Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: #Chronodex Update

watchEven though much of my time is “my own” it’s surprising how elusive it can be. Wanting to see where my time was being siphoned off, I began logging it several months ago.

Logging my time confirmed some things I already knew. Like, I’m the most productive in the morning. Yet, I also discovered an interesting surge of project activity later in the day that I didn’t consciously realize was there. Plus I was surprised to find a project for “down the road” was taking over a lot of my time during a day.

Writers know that sometimes new ideas pop up, and they distract us from the story that needs finishing. New ideas are always bright shiny things. Like pens or ink or balloons, they’re fun to play with.

My thing, though, is to make a note of the new idea, and continue on finishing what’s already been started. Otherwise no story ever sees the words, “The End,” or “End Play,” or “Fade Out.”

Logging my time helped me to send one story to the back burner, and let another take over. It’s rare I do that. In this case, I’m delighted I did. I’m happy with the results, and the decision to track my time.

Chronodex Revisited

Originally, logging my time with Chronodex quickly abandoned Patrick’s design as too “not right for moi.” Instead, I used my own re-design. Once I was comfortable logging time with my own “dial”, it was eventually abandoned, too.

I did it my way...
For a time, I did it my way…

What happened? I returned Patrick Ng’s original Chronodex design. Why? Because I felt I was missing something more… fun.


Apparently I needed a transition to get to the Chronodex!

Bringing the Midori into the Mix

I thought a lot about how Patrick Ng used his Chronodex in his Midori Traveler’s Notebook (referred to herein as “TN”). Patrick’s Chronodex diary pages  require using the TN “sideways.” (From this American perspective anyway.)

The dimensions of the TN are 8.5″ x 5.1″.  With Patrick’s pages, you are using the Chronodex by writing and reading with the longest side turned toward you.

Midori Traveler's Notebook, with Chronodex pages
Midori Traveler’s Notebook, with Chronodex pages (long side view)

Many people have adapted his design into one that works for them. For instance, printing the diary or calendar pages so that the pages sit “portrait” style. Still others (myself included), have adapted the Chronodex to fit into the smaller sized notebooks.

Pocket sized portrait-view Chronodex pages
Pocket sized portrait-view Chronodex pages

Indeed, I thought hard about continuing to use the Chronodex in my Oberon Design pocket notebook.

Yet I also pondered Patrick’s diary design, and thought about the advantages of reading and writing using it. Even though he encourages folks to use the Chronodex in a way that works for each individual, I thought there might be something to be found in using it “his way.” (Or close to it.)

It’s important to think for ourselves, and to find our own way. Yet at the same time it’s important to pay attention to those who’ve already blazed the trail we are trapising along on. A wonderful life paradox.

Two events conspired to shut down my incessant pondering, and move me back to Chronodex. First, Patrick released the July-Dec 2014 Chronodex pages. Second, MyMaido had a huge sale on the Traveler’s Notebooks. (Nearly 35% off and free shipping!)  I bought a brown TN.

Using Patrick’s Chronodex Diary Pages

Patrick’s pages are meant to be printed on A4 paper. Not having any blank A4, I simply used 8.5″ x 11″. On my printer (an HP laser printer), printing the A4 design to American letter-sized paper meant making sure the pages were scaled at 100%. I had to hand feed the pages for printing the calendar back to back. Lastly, the pages were cut down to fit the TN.

Then I simply stapled the Chronodex pages at the center fold, and inserted the Chronodex into the TN.

I made some mistakes in the cutting, but nothing earth shattering. The pages can be cut shorter for a better fit next time. Like in January 2015.

There you have it: picking up Patrick Ng’s design again, I used it in earnest.

The Chronodex was no longer disorienting. I no longer worried about how the time was noted in the design. I simply used it, and made the time slots my own as I filled them in.

What is different between the two radial formats? My more traditional dial seemed flat, not really much different that capturing information in a linear fashion.

The Chronodex is, well, it’s alive. The Chronodex grows arms, legs, and webbed feet.


The pages are far more visually stimulating as they’re filled up. Looking at pages sometimes leads me to think about my projects in different ways. There are patterns, certainly, in how a project takes over any given day. Yet there are also interesting spurts of work on one idea over another that stand out better on the Chronodex. Also, instead of flipping through individual days, I can see a week at a time.

These are not facts that you can apply ad hominum to your own life. These  musings are merely how I experience using the Chronodex.

