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Time Management Helps

Here’s a list of my favourite time management helps:

  • Moleskine Notebook. I much prefer using pen and paper for time management lists, and it’s important to me how the notebook feels. The standard Moleskine ruled notebook with 31 lines to a page is just the right size and durable enough to be carried around with me. I like the paper quality too.
  • Papermate Comfortmate Ball Pen. The most comfortable, reliable and indestructible of cheapo pens, and of many a lot more expensive too.
  • Time Timer. I use this visual countdown timer all the time for seeing how long I’ve got before I’ve got to do something. It’s also great for keeping track of the time during presentations, and for showing a group of people how long they’ve got for a task.
  • Kitchen Timer. When a visual timer isn’t appropriate I use an ordinary electronic kitchen timer.
  • Lever Arch Files. I find these the most useful form of filing. They also have the advantage that they will stand upright on a shelf. Unfortunately they don’t seem to be easily come by in the States.
  • NEO Email Organizer. I don’t think I could survive without this program, which makes it possible to handle easily even vast quantities of email. I’ve been using this for years, and have found it invaluable. It only works with MS Outlook though.

(Please note that in the above list where the link goes to a supplier other than the manufacturer, it is given for illustrative purposes. I’m recommending the product, not the distributor!)

What are you favourite time management helps? Please answer in the comments.

Reader Comments (25)

Very interesting Mark I like very how people are organized and working with. Thanks for sharing this with us.
January 31, 2011 at 20:12 | Registered CommenterJupiter
Thanks for this Mark - I have a fascination with how others organise themselves so it's good to see what products you rate. Hopefully others will share their favourites!

I am a big fan of Filofax because they look great and you can re-organise your pages easily. I've had problems with syncing my phone etc so this year I am carrying a small diary in my bag - it's quite liberating to get back to pen and paper for this and I can easily see all my commitments, wheras on my phone I could only see a daily view.

I also love the Pilot Frixion Erasable Rollerball pen - yes you can erase it with the friction pad at the end of the pen! Great for if you want to make changes. You can get them in several different colours from Cult Pens - no affiliation - but they do seem to deliver very quickly.

I use most of the other items you mention, but haven't tried the email organiser - I may have to take a look at that!
February 1, 2011 at 8:52 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
Thanks, Alison. I must check out the erasable pen!
February 1, 2011 at 9:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Friction pen are great but erasing is better in black than in blue.
the size of writing in 0,7 is not very pleasant. I would prefer in 1,0
I rather prefer the crystal Bic pen

they are fantastic, very cheap and efficient. And more you write with them better they are.
February 1, 2011 at 11:26 | Registered CommenterJupiter
A pen-ophile recommending bulk Bic? I can't agree. I use random corporate giveaways and most of those are better than Bic! But what can you expect from a 20c pen?
February 1, 2011 at 11:37 | Registered CommenterAlan Baljeu
FWIW, I'm using a gel pen by Mitsubishi.
February 1, 2011 at 11:51 | Unregistered CommenterRainer
I used to swear by Bics, but I switched to Papermates and they are far superior.

1. They don't have a separate cap which either gets lost or comes off when the pen is clipped in the pocket.

2. They are not made of hard brittle plastic which breaks if you tread on them by mistake (or sometimes even if you don't).

3. They don't have an unreliable ink flow which frequently gives up long before the pen is empty.

4. They don't have an uneven ink flow which often results in smudges on the page.

Disadvantages of Papermates compared with Bics

1. They are a bit more expensive, but still incredibly cheap

2. You can't see how much ink is left (though see 3 above)

Out of the pack of 12 Papermates I bought in August last year (£5.80), I still have ten left. However the missing two have been mislaid - I haven't yet had one run out of ink.
February 1, 2011 at 12:00 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
In an ideal world I favour fountain pens, and have Mont Blanc (special presents only as very expensive) or at the other end of the scale you can't beat a Lamy Safari fountain pen - you can even choose your nib (I prefer an oblique).

However there are lots of times when a fountain pen is not suitable - I have one or two 'nice' biros for desk use (I mostly work from home), but tend to use cheap and cheerful ones when out and about - it's amazing how they go missing!
February 1, 2011 at 12:44 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
I have a montblanc too a fountain pen which is new and beautifull. I never use it. If someone wants to buy it just contact me. I also use a bic montblanc in B and it is great. The writing is nice.
February 1, 2011 at 12:58 | Registered CommenterJupiter
+Ad Jesum Per Mariam+

I swear by the M Arc disc-bound notebook by Staples.. I use this one:

With its sewn leather cover, it feels solid, it looks professional, it even SMELLS good! It is fully customizable with different types of papers, dividers, and pockets you can buy. And the pen holder can easily accommodate anything from a slim ballpoint pen to my thick Lamy Safari.

It is the most perfect notebook organizer I have ever seen and used.

Now if only the store would offer a punch....

God bless!
February 1, 2011 at 13:25 | Registered Commenternuntym

Unfortunately when I followed the link you gave, it asked me for a zip code (which I don't have) before it would let me on the site.
February 1, 2011 at 15:50 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
+Ad Jesum Per Mariam+


I just check Staples UK, they are not carrying the M Arc line =/

Oh well, the Staples US do not carry lever arch files (which I am very interested in) so I guess that's a (sorta) fair trade-off...

