The Jibun Techo: Analogue superplanner?

I am constantly trying out new planners- electronic, paper…I like them all. However, I’ve recently been turning more to paper, since I find that I remember my appointments and tasks better if they are written down, and I am rarely sitting at my computer. My profession, psychiatry, necessitates that I am fully focused on the person in front of me- no checking my phone for messages, overdue tasks, etc.

I’ve tried a few planners over the last few months, partly to write about them here, including the Mark’s Tokyo Storage planner (awkward name, elegant page design and functional cover), the Hobonichi, and the Traveler’s journal. However, I think the one I like best of them is the Jibun Techo.  It comes in a small size that looks like the Hobonichi Weeks to me, a business appropriate one (the “biz”) and an “A5 slim”, which is really Cahier sized, not A5.

The Jibun Techo is really three books in one. One book, the Life book, contains anniversaries, budgets, life events, memories, etc, that you might keep from year to year. It’s made from sturdy, fountain-pen friendly paper that should last several years. The planner book, the thickest of the three books, contains monthly and weekly planner pages, plus monthly trackers for habits, book lists, movies lists, maps of public transportation, etc. The paper is very thin, and I think perhaps Tomoe River, which has the advantage of being light, but fountain-pen friendly. The pages are multicolored, and days cover 24 hours while giving sunset/sunrise and moon phases, which is uncommon for planners like this. The third book is a thin Ideas book, which has Tomoe River paper, and can be a daily log, notes, etc. The whole thing comes in a functional vinyl cover, which has some card slots, and can be decorated (though I’m not much of a decorative planner person). A pocket in the back holds a pencil board with an elastic strap that holds the whole thing closed. I ended up putting a leather traveler’s cover from Jenni Bick on mine.

I leave the Life book at home. I noticed that I brought it with me every day to work, and never once used it- the kind of planning I did with it was more what I would do on my weekly/monthly/yearly planning, and I didn’t need it day-to-day. The other issue I had with it was my concern with losing it. I would be horrified if I left my budget and sensitive information like kid’s birth dates and passwords at the local Starbucks! Recreating your planner would be awful enough, but I think real identity theft damage could be the result of losing the Life book.

Now for the planner: I really like the layout. The vertical layout helps me plan my day but there is a ton of space for tasks, which I felt was lacking in the Midori traveler’s vertical planner. I don’t write tasks that I do routinely (daily rituals, so on), but I do have a lot of deadlines with my evolving career and family, and there was not enough space in other planners. The Jibun also has optional task strips, which are like perforated post-its which are a perfect column size that you can add on extra room for tasks (or clean up a task list that has become chaos!). There are small removable highlighter flags that are also column size, so you can highlight important appointments or tasks, though I have not figured out how functional I think these really are. I have them, and have used them, but I find the fact that they tend to fold away from the page somewhat distracting. I think a Mild-lighter highlighter might work better, honestly. Perhaps someone has a different point of view.

I also really like the habit tracker section, and the places to write movies, books, etc. I ignore some of the spaces to write things down- I feel like I keep a journal, and I don’t need to write EVERYTHING including what I ate down. It’s a fine line between detail-oriented and obsessive compulsive personality disorder! (kidding, sort of…)

I bought a few of the Ideas books since they are so thin; I figured I would fill them up rapidly, but to my surprise, I really haven’t. The paper has a tiny grid, and for some reason, I’ve adjusted my handwriting to the tiny grid, so I get a LOT of writing on one page.

Here’s my thoughts of the pros and cons of the planner:

Pros: great design, thoughtful sections, planner pages with sunset/sunrise/moonphases and color accents are quite nice, fountain pen friendly. Relatively light, especially if you leave the Life book at home. Can still be used, even if you don’t read/speak Japanese.

Cons: perhaps too many spaces for recording your life events/details (when does it become more time consuming than time saving to keep a planner), the sections like budget, etc are potentially too sensitive to carry with you in case of loss. Some of the sections (again, like the budget) don’t translate well if you don’t read Japanese. Tabs are in Japanese, and I had to write the translation in a fine pen, which is still hard to read. Many people, including me, sort of hate the font style.

