Blog

A different perspective

img_5830

This weekend I got to see my city from a different perspective. This is not a metaphor (but be sure it will soon turn into one!) but a literal statement. I went to explore Williamstown for the first time.

Sure, I have been there once before, but we only walked along the main street before getting the train back. This time we explored. We walked along the sea front, greeted a number of happy dogs out for a walk, and took in the scenery. This is a view of Melbourne I have never seen before and it got me thinking.

It seems that recently, I have had a lot of clients come to me with anxiety about the ‘what ifs’. And more specifically, the ‘what if’ I get anxious. Anxiety is insidious, it breaks you down, it lies in wait until the perfect moment and then it grabs you. It is your most familiar companion, and yet your most unpredictable. And so it is no wonder that people begin to fear panic attacks.

One of the items on the DASS21, a helpful screener for Depression, Anxiety and Stress is:

I was worried about situations in which I might panic and make a fool of myself.

This worry about worry is always fruitless and leads to a cycle of avoidance, greater fear and increased anxiety. And it manifests its own self; it makes itself true.

One of the tools I like to use when I am working with these clients is, at the end of the session, to retell their own story in my words. It usually goes something like this:

Their story:

I was really anxious, so I didn’t go. But then I went later but the whole time I felt like I needed to leave. And I managed to stick it out but I was freaking out the whole time. And when I left I collapsed into bed so exhausted. I really didn’t cope.

My version:

I was worried that I would have a panic attack, so I stayed home for a while, but eventually I thought I could cope, so I went. And when I got there I felt really worried, and thought I would have to leave. But I found some strategies that worked, and I managed to self-regulate enough that I stayed until the end. I kept thinking I would have to leave (I point out that this is a thought, not a feeling) and that I wouldn’t be able to cope. But I did. It was exhausting so I engaged in a lot of self-care afterward. But next time I know I can do it. 

All day long we tell ourselves stories. Some of these are helpful and some of them are not. When you start telling yourself a story ask ‘is this helping me, or holding me back?’. If it is holding you back, acknoweldge that, name the story (ah, my ‘I can’t cope story!! I know that one) and move past it. Remember- you can always change your thoughts!!

If you allow yourself a different perspective, you may actually find that you’re doing better than you realise.

My mental health aim for the month of March is to catch my own stories and change the perspective.

My crafty aim for the month of March is to dust off the camera and start finding a new perspective of the city I live in. The inlaws are around so I will be touristing anyway!

Stuart and his parents on the beach! A reason to be tourists for a day.

Still waters

The beach continues to teach me lessons.

I skipped the gym one night recently and told myself I’d make up for it by going swimming. It was warm and I had cycled home, so I was pretty sweaty and looking forward to a cleansing dip. I walked down to the beach and was amazed by the stillness of the water. The water gently lapped at the shore. This is gonna be great, I thought to myself. No scary waves to knock me over, nothing to pull me out to sea. I found a spot without many rocks and waded in. I dunked my head a couple times until I felt cooler. Then I figured it was time to get some of that exercise I’d promised myself, so I earnestly started doing breast stroke (I never quite mastered this stroke in swimming lessons). I was just starting to get into a groove, when I felt a scratchy sensation in my armpit, that very quickly turned into a stinging sensation. I looked around in the water for the culprit, but couldn’t see anything around me, or anywhere else. As the stinging turned to burning, I muttered the F word repeatedly and headed for shore.

