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Times New Roman, sized at 12 points and double-spaced. One-inch margins on all sides.

When teachers and college professors required a format like that, they were teaching you some of the basics of typography—but not well, and not for the sake of good type.

They had their reasons. Uniform standards are easier; everyone can refer to them. A common formatting style means students can count finished assignments in pages instead of words, which is simpler. And it's probably not fair to expect young students—who are still learning to write—to present their documents like professionals.

But the “standard formats” we use most in school are unavoidably ugly. They're functional prints of work, but they don't look good. Once we've left school, this becomes a problem overnight. As students, we get virtually no practice using smart typography to present our work well for readers.

So when you do have an original document to design, you might be running short on ideas and practice. This week, we’ve got four suggestions for making your documents sharper—including some pointers on how this works on a typical computer.

 

Start Looking at New Fonts

Your first task is to use something other than the fonts everyone knows. Put simply, there’s no way to use an ordinary, uninteresting font without seeming ordinary and uninteresting.

 

Want an extraordinary vessel for extraordinary ideas? Click below to find yours.

 

That (probably) means no more Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Arial for you. No more Tahoma, no more Calibri, no more Georgia. Your computer probably came with lots of fonts, but most of them aren’t good. Even if you identify the few gems among those system fonts (and you should), you’re going to need outside options.

One good place to start is Google Fonts. As they’re free to access, they’re expectably average—but starting here will give you the opportunity to see a large and completely different set of fonts from your own system fonts.

 

As you browse, you can narrow your selections by properties like category (serif, sans serif, etc.), slant, and weight. Then, once you’ve made a few selections, you can make direct comparisons and, in many cases, download the fonts to your computer.

Be sure to check the license and terms of use for each font you download; while most private uses should be fine, you should always double-check what you’re allowed to do with a font, especially before publishing or sharing a document. (This is true for all fonts, not just Google fonts. Check the terms.)

There are plenty of places you can find free fonts, but you get what you pay for—and when you pay nothing, be glad to find anything of value. Eventually, to get serious about your font game, you will have to spend actual money. Prices range pretty widely; some fonts or collections cost $5 while others cost hundreds. As always, it’s a personal choice of fit and affordability—and as always, shop responsibly.

 

Brush Up on the Rules

Like grammar and style, typography is subjective. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few rules.

Writers lose credibility when they use words incorrectly (hence, grammar Nazis). But by the same logic, they can lose credibility (or clarity, or attention) with each typographic mistake.

Typographer and author Matthew Butterick covers the basics quite well in Typography in Ten Minutes and a follow-up Summary of Key Rules. We recommend you read them both; they’re succinct.

Wherever you review, you may notice that the rules break into roughly three categories:

Some are to-the-point mandates; for example, you use only one space between sentences, and that’s that. Don't expect to bend these without looking stubborn (to the people who notice).

Other rules are guidelines of taste and style; for example, don’t go crazy with font selection, exclamation points, or formatting options like bold and italic. 

The remaining rules are technical reminders, like remembering to use hyphens and dashes correctly; while unexciting, these rules can refresh your technical vocabulary and make your writing more precise. (It really is true, for example, that em dashes—these longer, interrupting ones—are underused in most people’s writing, and simply because people don’t know how to type them on their keyboards.)

 

Practice the Basics

At some point, you have to get to work with your new type toys.

Let’s suppose you open a blank document in Microsoft Word, then type out your text—but without changing any of the standard formatting. It will probably look pretty bland.

Some people would slap a title on it, hit Print, and call it a day. But not you. You can spare three minutes to finish it like a professional. It just needs to look good, and it needs to be easy to read. What can we do?

We've made a few quick suggested changes:

  1. We changed the typeface from Helvetica to Equity, leaving the size at 12pt.
  2. We widened the page margins to 1.75 inches on the left and right, narrowing each line of text. 
  3. We gave each line a bit more height—to be specific, each line is 17pt high. 
  4. We've also justified the text, being sure to eliminate lines with single words (widows and orphans). 

Looks better, right? Here's a little more info on how to do it:

— You can change font and justification in the usual places.
— For page margins, check the Layout banner or Page Setup.
— To adjust line spacing, you'll need to find Paragraph settings, which can be accessed from the drop-down menu via Format >> Paragraph. Then, choose "Exact" line spacing and set a specific number; just remember that it won't automatically adjust if you change the font size for text in those lines.  

 

Keep Your Eyes Open

When you realize how much of the world has type on it, you realize how important typography is to our understanding of information.

You also understand more clearly the silent appeal of good typography and how it influences perception—of the writing and words themselves, but also of the person or entity responsible for them.

Since the world is full of type, the world is full of examples you can assess. You’ll find your own themes, but probably you’ll notice what common sense already taught you...

Don’t overuse anything, and definitely don’t use anything trite or cliché.

Design things to say what you want them to say.

Stand out but don’t be too strange.

Perhaps most importantly: it’s worth it to spend some time on polish. Not only does it enhance the work you’ve already done, but it can mean the difference between being noticed or not. That, in turn, can mean the difference between success and failure.

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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Pricing is tricky. Everyone could have an opinion about what your thing costs.

Even if you price perfectly, some people would be happy to pay double while others will think you're expensive garbage—while on sale, no less. 

We see this a lot in our own office. To our pleasure, plenty of customers (the overwhelming majority) have great Code&Quill experiences and consider their notebooks invaluable.

But we also see consistent comments—on our Facebook ads, for instance—from people who can't see the point because they're just as happy with a $2 bargain-bin notebook. 

For that person, that logic is sound. If you'd be happy with a $2 notebook, why spend $20?

Despite what some claim, we know our notebooks aren't overpriced for what they are. Still, the skeptics' line of thought does beg a fair question: why would you willingly spend $20 on one notebook? 

This article lists some of the reasons we—and our customers—can offer as answers. Sure, we're biased here, but we were people who'd buy $20 notebooks before Code&Quill was even a thing. (And not because we were swimming in money.)

