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Stationery Pr0n: Japanese Pens and More from JetPens.com

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.

              20091112-writing-sample

                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.

                      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.

                      More by this author

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                      Last Updated on January 13, 2020

                      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

                      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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                      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

                      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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                      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

                      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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                      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

                      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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                      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

                      More on Building Habits

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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