One last handy tip- there’s some translation on the Jet Pens website, in the product photos. If you join one of the Japanese planner Facebook groups, they have more of the translation in the files sections of their groups. However, this still might not help you use the budget section since it can be a hassle to flip back and forth to the translation!

Do you have a planner you love, or really have an opinion about the Jibun Techo? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. Is anyone else SUPER excited about the “Digital Minimalism” book by Cal Newport coming out next month??

Runkeeper: this app will keeping you moving!

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I’m not a natural runner. In high school, I slogged along, huffing and puffing, watching my friends in track sprint past me, getting through the long runs with a positive attitude, and happily discuss the “runner’s high.” Blech! I know running is an effective way to burn calories, and I can remember when it was a joy when I was a little kid. But as an adult, the enthusiasm I can muster is, “well, this sucks slightly less than it did 10 minutes ago.” On the other hand, I need to stay fit, and I have limited time, so running is a really efficient way to do so.

I’ve run with several apps, but Runkeeper (www.runkeeper.com) is my favorite so far. I’ve run with it on and off for about a year, but more seriously over the last few months. One way of sticking with running, I read, is to sign up for a race in the future, and pay for it. I did this, but then I needed to decide how to prepare for that race. Since I already had Runkeeper, and liked it, I decided to stick with it. I’ve recently compared running apps in a different blog, which you can find HERE. Today, I want to write more in depth about Runkeeper, and how it has been a game changer for me.

Runkeeper is free for the basic functions, but for the coaching and advanced functions, the cost is $9.99/mo or $39.99 per year. If you might use the app for more than four months, it is a better deal to sign up for a year at a time. I think it is worth it. This is the longest I have stuck with running, and have noticed that my running times have significantly improved, just by getting out there three times a week.

Runkeeper can map your run, showing you where you were, how long it took, and what speed and average speed you were running. If you have the newer GPS version Apple Watch, you can leave your phone at home, and Runkeeper can manage your run from your watch. If you do not have the newest Apple Watch, you can still leave the phone at home, but it won’t be able to map your run. Allegedly it can still measure your distance- I imagine the way a FitBit does, which is perhaps a little less accurate in distance (which is what studies generally show about the Fitbit: better for steps, less so for distance). I always bring my phone, so I haven’t tested this out yet.

Runkeeper, like many other running apps, can also play music via the app- either the music from your iPhone, or Spotify, which is very nicely integrated into the app. Spotify and Runkeeper work together to measure your speed, and play music that matches your pace to encourage you. However, I have not been able to use this where I am running, because there is no cell service. Instead, I have been listening to podcasts (the Tim Ferris show!) which are NOT integrated into the app. To listen to podcasts, you download the podcast (unless you have sufficient cell service), then start the podcast, then start Runkeeper. Runkeeper doesn’t control the podcast, but it is easy enough to adjust the volume separately. I would love it if Runkeeper could integrate this into the app rather than having to use this hack to get it to work, but for now, it works fine my way.

I have been using the 5K coach plan- the plan is written by Jeff Galloway, a very well respected runner and running teacher. The plan starts off with walking and running two days a week, with a slightly longer weekend run. After each interval, a voice through my headphones instructs me what I should be doing -“One minute- walk!” The intervals are progressively getting longer for running and shorter for walking, until the end, when I assume I will be running the whole thing. The intervals started off easy enough that I wasn’t huffing and puffing, and they have moved towards running slowly enough that I feel like I can keep up. On the other hand, my running times have improved, and each step feels challenging as well. The app reminds me the night before when I have a run coming up the next day. For the first time in a REALLY long time, I am enjoying running. I like the chance to get out and run, burn off some calories, and catch up on podcasts. I can click on each run and see what my approximate speed was at any given time, how many calories I burned, etc. I have not used all the data that it gives me, but maybe when I get more advanced at running! Allegedly the app also works for biking, but I have not tried it.