Judge a Book By Its Cover

1. Our notebooks are roughly 10 times prettier than a typical notebook. No one ever stopped mid-conversation to ask about a Five-Star, but we've been interrupted plenty of times while holding a Code&Quill. 

2. Our notebooks can make YOU look 10 times prettier (give or take). Accessories matter—no matter who you are, male or female. The attractiveness of the accessories always transfers, in whole or part, to the person carrying them. It's not just the nice appearance of things, either, but what you can guess about the person as a result—and a classy, understated notebook makes anyone looking guess "sophisticated."  

3. Our notebooks are more likely to be taken seriously from the beginning—especially by their owners. It's way easier to get attached to something, to invest and actually care about a personal possession, when that possession is both attractive and durable. That way, it holds your interest and it will stick around. In Code&Quill's case, the covers are the main reason your notebook can stick with you for a long time. 

4. The cover isn't just cosmetic; it's functional. A Kevlar vest is mighty expensive—but it stops bullets way better than a flannel shirt. Our covers are "awfully serious" for notebook covers—but they last way better than thin, glossy cardboard. And they lay flat!

5. The packaging is part of the Code&Quill experience—and we think you'll appreciate the difference. Presentation always matters. Whether someone is given a ring they'll wear for the rest of their life—or just served their dinner any night out at a nice restaurant—it's the first sight that's most memorable and meaningful.  

We don't advertise our packaging much in advance (on purpose) because we want that to be a fresh experience for customers. Many people have said that our packaging is part of what makes our notebooks great gifts.  


Thinking of someone who'd love using the world's best notebook?
Grab them one!

(How) You Get What You Pay For

6. We use better paper than most notebook-makers bother with. A typical spiral-bound notebook will have paper in the 50-60 GSM (grams per square meter) range. Our closer competitors, like Moleskine, come nearer to 80 GSM. Our paper is 100 GSM, so it's heavier and smoother and less likely to tear. 

7. Notebooks like ours aren't as simple to make as people think. It's just a bunch of paper bound together! you say. But look closely and you'll see how the manufacturing process is really a handful of manufacturing processes in a row.  

We'll go into more detail in a future blog post, but to give you an idea: the paper alone has to be cut, printed, cut again, cornered, folded, and formed into signatures before being sewn into the binding. Meanwhile, the binding (and cover, and patch, and so on) each have to be made separately—and THEN brought together into a notebook.

8. Notebooks like ours aren't as cheap to make as people think. Having read the above, it probably won't shock you to read that, no, our notebooks do not cost us "pennies" to make, even overseas. They cost us multiple dollars apiece, actually—and that's not including packaging, quality control, shipping everything from the factory halfway around the world, or everything to bring it to market (which is still quite a bit). 

9. Notebooks like ours aren't as simple to sell as people expect. This isn't a complaint, just a reality you might not consider about brands like ours: if you're aware of our brand and seriously considering our products, you're in a relatively small group of people. 

This is why we're thrilled to "find our people" — 90+ percent of people don't care about notebooks and never will. Then, to make it harder for us, the 10-or-fewer percent who DO care are scattered far and wide. Sure, maybe you technically "found" us, but it took a surprising amount of effort (and some resources) to spread ourselves to the places where you could find us—and that's daily work for a lot of people like us. 

10. Relative to most goods, we're still manufacturing in "small batches." The misconception that our notebooks would cost "pennies each" to manufacture might persist because of what educated consumers know about economies of scale—that companies, especially big ones, can produce goods more cheaply the more they can manufacture at one time. The same consumers understand that this means better profit margins (and/or more competitive pricing). This is all generally true—in fact, it's Econ 101. 

The only "but" is that Code&Quill is still small, relative to the world of manufacturing and its standards for pricing—which just means we're further away from being able to pass along manufacturing savings. (That's the economics of small-batch anything.)

 

Hop on the Bandwagon

11. We have amazing customers who write amazing things about us. It's nice to be liked. And it certainly helps people come look at us.

12. We've been liked from the start. Not in the sense that we won any popularity contest—but rather, in the sense that we were started with crowdfunding. Paper to the people! (Check out our original Traveler/Origin Kickstarter campaign here and our second Monolith Kickstarter campaign here.)

13. We stick close to customers as we adapt. We're always looking for feedback and ideas, whether they're for existing stuff or not. Customer feedback is what prompted our first product redesign; it's driven a lot of our blog and social media efforts; it's a big influence in the development of new goodies. We actively seek out and reward helpful feedback, so chime in whenever!

14. Certain pockets of people LOVE our stuff for their own particular reasons. For example, we've been very popular with programmers, designers, and other technical people because of our classic split page layout. They speak highly of the design in general, but they fall in love with the features that help them think.

15. Our notebooks, and the community supporting them, help people cross interests and think about their work in new ways. Not only do niche specialists like programmers think more deeply in writing, but most any person with a Code&Quill can think more broadly. Features like the slightly-wide dimension, specialty page layouts, lay-flat binding, and paper quality really do relax a lot of minds. 

 

Spacious working, smooth writing, sophisticated design.
Awwww yisssss.
 

Let's Do Some Math

16. One of our notebooks costs way less—per hour of use—than many other kinds of fun, hobbies, or vocational practice. A 200-page notebook could easily take you 50-100 hours to complete. Not only is that a conservative estimate for many of our customers, but that's only the time spent filling the notebook. 

So—in this one sense only—our notebooks really do cost pennies at a time.

17. Similar to #1: you're probably going to enjoy using one of our notebooks roughly 10 times as much, and that's where you'll sense the difference. It'd be enough to say it's a handsome, durable, highly functional notebook—but it's also way more fun to use than a bargain-bin notepad.

There's a reason people smile while driving Ferraris, and it's not because they're driving on better streets than the Fiats; it's because they're driving the same streets with much greater joy and precision. 

18. Most of us spend money which is, by comparison, patently stupid. Ever gotten a parking ticket because you were unlucky (and too lazy to drive 100 more feet to find an open spot)? Well, there goes $30. That's a Code&Quill and a half—in a merciful city.