Using the Midori

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook came with a blank notebook insert. That too, I’m using in “landscape” format. The blank notebook serves as my current gratitude diary.

Sharing the TN: Chronodex and Midori blank notebook
Sharing the TN: Chronodex and Midori blank notebook. My Chronodex pages are a little long, ay?

The Midori TN is far heftier than my little Oberon notebook.

Oberon Pocket Cover next to Midori Traveler's Notebook
Oberon Pocket Cover next to Midori Traveler’s Notebook

Adding to the TN’s heft is the HP #32 paper I used to print out the Chronodex.

For the truly weight obsessed, the Chronodex Jul-Dec 2014 planner printed on HP #32 weighs 94 grams! The blank Midori insert  is only 69 grams. I might print next year’s pages on less weightier paper, yet I do love the feel of the nib against the HP paper, as well as the “pop” of the white pages.

With Chrondex pages, a DIY pocket folder, and the Midori blank notebook my TN weighs 289 grams. My Oberon with three DIY notebooks weighs a mere 157 grams. Empty the Midori TN weighs only 113 grams; the Oberon 78 grams.


The Oberon still gets lots of use. It’s simply not devoted to time anymore. The Oberon is the one that fits in my back pocket. The TN I carry in my laptop or book bag.

If anything, I hope my Chronodex experience serves as a reminder that sometimes we need to look beyond what’s comfortable, outside our own imaginations in order for new inspirations to seep in. When we are too comfortable with how we live with, like, or perceive things, we may miss something useful, something inspiring, or something important.

Yeah, somethin’ like that.


And because Rumi states it so well and with great humor, here’s one of his poems:

   Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
and end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
and fall in.

I should be suspicious
of what I want.

Barks, Coleman; Jalal al-Din Rumi (2010-09-14). The Essential Rumi – reissue: New Expanded Edition (Kindle Locations 2057-2059). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

To download Patrick Ng’s Chronodex here you go. The URL is at bottom of his post.

Going Indie with Notebook Posts

Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: Flippin’ DIY

Coming in mid-story: I made an Arc-style 8 1/2″ x 11″ notepad that flips at the top instead of side to side.

Side view of homemade 8" x 11" Arcpad
Side view of homemade 8 1/2″ x 11″ Arcpad (photo taken prior to sides being sealed up)

That’s not an original idea, of course. Someone once blogged about a Circa/Rollabind DIY steno pad. If you don’t wanna DIY, Staples makes one (in leather) for you.

Many weeks ago, a friend was all excited that Staples brought out the Arc top bound notebook. His only sadness was that it was letter size, not steno size. Apparently Levenger made a steno pad version for their Circa line, but it’s been discontinued.

I couldn’t really share his excitement because, well, I make my own notepads, right?

DIY’ing my own notepads meant giving up the wire. You know, those great top wirebound notepads made by Clairefontaine and Rhodia.

Rhodia No 18 top wirebound notepad / MYU 701
Rhodia No 18 top wirebound notepad / MYU 701

Flipping glued pages over in DIY notepads certainly is a serviceable way of life, but I really missed the flippin’ freedom those wire spirals gave me.

I held out for two years…

Recently my last DIY glued notepad was used up. As a “treat” I bought a couple of Rhodia top wirebound A4 notepads.

The cost differential between my DIY pads and the Rhodia is substantial. On average a sheet of HP Premium Laser #32 letter size paper costs $.03. A sheet of top wirebound Clairefontaine or Rhodia A4 costs about $.13. The wirebound notepads cost around 22% more than the staplebound versions of the same paper.

And so I was haunted… thinking perhaps maybe once or twice a year I could indulge in a top wirebound Rhodia No. 18 notepad.

But why didn’t I leap at the Staples top bound Arc notepad? Perhaps, my allowance was already spent on the Rhodia pads? Because I’d rather have a go at making one.

I’d long resisted making my own Arc top punched notepad because I thought the discs would be too conspicuous, and that the notepad would be bulky in my book bag. Also I needed a stiff backing for such a notepad, and wasn’t sure how to get something suitable punched to take the Arc discs.

The Levenger Circa paper punch (used for my Arc notebook) will only take about six sheets of paper at a time. Nothing thick fits in the punch, even with some good tinkering.

Yet, the splurge on the Rhodia notepads made me realize I needed to try making a flippin’ Arc notepad.

