Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Problematic Pen: Stabilo Colorgel 0.4mm

I would like to show you a writing sample of the Stabilo Colorgel.  Unfortunately, I am unable to do so.  The problem?  The pen doesn't work.


Let's start at the beginning.  I bought this pen a couple months ago, at the university bookstore.  I tried it out in the store; the line seemed a bit fatter than 0.4mm, but it wrote fairly smoothly and the ink was a nice dark green colour.  I brought it home, and wrote with it off and on over the next couple of weeks or so.  A couple problems soon appeared.  The first was that the Stabilo Colorgel was not consistent in its writing ability - sometimes it wrote smoothly, sometimes the ink flow became much slower and the pen felt much scratchier.  The other problem was that the cap gradually became looser and looser until eventually it didn't fit at all and fell off if I turned the pen upside down.  The cap still posted on the back of the pen, not that it did me much good.


The semester ended, and I headed back home for the summer.  The pen sat unused for a couple of weeks.  When I pulled it out again, intending to review it, it didn't work.  I suspect that the loose-fitting cap may have contributed to the problem by allowing the pen to dry out, but given the pen's earlier inconsistency, it may not have.


Apart from these issues, the Stabilo Colorgel is not that bad of a pen.  A bit longer than usual, the barrel has a rather appealing swirl design.  The grip is, however, useless to me, as no part of my hand actually touches the grip when I am holding the pen (but maybe I just hold my pens in a weird way).  At this point, though, I really don't care about any of this since I can't even write with the thing.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can get this pen to write again?  It is a gel pen, there's plenty of ink left in the barrel, and I can usually get a small amount of ink to come out of the pen when I first touch it to the page, although this quickly dries up as I continue to try to write with it.  Ideas, anyone?

Related review: The Pen Addict.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My DIY Planner

With the semester ended, I returned home for the summer and felt the need for a revision of my planner system.  I wanted something that I could use for keeping track of all the tasks that I needed to accomplish in all aspects of my life, help me plan and write posts for my blogs, and help me to clarify where I'm going in my life.

I headed over to D*I*Y Planner - a wonderful resource for the planner- and organization-obsessed among us - and found the system I wanted to use: the Middle Way Method, which tries to find a "middle way" between the top-down and bottom-up planning approaches.  (Also see the posts on building the Middle Way planner and implementing the method, as well as the wrap-up post.)

Now, all I needed to do was assemble the planner itself.

I used a standard binder that holds 5.5 by 8.5 inch size paper (roughly equivalent to A5).  Because it had a boring black cover, I used a stretchy fabric cover that is meant to be used to cover students' textbooks.  You can sometimes find these in places like Staples around back-to-school time, and they are rather useful because they can stretch to fit nearly any size of book or binder.  Of course, those who sew could probably make their own fabric cover.


iHanna's post on "How to make your own planner" was very inspiring when I was designing my planner and gave me the idea to cover my plain white dividers with patterned papers to add some liveliness and colour to my planner.  I used 6 dividers in my planner, for reference pages, monthly planning pages, weekly planning pages, pages that I use for recording my daily exercise routine, project pages (which also include blog post idea pages), and notes (which includes pages for the mission and vision statements used in the Middle Way Method).

I used D*I*Y Planner templates for all of the pages in my planner.  This was the simplest method (and they seriously have templates for just about every situation that you can imagine!), although in the future I think that I might design my own pages, since the D*I*Y Planner pages are fairly bland in appearance.


The heart of the planner and of the Middle Way Method is the weekly planning pages (shown below).  The far left column is for your Actions - I use this as a basic to-do list, that I update at the beginning of every week and add to during the week.  The middle columns are blocks for the days of the week - in my morning review, I look over the Actions list and at my monthly calendar and decide what tasks I will work on that day.  I then write those down in the block for that day, as well as any appointments that I have.  Finally, the far right column is the Harmony section - my favourite part of the planner.  This provides spaces for physical, social, mental, and spiritual goals for the week, as well as three roles that you want to work on that week.  Check out the D*I*Y Planner article on "Living in Harmony" for more information on this.


To keep my place in the right week I made a simple bookmark and wrote "TODAY" in white on the top.  I clipped a couple pens into the binder (a Pentel Slicci and Papermate Biodegradable ballpoint, as shown in the photo) and my planner was completed!


This is the third week I have been using this planner, and I have so far not encountered any major problems with it.  The weekly and daily reviews keep me focused and also help me to write in my journal regularly, something that I have been struggling with lately.  The look of my binder, with its green cover and colourful dividers, makes me actually want to use it.

If you've had difficulties finding a planner that works for you, consider making your own.  A little more effort is needed, but the result can be a planner that is perfectly tailored to your needs.  And, if you just print out a few pages at a time, if a particular format doesn't work for you, you're not stuck with it for an entire year and can change at any time.
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