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Discussion Forum > Bullet Journal

Anyone experiment with the "bullet journal"?

I like the idea, but not sure about giving it a whirl...

Any insights are appreciated!
October 11, 2015 at 22:48 | Unregistered CommenterTommy
Tommy:

I think different people will have different experiences of how useful it is. What works for one may or may not work for another. So the only way to find out is to give it the whirl.

I tried it myself a couple of years ago and found it just too prescriptive for my taste and I really didn't get much out of it. On the other hand I know some people swear by it - and I'm not going to say that they are wrong to do so.

Personally I do have a journal, which I keep in a soft-cover unlined Moleskine. It's one of my most treasured possessions. I date each day and basically write down anything that I want to, drawing a line under each separate note. I frequently read back in it, but can't be bothered to index it or even write page numbers. There are no rules.

Over the last few weeks I've used it for:

1) A record of particularly notable things which have happened or which I've experienced.

2) Questioning exercises (as per "Secrets of Productive People")

3) Record of books started and finished.

4) Notes on my thinking and experiments to improve FVP (with some experimental lists).

5) Keeping track of my weight.

6) Record of walking routes and distances.

7) Record of wines drunk.

8) Notes from meetings.

9) Notes from visiting art gallery

10) Copying out passages in French

11) Celebrating birth of my fifth grandchild

12) Quotes from articles read

13) Writing out a poem I want to learn by heart

14) Lightbulb thoughts

The whole idea is NOT to be systematic. I don't want something which is a burden to keep up, but something that I can use in any way I want to, when I want to, and only when I want to.
October 12, 2015 at 1:21 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Since writing the above I have developed a very simple refinement on the time management system in "Secrets of Productive People" which I have designed specifically for this notebook, together with a system of reminders and a method of breaking down larger tasks. All this can be done without disturbing the linear chronological format of the notebook. A side benefit of this is that there is no need to have separate lists for work and personal.

This is becoming the complete time management system that some people have been asking for.

I shall probably write a blog post on the subject once I have had a chance to test and refine it further.
October 15, 2015 at 8:20 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
...and I'm salivating.

Again.

:0)
October 15, 2015 at 9:14 | Unregistered CommenterWill
@Mark

"Since writing the above I have developed a very simple refinement on the time management system in "Secrets of Productive People" which I have designed specifically for this notebook, together with a system of reminders and a method of breaking down larger tasks. All this can be done without disturbing the linear chronological format of the notebook. A side benefit of this is that there is no need to have separate lists for work and personal."

> Very interesting. Is it in the book ? Which chapter ?
October 15, 2015 at 13:29 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Mark:

This is so cool. I've been using the "Productivity Time Management System" (5T) from your new book occasionally (on post-it notes or index cards) and was then inspired by your journaling reply above. I went and purchased a new large lined soft-cover Moleskine (one size up from pocket-sized) and dated my first page for today. Before making an entry, I returned to read this post again and what do I see!
October 15, 2015 at 19:41 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Mark:

"...drawing a line under each separate note."

Are there benefits to this in a lined Moleskine, or would you just skip a line if using one?

I choose faint lined Moleskines so the lines are barely there, acting only as a guide and not competing with my writing (for readers: in the store I grab a stack of sealed lined notebooks, line them up vertically, on edge, and buy the one with the faintest stripes—it's why I only buy them in person).
October 16, 2015 at 0:06 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Jupiter:

<< Very interesting. Is it in the book ? Which chapter ? >>

No, this is stuff I'm developing since writing the book. But it's very much in the same direction.
October 16, 2015 at 11:54 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Michael B:

<< Are there benefits to this in a lined Moleskine, or would you just skip a line if using one? >>

Well, the whole point of buying an unlined Moleskine is not to have lines! I wanted a notebook that didn't force me (or even encourage me) into any particular format. But I think if a lined notebook were the only thing on offer I would still draw lines under each note (or a box round it - or a circle - or whatever I felt like doing) in order to emphasize where I change from one thing to another.
October 16, 2015 at 12:07 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
@ Mark
<<No, this is stuff I'm developing since writing the book. But it's very much in the same direction>>
Hope you will explain how you do it may be in your blog, because I just bought a new unlined note book and I am applying your methode step by step by the book. bytheway it is VERY encouraging.
October 16, 2015 at 12:56 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Jupiter:

Don't forget that I said "The whole idea is NOT to be systematic"!