Hugh had told me previously that there are no jellyfish in South Australia that can kill you. Which is very reassuring, until you get stung by a jellyfish and your entire arm is on fire and tingling and feels like it might go numb and angry red welts are forming from your elbow, up through your armpit and all the way down the side of your left boob and it’s throbbing. Then it’s suddenly not so reassuring. And when your husband is on Kangaroo Island with limited cell service and he doesn’t answer the phone and you’re trying not to panic as you google “jellyfish sting” and find no helpful information, it can be difficult to know what to do. Having this little factoid tucked away in the recesses of your brain might convince you that it’s not an emergency, but is kind of a problem, so you look for a non-emergency health hotline to call, but the recorded introductory message goes on for so long that you think your arm might fall off or the neurotoxins might reach your heart and cause it to stop beating before someone actually answers the phone, so you hang up in frustration and panic and dial emergency services because you think there’s a slight possibility that maybe you might just die, or at least lose an arm. And the operator answers and asks if you need fire, police, or ambulance and your voice is a mixture of panic and embarrassment as you explain to her that you’re not actually sure if it is an emergency…


So yeah, I called an ambulance. And the paramedics were very sympathetic and understanding as they iced my arm and assured me that I probably wasn’t going to die, but that there wasn’t much I could do beyond putting vinegar and ice on it.

Here’s the lesson to be found in all this: You’re never fucking safe! Even in still waters, there are perils lurking. Even when life seems calm, you can’t let your guard down! Something might just attack you in the armpit!

Or, the alternative lessons could be: actually, you’re fine. Even when things are shit, and they hurt a lot, you’re probably not gonna die, so that’s a win overall, right?

The photo above was taken two days after the incident. The wound continued to sting for a few days, but then slowly started improving, until eight days after the incident, when I discovered that jellyfish stings are a gift that keeps on giving! Apparently, it’s relatively common to have a delayed hypersensitivity reaction about a week later. And this can recur for up to two months!

TWO MONTHS!! So this is me 11 days later, just pretty much loving life.

Clearing the mental clutter

{post by Karen}

I’m planning to do a proper blog post soon (a follow-up to Learning to Surf, wherein I have my first truly Australian wildlife experience), but I just read this post from Ryder at The Bulletjournalist and it struck a chord, so I thought I’d share.

mental-clutter

The article is about mental clutter and the way it can hold us back. It recommends decluttering by writing down all of the to-do items that are swirling around in your head,  then getting Marie Kondo on it.

  • Is this task vital?
  • Does it really matter to me or someone I love?

If not, let it go.

It’s like throwing out all the stuff you don’t love when you’re moving homes. Cut the dead weight. Bring only the things that continue to inspire you.

Ahh, doesn’t it feel great to bask in the peacefulness inside our cleared heads? haha! Funny joke, right? Okay, so maybe it sometimes takes a bit more than just writing things down. Prioritising your tasks is certainly important, but I often find that I’m still overwhelmed by my task list, even when I ignore those items that are less important. So what’s the solution?

Let’s have a look back at Julia’s post from last May, about finding Yin. She recommends making purposeful changes, taking deliberate actions to break ourselves out of stress-induced ruts. It almost doesn’t really matter what the action is, whether it crosses anything off your to-do list, as long as you have mindfully made a decision to do something, as opposed to mindlessly doing anything to avoid making decisions. I don’t know about you guys, but I find that making a conscious, deliberate effort to accomplish one thing, regardless of what it is, helps me to find the brain-space to tackle my to-do list. It seems the more I do, the more energy I have. How does that work?

Mushroom in forest.jpg

Maybe I get so overwhelmed by the things I need to remember to do, that I can’t see the wood for the trees. But if I pick a tree, any old tree, and give it my mindful attention, the rest of the forest becomes clearer. And I guess that the whole point of mindful practice – focusing on one single thing, in order to clear the mental clutter, so that everything else in our lives becomes clearer.

Making History

Yesterday we made history.

For the first time ever, women have been given the opportunity to play Australian Rules Football at an elite level. The inaugural AFLW match took place last night at Princes Park, and I was there to witness it.

This event was momentous. Not only for women in sport in general, but particularly in this sport. The AFL is famously and notoriously laden with misogyny. There has not been a season where a player, coach or commentator has not been involved in violence against women (actioned or threatened – although they may claim they were only ‘joking’).

And when the inaugaural AFLW season was mooted even those in the higher echelons of the AFL stated that it would only be popular if the women ‘wore lycra’ to make it more interesting.

