a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Feb, 2017

Office supplies and self-care

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

The title of this blog post is a little out of left field, but yes, I am really sitting down to write about how office supplies are helping my mental health right now.

Can we all agree that it’s been a bad week? I can’t tear myself away from the news and it’s starting to wear on me: the anger, the fear, the general malaise and feelings of hopelessness. As a compromise, I am now limiting the number of news stories I read and totally avoiding the comments. I’m also going to buy myself a subscription to the online edition of the New York Times. (Did you know that basic access is only $2.50/week right now?)

I have also told the one Trump supporter in my life (yes, they are out there, among us) to stop sending me “news.” I honestly can’t take any more.

My friend Ann Douglas has published a great blog post to this effect, aptly named How to Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed by Your Newsfeed. There’s a lot of good advice over there, so if you’re feeling what I’m feeling this week, I recommend you click over and give it a read.

Anyway, to help stave off the feeling that the world around me is spinning out of control, I bought a new agenda and have been making daily to-do lists. It sounds a little nutty, but it has been working for me like some kind of Magical Brain Balm.

I did a whole bunch of research at the end of last year and spent a lot of time looking at different agendas and planners. As you can imagine, there are a LOT of them out there. It seems that agendas with motivational messages are the big trend right now but this didn’t appeal to me. I also didn’t need stickers or pockets. I also didn’t want to think too deeply about weekly/monthly/yearly goals and write long essays on the topic. I did, however, have some very specific requirements. The agenda had to be:

  • desk size
  • spiral bound
  • one page per day
  • with an aesthetically pleasing design
  • … and clear space for items on my daily to-do lists and a way for me to check them off, because for me, the act of checking things off is immensely satisfying and is a big motivator.

After searching high and low, and fielding some recommendations via Facebook, I found the Day Designer. Behold:

My new agenda by Day Designer

Here’s what the inside page looks like:

Day Designer agenda, inside view

I haven’t made my list for tomorrow, as you can see. :)

I really like the clean design and the amount of space allocated for that daily list. It is perfect for my needs.

The left-hand column is broken down into hourly segments. I don’t use this very often because our whole family shares a digital calendar. (It’s a total lifesaver. Honestly, I’m not sure how busy families function without one.) Anyway, this agenda is really for my own reminders and daily to-dos, most of which are work related but sometimes includes household reminders. It’s really helped me stay on top of things AND has drastically cut down on the number of times I panic about a deadline. (Which has been known to happen in the middle of the night. Ugh.)

My new agenda is actually a pleasure to use. I use my favourite pen, I don’t worry about my handwriting, sometimes I doodle, sometimes I don’t, and I don’t pressure myself to fill in the part about daily gratitude (but maybe I will at some point).

Here’s the thing: I can’t control the world, I can’t control the people in it, I can’t control political outcomes, but I CAN make my own priorities and get a better grip on my day. And you know what? It makes a difference in the day-to-day state of my mental health.

Do you have a perfect agenda? Or do you use a different way to stay organized? I’d love to hear about it!

8 Responses to "Office supplies and self-care"

1 | joy

February 1st, 2017 at 2:03 pm


I have an agenda. I use it for reminders, but also like a diary, sometimes; recording events that happened, what I did that day, etc. I love to write things down – makes me feel like I am accomplishing something important, even though in the grand scheme of things, I may not be.

2 | KristaR

February 1st, 2017 at 4:13 pm


I love my agenda! I write down upcoming events, kids activities etc. but also the weather, things we did that day, what we had for supper, errands ran so it ends up being a diary as well. I have used the Polestar family calendar for the last nine years and I keep them all – often I look up things from previous years so they become reference books too.


3 | Claudette

February 1st, 2017 at 7:30 pm


I prefer a notebook small enough to fit in my bag, and without predetermined dates. I write my notes in there, which can include random items beyond the usual grocery list, like shoe sizes for the kids, or notes about writing assignments. It’s more like a dairy, I guess, but not as specific as a dairy. Dairy’s have sentences, my notebook just has points.

I tried a dated agenda like the one you feature in your post. I felt myself getting stressed out when I didn’t accomplish all the things on some date….carrying them forward is one thing but the list just kept growing.

The ’empty’, or date-less pages of a notebook removed that psychological stress for me. Plus I can have a single page dedicated to groceries, for example. And I can look back at the history without the date screaming at me. (Forgot socks for the boy again, it’s been 6 weeks!)… :)

For the family stuff I need the online calendar, with reminders sent to my phone. Plus I share it with various family members. But that’s strictly for the family stuff, it’s not personal to me

My notebook, like your agenda, is mine alone. And I like the way the pen writes on the paper….especially a fresh new page.

4 | Molly

February 1st, 2017 at 9:19 pm


Yes to the agenda. I like lists – they are especially helpful when I get the lazies or when that general malaise hits.

I do like daily to-dos and I get a lot out of planning a month or a few months ahead – I look forward to planning the tasks that will help me stroke the bigger things off the list.

And, yes. I hear you about it the state of the world and feeling run down by it. Getting a grip on my own day sure helps.

5 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Dealing with those shaky foundations - a peek inside the fishbowl

February 8th, 2017 at 1:58 pm


[…] It’s very hard to do anything when it’s a Lost Day. It’s hard to get out of bed. Get out of the shower. Get dressed. It’s hard to be productive, hard to be chipper, hard to motivate myself to go to the gym. It’s even hard to write in my wonderful new agenda. […]

6 | Nora

February 11th, 2017 at 9:55 pm


A girl after my own heart……
I too went back to an old fashioned paper agenda last month — and it has been the calm I needed to match the chaos of life. I researched and investigated and found one very similar to yours – Emily Ley’s Daily Simplified Planner. I couldn’t live without my on-line calendar for family stuff and meetings, but now I find I can’t live without my agenda either. I’m with you – the joys of office supplies are felt here too. ??

7 | Alyssa

February 22nd, 2017 at 1:19 pm


I’ve always kept a scheduler or date book of some kind. I’m bad for forgetting to write in them but I’m working on that with a new 2017 agenda I have. Basic calendar, notes etc. Simple but useful!

8 | Katherine

February 24th, 2017 at 11:58 am


Organization is so key! And to make it fun – beautiful I think would make it easier to do! ; )

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  • Liz Dick: Just came across this forum now. Funny after all these years I've never seen it. Rummoli has been a family favourite of ours for four generations.
  • Molly: A great read, Andrea! I have been to a few estate sales - they can be fascinating. I am far from a minimalist but I am always trimming the amount
  • Lynn: Perhaps this could inspire a series of posts about Special Things - the history and what makes them precious. Going to give this some thought! Thanks
  • a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive The stories of our stuff - a peek inside the fishbowl: […] we commissioned Dave Allston, a local historian, to compile for us awhile back. (I wrote about it here, if you’re curious.) I was fair
  • andrea tomkins: I try not to look! ;) New nightstands would help the problem, for sure. They're just not in the cards right now. Unfortunately, everything I really li
  • Marianne: The bed not being centred would definitely bother me. I'd solve it by opting for nightstands on legs, or installing floating shelves. But Id probabl
  • andrea tomkins: We actually won it in a blog giveaway a few years ago. It's made by Phillips. I really like it! It has a few different alarm sounds too, all are gentl

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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