This stylish notebook might just be hottest organizing accessory of the year.
Everyone is supposed to have 24 hours in a day but for some us, it feels like there must be a rip in the space-time continuum. How else can you explain being constantly busy but having nothing to show for it? If this sounds familiar, learn how you can make the most of your time with our five fave productivity tips.
1. Write it down
Billed as "the analog solution for a digital age," the Bullet Journal is a diary, to-do list and catch-all for all your random thoughts. Developed by Brooklyn-based designer Ryder Carroll, this trendy organizing method involves writing down quick, memory jogging statements rather than complex entries. Use it to organize your tasks by day and month pages, keep tabs of books you want to read and things you want to buy or create new lists whenever inspiration strikes. An indexing system allows you to quickly find what you're looking for.
2. Plan your time
Sort of like HIIT for your to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique involves working on your tasks for a short, timed cycle of 25 minutes. With no distractions allowed, it’s great way for those with short attention spans to focus. Take a 5-minute break before starting your next 25 minutes of work and, after four of these cycles, you're rewarded with a longer, half-hour break. Sound a bit too structured? Maybe that's why it works—it was voted the most popular productivity technique by the readers of lifehacker.com.
3. Try a tech-savvy solution
The If This Then That app might be the closest you'll ever come to a personal assistant. Got any apps on your phone? Automate their functions by using If This Then That statements, or as IFTTT calls them, “recipes.” For example: get an early morning text when the forecast calls for rain, use it to get coffee going without getting out of bed (using a programmable outlet) or tell the family you're on your way home (with an email triggered by your location app once you've left work).
4. Go KonMari on your clutter
While organizing trendsetter Marie Kondo’s method of minimal living has been criticized for being a bit too twee, an organized, uncluttered home can be key to increased efficiency. "In most cases, things that function well are inherently neat and clean," says Clare Kumar, a professional organizer based in Toronto. It's not hard to see why. Simply owning less makes it easier for you to find what you need and streamlines your decision making (no need to choose between your 6 pairs of jeans, for example), saving you time that can be better spent elsewhere.
5. Let it go
There'll be days you can't get to everything. Your work presentation sits unfinished, the house is a mess and dinner was takeout (again!). Instead of stressing out, try to cut yourself some slack. "Our bodies burn out when stuck in fast-forward," says Carl Honoré, an expert on the topic of slow living. Sometimes the best way to be productive is to take some time out to recharge. So curl up with a good book, take a long bath, or enjoy a glass of wine...guilt free! After all, there's always tomorrow.
Whether you're into historical fiction, page-turning thrillers or revealing memoirs, we've got something for everyone to add to their winter reading list.
Halloween might be the holiday of choice for atmospheric storytelling, but this posthumous collection of short stories by the Queen of Crime, P. D. James, puts a Christmas spin on the whodunit to delightfully macabre effect. The four tales feature a mysterious inheritance, a family reunion gone awry, an illicit affair and a questionable suicide. And while the clues are there, it's not until the final paragraph that the miscreants are revealed. You'll have visions dancing through your head…but they likely won't be sugarplums. — Alexandra Donaldson
The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories (Knopf Canada) by P. D. James, $28.
Bridget Jones is back, and this time, she's got a bun in the oven. In Helen Fielding's fourth novel about the British singleton, timed to coincide with a movie covering the same events, our charmingly awkward protagonist is the linchpin in yet another love triangle. Some time after breaking up with Mr. Darcy, they meet again and sparks fly. The trouble is, shortly thereafter, they fly with someone else, too. Then, Bridget realizes she's pregnant, and she doesn't know which man is the father. — Stacy Lee Kong
Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries (Knopf Canada) by Helen Fielding, $30.
In Robert Harris's latest thriller, the Pope's sudden death has triggered the secretive process of electing a new pontiff. Harris lifts the veil on the clandestine negotiations, caustic infighting and taut intrigue as the Holy See transforms the black smoke of dissent to the white smoke of consensus over a heart-pumping 72-hour period. A must for any lover of political fiction, Conclave offers a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the Catholic Church's most critical election. — Jes Watson
Conclave (Random House Canada) by Robert Harris, $25.
It's 1996 and Jack Reacher is still a major in the U.S. army's Military Police Corps. After receiving a medal for a mission, he's ordered to report to night school—a front for an assignment involving the FBI and the CIA. The task: Find an American in Hamburg, Germany, who's trying to sell an unknown entity (a bomb? A bioweapon? Insider info?) to a jihadist organization, then discover what the entity is. Reacher is as confident and skilled as ever, and “the American” is the perfect bad guy: unpredictable, slightly unhinged and obsessed with his ultimate goal. — Andrea Karr
Night School: A Jack Reacher Novel (Delacorte Press) by Lee Child, $37.
Suspenseful weekend read
If you're looking for a clever thriller, The Twenty-Three is your ideal read. The final installment in Linwood Barclay's Promise Falls trilogy wraps up the story of a seemingly cursed town that has seen three years of horrific murders and gruesome stunts tied to the number 23. In this gripping conclusion, citizens all over the town of Promise Falls wake up one morning plagued with dizziness, racing hearts, low blood pressure and vomiting—and the mystery condition is sometimes fatal. What ensues is a dramatic search for the cause of the sudden sickness, all while past grievances, petty rivalries and the discovery of multiple new murder victims threaten to destroy many families already barely hanging on. Barclay is a master of the genre and will keep you up late into the night, torn between savouring every detail and racing to the end. Be sure to read the first two books in the trilogy before diving into this latest juicy read; you'll have a much richer sense of the characters and an even more suspense-filled journey if you follow the series from tip to tail. — AK
Photography by Stacy Van Berkel
The kitchen probably has the most traffic in your home, which means it can also be the messiest. Keep your counters and cabinets clutter-free with these clever storage ideas.
1. Looking good
Display your pretty serving pieces on open shelves and use decorative baskets to house the less attractive and infrequently used kitchen necessities (think small appliances and tools).
2. Mix it up
Varied storage keeps items of different sizes in their place: deep drawers for medium-to-large appliances, stacked shelving for wine bottles and shallow drawers for spices.
3. Within reach
Keep the items you need most, such as cereal and snacks, between waist and eye level, and move the rest of the goods up high or down low.
4. All access
A pull-out pantry allows you to see inventory at a glance and helps keep supplies organized so that nothing gets pushed to the back and out of view.
5. Now you see it
Cabinets that are tucked behind a sliding door will provide a functional space-saving solution to a typical pantry. This storage system can be built along an unused wall in a kitchen. Use it to conceal mismatched boxes, jars and canned goods.
The biggest advantage in a kitchen is accessibility, yet the most common blind spots I see are cabinet shelves that are too high and wasted space between shelves. Whether you've just moved in or you've settled into a kitchen, it's worth the time to adjust shelving to fit the contents and to lower shelves so you can reach what you need. After adjusting the height, you can often add an extra shelf to accommodate wide narrow items, like trays.
— Marie Potter, Professional Organizers in Canada, Vancouver
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