All the follow materials were already in my stash of supplies. The only new expense in the making of the Arc notepad were the top wirebound Rhodia No 18 notepads that inspired me to rethink my consumables yet again.

The Backing

My solution for the backing was to use a stiff cardboard 10″ x 14″ mailing envelope. The envelope was sliced down to 8 1/2″ x 12″. The sides were removed, leaving only one side sealed at the bottom of the envelope. With the envelope “open,” each side that would make up the top of the backing was able to fit into the Circa punch. *whew*

Envelope split open, and put through Levenger Circa punch
Envelope split open, and put through Levenger Circa punch

Inside this cardboard sleeve, a stiff piece of cardboard was inserted. The fit with the discs at the top leaves this sleeve tightly together so that there’s no drifting of the inner cardboard piece. I’ve reinforced the inside of the punched area with packing tape, and secured the sides with double-sided tape. I like the simple utilitarian look of the backing.

Cardboard insert
Cardboard insert in place
All closed up with discs
All closed up with discs
The Paper

The mainstay for paper is HP #32 in a variety: blank, dot grid, 8mm lines, Cornell-style notes. Whatever can be printed!

I soon realized that because my notepad was Arc’d, any paper—even A4 size—could be used. An old side clothbound Clairefontaine notebook in disuse got dismantled to use in my notepad. I threw in some Rhodia graph paper too, because I could, and a few remaining sheets from a Clairefontaine top staplebound notepad. Endless possibilities…

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To punch the paper took a little experimenting. There’s no setting on the Levenger punch for large “top bound” pages. I figured out where I need to place the paper in the punch, and have marked the starting point on the punch.

The Cover

The cover was made from a large 2013 Edward Gorey calendar (a gift from a friend lives on!). I cut the selection to size, and found some non-heat lamination sheets to protect and stiffen the calendar paper. I used a strip of clear shipping tape to reinforce the cover near the top (opposite page from the artwork).

Recycled Calendar Cover
Recycled Calendar Cover
(amazing what's in my office supplies)
(amazing what’s lyin’ around in the home office supply bin!)

The cover’s not quite exact in its dimensions, nor is the lamination seated perfectly. You can’t tell unless you’re using it, and hey, it’s for me!

I love it.

The Results

I feel silly that it took me so long to realize making one of these was a great idea.

This DIY Arc notepad makes for a very pleasing flippable, writing experience for moi. If I wanna, a couple of times a year I can even buy a top staplebound Rhodia No. 18, and transfer the pages.

When the notepad is sitting on my desk, the discs do look bulky to me.  Yet, when the notepad is in use, the discs seem to disappear. So… yeah, can live with this! Plus, it’s got a cool cover.

Initially I was concerned the pages wouldn’t hold well in a top disc-bound format. No need to be concerned, though, as you can see in the Vine at the end of this post.

While pages don’t fall out of the notepad, the outermost punched areas of A4 sized sheets suffer more in the wear and tear department. The A4 sheets (Rhodia and Clairefontaine) are closer to 8 1/4″ wide. The punched areas at each side are more fragile:

too close for comfort (click on photo for closer look)
too close for comfort (click on photo for closer look)

Letter sized 8 1/2″ x 11″ fare far better than the A4 sheets. The A4 wear/tear, though, isn’t enough to make me stop using them in the Arc notepad. YMMV.

Lesson Learned

My biggest mistake was reinforcing the cover, and the backing sleeve after I’d punched the holes. That meant sending each of these items back through the puncher—a risk in hitting the holes in the same place. Next time, these areas should be reinforced before going into the puncher.

I’ve had this notepad only a few weeks. I’m not at all sure how long the cover or the backing will last, especially being toted around town with me in a book or laptop bag. More to be revealed as I write along…

Remember, the sharing of my goofy things is only to show that you too can make goofy things if you so thoughtfully want them. In your own style, of course.

Related Posts

Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: Oberon Design Pocket Moleskine Cover

When I decided to track how my time was spent, a notebook seemed necessary. What was needed: a pocket style notebook cover that could be endlessly refilled with 3.5″ x 5.5″ size pages of my choosing. Easy enough, right?

There’s a dizzying number of notebook covers to be found online. It’s too bad we can’t walk into a store, and touch them all in order to make an informed decision about which one to buy.  C’est la vie.

new use jde

I tried one cover, in the style of the great Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Having seen the Midori notebook up close, it is a handsome, well-designed leather notebook cover and system. My “in the style of” notebook cover was severely lacking in craftmanship—so much so that I didn’t even showcase the cover in an earlier post about my time tracking experiment. 