How much have you spent on drinks out... that you didn't even finish? (You get it.) 

19. If you want a notebook that houses something very important, it's much easier to justify, no matter how miserly you are for everyday notebooking needs. This one you can fill out for yourself, if it applies to you.

20. Our company creates free stuff to assist and amuse people just like you... whether you buy one of our notebooks or not. For this last reason, we get to cheat a little bit—because if you've read this far, you've probably proven us right!

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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A few weeks ago, we introduced you to six barriers between creative people and success. 

Afraid to fail—or look like a moron? We explain why you're probably happier taking a risk.

Under pressure from your peers—or even your family? We give some pointers for talking it out.

Not sure it's all worth it? We suggest some questions to help yourself decide.

 

This guidance is courtesy of our friend Dr. Lyle Sussman, former chair of the University of Louisville School of Business and author of numerous books—the latest being Breaking the Glaze Ceiling: Sweet Lessons for Entrepreneurs, Innovators and Wannabes, from which we've adapted most of these two articles (with Lyle's permission). 

 

It Gets Personal

As Lyle recounts in the book's Introduction, he has experience from the trenches of entrepreneurship—but he's primarily an academic, someone who's spent his professional tenure in a university setting.

Lyle expected to retire (in the next few years) without having to roll up his sleeves again. Then his daughter Annie came over for dinner. 

Despite her Masters Degree and stable career, she wasn't happy with her work—and she knew what she was going to do about it. With a friend, she planned to start a business selling doughnuts—even though she had zero culinary training. (According to Lyle, Annie hadn't ever been much of a cook or baker—and neither had Leslie, Annie's business partner.)

Annie said she'd even picked out the name: Hi-Five Doughnuts. 

To say the least, this shocked Lyle—and at first, he was hesitant to believe that this could be a good idea. But Lyle realized that Annie had showed him the true opportunity of entrepreneurship: surviving, if not fully thriving, on the work you actually want to do. Lyle got behind her and offered to help her with a formal business plan, among other things (though, in the end, she never actually needed a formal business plan and thus never developed one).

This article is two things in one: a collection of lessons for breaking through the ceilings that aspirational people face, AND a brief case-study of Hi-Five Doughnuts, which has since seen tremendous growth and success by manifesting the breakthrough lessons Lyle illuminates in Breaking the Glaze Ceiling.

 

Glaze Lesson No. 4

Please note: the very man whose name is synonymous with genius, rather than keep it to himself, proclaimed that "everyone is a genius." Many thinkers in history placed themselves above "common" people, but not Einstein. If you're doubting yourself, think about that. 

Consider, too, the profile of the modern success story. Sure, you can still make bank by getting a ritzy J.D./M.B.A. from a prestigious school, or by being one of those turbo-smart people who answer questions no human has answered before (many of whom have Ph.D.s). As the Joker would say in The Dark Knight: "if you're [really] good at something, never do it for [anything close to] free." 

But notice: nowadays, the rising titans are people who made their names by doing, not just by knowing. Consider that one definition of intelligence is the ability to adapt—book info can definitely help, but there's no replacing personal experience. If you want to get "street smarts," just start working and learn from what happens next.

 

Glaze Lesson No. 5

Fear is a killer. And we mean that almost literally: your fears, left unchecked and unchallenged, have the power to literally kill your dreams. 

We're not just being dramatic. Think about it: how do you kill a dream? How do you remove an idea from existence? Well, in simple terms, you kill whoever holds that dream or idea.

And how do you kill a person? If nothing else, you can just wait for them to die. 

This is all figurative, of course, but it still describes your life. The surest way to kill your own dreams is to wait for them to die. All things equal, YOU are likely your own biggest obstacle.

So get out of your own way. If being happy means risking unhappiness, consider that the alternative to that risk is unhappiness by default—or at least, a longing wonder for what could have been if you'd tried.

 

Glaze Lesson No. 6

There is nothing new under the sun. Most ideas, in the end, are recycled bits of other ideas—because, when you think about it, inspiration can't happen in a vacuum.

Having said that, the best ideas are often novel combinations, or ideas that haven't been seen in a while, or ideas that resonate in the present more than they ever have before. But standout ideas, those we can call 'the best' or 'ahead of their time,' are aberrant and unusual by nature.

Let's put this another way: no matter how smart or capable you are, no one is going to hear you if you sound like everyone else. Practically by definition, people who are impressive and/or memorable stand out from others as unique, as something distinguishable from the mass. Isn't that also practically the definition of weird?

As Lyle clarifies in Breaking the Glaze Ceiling, "weird" doesn't mean "dangerous" or "unstable" — those are their own labels, and for people whom you should avoid. Having said that, you should seek out weird people because they'll give you perspective on what you do—and they might be unusually talented once you get to know them.   

 

Glaze Lesson No. 9

A good idea—or a good business—is greater than the sum of its parts.

Here's what we mean... and let's harken back to grunting-caveman-simple levels of business. Let's say two people agree to a trade: Grog's club for Glag's leg of lamb. The "sum of the parts" is, technically, zero; the items traded owners, but nothing was created in the process. But the trade itself was greater than that zero sum because Grog and Glag were both happier when the trade was done.

Now skip ahead to Times-Square-21st-century stuff again. Think about the best brands in the world, perhaps some of your favorites. Let's say you're really into Jordans. Is your love of Jordans (and your valuation of them) high because they're well-made shoes—or because, to you, they represent something much greater than shoes? 

 

 

Everyone—including you—geeks out over something that most people don't see in that special way. You know that feeling, and you know how great it feels to have it. Air Friend with the Jordans is happier every second he's thinking about his shoes. But you also know what it's like to "not get it," as many of us don't about the shoes thing. 

Here's your challenge: you have to LOVE the thing you do to the point that you win others over. Whatever you're nerdy and irrationally excited about, stop caring what other people think and invite them to join you in some experience instead. A legendary brand doesn't really care if everyone likes them; they just care that "their people" love experiencing what they do.