So this was the weekend where Melbourne got a chance to prove the haters wrong. And they did!

Over 24,000 people turned up to see Carlton defeat Collingwood. I couldn’t get a tram from work and had to walk 4km with hundreds of other people to get there. Once I did arrive, I only just made it through the gates before they shut them. They ran out of beer 8 minutes into the first quarter. People gathered outside the ground and waited, patiently, for security to confirm whether they would be allowed in.

The organisers underestimated us. They didn’t take account of the power of the people and they lost sight of this city’s sentiments. We love sport. We love competition. And we (increasingly) love equality. Admittedly there is still a long journey ahead of us but at least we are now having the conversation.

If you do anything over the next few weeks, get to a game. Support women in sport. Show the powers that be that we are passionate about equality of opportunity (and not only when they wear Lycra!). Let’s make this a success.

View from the old stand at the inaugural AFLW match. Feb 3 2017.

Learning to surf

[post by Karen]

A stranger once asked me what brought me to Melbourne (I’m American), and when I told her that I followed a boy from Edinburgh to Adelaide, and then to Melbourne because he got a job there, she responded dismissively, “Oh, so you’re just along for the ride.”

As someone who has uprooted her life several times to live in a variety of locations around the world, usually on her own, I felt defensive. I’m not along for the ride, I thought to myself. I’m…I’m surfing. I’m catching waves!

Now, I don’t actually know how to surf. And I’m what Julia calls “cognitively inflexible.” I react badly, even rudely, when things don’t go the way I expect them to. At times, I’m wholly incapable of going with the flow, riding the waves as they come. Which is why I’m attracted to the practice of mindfulness – I hope that it can help me increase my cognitive flexibility.

I’ve quite liked using surfing as a metaphor for life. I’m terrible at surfing, and it scares the crap out of me. Just like life! Then I discovered that the man who brought mindfulness to the western world, Jon Kabat-Zinn, uses a surfing metaphor for finding balance in life. He says:

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

This month, I moved to the beach. It’s seriously, seriously amazing. I love it. But the first week we were here, I went down for a swim alone and discovered that (a) the beach is super rocky down this end, and (b) waves are f@$&ing terrifying! They are powerful and relentless and unforgiving. I couldn’t find footing on the slippery rocks before the next wave came crashing into me, and in the end, I gave up after 10 or 15 minutes having ventured less than a meter into the surf and having been knocked down several times. I decided that waves are a terrible metaphor for life! They pound and pound and pound you until you have no hope and no energy left. Who wants a life like that?

And then I went down to the beach a couple days later and discovered something I should have known already – the waves change. From hour to hour, from day to day, they change direction, speed, size, force. Some days there’s hardly more than an innocent roll of green pushing to shore. And if you walk up our beach several metres, you get to a long stretch with none of those slippery, pointy rocks.

That’s a lot like life, isn’t it? Some days, it’s gorgeous and gentle and clear and you feel like you could do this forever, just floating along with no worries. And other days knock the wind out of you, barrel roll you, drag you across the rocks, pull you out to where you can’t reach the ground anymore. Some days, there are sharks.

And that gets at Kabat-Zinn’s point about balance. Living a balanced life isn’t about removing the things that cause us pain or stress or suffering. It’s about learning to deal with them, knowing they are temporary. It’s about taking the good with the bad, riding the highs and the lows, knowing that this too shall pass.

I’ve had a lot of great ups lately, but this weekend has left me feeling out to sea. I can barely process what is happening in my home country right now. But I need to learn to take the lows in stride, for my mental health. I need to learn to ride the waves that come, and see if I can’t use them to my advantage. Maybe even have a bit of fun with life!

How (not) to store your wool…

As Karen alluded to in her last post (a super helpful tutorial!) this blog post is about Type A vs Type B personalities.

Personality Psychology is a huge area of psychology and this is not the space to dissect, or even explain, what it is about. Wikipedia is always your friend so if you are interested in learning more please feel free to head over here for more information!