I can also cheer on friends -live, if you have the paid version. After each run, it gives me the opportunity to comment on the run, and can post it to social media (though I don’t), and let my friends also on Runkeeper know that I have gone for a run. This has been a little bit like hearing a tree fall in the woods -does it make a noise- because no one I know is running right now!

A few other nice aspects of the app are that it integrates with many calorie trackers, as well as Apple’s own Health Data. There is an Apple Watch app, which mainly does everything that you might need while you are out running- tells you splits, how long you have been running, lets you pause the app, etc. I use the Apple Watch app every time. You can join challenges (I’ve signed up to do the “I am a Runner Challenge” and the “January 5K” challenges, which completing means I am entered into a drawing for free UnderArmour Gear. When I hit a new milestone, I’ve received an email congratulations, and a coupon for 20% off running gear, which is pretty fun.

I am planning to keep using this app. I’m really happy with my progress, and with the coaching plan. Is anyone else using Runkeeper?

FitStar by FitBit: worth the cost?

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I use the FitStar app on my iPhone to get a daily work out in, five days a week in the morning, and run three days a week in the evening. I was therefore, surprised when I started up FitStar one morning this week, and found an entirely new app.  A lot has changed in the app, both good and bad, in my opinion. It seems like FitBit has purchased the app, because it is now “FitStar by FitBit” and Fitbit is in the icon.

The most superficial part is that the icon has changed, from the red star on white background, to a black and blue icon.  The previous app guided you through workouts, based on your goals, age, and the results of your fitness test, with reassuring voiceovers by Tony Gonzales. Where is Tony Gonzalez now? I liked him. Anyway, with the new app, you choose one of two coaches, Lea or Adrian. I can’t tell if it makes much difference which coach you choose. My instinct was to choose the female coach, so I stretched my limits and picked the male coach.

The exercises are different now- I haven’t seen any of the “star skaters- it’s almost like an extreme version of the curtsy”  (you’ll laugh if you had been doing FitStar before the update!) but there are a lot of really challenging exercises. They are mostly well explained, though the design of the app has some kind of overlay on top of of the video that makes it occasionally hard to see. The exercises start immediately after the demonstration, mostly so fast that if you are new to the exercise, it is hard to get in position before they start. I usually miss the first exercise of the set, I’ve noticed, but I anticipate that this will improve as I become more familiar with the exercises.

I like that you can choose a more efficient or more challenging routine that day depending on your time and motivation- before, if you were in a program- “get lean” or “get strong” for instance, you were stuck doing exactly what the next routine in the series was. Some days, I feel like doing more, or have less time. I think this results in doing the routines more often, because if I have less time, I can do a shorter routine instead of skipping it altogether because I don’t have time for what the plan had intended for me.

The increased integration with FitBit now allows the app to adjust your workout depending on what you did with the Fitbit the day before- if it knows you pushed it on a long run, it might suggest something easier the next day. I don’t think this works if you’re not using a FitBit-I use an Apple Watch, for instance.

Speaking of Apple Watch, it has also dropped the apple watch app. Truth be told, I didn’t use the app that often, since it had limited functionality, but I did like how it could tell you how many of each exercise were supposed to be in the set. To make up for this, there’s a new option to add a “ticking” sound to each rep, so I just keep up with the sounds to get the right number of reps. This has the effect of making the routine more challenging as well, as I am doing the reps slower and using more muscle power on the negative, which is good.

I think the subscription cost has stayed the same- $7.99 per month. I think it’s a good value, especially right now, while I’m away from home for an extended period of time. When I get back home, where I can go to the gym before work, I’ll quit the subscription.

Overall, I think this has been a good change. It would be nice if it could give you the workout adjustment aspect if you’re not using a FitBit. It would also be nice if the Apple Watch app was reintroduced with more functionality, perhaps using it’s ability to measure heart rate. And give us Tony Gonzalez back!