 

Glaze Lesson No. 11

Quite frankly, you can do it all alone. It's just a really, really bad idea. 

If you want to burn yourself out, this is the way to do it. Even solopreneurs have people they call on for help: outsourcers and contractors, perhaps a personal assistant, even just a personal confidante for venting after a long day.

As we've written about Scrum before, what's useful about working with other people is that you can use one another's skills and ideas to solve problems. Sure, you could figure something out if you bashed your head against the wall long enough... but isn't that a waste when Jimmy over there could teach you in five minutes? 

You can do a lot more with others, and through others, than you'd ever expect otherwise. Don't make life so much harder (or drearier) just by failing to say hello. 

 

What do you do now?

In short? You apply yourself. 

Whatever skills, talents, superpowers, favors, resources, ideas, leads, or avenues you have to take your next steps, take them.  

 

Almost always, you'll have options; you'll have some way to move forward on your dream, even if it's small or slow for now. But the lamest option of all—and the one that will prove most anticlimatic to you, of all people—is to do nothing.

The biggest thoughts you have in a day are probably the things you dream about, the things you want most from your life. If they're your dreams, they've probably repeated themselves thousands of times over. But they're worth noting again and again, and when new thoughts come your way, welcome them for how they might help.

 

If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

 

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Today is D-Day, for those of you keeping track. So to stay on theme with today's events in history, we offer a comparison (though most certainly not an equivocation) between that history and our more present struggles. 

 

1. Everyone has, more or less, the same equipment. 

    In War: Everyone has a gun. Some fire little bullets, some fire big bullets. In rare cases, the person’s gun has a plane attached to it. But you get the point. 

    Online: Everyone has a computer. Some are little computers, some are big computers. But they all do (mostly) the same stuff in (mostly) the same ways. 

     

    2. Everyone’s equipment is, more or less, functional by design. They’re working tools.

      In War: Your gun is intended (more or less) to shoot other people who have guns. Whatever else you carry is meant (ultimately) to help you use your gun, or to keep the enemy people from using theirs. 

      Online: Your computer is intended (more or less) to communicate with other people or things who have computers. Whatever else you install is meant (ultimately) to help you communicate more. 

       

      3. This won’t stop you from making your equipment your own—or even having some fun with it. 

        In War: This is my gun. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. When it’s not doing work, it’s one way to have fun—and I want it to look somehow distinct from the others. (If this one doesn’t make sense to you, you haven’t spent enough time in the American South.) 

        Online: This is my computer. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. When it’s not doing work, it’s one way to have fun—and I want it to look somehow distinct from the others. (If this one doesn’t make sense to you, you haven’t spent enough time in coffee shops.)

         

        4. The few things you need are one second away. Everything else is a disorganized mess. 

          In War: Helmet? Check. Radio? Check. Canteen? Check. Toenail clippers? Hell if I know. 

          Online: Today’s work? Check. Music and recent photos? Check. Email and calendar? Check. Last year’s tax return? Hell if I know. 

           

          5. Most things visible to the public are broken—or at least, less than pristine. 

            In War: Lots of anonymous buildings are completely dilapidated. Important buildings (like courthouses), while more likely functional, might look like they’re in rough shape. Everyone sees this disrepair, but no one says anything because it’s just normal.

            Online: Lots of anonymous websites are completely out of date, if not buggy and broken. Important sites (like Reddit), while more likely functional, might look like they’re in rough shape. Everyone sees this disrepair, but no one says anything because it’s just normal. 

             

            6. You’re constantly bombarded with things to worry about, pay attention to, or deal with. (And you can’t ask them to stop.) 

              In War: You’re poised and ready for the next threat. Your eyes dart left and right. You’re not sure when, or from exactly where, but you know more is coming.

              Online: You’re poised and ready for the next notification. Your eyes dart left and right, but mostly to the top-right corner. You’re not sure when, or from exactly where, but you know more is coming.

               

              7. You never really know anyone unless you try. But strangers can still be fascinating—and memorable for a lifetime. 

              In War: You can’t afford to get too attached to people because there’s a good chance that—for whatever reason—you won’t see them again. They’re real people, but for now they’re just a name tag on a uniform, and most times it’s better to keep it that way. Still, you’ll find yourself entranced sometimes by strangers and their stories, and you’ll remember them always, even if you forget the people telling them. 

              Online: You can’t afford to get too attached to people because there’s a good chance that—for whatever reason—you won’t see them again. They’re real people, but for now they’re just a username in some app, and most times it’s better to keep it that way. Still, you’ll find yourself entranced sometimes by strangers and their stories, and you’ll remember them always, even if you forget the people telling them.

               

              8. There’s an entire underbelly that most people will never see. 

              In War: There are far, far more technicalities to war than any civilian can think about. Some of these, like rules of engagement, are simple enough conventions to learn. But there’s also a lot of political brokering that has nothing to do with the usual forces people expect (like ideology).  

              Online: There are far, far more technicalities to computers (and the Web) than any typical user can think about. Some of these, like basic cyber-security practices, are simple enough conventions to learn. But there’s also a lot of political brokering that has nothing to do with the usual forces people expect (like worldwide cybersecurity). To get an idea, read about net neutrality. 

               

              9. The more you understand everything that’s happening, the worse you’re likely to feel about all of it. 

                In War: What person can survive the most extreme of human phenomena—much less become good at it, professionally—without going a little crazy?

                Online: What person can master (one of) the most tedious and technical professions known to man—much less become good at it, professionally—without going a little crazy?

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                We all love the power of Now—unless we're talking about the work we need to do now.

                Let's just assume that, if you're reading this, you're a smart person. So you may already know this, but one of the main problems with being smart is that smart people are better at rationalizing.

                This argument explains productive procrastination quite well (if not bigger things, like evil). 

                Creative people are especially prone to procrastination. We often prefer to think about something, or to work around it, than to attack it head-on. As comedian John Mulaney put it aptly below: “Percentage-wise, It is 100% easier not to do things than to do them.” 

