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Stationery Pr0n: Japanese Pens and More from JetPens.com

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Stationery Pr0n: Japanese Pens and More from JetPens.com

Stationery Pr0n: Japanese Pens and More from JetPens.com

    Geeks tend to love pens, notebooks, and office gadgets. Some of the most popular posts here at Lifehack have been about pens and other stationery. Let us loose in a Staples or Office Max and we’re like kids in a candy shop. We can’t pass a stationery shop without feeling at least a twinge of desire – and usually without dropping some of our hard-earned money inside. And of course, there’s our love affair with the Moleskine…

    Sure, it’s a pointless pursuit and probably a waste of time and money. Sure, there’s the danger of fiddling too much with the latest cool organization gadget and not actually getting work done. Yes, it’s a kind of pornography for some of us – and almost illicit pursuit of sheer pleasure.

    But it is a pleasure. To write a note across finely-grained paper with a free-flowing pen that has just the right heft and width is a sheer joy. To pack your bag with tools that beg you to touch, hold, and use them is a delight. And therein lies the rub – because while an expensive pen or just the right grade of paper shouldn’t make us any more productive, often it actually does. We itch to get to work, for the simple gratification that comes of using the tool that perfectly fits us.

    So when someone at JetPens.com, a seller of imported Japanese pens, stationery, and other gewgaws contacted me and asked if I’d like to try some of their products, of course I said “yes”. Japan is like the Mother Ship for stationery buffs, and JetPens.com sells a variety of unique, not-to-be-found-in-the-US items. They also specialize in ultra-fine-tipped pens and pencils, which can be difficult to find in the US.

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    After playing with… I mean “using”, of course – after using the stuff they sent me for the last week or so, I thought I’d share with Lifehack readers some of the things I liked and what I didn’t find much use for. I should add that JetPens.com isn’t paying me, aside from offering me the samples. Lifehack’s editorial policy is that while we do accept products for review from time to time, we only review them if we think that doing so will be of value to our readers. JetPens.com’s offerings are so unusual or hard-to-find elsewhere, that I think most Lifehack readers would love to check them out.

    Let’s start with the pens!

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      Pilot Frixion Point 0.4mm:

      Pilot’s new Frixion pens are erasable, but totally unlike the crappy erasable pens of the past! Those had gloppy ink and abrasive erasers that never seemed to really get the job done. You’d expect better from the people that brought us the beloved G2 gel pens, and the Frixion doesn’t disappoint. The heat-sensitive ink is fluid and smooth, and dries quickly so it doesn’t smear. Best of all, it erases with friction – rubbing the pen’s solid rubber eraser tip over your writing generates heat (without wearing away or leaving residue) causing the writing to simply disappear. Completely. You can easily write over it, erase again, and write over that – forever, as far as I could tell. The .4mm point is great for printing; I found it a little scratchy for cursive writing. I’m a little worried about the durability of the ink – US packaging suggests that they not be used for official documents. This is the ideal pen to pair with a Moleskine-based to-do list.

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        Uni-ball Signo DX 0.28mm: The Signo is a gel ink pen that writes very smoothly and cleanly. The 0.28mm line is astoundingly thin, allowing for super-small writing – this is a great pen for filling out forms! I thought I wouldn’t like the tiny little cap, but it clicks onto both ends so solidly that I ended up liking it a lot (though I’m sure I’ll forget to click it to the end some time and that will be the last time I ever see it).

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          Zebra Clip-On Multi: I don’t normally like multi-function pens, but this one’s pretty nice – it has the usual 4 colors of ink (black, red, green, and blue) operated by color-coded levers, plus a 0.5mm mechanical pencil operated by clicking the whole clip assembly down. I say “clip assembly” because it’s more than just a clip – the clip is on a spring-loaded swivel that allows you to clip it to whole notepads, leather padfolios, and so on. The ink is fine, nothing special – this one’s all about the form factor.