Time  is a writer’s sacred commodity. So I believe. Why was I using such an unpleasing cover to keep track of something so valuable?

On one hand, tools of the craft are just that. Tools. My own (pen, paper, laptop, etc) are intended to be serviceable, and  occupy enough space in my life so as to not be out of proportion to their purpose. Tools are a means, not an end.

On the other hand, “serviceable” does not have to mean without spirit. Tools don’t have to be uncomfortable, ugly or unpleasant to use.  Thus, the regretful cover was retired for one more pleasing to hold, carry, open, and scribble inside of.

Decisions, Decisions

In the end, I choose to go with an Oberon Design Pocket Moleskine Cover. How could I resist a small company from my home state of California? 

I chose a green Pocket Cover with a dragonfly motif. I like having symbols around me, particularly nature symbols. Dragonflies, a frog, lily pads, cattails, a heron, water… it’s like swimming in my own quiet place. I was a little worried the green cover would be too bright, but in person the green is a lovely subdued, dark color.

Front view closed cover
Front view closed cover
Closed back cover
Closed back cover
Empty, open cover
Empty, open cover. Note the black piece of elastic on the right. You can use the elastic to keep the cover closed.
Canvas of the cover
Canvas of the cover
Using the Cover with DIY Notebooks

While the cover is designed to hold a 3″ x 5″ sized notebook ala the Moleskine, I wanted to fill the cover with two to three DIY notebooks using my own paper.  At minimum, one notebook for time tracking, and the other for random thoughts and notes. Hmmmm… Oberon with Moleskine inside

Oberon with Moleskine inside
Oberon with Moleskine inside
Oberon with Moleskine inside

At first I thought maybe to punch a couple of holes into the spine, and run a piece of elastic through the holes. As in a Midori style notebook the elastic would hold the notebooks in place. As it turns out, no punching holes into the Oberon Design cover has been necessary.

The hack I put together was very simple. I cut a piece of stiff, thick felt down to the size of a Moleskine pocket notebook. The felt served the same function as a Moleskine notebook’s cover. The felt was inserted into the Oberon’s side flaps where the Moleskine’s bound cover would normally go.

To hold a notebook in place would be a single rubber band wrapped around the center of the felt. I cut two small incisions, top and bottom, at the center point of the felt to prevent bowing of the felt by the rubber band.

Stiff felt with notches cut
Stiff felt with notches cut

This initial stiff blue felt hack worked well. For long term, though, I want to use black felt instead of blue. The black felt I’ve got needs stiffening; it’s still far too cold here to soak the felt in glue, and expect it to dry.

I tried using some black foam instead of black felt. The black foam looked nice yet was far more fragile than the felt, and began to rip.

Rip in foam caused by pressure from rubber band
Rip in foam caused by pressure from rubber band

Then I decided to recycle an old Moleskine pocket notebook. Just remove insides, and instant backing available for the Oberon!

Moleskine cover devoid of insides
Moleskine cover devoid of rambling out-of-date notes on the inside
Moleskine painted black kinda sorta
Moleskine painted black kinda sorta

The recycled Moleskine notebook cover worked quite well holding everything together. There was a downside in that the leather cover became (d’oh) quite stiff using the recycled Moleskine. Nothing wrong with stiff, but I liked that the leather cover was more flexible with the felt backing.

Cover is a bit flexible with felt backing
Cover is a bit flexible with felt backing

And so back to the stiff blue felt for now!

It’s Called a Rubber Band

To hold the notebooks in place, initially I used big o-ring style bands. These worked fine but were thick and kinda ugly.

Stiff felt cut to size of pocket Moleskine
Felt with o-ring style rubber band

The big o-ring bands were replaced with thin, more elegant Midori “connecting” rubber bands in the Passport size. The Midori connecting bands came in a pack of four rubber bands: two black and two brown. The thinner Midori bands worked perfectly, and eliminated the bulk of the o-ring bands. I could have used thin elastic or other rubber bands, too, but the Midori bands were a no brainer.

The center rubber band holds one notebook. Multiple notebooks are attached with other rubber bands, notebook to notebook. The bands make it easy to remove or add more notebooks. Brian Goulet, of course, made a great tutorial about using the rubber bands. He shows more than one way to band notebooks together, using a Midori Traveler’s Notebook.