                 

                 

                But this isn't all bad.

                Sometimes, deliberate procrastination can help you have a better workday—and let's face it, we all have our off days. (We illustrated the stages of procrastination with funny GIFs of Ari Gold a couple weeks ago.)

                If procrastination is gonna happen, you may as well do it right—and if you're gonna do it right, there are some rules.

                In the fashion of Fight Club, here are the rules of productive procrastination:

                Rule No. 1: You cannot stop being productive.

                Ahem...

                 

                Rule No. 2: You cannot stop being productive.

                But seriously. If you aren’t being productive, you’re just wasting time. You're skipping out on something you should do... it’s only fair that you accomplish something else instead.

                Be halfway serious about the time you’re spending. Knitting and catching up on Scandal is not productive procrastination; it’s not even close. 

                Rule No. 3: Allow yourself to do the wrong thing, for once.

                We know we should do the most important things first. But some days, you also know it just isn’t happening.

                Whatever it is, it can wait one more day. (If we're being "realistic" here.) 

                So if you’ve already, in short, given up—and will be making it manifest through your behavior that day—there’s no point in guilting yourself about it. 

                Even if you’re not doing the thing you should, you can still be super-productive, especially since letting that dreaded task rest should lower your stress level.

                Rule No. 4: Always start high on the food chain.

                Consider your to-do list as an ordered list, with the Number 1 item being the one you’re not doing.

                Notice, though, that there’s still a pecking order; of the other things you’ve got to do, some are more important than others.

                Productive procrastination should not mean “doing whatever you want”—it should mean “avoiding doing that one thing, but smartly.” So if you’re too lazy to hunt a woolly mammoth today, metaphorically speaking, ask yourself if you could tackle a bear, or a moose, or at least a coyote.

                Start as large as you can, then work your way down. After deciding not to hunt the woolly mammoth, you shouldn’t go straight to digging for grubs.

                Rule No. 5: Move what you can move.

                As John Perry pointed out in his piece on the subject, structured procrastination relies upon the fact that you’re putting off the most important item on your list.

                By Perry’s logic, one way to make sure that something gets done is to make sure something else becomes more important. By moving other projects forward, you remain further ahead on them, and you give those other projects momentum so that, when they come back to you, they might be bigger—big enough to make you want to do the task you’d put off in the first place.

                 

                Rule No. 6: Set yourself up for success while you wait.

                Again, don’t jump straight to whatever you might want to do most; instead, ask yourself what you could do around all of the work you’re avoiding.

                If you’re choosing to exit the fast track to success, at least for today, spend the time on a useful pit stop. 

                 

                code&quill

                 

                For instance, see if there’s something you can do to clean up your “work infrastructure”—things like cleaning out your inbox, organizing, installing or updating software, developing or improving workflow systems, et cetera—a strong choice, since those accomplishments help you stay effective on your on-days.

                It also helps prevent days like these from being too frequent. On that note... 

                Rule No. 7: Don’t get hooked.

                This kind of behavior is, by definition, habit-forming; it’s easy to fall into this pattern of procrastination if you reward yourself for it.

                Some people can manage their affairs surprisingly well despite habits like this—but like actual juggling, this is only fun for a little while.

                Very soon, it becomes tedious and exhausting.

                Think of this time as a rare gift, like an unplanned day out of school when you were a kid. Enjoy yourself, but respect the scarcity of this time.

                Because if you really want to galvanize these days and prove they’re useful, there’s one more rule. 

                The eighth and final rule: Whatever you have put off doing today, you must do first thing tomorrow.

                This is the winner’s gambit—and this is how you can make deals with yourself to get important things done.

                If something just isn’t gonna happen today, and you know it, this sort of play is an excellent compromise: a way to work peacefully today and commit to finishing the big task first thing tomorrow—which is, you know, soon enough.

                But you have to actually do that dreaded task first thing tomorrow or you won’t get the lasting peace that comes from finishing it. Productive procrastination is already a roundabout way of making sure something gets done; don’t put things off further, or else the delay won't have made you any better. It'll just make you slower.

                 

                If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
                If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
                If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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                All kinds of music are good if you enjoy them; it's just a question of whether you inhabit the right time, place, and personality to enjoy them. 

                We listen to different stations on different occasions; you wouldn't choose Gregorian chants to stay awake on a moonlit Kansas highway, and you wouldn't choose death metal to woo a girl into bed.

                (Or maybe you would. Maybe she's into that. We don't know.)

                Different playlists, in turn, serve different creative functions. This week, we're covering the short list: do you have these playlists ready to go in your music library?

                The Background Playlist (Softer)

                Music grabs attention—but doubly so when a vocalist is putting words in your ears. Instrumental albums make good "background" candidates because the only words in your head will be your own.

                Go find some favorite classical composers and good movie scores and you could generate days' worth of background music.

                C&Q Staff Picks: score from The Social Network, classical piano e.g. Beethoven, Debussy, Gershwin

                The Background Playlist (Louder)

                Sometimes, you need a little more gusto—even if you want the same classical, no-lyrics kind of feel.

                Very rarely will the same piece of music calm and excite you. If the distinction matters for you, split "Background" into two playlists. =]

                C&Q Staff Picks: scores from Lord of the Rings, Beethoven's 5th and 9th symphonies

                The Rainy Playlist

                Everyone needs a rainy day now and again. For the days when it's wet and thundering outside—or at least gray enough to pretend it's raining.

                It's worth noting that this playlist, unsurprisingly, pairs really well with white noise like RainyMood.

                C&Q Staff Picks: Madeleine Peyroux, Chopin's preludes and nocturnes, Enya (on occasion)

                The Party Playlist

                Higher beats per minute, major-key, inspires-irrational-confidence kind of music. If you're having fun, have fun; not all creativity has to be so serious.

                C&Q Staff Picks: most likely Top 40 or whatever's new and popular —Drake and The Weeknd are office favorites for now

                The Roadtrip Playlist

                Roll your windows down, take your shoes off, and screech the lyrics as loud as you can. This playlist should reflect that spirit: what you'd want blasting as you roll down the road to someplace you'd want to go.

