kind of fun Would try again.

Day 92: Teacups in my house 2

Day 92: Teacups in my house 2. "Lintu" is Finnish for bird. :)

Day 93: The calm centre with tea

Day 93: The calm centre with tea. I received a letter from my penpal in The Netherlands. It had some stickers in it, one of which was a teacup!

Day 94: Tea and craggy biscuits

Day 94: Tea and craggy biscuits. Fountain pen ink on cotton paper.

Day 95: Fabric ink on calico

Day 95: Fabric ink on calico. Drawing testers for a sewing project.

Day 96: Waiting for tea

Day 96: Waiting for tea. Watercolour on cotton paper.

Day 97: Strawberry cup

Day 97: Strawberry cup, to match my new strawberry tower in the garden.

Day 98: Teacups in my house 3

Day 98: Teacups in my house 3.

Day 99: Teacups in my house 4

Day 99: Teacups in my house 4. There's actually a 5th type of teacup in my house too, but it's not very interesting to draw, and I can only fit 4 in the mini-zine.

Day 100: Acrylic on wood

Day 100: Acrylic on wood.

And that's it. :)))

Finishing felt great. Spending the following evening without this on my mind felt even greater. I went to training, I came home, I went to bed - THAT WAS IT.

Brush strokes set

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Not sure if Confucius actually said that, but it's a nice thought, especially in the context of this exercise. I started my 100 days hoping to develop more creative habits in my everyday life.

At the start, I was nervous about art, about my ideas being lame. But pretty quickly, it became apparent how little that matters. Coincidentally, perhaps through the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, this became apparent in other areas of my life too - that it doesn't matter if the idea is crap. You having done something makes it significantly better, and often enough, what you end up with will suffice.

In the weeks that followed, I realised art doesn't have to be complex or difficult. You can do some pretty cool things without too much effort or commitment. Sure, inspiration and innovation are fun, but it takes perseverance and focus to turn them into something you can appreciate. Effort makes an idea matter.

Reassuring, isn't it? To know you've already succeeded at something just by having a go. Whether you hit the target is immaterial - you could well hit it on your next go. Of course, we're only talking about trying out art projects here. Don't take this mentality to the Roulette table.

It's only been a few days since the project ended, but more than before, I feel in the habit of creating. I can't attribute this to any one cause. Having such an intense track record gets me feeling more capable and motivated. But it could just as easily be that my art supplies are conveniently arranged now, so it's easier to dive in and make something. Maybe it's simply coincidence, a by-product of our new house having a better layout and more room for tools. Maybe it's the combination of all these things.

Thank you, everyone, for your support, hearts, likes, comments, and advice. I'm glad I had a go. Whether the new habits stick remains to be seen, but for the moment, I got what I wanted out of it. And now I'm going to savour the feeling of it being over. :)

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