For brevity (and wit) today I will be focusing on one particular personality theory: Type A and Type B Personality Theory.

You may have heard of this theory before as it is a common one. What you may not know is that it was developed not by psychologists but by cardiologists! Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman conducting a longitudinal study into risk factors for heart attacks and found that more competitive, ambitious or aggressive men were twice as likely to have a heart attack than those that are more relaxed. They labeled these as Type As and Type Bs respectively.

Since then these personality types have been researched extensively and Friedman even went on to write a book about Type A behaviour as something that can be pathologised and treated.

So here we come to wool.

I think it is safe to say that Karen would define herself as a Type A personality: organised, sensitive, anxious. While I think I could safely define myself as a Type B personality: reflective, impulsive, disorganised. And there is no better place that this manifests than in our approach to knitting.

Karen has a beautiful craft room with everything in its own place, she keeps here WIPs (Works In Progress) in bags so that they can be stored tidily, and she sometimes even winds her skeins of yarn more neatly before knitting with them!

dsc_0336

I, on the other hand do none of the above. My friend Molly does a lovely impersonation of me storing my knitting. It looks a bit like a person scrunching up a piece of paper and ‘shoving’ it in a bag. She even uses the word ‘shoving’ to describe what I do. Invariably this leads to frustrating tangles that take hours to unwind, but I never learn. Because I am spontaneous, I rarely think ahead and so I keep doing it because it’s easier and faster in that moment.

16177476_10209430983584451_3118821498923985917_o

This is where I depart from Friedman and Rosenman. They saw Type A as a problem and Type B as desirable. However, they were cardiologists, not psychologists (and definitely not crafters). I can definitely see the merits in being more organised and more of a planner. While I am often less stressed in any given moment, I would probably (definitely) save more time if I was organised.

As with anything, maybe it is about balance. It’s probably just a behaviour that I could choose to practice (because by now you all know that behaviour is a choice!) and so I continue to work on it. In the meantime I will continue to be a source of much mirth to all my friends and my husband as, interestingly, they are almost all Type As.

And to inspire me to change my unhelpful behaviours, if anyone has any wonderful wool-spiration or craft rooms-to-die-for, please comment and show me a photo or a link below!!

Interested in finding out what personality type you are? click here for a quiz

If you want to know more about different personality theories check out:

The Personality Project (http://www.personality-project.org/index.html

Simply Psychology (http://www.simplypsychology.org/personality-theories.html)

Tutorial: headphone wrap

Julia is planning to post next week about the difference between Type A and Type B personalities, but to pre-empt her a bit, I’ll go ahead and state that I’m definitely a Type A. As such, I have a lot of silly, little pet peeves. One of them is the way headphone cords always get horribly tangled, no matter how neatly you wrap and store them. Why do phone companies insist on using that weird rubber coating that grabs itself and never lets go?!

Years ago, I followed a tutorial for covering headphone cords with yarn or thread. It used a knot that I used as a child to make friendship bracelets, the hitch knot. This creates a wrap around the cord, with a row of knots that spiral down the cord.


(My old headphones)

For Christmas, I got a new phone. Which came with new headphones. And I saw a new tutorial for wrapping headphones on Pinterest, using a crochet stitch!
The thing is, I’m well known for not being a fan of crochet. While playing softball, my husband liked to confuse the other team by shouting, “Smash the ball, Karen – imagine it’s crochet!” But I see the value of crochet when used for embellishment, and when I saw Kirsten Kapur’s photos of her phone charger cord wrapped with variegated wool in gorgeous colours, I was in love. I like the way the row of knots doesn’t spiral around the cord, but can sit in a happy, straight line.

The instructions from Kirsten are simple: tie a knot around the cord, then do single crochet along the length of the cord. Too easy, right? Hm, maybe if you’re familiar with crochet. For a croch-hater like me, even that simple instruction stumped me. Yeah, I know how to do the single crochet, but around a cord? It took me a good 15 minutes of experimenting to figure it out. So I thought I’d supply some step-by-step instructions, for those interested in giving it a try.