                 

                In our case, bring on the electric guitar and turn it as loud as you can tolerate. Choose this playlist if you need a free spirit or rebellious attitude.

                C&Q Staff Picks: Queens of the Stone Age (esp. Songs for the Deaf), three-name blues guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and The Black Keys

                 

                 

                The Slightly-Aggressive Playlist

                Some days—if you're being honest—you just want to choke somebody. Or headbutt them, perhaps. 

                But because you're a member of society, and not the angry goat below, you control yourself. 

                 

                And maybe one of the constructive outlets is music meant to wake the cows and scare the neighbors. Go ahead... it's better than the alternatives.  

                The Nostalgia Playlist

                Certain songs, artists, or albums can "hold the scent" of specific times in our lives, both good and bad. It's useful, as a creative person, to be able to tap those memories quickly and vividly.

                 

                Put this one together so you can remember, at a moment's notice, the sounds and details of the times you'll never fully forget.

                C&Q Staff Picks: Privileged information; you'll have to buy us dinner first. It may or may not involve show tunes and prog rock. 

                The Oddball Playlist

                It's fun to have something utterly ridiculous like "Bananaphone" or "Semicolon" or "Wonderboy" stuck in your head, especially if you have license to sing along.  

                 

                If you need to think outside the box—or if you're just in a strange mood and you feel like riding it out—blast this one, and don't think too hard about how other people judge your taste in music.

                C&Q Staff Picks: The Lonely Island, Primus, Tenacious D, Flight of the Conchords

                 

                If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
                If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
                If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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                Hey everyone! It’s the Code&Quill team here with a company update (or several) for you.

                2017 has been a busy year already. It all happens slowly from our perspective—one day at a time, you know. But as we look back at this year so far, we’ve made a lot of steps and changes. We’re finding more ways to engage with y’all, to learn what you like and want, and to create new things you’ll love. 

                So here’s what up with us:

                 

                Growth

                We’ve seen lots of recent additions to our Code&Quill customer family—so if you’ve not read a message from us before, hello and welcome! 

                We should warn you: our past customers have set a high bar for being awesome, and we’ll say why. First: over a thousand of those people brought us to life on Kickstarter more than two years ago. We literally wouldn’t be here without those customers’ investment—and we wouldn’t have seen continued success without their continuing support, both on our store and as repeat backers for our Monolith Kickstarter

                Second: our customers have to be some of the smartest AND most creative people on the planet, judging by the photos y’all have sent and the insightful feedback you’ve provided. We’d like making anyone happy with one of our notebooks—but we’re especially thrilled to make stuff that helps others make amazing things. 

                We’ve already sold as many notebooks in 2017 as we did in all of 2016. As you can imagine, this is a good (business) problem to have. But it also should help explain why we’ve been out of stock more often—especially given that we refuse to cut corners on quality during manufacturing. 

                Still, we’re working to keep stock "ahead of you" in the future—even as we grow—so our notebooks should be out of stock less frequently during the second half of the year. (Except for the holidays—can’t promise any stock will last during that season, no matter how much we prepare for it.) 

                 

                Giveaways & Contests

                In case you haven’t heard, we’ve been starting more contests and giveaways with free prizes! They’ve been successful so far—so for now, we plan to have roughly one contest and one giveaway per quarter (every three months). 

                Our latest giveaway was the Photoshoot Giveaway. From over 2,000 participants (some with multiple entries each), our lucky winner was Mr. Chase Darnall from Tennessee. We’ve sent him his prizes: a brand-new Canon Rebel T6 package plus five of our notebooks. Hopefully he’ll be able to use that fancy new camera and send us some photos soon—we will definitely share with y'all if he does! 

                Our latest contest was #notebooksgonewild on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). Our winner was @optimisticallyreal, or Samantha Miller from Florida—she won $100 of our notebooks for taking and tagging a picture for the contest. Her whole Instagram feed is full of Code&Quill inspiration. 

                Just remember, for your future reference: no purchase is required to participate in our giveaways and contests. So if you hear another is happening, come throw your name in the hat to win stuff!

                 

                Bundles... New Bundles

                If you don't want to leave it to chance—but you still want a tailor-made combination of notebooks and a smooth escape with some savings—we've got something for you.

                We offer notebook bundles for 10% off the total price. They're sold as assembled—but if you look and none suit you, remember that we switch up bundles about 4 times per year (roughly once every three months). 

                We expect our three newest bundles to go fast, since they're stuffed with some of our most popular products (which are FINALLY back in stock... see next section).

                The new bundles include... 

                The Detective (2 notebooks, $4 savings),
                The Agent (3 notebooks, $6 savings), and...
                The Double Agent (4 notebooks, $9 savings)

                Check 'em out!

                 

                Back in Stock, Out of Stock

                As we mentioned, we’re working to get ahead of any inventory shortages. Whenever you want another Code&Quill in the future, we want you to be able to grab your notebook of choice without waiting. 

                For the moment, though, here’s what’s recently BACK IN and what’s recently RUN OUT:

                IN — Gray Monolith with dot-grid/indentation-rule
                IN — White Monolith with dot-grid/indentation-rule
                IN — Gray Origin
                IN — White Origin

                OUT — Gray Monolith with dual indentation-rule
                OUT — White Traveler

                 

                Custom Notebooks

                We’ve gotten a whole bunch of requests for custom-run (or white-label) Code&Quill notebooks. So if that’s a question on your mind, yes, we DO offer custom! You can change the notebook color, patch color, patch printing, and liner-page colors to make something truly unique for your company. 

                We’ve decreased our minimum order quantity (MOQ) to 100 units per custom design. We'll work with clients to create a custom notebook, then make samples and send them to the client. From there, it’s just a few short weeks until you’ve got grade-A customized swag. 