Anyways, just place a 5-digit number and I guess that'll take care of the zip-code thing.

God bless!
February 1, 2011 at 18:29 | Registered Commenternuntym
I have to give a plug for the Zebra SARASA gel pen in 0.7 size. (The 0.5 is a little scratchy.) Nice looking, comfortable, flows nicely, beautiful DARK lines and letters are the output. I keep track of time by filling in bubbles and sometimes doodle with solid colors and this ink lets me saturate the surface, like paint.

I get annoyed by inconsistent pens so when I find a different one I throw it out. I keep a box of sarasa around.

They do run out of ink quickly though. I'm constantly using up pens by doing things like practicing writing Japanese, and writing stuff down for work.
February 1, 2011 at 19:02 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
XNote Stopwatch.

Small, versatile, and easily-customisable stopwatch and/or count-down timer which I have in the right hand corner of my laptop screen. Easy-to-use hot-keys also work a treat.

I use it in its simplest format as a countdown timer and I have it set on a 30 minute loop. Numerous options are available to remind me when the 30 minutes are up, and I've gone for a very simple beep.

It has a whole host of other uses if you wish to fork out a very small amount of money, but otherwise it's free. Download from CNET downloads at:

You can also use XNote Timer which is the super-trimmed down version, but this isn't as customisable.
February 1, 2011 at 19:39 | Unregistered CommenterNeumatist

<< Anyways, just place a 5-digit number and I guess that'll take care of the zip-code thing. >>

It did!

I remember Staples UK (though I don't think it was called that then) carried a similar product about 10-15 years ago. I could never get it to work because it kept falling to pieces. No doubt they've improved it now.
February 1, 2011 at 21:47 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark:

Re Moleskine - I tend to prefer a soft cover moleskine as it contains the pen quite well inside as opposed to the hard cover type. Do you just carry your pen *loose*?
February 1, 2011 at 22:08 | Registered Commenterleon
One of the greatest products I found recently (although a bit expensive) is a pen loop to be glued into notebooks.
I have been looking for something like that for ages. (Yes, there are notebooks that already come with pen loops, but I never found one with paper to my liking.)

The one I found is from a German brand ("Leuchtturm 1917"), and I bought in in a brick-and-mortar store for EUR 2,50, but you can find it at Amazon as well:

Don't know whether there are these ore similar ones sold outside Germany, though.
February 1, 2011 at 22:55 | Registered CommenterAlex W.
A UK alternative to the disc bound books is one made by snopake:

I haven't used it yet - I've tried to buy one before, but the snopake site seems to be the only place I can find online at the moment. They do A4 and A5 so depends in your preferred size.

I'm not sure of a fixed notebook, or one with removable pages is best - I'm sure Mark will have an opinion based on his usage. One good thing about fixed pages is that they are easier to find, and also you can see progress over time which should be motivating.
February 2, 2011 at 9:02 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves
I just bought the papermate comfortmate pencil. They were quiet hard to find in Paris and i finally found them by 4 (bleu,Black, red, green, ) at the price of 4,17€ i am testing them. I find the grip much better but i am accustomed to the cristal bic and for the moment i find the writing more difficult. But it may change when they will be really used. Bulk Bic are difficult at the beginning and after they are great.
February 2, 2011 at 16:23 | Registered CommenterJupiter
I have recently discovered Castelli notebooks, ( which come in 3 sizes and lovely colours (not important to everyone, but I hate black), and have a pen/pencil loop attached. I'm not keen on the pencil that comes with them - it looks stylish but personally I prefer a pencil with a rubber on the end - the loop would also take a slim pen.
I agree with Mark about Papermate pens - the FlexGrip Elite are the best I have found, they write so smoothly - I have one in every colour! I also have all the colours in the Pilot Frixion Erasable Rollerball pens recommended by Alison - they are great, but don't sign cheques with them!
February 3, 2011 at 10:01 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

You can get the Comfortmate pens with a triangular barrel as well as the round one. If you are used to Bic Crystals you might find them better for you.
February 3, 2011 at 12:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

<< I'm not sure of a fixed notebook, or one with removable pages is best - I'm sure Mark will have an opinion based on his usage. >>

I think it's a matter of individual preference. I find loose leaf pages are a bit like a HiFi set with a lot of knobs on it. You spend more time trying to get the perfect sound than you do listening to the music.
February 3, 2011 at 12:57 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark - your comment about the HiFi made me laugh out loud - reminds me of a few people! How true as well - I often sweat over the small stuff instead of just getting on with things.
February 3, 2011 at 13:28 | Registered CommenterAlison Reeves

Thanks for the snopake link, some interesting products in addition to the link one.

See my Forum post reply about ADOCS, but can be pricey.

Thanks to everyone who mentioned/linked to interesting products, seems only Alison has the guts to admit that some of us get caught up in the stuff and not the output!

Roger J
February 3, 2011 at 16:35 | Registered CommenterRoger J
BTW, meant to mention I've also bought recently from Cult Pens in the UK and received the same quick service.

I prefer gel pens (black, thicker rather than thinner) and have found some nice Uniball models here in Damascus where stationery shops are everywhere and with a better selection than most UK bricks and mortar outlets.

Roger J
February 3, 2011 at 16:40 | Registered CommenterRoger J

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