First, tie your yarn around your cord and double-knot it.


Second, hold the crochet hook and leading yarn in your right hand, and the cord in your left. (I don’t have a tripod so the photos were a bit tricky!) Dip the crochet hook under the cord and wrap the yarn around it once.


Third, pull the hook back towards you and position above the cord (the yarn will be coming from behind the cord now).


Fourth, wrap the yarn around the crochet hook, and pull through the first loop.



This is your first stitch. Yay, pat yourselves on the back!

Fifth, dip the hook under the cord again, and wrap the wool around once. Pull the hook towards you and above the cord again, and wrap the yarn once more. Then pull that through both of the other loops on the hook. This is the single crochet stitch.


Repeat step five (the single crochet) all the way up the cord:  dip, wrap, up, wrap, and through. And that’s it!


Kirsten edited her original post after she got concerns from readers that the wool on her cord might cause static electricity, which, I don’t know, I guess could spark and cause a fire. That’s probably a legitimate concern; what do I know? So here’s a disclaimer: I take no responsibility if you blow up your phone or computer or house. Cotton is probably a safer option than wool as a quick google search informs me that it is neutral and does not create static electricity, unlike wool, which causes a moderate amount of static. I foolishly covered my cords in quite a hairy, fuzzy wool, so I’m really living life on the edge!

Wrapping your cords doesn’t mean they won’t get tangled, but they shouldn’t grip themselves and stop you from untangling them. Which makes this Miss Type A very happy!

Group work: Or ‘How to Knit a Dress’

‘It takes a village to raise a child’
Or apparently, to knit a dress for one.

For almost all of us working in a group is a part of every day life. Whether it be in sport, at work or in our leisure time. In my work I often do group sessions as well as individual therapy, and the two are completely different tasks. In trying to achieve an outcome as part of a group we are often more exhausted than if we had done it ourselves (in fact, a lot of the time we will do things ourselves just because of this!). But is there value in group work?

I would like to think so. When we work as a group we open ourselves to new viewpoints; we access new knowledge that can give us an advantage or lead to innovation and we can achieve more in the long run.
dsc_0101

Caroline, collaborator and knitter-extraordinaire-in-the-making

My most exciting piece of teamwork recently was a knitting project. Caroline is part of our informal knitting group but is a new knitter and as is often the case, can lack the confidence to throw herself into new challenges. She is incredibly committed to only ever knitting in the round- but has produced some incredible hats!

I tend to try a new knitting technique with each new project. This can often lead to disasters and abandoned projects, but it keeps me out of trouble!
So together we agreed to knit a dress for Rose (daughter to a mutual friend in the UK, Tori). The idea was that Caroline would do the bottom bit because it was all knit in the round, and I would do the top bits. In the end I also got to pass on the joining and sewing in the ends, which was perfect as it’s my least favourite part of knitting.

img_5331-2
The pattern we followed was taken from Fawn Pea over at blogspot (www.fpea.blogspot.com.au) and was her ‘Apiary Jumper’. The wool I used was a variegated yarn in 8 ply (sadly I have forgotten the brand, it was bought from Baa Baa Wool in Warragul, Victoria). It was super simple to knit and didn’t require much finishing. I think everyone will agree she looks adorable in the dress!

But what did I learn from this experience and how does it relate to what we already know about group work?

Firstly, yes, I could have done this dress myself, but it was so much more fun doing a group project! And Caroline even had a go at a new decrease so it pushed her out of her comfort zone.

Secondly, I do work wonderfully well to deadlines. I finished the straps in a shop just before seeing Tori for lunch. Literally 10 minutes to spare. Caroline did the finishing in the pub while we ate lunch! (Thank goodness she always carries a tapestry needle with her.)