                If you have questions about custom, feel free to send us a message here (we will get the message!). If you prefer, you can contact Dan (our custom-order specialist) directly at dan@codeandquill.com

                 

                 

                If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
                If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
                If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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                We all have to do stuff we don't want to do. But sometimes, we put it off. 

                As it turns out, procrastination happens in stages — and they might be familiar to you, no matter what you're putting off. 

                Can you tell we're learning from our own mistakes here (chiefly watching too much Entourage)? 

                As always, let Ari do the talking. The seven stages of procrastination:

                 

                1. Reality

                The Thing you have to do is, in fact, a thing. In other words: you can't not do it. 

                Yes, this Thing might suck. It might be tedious, frustrating, boring, or seemingly pointless. But again, you can't not do the Thing. Bad things happen to you if you don't do the Thing.

                The only question is when you'll do it. Sooner is obviously better. But maybe that doesn't have to mean right now

                This—we would suggest to you—is "reality" as most working people experience it. 

                 

                2. Denial of Reality

                But still, you resist doing the Thing. Which is practically the definition of "procrastination."

                You'll locate your reasons for resisting very quickly (see Step 3 below).

                But no matter how sophisticated your next thoughts, the reason for them is universal: you're pushing away reality, or the simple fact that you should do the Thing now. 

                 

                3. Rationalization AKA "Compromise"

                On some level, you already know you're not doing the Thing now. Perhaps, in a sense, you've always known.

                But you can't just say that. "I know I should do it, but I'm not going to." What are you, a psycho?

                Just wait for it. The magic thought pops into your head. You've got your angle: your Official Reason why you're not gonna do the Thing.

                Maybe you choose to be honest and own it. I'm just don't have the brain cells today, so I'll try again tomorrow.

                Maybe you evade entirely. Like, you just got the flu even though it's summertime. I'm sick, please leave me alone. Cough cough.

                Or maybe you just stay quiet and hope no one asks today. If no one hounds my every move, those moves must not really matter—right?

                 

                4. Action (on something else)

                You've officially committed: you are NOT doing the Thing.  

                Congratulations! (Sort of.) 

                But now there's a problem: your brain knows it's in enemy territory. You also know you can't stay motionless.

                You need to do something. This is where our brains invent productive procrastination.

                As we've written, productive procrastination is sometimes useful—but it does have some rules, and we follow those rules so our brains don't yell nasty things at us.

                The main rule is simple: keep moving on something, even if it's only tangentially useful.

                 

                 

                5. Fleeting Sense of Accomplishment

                You still haven't touched the main thing... but you are DONE with the other thing.

                Congratulations! (Sort of.)

                Take a step back and admire your sparkling clean desk (or office, or whole apartment). Revel in the new filing system or process you invented. Bask in the glory of your cleared inbox and empty Desktop.

                No, seriously. Enjoy them for a bit...

                 

                6. Reality (Reprise)

                ... because, for one thing, they're not going to last. Unless you have taken the care to diagnose and fully fix a real problem, whatever you did is going to pick up dust again.

                And let's just say that tomorrow, or next week, or wherever you're pushing the real work... yeah, it's gonna sting later.

                On some level, you always knew that. You accepted it at the beginning.

                So as long as you're stopped, may as well stop hard and enjoy it for a bit. 

                 

                7. Deferral

                Because once you hit 5pm, or whatever magical hour when you're "off the clock" (and can safely ignore most messages), you get another window.

                You get to go home and continue not caring for the time being. Isn't that nice? 

                If you tell yourself you're gonna do the thing later tonight, just stop. You're guilting yourself in advance. If you didn't do the thing during work hours, why do you expect the willpower to come to you on your couch at home?

                So go home. Eat dinner, have a drink, relax. You've officially procrastinated for the day. Don't call it a victory, because frankly it's not. But no one's perfect and, yes, tomorrow is another day when you can do better. We've all been here—and we'll all be back again.

                 

                  

                If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
                If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
                If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

                Permalink

                Let's face it: we're all a bit institutionalized. 

                Even if you work at a smaller company ("we're independent!") or work for yourself, we all think about work as though it's a place. And in your workplace—whatever it is—there's probably some semblance of order and authority if things are getting done. 

                There's some institution in most anyone with a modern education. Most of us experienced school in roughly the same way: as a structured experience with hierarchies, boundaries, punishments, and rewards.

                This isn't necessarily bad; structure can help, and hey, things like school become a shared experience growing up.

                Then, once you're out of school, there's a tried-and-true way to stay comfortably in structure for life: get a job, work hard, climb the ladder, spend wisely, and accrue wealth and privileges until your retirement. If you're happy and don't need more freedoms, this might be ideal to some of you.

                 

                But many of you examine that option and say...

                 

                 

                Maybe you don't want to take a position working for something that you have no passion for, that you simply don't care about (or perhaps actually dislike), just so you'll have a steady cashflow.

                Maybe you don't want to work hard in the precise manner most others do. Maybe you need flexibility, or maybe you work best at weird hours, so the usual 9-to-5 hours rub against your grain.

                Maybe you don't want to spend a decade or more "paying your dues" and putting up with B.S. while you wait for the next opportunity.  

                Maybe you don't like the idea of working 50 "meh" years so you can have 10 years of retirement when you're least able to use them.

                Maybe you would rather accrue your wealth and privileges as you earn them, not when someone else decides to give them to you.  

                 

                 

                 

                If any of the above applied to you, here's the good news: you CAN make it yourself, and this article will tell you how to start figuring it out. 

                 

                One: Identify your motivations

                Every person has reasons for leaving one job or starting another, but that doesn’t mean all reasons are good. If you can’t say why you want to do it, it may not be a great idea!

                Do yourself a favor: rid yourself of the notion that creating your own job also creates wealth, success, or sex appeal. It’s true that people respect you a bit more for making yourself; it’s true that creating your job means doing what you want; it’s true that only the self-employed have a limitless potential income. But if those rewards come at all, they usually come after deprivation.