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            Uni-ball Kuru Toga 0.3mm Pencil: The finest mechanical pencil I’ve ever used is a 0.5mm pencil, and those are a pain – the lead breaks all the time. This pencil has even finer lead, but its auto-rotation mechanism is supposed to minimize breakage by turning the lead a bit every time you life the pencil, preventing the creation of a brittle chisel-point. It seems to work, though it’s hard to know much about something that doesn’t happen. I keep the lead pretty long and it feels pretty sturdy – and I wrote a couple test paragraphs without any breakage.

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              Kokuyu Beetle Tip 3-Way Highlighter: One of the store’s more unusual products, the Beetle Tip highlighter is named for it’s unusual two-pronged head (which didn’t really remind me of a beetle, but whatever…). The tip integrates fine and chisel points, allowing thick highlighting over text or thin underlining. The two can be used together to make double lines, one over and one under the line of text being highlighted. Which all seems pretty neat, but I found it hard to get and hold just the right angle to use it any of its 3 modes, especially for double-lines.

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                You can click on the writing sample above to get a full-sized image — hopefully that gives you a pretty good idea of what each pen writers like. Now, on to the rest of the JetPens.com package:

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                  Kadokeshi Stick Eraser: This is an odd bird, but handy – an eraser that’s all corners! The latex eraser twists up (like a Chapstick) and is shaped like a bunch of cubes stuck together, offering 28 corners. Great for fine work, and erases without ripping up your paper. I’m not crazy about the screw-off cap, though – it’s attached to the mechanism you twist to advance the eraser, and it’s all ultra-clear plastic, so you have to look pretty close to make sure you’re twisting right.

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                    Nomadic PD-04 Roller Pencil Case: This is a standard-sized pencil case with a roll-out “scroll” that has 5 pen pockets and two small pockets for erasers, paper clips, or similarly small doodads. It’s all very neat and tidy, but I am simply not this organized about my pens – I’d just as soon keep them in my pocket! That’s not to say I don’t use pencil cases – I do – but to hold a lot more than 5 pens. Unfortunately, if you stuff the body of this full of pens, it makes getting the scroll in and out kind of awkward. I imagine there are people out there who love this sort of thing, but I really don’t see myself getting much use out of it.

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                      Kukoyo Systemic Special Cover Refillable Notebook: This refillable notebook cover is pretty handy, and elegant enough for business use. It’s basically an A4-sized (about 6” x 8”) canvas folder – the black part in the image above forms a pocket so you can stick business cards, notes, and other papers in (there’s a pocket on the front and another on the back). There are two ribon bookmarks inside, and the elastic closure to hold it all together. JetPens.com sells refill notebooks, but what really excited me is that medium-sized Moleskine Cahier and Volant notebooks (the soft-cover pads) fit perfectly.

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                      This is only a small sample of the stuff JetPens.com offers. Most of it is reasonably affordable, at least in the same ballpark as their Office Depot counterparts. Several of the pens above come in fancier “business-y” styles, with nicer barrels and a less disposable look, too. The whole site is worth looking through – I haven’t even touched on the various art pens and markers.

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                      8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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                      8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                      How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

                      Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

                      When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

                      Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

                      What Makes People Poor Listeners?

                      Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

                      1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

                      Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

                      Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

                      It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

                      2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

                      This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

                      Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

                      3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

                      It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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                      I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

                      If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

                      4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

                      While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

                      To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

                      My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

                      Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

                      Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

                      How To Be a Better Listener

                      For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

                      1. Pay Attention

                      A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

                      According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

                      As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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                      I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

                      2. Use Positive Body Language

                      You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

                      A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

                      People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

                      But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

                      According to Alan Gurney,[2]

                      “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

                      Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

                      3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

                      I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

                      Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

                      Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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                      Be polite and wait your turn!

                      4. Ask Questions

                      Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

                      5. Just Listen

                      This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

                      I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

                      I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

                      6. Remember and Follow Up

                      Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

                      For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

                      According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

                      It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

                      7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

                      If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

                      Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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                      Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

                      Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

                      NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

                      1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
                      2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

                      8. Maintain Eye Contact

                      When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

                      Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

                      By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

                      Final Thoughts

                      Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

                      You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

                      And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

                      More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

                      Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
                      [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
                      [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
                      [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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