And finally, I learned that, even when you think your group is small, you often have to draw on outside resources to get a project completed. It turns out this project needed not only me and Caroline but also three friends just to unravel my very messy wool (I’d blame the kittens but it’s not all their fault), Tori’s mum to sew the buttons on and our team of support knitters (especially Karen) to help us decode the unfamiliar bits of the pattern!

img_5169

Steve, PK and Polly (not pictured) all chipped in to untangle the wool! Thanks 🙂

I want to leave you with a bit on what we do know about group work:

In this project one very important idea was the concept of team cognition is important; this includes not only what the group knows, but also the idea that everyone in the group knows what the others know (i.e. they don’t assume people have knowledge when they don’t), and how they share what they do know. During the knitting stage Caroline, Karen and I communicated regularly to help each other with fixing mistakes we made (dropped stitches etc), as well as reading the pattern. Having this network is so helpful in any project or skill.

Other important factors in effective teams identified in the literature are autonomy, participation, cohesiveness/cooperation, increased diversity and shared norms (standards shared by group members). Interestingly rewards and presence of group conflict often do not lead to reduced group effectiveness. In this project we worked wonderfully as a team and the reward was seeing Rose in her dress. (If you want more information on the above feel free to do further reading, maybe start at DeChurch & Mesmer-Magnus, 2010, or Cohen & Bailey, 1997 for a meta-analysis and further detail.)

And don’t forget to tune in next week to find out just why my wool is such a mess.
(hint: this isn’t the only reason…)
img_4076

Gratitude

This post has been a while in the coming, which will be evident if you know anything about Australian music. But I wrote this plane on the way to London for Christmas when I had a chance to actually sit down and do something for myself and now that I am back from holiday it was time to get blogging!

This is a post about gratitude. There is no doubt that gratitude is one of those ‘buzz’ concepts that is everywhere. Lots of shops sell gratitude journals and there are now a huge range of courses on gratitude. But what is it?

img_0001

The obvious answer is that it is the act of being grateful for the things that are in your life. The ‘why does it work’ is slightly more complex. No one quite understands yet what predisposes people to being positive or negative thinkers (or whether it is nurture or nature) but the implications for happiness are vast (think back to my first post on CBT for an explanation as to for the reason why).

The most interesting thing about this is that it is relatively simple to retrain your brain to think more positively. One study showed that simply thinking about something for which you are grateful for 20 minutes (this was repeated weekly for three weeks in the study) led to profound neurological changes in the medial prefrontal cortex months after the intervention (see Kini et al., 2016 for details).

I work with my clients on this consistently; and have taken to starting every session by asking my clients to ‘name three good things that have happened this week’. The hope is that they will then find it easier to identify the positives in their life once they leave the room.

Recently I was in Sydney for the most amazing experience. My friend, Molly, invited me up to Sydney to see the Crowded House concert. This was a reunion show following their farewell show in the same place 20 years earlier. The position was on the steps of the Opera House, which was amazing!   

We got to watch the sunset over the harbour and then to see one of the most iconic Australian bands play an incredible set. The band are fantastic showmen and the gig was relatively small and intimate. In addition to this Molly’s uncle is actually in the band so we got to go backstage after and I got this signed shirt for my dad (who is a huge fan!).

img_5116

Needless to say I am grateful for the experience, for having friends who invite me to these things and for having the means to be able to fly up to Sydney to go to the show. It was an incredible experience that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

But it is important to focus on the small things that give you pleasure as well.

While I was in Sydney I picked up these adorable Gratitude cards from Kikki K which I have been using (almost) every day. They encourage you to be grateful for tiny things (one of my favourites was ‘what texture are you grateful for?’ – I was wearing a new hoodie at the time and that warm fuzzy new hoodie feeling came straight to mind!) and to practice retraining your brain to be more positive. 

So take away lesson for today is: practice gratitude, think about what you have that you are grateful for, not what you don’t have. It can be an amazing experience or a tiny sensation. But practice daily positivity. While writing this blog post the following quote captured my attention:

‘what if you woke up tomorrow with only what you were grateful for today?’