But that suits the book's contents very well because it stresses free association and questioning.
October 16, 2015 at 18:02 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I've been away from the forum for a few weeks. Lots of interesting discussion going on!

I've been on vacation and am going back to work on Tuesday. It seems like a good time to give a couple other methods a try. I can always fall back to FVP if I want.


Mark Forster wrote:
<< Since writing the above I have developed a very simple refinement on the time management system in "Secrets of Productive People" which I have designed specifically for this notebook, together with a system of reminders and a method of breaking down larger tasks. All this can be done without disturbing the linear chronological format of the notebook. A side benefit of this is that there is no need to have separate lists for work and personal. >>

How is this coming along?

I've always liked free-from / journaling, and am intrigued by this combination approach with 5T. I haven't read the book yet -- still waiting for the physical version due out next month.


I'm also looking at the SkedPal Beta - http://perfect.mytimedesign.com/explaining-my-absence-and-why-you-are-invited-to-join-a-beta/ I've been trying it at home for a few days and it's been a disaster, LOL! It seems like it would work better in my work environment, where I am more tied to my computer.
October 25, 2015 at 18:35 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Seraphim:

"How is this coming along?"

See here:

http://markforster.squarespace.com/fv-forum/post/2550548
October 25, 2015 at 21:29 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Seraphim:

<< I'm also looking at the SkedPal Beta >>

This sounds very like Above & Beyond http://www.1soft.com/ which we've had several mentions of over the years.
October 25, 2015 at 23:17 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Melanie mentioned SkedPal a few months ago and seemed really happy with it. Anyone else have experience using it? I've been tempted but it seems somewhat complicated to get up and running. I'm also afraid that if it actually does work really well and I grow to rely on it, six months from now the "beta" version will transition into a paying model.

I like scheduling systems simply because they allow you to set up a realistic amount of work for a given day, and everything you set out to do will be accomplished provided you follow the schedule. I had a lot of success using SuperMemo Plan: http://www.supermemo.com/help/plan.htm . It is very easy to drag tasks and move them around, so if you are meeting resistance with a task, you can drag forward something more appealing and work on it right away.

Anyway, I have stopped using SuperMemo. I like the basic idea of being able to lay out estimated times for a day, and to move them around easily. I set up something similar in Excel, but I would really like to somehow implement this type of scheduling on pen and paper. Cal Newport has a few posts about that here: http://calnewport.com/blog/2015/09/29/deep-habits-three-recent-daily-plans/. I've tried the emergent task planner (http://davidseah.com/node/the-emergent-task-planner/) or the pomodoro technique, but I find they both make it easy for unstructured time to leak into the day (ie you can finish a 25-minute block of work and then mess around for 20 minutes before attempting the next block of work).

After watching the World Cup last year I thought about making firm schedules on paper but incorporating the idea of "injury time". If a task is scheduled from 1pm to 2pm, but you are interrupted from 1:10pm to 1:20pm, then you still finish up the task at 2pm but you count 10 minutes of "injury time", which is made up later -- either the end of the day, or the next day maybe tack on an extra 10 minutes to the same task. Haven't tried it though as it doesn't seem flexible enough.

So I'm just wondering if there are any other "scheduling junkies" who have good pen and paper implenetations, or ... switching gears ... is it worth diving into SkedPal?
October 28, 2015 at 15:40 | Unregistered CommenterSimon
If you give Skedpal a try now, as part of the public beta, you can get free lifetime access to the app. http://perfect.mytimedesign.com/explaining-my-absence-and-why-you-are-invited-to-join-a-beta/
October 28, 2015 at 17:22 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
@Seraphim: your link has led me to the writings of Francis Wade. I have been reading "Perfect Time-Based Productivity". I'm curious to see how he thinks someone could pull off scheduling their "time demands" as he calls them, instead of just lists, especially if you have a lot of unplanned "fire fighting" type of work that ruins one's schedule. I like how he structures it so that you are intended to start where you are and implement changes gradually rather than adopting a new method altogether and then falling off it when the enthusiasm wanes.
November 4, 2015 at 2:22 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Don R - They recommend you put your largish tasks into SkedPal (30 minutes+), and then put all your other smallish tasks in clumps or groups, and enter in some blocks of time to deal with those groups.