                Starting out requires entrepreneurs to tighten their personal income, cut into their own free time, and do lots of things they don’t want to do. The wrong motivations will crush you when things start feeling heavy. The right motivations, on the other hand, will keep you fighting and passionate even when life is tough.

                If you want to leave the 9-to-5 because you dislike your options there, or because it just doesn’t line up with how you want to live your life, those are better reasons. Construct a solid plan around those reasons and you might have found an exit strategy.

                 

                Just remember that the grass always seems greener on the other side. Those who feel trapped by employment might want any way out, but the opposite happens too: some entrepreneurs want the steadiness and structure back. On occasion, we choose the devil we don’t know—but, in doing so, we have to accept that we're taking a chance.

                 

                Two: Line up your allies

                If your career is “getting places,” you can absolutely "build your own car" to do it; your brain and brawn are the engine, and registering the business creates the car’s body. But you’re still missing the car’s essential part: wheels.

                An engine isn’t enough; you need a way to apply that power to the ground, or else you’re just making noise. The body doesn’t move itself; it’s just something to hold you (and the engine) while you drive. Wheels actually put rubber to the road; on a car, wheels are what turn power into progress.

                In our analogy, your “wheels” are the people who give you traction with the rest of the world. They connect you with the people who can use and appreciate your work, who then compensate you for it. And you’re in business.

                Every entrepreneur should have at least one mentor. Your mentor should be someone you can trust, someone who offers sound and selfless advice, and—not least of all—someone who knows a lot more than you. After that, networking is just a matter of what makes good sense for your business (and it’s good sense for everyone to network at least some).

                No matter how much you trust yourself, never assume you can do it alone. You’re probably wrong. But even if you manage alone, you’re skipping out on tons of opportunity that was just waiting for you to say hello.

                 

                 

                Three: Make a transition plan

                If you know what you want to do, why you’re doing it, and who can help get the whole picture together, you have what you need to exit.

                Timing matters, though. When and how should you officially leave the 9-to-5?

                You should have a specific plan for transitioning to your new business. There are quite a few factors to take into account, but here are some you might not think about:

                How long until your new venture can replace your old income? What if the new business doesn’t do as well as you expect?

                How much money does the business need? How much does it need to open up shop? What kinds of unexpected expenses might pop up later?

                What are your fallbacks? If certain things don’t perform well, what’s your plan for modifying or removing them? If everything goes south, what’s your backup plan?

                 

                Four: Start managing yourself

                For the final time: we’ve all been a bit institutionalized. But even for the aspirationally-self-employed, understanding those institutions—like school and work—can be SUPER important to managing yourself.

                Come on, you say. I know how to 'manage myself.' It's called life. I can handle being me.

                We don't doubt that. But if you've never NOT had a boss, you're probably underestimating that person's effect on your behavior. The tedious, boring, frustrating parts of your job get done—whether or not you fully understand their purpose—because someone ELSE holds authority over you.

                However aggravating (and sometimes cruel), this is a basic pattern for how groups of people accomplish big things throughout human history. 

                It's near-impossible to (productively) punish yourself — even when you screw up and fully own it. In self-employment, the only consequences are natural consequences. You might not even know you screwed up until customers drop off—or until Uncle Sam comes calling. And when those problems come up, you don't have the option to pass the blame or the buck; you have to deal with everything.

                Most people choose employment over self-employment for good reason. It’s easier to manage—or, more precisely, to be managed. 

                So if you're going out on your own, observe what the established players get right, if only by necessity: structure. Structure is what you need to keep yourself in check—though remember, it's both art and science to manage yourself in this way, to create useful rules and routines that you'll actually follow. Remember, too, that structure relies on permanence and consistency—part of the reason you can't trust your head alone to keep the key details straight.

                So write everything down. Keep notes, track the information most important to your success, and work things out somewhere that isn't your own head.

                Not least important, always remember the best reasons you had for leaving the safety of the 9-to-5 world. Put it all on paper and you’ve just written yourself an exit pass to the most meaningful years of your life.

                 

                 

                If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
                If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
                If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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                We got this review yesterday. It's a small thing, but we were able to start Monday with a laugh, and with a little satisfaction that we were helping make customers happy. (It went in our #general Slack for everyone to see.) 

                It made us realize: a LOT of your reviews have given us a laugh. Partly, we're super-close to all things Code&Quill—and we take feedback seriously—so when a joke comes, it's all the more surprising and amusing. And we appreciate it. =]

                This week, we're sharing the reviews that have made us laugh. Either y'all are a jocular bunch or we're a little burned out (maybe both), so have a laugh courtesy of your fellow Code&Quill patrons and family members—

                 

                This is MULTIPLE times recently that our notebooks have been reviewed as "sexy." Don't think it's the same guy, but if so, maybe he's just a weird dude.

                 

                Holy shit, 12 stars?! I don't think I got that many in kindergarten. Like, total. So this is quite an honor. And you're very welcome—not much point selling a good product if we can't help when things (occasionally) go wrong.

                 

                "If you're on the fence, this is me pushing you over."

                 

                Glad the new Scribes were a success. We'll wear your badge with pride. =]

                 

                OK, funny story. Ronak and Kevin went to college in Virginia. One day, Ronak mentions a professor to Kevin, says that they'd talked recently, and that that professor had ordered some notebooks. The same day, we get an order from someone with the exact same name who lived in the exact same city as the professor. So Kevin writes a note and everything, includes a gift... and later finds out it's not him. Oops. 

                 

                Left.

                 

                "... important Professional Notes (and their associated lines, squiggly bits and blobby things) ..." 

                 

                Lisa, you share Ronak's gift for hyperbole. Sorry for the mishap a few months back—but when we first read this review, Kevin nearly spat his drink into his keyboard. So thanks for that. =D

                 

                 

                 

                Reviewers Who Already Knew Exactly What They Wanted to Say, Damn It—

                 

                If you're in the market for a notebook, head on over to our store!
                If you want more than one, check out our discounted notebook bundles!
                If you just wanna say hi or look at pictures, come see us on Facebook or Instagram. 

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