Ask The Desk: Manager’s Planner & Road Tripping Young Artist

Brandon asks:

Long time reader and I wanted your opinion on something. I am a full time student and I am about to start a job as a manager. Unfortunately, my organizational skills are nonexistent! Do you have a suggestion on a planner that can help me get on track?.

Brandon, I conferred with our resident organizational expert Laura, who is an executive assistant by day, to get you some tips for getting focused first. She recommended that, no matter what planner you end up choosing, to pick a day of the week and set aside some time to brain dump tasks, to-dos and any other issues you need to handle for the week. Whether that’s the last hour of the day on Friday, Sunday night or first thing Monday morning spend 30 minutes to an hour going over the tasks, to-do’s, emails, and meeting requests so you can prepare to lead your new team with specific assignments and tasks. Then if you have things pop up throughout the week that you are not sure when, who or how you need to handle them, just write them on sticky notes and put them in the front of your planner and then transfer them to a specific day or task list on your brain dump day. That way, you don’t have to make a decision about the task immediately but you have captured it so it’s not forgotten.

A lot of these tips are straight out of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I highly recommend either reading the book, listening to the audiobook or finding some of the videos of him presenting the content on YouTube. Merlin Mann created an edited version of Getting Things Done (GTD) which he called 43 Folders. It was a podcast and website which is now dormant but has some great content as well.

As for a planner, you may want to determine what you need to track. Especially if you are just starting in the position, you might want to use a make shift Bullet Journal system for the first couple weeks until you know exactly how much you will need to track. The most customizable option would be Agendio which allows you to choose the format, size and even which month you start the calendar on. If you want something more pre-formatted, Quo Vadis offers a whole range of planners in a range of sizes and they all use Clairefontaine paper (known for being fountain pen friendly).

And from our road-tripping family man:

Hello! My family preparing for a long road trip for Christmas, and we’re hoping to keep our young children occupied. My 5 year-old loves using my “fancy pens” and “fancy pencils”, and she loves drawing and writing. She’s requested a spiral notebook for the car ride so she has plenty to write on, and specifically for colored pencils, as she is bothered that her markers can bleed through the page and “put little dots on the page under it”. (I am SOOOOOO proud of her!) I heard you discussing Crayola products on The Pen Addict Gift Guide, and I’d love to get her some. Do you have any recommendations for which Crayola Colored Pencils might work well on a road trip, and maybe more importantly, for a sharpener that will work well with these pencils and has plenty of capacity to hold the shavings for use in the car?

Many thanks from the father of a budding writer and artist-


For starters, I’d recommend a sketchbook-grade spiral notebook for your budding artist. Maybe a Canson XL Mixed Media Pad would be a great option and would help eliminate the bleed through issues. These pads are often available at local craft shops as well which means you can use coupons! They are not particularly pricey to begin with and come in a variety of sizes as well. Any art supply shop or craft store can recommend a good wirebound sketchbook that will make your budding artist feel like a pro too.

With Crayola Colored Pencils, stick with the classics. The Premium variety have not been given the best reviews. They are just charging more money for mediocre product. Should you want to upgrade at some point, I’d move to Prismacolor in a couple years. They are not all that much more expensive if you shop around but they are pretty soft and the leads will break under heavy pressure. And I’d hold off on the Watercolor variety until your young artist is not in the car.

The Twistables got mixed reviews from my co-workers with kids. The points aren’t sharp — they are more crayon ends for coloring. There are also crayon versions as well as the colored pencil style Twistables, so if you go this route be sure you check the package so you know if you are getting the pencils vs. the crayons. The Twistable colored pencils can be sharpened with a lead pointer but, its a bit more finicky (the KUM 2-step sharpener is available with a lead pointer but that’s more of a “Dad, will you sharpen these for me?” sharpener). Also, if your kids get bored, they may twist the Twistable all the way out until they break (that’s a warning from a mom with two rambunctious boys). With less ornery kids Twistables can be a sharpener-free option if they are okay with a duller point.

As for sharpeners, I enlisted the help of the Erasable podcast Facebook group and they helped find a lot of good options. These are all still small, handheld sharpeners but with enough capacity to make it from one pit stop to another until you can empty them.

Options for large capacity sharpeners:

You may also want to bring along a Ziploc baggie if you need to empty shavings midway. An adult can dump shavings into the Ziploc and pass the sharpener back to the little artist for the remainder of the drive.

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5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. For road-tripping Dave, I’d like to suggest a little mini travel watercolor kit. A set of watercolor pencils + a block of watercolor postcards (Strathmore makes some, they’re great) + some Pentel water brushes makes for a nice compact travel-friendly set. Having done a fair number of long car trips with my now-7yo, breaking out something different in mid-trip can be a great distraction.

  2. I recommend the Crayola Twistable crayons. No, the points aren’t sharp. No, the colors are not as bold as their standard crayons, but (BUT!!!) the Crayola Twistable crayons won’t melt if one happens to roll under your car seat.

    A lesson I learned the hard way with OTHER crayons.

  3. That’s a great idea, Kimu! We’re going to try it and see what she thinks. And thank you also, Kathryn. I too have learned the unfortunate lesson of crayons under car seats. Can’t wait to give our girl her best road trip yet!

  4. I ordered the Mason jar sharpener and wanted to warn anyone who was lured by its cuteness, it is awful. It is cute, but the sharpener itself is very small and basically none of my pencils fit in the hole. I managed to get a Blackwing in there far enough to twist it a few times but it just mangled it.

    1. Argh! Thanks for the warning. The tip came from the Erasable Facebook group so I’ll copy your comment over there too.

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