Once everything is entered, you push a "reschedule" button, and SKedpal looks for free time on your calendar where to schedule all these tasks. You can set deadlines and priorities, and you can set "zones" or "maps" of your time so it knows when you prefer to do certain kinds of work (for example, "work" tasks from 8-5 and "personal" tasks in the evenings or weekends; or creative work for your high-energy times; or whatever works for you). Skedpal then takes all this into consideration when it schedules things.

This means you still need some way to track and group the smallish tasks, and I haven't seen any specific guidance around that.

For myself, I just continued entering everything in FVP, and then set up regular recurring "FVP Time" in Skedpal. While working FVP, if I would come across larger pieces of work that needed special attention (they are important or critical work items) and FVP wasn't giving me the results I wanted, I'd cross them off FVP and enter them into Skedpal. Then I'd hit "reschedule" from time to time to get an updated calendar.

In theory, this is supposed to be able to be flexible enough so that when interruptions and fire-fighting pull you away from your scheduled work, when that stuff is done, you can just come back to your computer and hit "reschedule" and SkedPal will give you a new current schedule. For me, I have too little discretionary time and SkedPal was always getting clogged up and couldn't find time for all the stuff I had thrown at it. I had expected that, but also thought it would be more sophisticated in helping me figure out how to deal with the overcommitted calendar.

So together with those issues, and several technical issues resulting from my employer's firewall and security settings, I've put my SkedPal evaluation on hold and am back to FVP. They just released a new version with some fixes that may address my technical issues, so I might go give it another try.
November 5, 2015 at 4:40 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Hello !

I made a 1 week try. ie I keept my pretty new notebook only for journaling. I mean british/american journaling not French.

Each evening I wrote all what happened in my professionnal life. How I reacted, how others did. And wrote all about my thoughts about it. I did not make a lot of sentences. The basic idea was to follow my brain as I could...

I focused on one subject at a time. I tried to put all about it and then i jumped a line, put a bullet in front of the new subject and did it again.

I noticed each day, I had about 3 to 9 subjects.

I did not wrote any thing about notes about clients, buildings. I took a paper page for each item and wrote all about it then put it in my inbox for a later processing like GTD.

The result is really astonishing. I remember better. I feel more focus. I feel I think better. Controling what I did makes me realised that I skiped 70/80% of the items and sunject for a better focusing. What I dit was the most important/ Urgent/ and core in term of future results I guess.

It makes me realize that what is the most important is more what to do than recording in details what I have done. At the end of the day my daily page is full of ideas and sunjects that are fuly important for me without any details which overwhelmed me.

I will follow this method of professionnal journaling.

On anpther hand I also have another note book for french journaling which is for me if I rightly understood a psychological journaling about my life and feelings.
November 6, 2015 at 19:01 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
Jupiter, you write:

>> I made a 1 week try. ie I keept my pretty new notebook only for journaling. I mean british/american journaling not French. <<

My question is: what is the difference between British and french journaling? Never mind American...

Do you mean the language you use or is there a certain cultural style? What are you talking about? Please explain.
November 10, 2015 at 0:55 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
Hi Christopher,

I wrote a thread about it but don't remember where. What I understood is that there are many kinds of journal. You can do it as an historical reporting of what happened in your business life and how you reacted about it, or you can do it as a conversation with yourself about yours feelings and so on, but then you dont focus on business it is more about your plans, yours desire... It is more like a conversation with yourself.

American/British journal seems more about historical situation. French seems to be more about projection on your life and focusing on feelings.

I don't know if I rightly understood this. What I know is that these 2 kinds of journaling are the 2 faces of the same coin.