Getting two packs of Midori bands allowed all my of rubber bands to be matching black.

Package of Midori bands
Package of Midori bands
Stiff felt with Midori rubber band
Stiff felt with Midori rubber band
Midori bands
Midori bands
Figuring Out the Insides

The DIY notebooks for the Oberon cover have gone through a lot of trial and error, trying to decide what works best. “Best” for, you know, moi.

Originally I was using Staples sugar cane paper. The 20# Staples copy paper was a tad too thin for some of my super fine fountain pen nibs. A hole or three was accidentally poked into the sugar cane pages.

For sturdier paper I changed to HP 32# premium laser printer paper, my standard notepad paper. I’ve been using the HP paper in my ARC notebook for well over a year.

An 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper is cut into two 3.5″ x 5.5″ sheets. Those smaller sheets form the notebooks.

At first I used unsewn/unbound paper inserts because I liked the idea of being able to remove pages, scan them, and then recycle the paper. The Staples ARC has spoiled me with its ability to let me easily remove or move pages in the notebook at will.

Ultimately, sewn signatures were neater, and allowed the Oberon cover to hold more paper. While the individual pages aren’t removable, the notebooks are small enough that they are replaced easily, once or twice a month.

My basic notebook signature contains two 2 sheets of 3″ x 5″ paper for a total of 8 pages in one signature. I use two to four of those signatures for a notebook.

For the time tracking notebook, I use a single signature made from four sheets of 3″ x 5″ paper, for a total of 16 pages.

Signatures ready to go
Signatures at the ready

The signatures are sewn with a simple 3-hole pamphlet stitch. I sew more signatures than I need so that there is an “inventory” of notebooks at the ready.

The time tracking notebook with 16 pages provides half a month’s worth of time tracking pages at a time. I like that.

Currently I’m also using  a lined notebook made from two 2-page signatures (16 pages total).  I was going to sew some blanks together.  Instead, an unused Field Notes blank memo book appeared amongst the mess on my desk.

The Field Notes has 48 pages, so my average notebook carry at this writing is 80 pages total. The cover can comfortably hold far more. The most I’ve carried is 120 pages. I like notebooks with fewer pages than the Field Notes because of my propensity to scan my notes. Even filed with 120 pages, the cover could clearly hold more pages. After all, a Moleskine pocket notebook contains 192 pages all by itself.

Field notes in addition to DIY notebooks
Field Notes in addition to DIY notebooks
80 pages (felt backing)
3 notebooks – felt backing holding 80 pages (can hold far more)
3 notebooks
3 notebooks – old foam backing holding 120 pages
Happiness Results…

The Oberon Pocket Cover feels great to the touch, and it’s small enough to fit in a jeans back-pocket. The felt backing allows the cover to stay closed without the strap. The cover makes me smile each time I reach for it. The smile rating is the best for the tools at my disposal, bringing the notebook cover in line with the pens in the hoard. The Oberon cover feels worthy of tracking something I value so highly: how time’s spent.

Oberon cover 3 notebooks inside
Oberon cover 3 notebooks inside (felt backing)

The strap, of course, is nice to use when you’ve got the notebook in a pocket of some kind. Most of the time I use a DIY blotter with an elastic strap.

Using built-in black elastic strap
Using built-in black elastic strap (foam backing with 120 pages)
DIY strap around notebook.
DIY strap around notebook

The side flaps of the Oberon cover can even be used to slip in pieces of paper, index cards and such.

index cards under the flap
Index cards under the flap (foam backing in place)
Cover easily stays closed with felt backing
Cover easily stays open with felt backing
DIY notebook in place
DIY notebook in place

Ordering direct from Oberon, they included a tiny “thank you” charm. I received a dragonfly charm to go with my dragonfly cover.

Pewter dragonfly charm
Pewter dragonfly charm

The Dragonfly Pocket Cover was a great purchase for my purposes. In addition to purchasing the Oberon cover, I also bought the Midori rubber bands. Everything else for the Oberon cover came from what I already had on hand.

I’m very pleased with how the cover from Oberon Designs has worked out. Now I’ve two standard notebooks with DIY pages:  The junior Staples Arc for project stuff, and the Oberon Design for time tracking, and random notes.

Junior Arc and Oberon pocket cover - got a green thing goin', ay?
Junior Arc and Oberon Pocket Cover – got a green thing goin’, ay?
Some Reading
For Those Who Need Live Action

For Those Who Prefer a Picture Book

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