How I attempt to stay organised

{post by Karen}

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to buy a new diary!

This will come as a surprise to few, but I’m a stationery addict. I have a bookshelf full of untouched or partially completed notebooks, and I keep buying more. Last night, I dreamt that I was shopping for my 2017 diary, and after browsing a couple options, decided to take the advice of two Asian shoppers who didn’t speak English, but led me to the cutest option (the best diaries come out of Asia).

The thing is, I’m very picky about my diaries. I want them to be cute, keep me interested all year long with a variety of engaging illustrations, and they need to be functional. Because I work in research, my job on any given day or week might involve a great variety of different types of tasks associated with several different research projects. Some will be urgent, some won’t be. In 2015, in my quest to find the perfect diary, I purchased three different diaries and debated buying a fourth. Sadly, I still haven’t found a yearly diary to meet all my preferences, but there are some good compromises out there.

Now, I realise that getting or staying organised is a completely personal, individualised process. Everyone does it differently. Some thrive without doing it at all. But here’s what I look for in a diary, in an attempt to keep myself organised and on track. For the record, I used to use an A6 weekly diary, because I like things to be as small as possible, and that suited my needs for a while, back when I worked in retail or worked on one specific research project. Then things started getting busier and more varied at work, my social life got busier (thanks softball!), I joined the softball team committee, and I started planning a wedding. Suddenly, there wasn’t enough space on the page!

What I look for in a diary

  • A5 size – alllllll the space!
  • A monthly view – I use this to see the month’s birthdays at a glance, and to keep track of my finances. I use an orange erasable gel pen to mark spending, and a green one to record income and totals.
  • Day-to-a-page views – again, allllll the space. Here, I can keep track of meetings as well as specific tasks to accomplish. Work tasks go up top, and things to complete at home go towards the bottom. I also track daily spending on my Qantas cash card (frequent flyer points, y’all!)
  • Address pages – yeah, I know this is a bit of analog redundancy, since I keep all my friends’ and family’s addresses in my phone. But I’m a pen and paper enthusiast and it makes me happy to recopy them every year, not to mention reminding me to update addresses.
  • Notes pages – confession: I keep all my online passwords in my diary. They’re in shorthand so you couldn’t guess them, but I use this cheat sheet CONSTANTLY, at least a couple times a week.
  • Two ribbon bookmarks
  • An envelope for bits and bobs

When I write a task in my diary, I put a box next to it. When I complete the task, I put a check in the box. If I don’t complete the task that day but still need to do it, I put an arrow in the box and copy the task to the following day (I put feathers on my arrows so they’re cuter 😊). Tasks that are no longer relevant can just be crossed out, or ones that have been scheduled to deal with later can be marked with a circle. I’m not great at this but it’s a good idea to keep tasks bite-sized and specific, so that you can check them off easily and get the satisfaction of feeling like you’ve accomplished things.

I’ve used kikki.K diaries for the last few years, and I do love them, especially their Sweet range (unfortunately, there’s not a Sweet daily diary). In 2016, I used their A5 daily diary. I could have bought the same one this year (and in mint), but I found it a bit…dull. I considered getting their Cute daily diary, but it’s not super professional. I decided to check Notemaker for other options, and found a Japanese diary that I decided to take a chance on. I’m so glad I did! I can’t say it’s less dull than the basic kikki.K diary, but it’s smaller in width, height and thickness (did I mention I like compact things?) while still having plenty of space on the page. The cover is soft, which pleases me. It has all the elements I look for, plus more yearly and monthly planning pages, more notes pages, more space for addresses, a world map with time zones, and subway maps for all the major cities of the world! Just in case I find myself in Tokyo or Paris. It evens tells me famous people who were born or died on any given day. The only thing it’s missing is an envelope at the back, but I can easily paste  a cute one in.

Want to learn more about staying organised using good old fashioned pen and paper?