For beeing practical, I use these 2 journal with 2 different books. A blue A4 spiral notebook where I record my personal and spiritual life. I explain how I feel and how I suffer in my life and try to find some solution. So reading it later I can see my evolution and correct my mistakes for the future. I also take decision. I do it only when I feel it. When I really need to do it. I can write 5/6 page at one time or only 10 lines. I also use a leather note book I recently bought. Here i write day per day sometime in the morning after a good sleep. This journal is perfect for focusing and collecting ideas about a subject and I can see at a glance what I did about something.

I read theses journal frequently and report actions on my lists.
November 10, 2015 at 7:55 | Unregistered CommenterJupiter
I haven't visited this forum much since I retired a little over a year ago and no longer needed a good, robust task management system. But I am now working two days a week at a job that has little structure and once again I need a system.

I stumbled upon the bullet journal idea & website a month ago and it fit my personality (Keep It Short & Simple) and style (clean, organized) so I started one and love it.

I wanted to see if my favorite productivity blog/forum had anything to say about it and found this old thread. Can someone point me to what Mark referred to earlier in the thread as his "very simple refinement on the time management system in "Secrets of Productive People""?
October 11, 2016 at 1:13 | Unregistered CommenterZane
Zane:

That was definitely one I'd been watching for. It's not been published. May not have been fruitful.
October 11, 2016 at 6:27 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Zane & Michael B:

It didn't live up to its early promise unfortunately. The Next Hour, which I've written a blog post about today, does what I hoped it would have done but better. Unfortunately though The Next Hour is the only one of my systems which I think works better electronically than on paper!
October 11, 2016 at 10:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I used The Next Hour yesterday in my bullet journal and it was terrific. I got a lot done, felt no resistance, and knew exactly what to do next all day. So it solved my primary problem - staying organized and focused in a very unstructured job. This after years of a lot of structure - well-defined daily, weekly, and quarterly tasks.

It's funny that you say, Mark, that it works better electronically. Updating a list electronically (and I'm a devoted iPhone user) would be more tedious for me than writing bullets (but I don't use an external keyboard).
October 12, 2016 at 18:59 | Unregistered CommenterZane
Zane:

I don't use an external keyboard either on my Android, but the reason I find that it works better electronically has nothing to do with speed of entry. It's the freedom it gives me to rearrange the list when something new comes up. I only allow myself to do this when there's a good reason, but in a fluid situation good reasons abound and it would be messy to amend the list using pen and paper. However don't let that put you off if you prefer using the bullet journal.

I use Evernote to make the list and that synchronises almost immediately between my desktop and my Android so I can use whichever is the more convenient at the time.
October 13, 2016 at 11:04 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

Maybe the difference is the number of items on the list. My latest list had 19 items for the day, 18 of them complete. When I look ahead to the next hour I usually only have 2-5 items.
October 13, 2016 at 16:06 | Unregistered CommenterZane
Zane:

You may be right. I've been away for a good part of the day but I have still taken action on 21 tasks and have 7 on my list for the next hour. That'll be it for the day as I'm driving north this evening for a funeral tomorrow.
October 13, 2016 at 18:08 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

I'm not sure how you're experiencing the benefit of rearrangement with Evernote mobile. In iOS it only allows for automatic arrangement of notes based on Date Updated, Date Created, and Title. In the notes themselves, checkboxes are not rearrangeable except by highlight, cut, and paste. Clear for iOS works well. However, like Zane, I'm on the hunt for a paper solution. Maybe we'll get to that journal-based time management system after all!
October 13, 2016 at 20:41 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Using The Next Hour, one writes the list forward, first/newest task at the top:

First/Newest
Second
Third

Using No-List FVP one writes the list in reverse, first/newest task at the bottom:

Third
Second
First/Newest

Wouldn't it make sense to use this reverse written order for implementing The Next Hour in a daily log? Then just add new tasks at the end, keep the task-string to an hour's worth of work, and work from the bottom up.
October 13, 2016 at 21:13 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Correction:

Using The Next Hour, one writes the list forward, first task at the top, newest task at the bottom:

First
Second
Third/Newest
October 13, 2016 at 23:10 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Michael B:

From my limited experience I'd prefer not to work in reverse order if that means asking myself "is there anything I'd rather do first?" each time I add a task. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

What I like about The Next Hour is that there's almost no effort in working/managing the list itself - no scanning, prioritizing, comparing, questions, etc. Simply estimate what can get done in about an hour and start working.

Also, are you using a bullet journal?
October 14, 2016 at 2:29 | Unregistered CommenterZane
Zane:

"I'd prefer not to work in reverse order if that means asking myself "is there anything I'd rather do first?" each time I add a task. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)"

Only the reverse order is borrowed from No-List FVP. However, it occurs to me that this only works if you write down the next hour's worth of tasks in an hour's batch at a time. In other words, you action the list completely before adding another batch of tasks unless you have an urgent task that must be done now. In that case you write it at the end and start on it.

If you need to reorder the list, simply cross out the task that needs doing next and write it at the end before starting on it.

The Next Hour system can either be topped up as you go or in batches. In this case, one would top up in batches unless something is urgent.
October 14, 2016 at 4:43 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Zane:

"What I like about The Next Hour is that there's almost no effort in working/managing the list itself—no scanning, prioritizing, comparing, questions, etc. Simply estimate what can get done in about an hour and start working"

Mostly correct, but not exactly. It does use questioning and prioritizing. You ask yourself what would make sense to do now (or similar) and write down an hour's worth of tasks in the order you intend to do them.

Doing this in reverse order is the same. Instead of starting the list by writing down what you intend to do now, followed by asking "and then what?" towards an hour's batch, one writes down a task that makes sense to do now, followed by asking "but first" or similar until you have about an hour's worth of tasks.
October 14, 2016 at 5:14 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Zane:

"Also, are you using a bullet journal?"

Yes.
October 14, 2016 at 5:18 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Michael B:

"It does use questioning and prioritizing."

Agreed. I was too brief in my description. I'm doing it as you described. And looking at a short list of tasks makes it easy to see any that meet the "but first" rule, so I do them first and move on. So far that happens with the first batch and not much after that.

Thanks.
October 14, 2016 at 7:09 | Unregistered CommenterZane
Zane:

Upon further testing, the reverse order idea does not provide the effect I was looking for. Instead, it tends to shorten the length of the batch, coming in under an hour the majority of the time. There are other problems with it in my implementation so I'm no longer pursuing it.
October 14, 2016 at 8:36 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Zane:

Actually, if one is writing down and doing an hour's batch at a time (instead of keeping a rolling hour's worth) then you can simply write down a batch of tasks in random order and dot and do whatever stands out. No need to reorder the list, and if something urgent shows up just write it at the end and dot it next.
October 14, 2016 at 8:47 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
I've been using "Next Hour" for a couple of days, and I've tried both the rolling version (keeping roughly an hour's worth of work on the list) and the version where I estimate an hour's worth of work and complete it before adding anything except urgent tasks (I suppose this is a closed list). I'm not sure which I prefer. The two versions feel very different.

At the moment I'm feeding the Next Hour list from a master list, but I may experiment with using the spirit of the No-List systems.
October 14, 2016 at 9:13 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret1
Margaret:

I'll be interested to know what works best for you. I'm going to give the randomly-ordered hour's batch a go using standing out and dotting.
October 14, 2016 at 9:41 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Michael B:

<< In the notes themselves, checkboxes are not rearrangeable except by highlight, cut, and paste. >>

As I said, re-arranging is the exception rather than the rule. It should only be done when there is a good reason. Therefore I don't want it to be too easy.

The method I use is to delete where necessary, to retype where necessary and to insert where necessary. It takes a bit of time and effort and that is a good thing.
October 14, 2016 at 20:44 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Reverse order?
Questions?
Batches?
Prioritizing?
"But first" Rule?
Random Order?
Master List?

This discussion is all very well but it is losing sight of the essential simplicity of the Next Hour method.

I have a rule of thumb which says:

"Any amendment proposed by anyone to any system of mine will be in the direction of making it more complicated".
October 14, 2016 at 21:11 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark:

That's a misunderstanding of the discussion. The Next Hour uses questioning, batching, prioritizing, and an unspoken "and then" or "after that" (or similar) mental question to determine the order of the list. Those dynamics are simply being made explicit and in doing so it makes the system seem more complicated than it is. But those features are still there.

As for "random ordering" and "reverse ordering", that is an attempt by me to integrate your system into a paper-based bullet journal/daily log, which is the topic of this thread. I was hoping to inspire attempts at a Forster-style journal-based time management system! There may be another of your systems that is better suited for this.
October 14, 2016 at 22:53 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Agreed - for me it's four simple steps, perfectly suited to a bullet journal:

1) write what you intend to do in the next hour
2) do these tasks in order
3) top it up occasionally to keep about an hour's worth of work on the list
4) make sure you get the list completed in the final hour

Simple and almost effortless to manage. (The list, that is.)
October 15, 2016 at 0:06 | Unregistered CommenterZane
Zane:

How are you approaching the following in your bullet journal using The Next Hour system:

1. A series of new tasks arrive which must be done now or next. (And if the answer is "I just write them at the end of the list and start on them", are you marking them with a dot and doing them in order or are you doing them in whatever order suits you and remembering where you are in the list?)

2. You make frequent non-task entries between your next hour's list (as is the nature of a rapid-logging bullet journal) and then top up your hour's list frequently, spreading the entries across multiple pages.

3. Your list (potentially spread across multiple pages) needs frequent reordering due to location changes or a fast-paced environment (and if you do not experience this, how would you approach it if you did?).
October 15, 2016 at 2:53 | Registered CommenterMichael B.
Michael B:

1. [A series of new tasks arrive...] What I've tried so far is drawing a vertical line in the middle of the page and making a short list of those urgent tasks - as if I had a yellow sticky note there.

2. [You make frequent non-task...] I still think in terms of what I intend to do in the next hour or so and continue marking new tasks with a dot and working them in order, even if that means turning the page. Many times it's these non-task entries that I'll write on the right side of the page as if they're on a sticky note - notes from phone calls, for instance. That keeps the todo list from spreading out so much.

3. [Your list (potentially spread...] I don't experience location changes or a fast-paced environment in this new job, but I think I'd do what I described above more-or-less. I'd have a Next Hour list for each location, or crisis, or whatever. And if it was a really fast-paced environment I'd cut it to what I intend to do in the next half hour or before the next meeting or something.

What do you do in those situations?
October 15, 2016 at 5:13 | Unregistered CommenterZane
Michael B.

<< Those dynamics are simply being made explicit and in doing so it makes the system seem more complicated than it is. But those features are still there.>>

It reminds me of the story of the centipede which was asked "How do you manage to control all those legs?" The centipede started to try and work out how it did it and then discovered that it was completely unable to walk anymore.

However since I obviously can't beat the complication bandwagon I've decided to join it. So I'm currently working on a way of improving The Next Hour by making it more complicated. It will have the additional benefit of being more suitable for paper and pen.
October 15, 2016 at 9:03 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark,

Matt McGinn's song "The Wee Kirkcudbright Centipede" describes this brilliantly!
October 15, 2016 at 10:07 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret1
Margaret1

And here it is. I hope all our non-Scottish readers can understand the accent and pick up the references!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vjcdj6tbKyA
October 15, 2016 at 16:26 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Zane:

"What do you do in those situations?"

1. Multiple urgent tasks arrive:

I'm in a system experimentation phase currently so I tend to juggle urgent tasks mentally, prioritizing by impulse and urgency (super action-oriented, but hurried and myopic). If I'm writing them down (slower, but more relaxed with a bigger picture view), I jot them at the end and use Autofocus 2's upward scan, dotting and doing what stands out.

2. Task entries are split up and spread across multiple pages:

I use Autofocus 2's upward scan.

3. List needs frequent reordering:

Same answer as 2.
October 19, 2016 at 4:47 | Registered CommenterMichael B.