Complete TUL Pen Review

For anyone that has gone into an Office Max or Office Depot in the past few years, you likely have noticed the large TUL pen display with hundreds of pens.  I tried to ignore the shiny display of writing "tuls" but finally started trying them out and want to share my thoughts on the distinct writing/drawing experiences. 

TUL Pens

To begin, the name TUL is written with a macron over the 'u' making the vowel long so it is pronounced "tool."  I talked to the folks over at Office Max about these pens so you can find out more about the brand at the end of the review.

TUL vs tools

PEN REVIEW

Currently, the pens offered are Ballpoint, Gel, and Rollerball, and each comes in Fine (0.5mm) and Medium (0.7mm) points.  They did have a marker pen in the past, but they did away with these. From time to time there are also limited edition colors available, and I’ll talk about these further down.  

Overall, all the pens write very wet.  Even the ballpoint lets out ink much faster than any pen I can compare it to.  If you like this characteristic, you will love the medium points as they put down a lot of ink, very quickly.  I found this was a nice benefit the faster I wrote, but can get a bit messy. 

BALLPOINT PENS

The ballpoint pens come in the standard colors of black, blue and red. After using these pens to sketch for a while, I noticed the ink has occasionally created a small glob.  After looking at other reviews, this is not uncommon and may be created from the paper being used.  I tried it out on some smooth Rhodia paper, and didn’t have an issue.

GEL PENS

The Gel pens come in a large range of colors and include some very bright color sets.  These are perfect for those that like to add color to their bullet journals and planners.  The ink is super smooth and the black ink lays down a very rich dark line. These are all retractable/click pens for easy transport and have sturdy clips.  The color packs come in 8 or 14 sets.

Gel ink color pack of eight.  See the Giveaway section below for a chance to win this set!

Gel ink color pack of eight.  See the Giveaway section below for a chance to win this set!

The gels also include a needle tip if you are going to use them with a ruler and both tip types are well constructed with no noticeable movement when writing. 

Needle point vs cone gel pens

Needle point vs cone gel pens

ROLLERBALL PENS

My favorite of the pens are the Rollerballs.  These have a great overall design appeal, as well as a larger barrel diameter that fits very well in my hand.  Again, they are quite wet even for a rollerball but the lines are still nice and clean if I write a touch slower.  There are not as many color choices like with the gel pens, but the black is a great dark rich ink, and the blue is nice and bright. 

Rollerballs

MECHANICAL PENCLS

Finally, the TUL line-up also includes the mechanical pencil in 0.7mm.  These have a solf rubber coating on the full length of the barrel and is a nice unique touch for pencils. The barrel is also slightly larger than typical pencils and fit well in my hand.  The pencils are now offered in several color choices like blue, purple, pink and black.

The really nice feature of these pencils is the 1 inch eraser built into the back of the pencil.  It unscrews as you need it and fits securely to the end.  The clip is the same as the pens and is solid.

TULS

The complete lineup of pens and pencil writing samples

Writing samples

Something I also love about these pens are the limited editions they put out roughly twice a year.  Currently, the "Bright's" color pens are offered, but there is a new one coming soon!  See below in the Q&A for the date.  A few of the previous limited editions are available on Ebay, and the rose gold pearl edition is getting quite expensive.  A set of 4 ballpoints are going for $47!  

Copper Metal Rollerball 2016 Limited Edition

Copper Metal Rollerball 2016 Limited Edition

Q&A WITH NICOLE LORD AT OFFICE DEPOT

I wanted to find out more about these pens and so I reached out to Office Depot and they were kind enough to share their thoughts on a few items:

How do you come up with the new limited edition colors?

We love our limited-edition colors because they allow us to showcase the pens our customers trust for outstanding performance in a unique way. Each limited-edition story and color palette is carefully selected by our in-house designers based on the anticipated trends of the season. We also recently introduced our exclusive line of TUL notebooks and accessories into these limited-edition collections.

Can we start to get excited about a new limited edition or new product coming out soon?

Earlier this year, we launched TUL Brights pens available in 14 vivid colors and note-taking system available in four bold limited-edition colors that TUL enthusiasts can purchase online or in store. Look out for our newest limited edition pen and notebook collection in stores and online in October – our most giftable TUL collection yet!

What is the meaning/history behind the name TUL?

TUL was developed by OfficeMax in 2006 as an exclusive writing brand that delivers affordable luxury to our customers. We strive to be the go-to tools for entrepreneurs and business leaders who are seeking products that inspire with design and are precision engineered for outstanding performance.

Can you share how these pens are made or a bit about the design process?

Each one of our TUL pens is precision engineered, hand assembled, and hand tested for outstanding performance. We take pride in ensuring our customers that our pens consistently deliver smooth, vibrant lines at first write. And, we believe the discipline and rigor behind the making of these products helps us deliver on that promise.


I highly recommend you check these pens out and if you go this week they have some great Back-to-School sales.  The clearance sections of the stores also have some good deals as well.  Amazon carries them, but without coupons and sales available, the prices are a bit too high for my taste.  

Also available under the TUL brand are the customizable notebook systems.  These are getting very popular due to the growing range of paper choices, cover colors, and sizes available.  I haven't used these yet, but I know from friends that they are really handy.  Check them out here.

The disks hold all types of page refills depending on your needs.

The disks hold all types of page refills depending on your needs.

GIVEAWAY!

TUL Colors

I picked up an extra set of gel color pens and want to give them away!  Please sign up for my newsletter below to enter.   Random drawing will be held this Friday at midnight for US residents.

Leuchtturm1917 Composition Size (7in x 10in) Notebook Review

Leuchtturm Composition Notebook

While looking for a notebook to fit in the new folio I designed, The Builder, I came across this size notebook (7in x 10in) and wanted to do a full review to share my thoughts as I didn't find many other reviews online.

Composition Size Notebook (7x10in) shown in orange, A5 size (5.75x8.3in) notebook in black.

Composition Size Notebook (7x10in) shown in orange, A5 size (5.75x8.3in) notebook in black.

The first thing to note is the price, at $22.95 this is a relatively expensive book for only having 121 pages.  Compared to the A5 size notebook also offered by Leuchtturm (5.75 x 8.3in) with 249 pages that costs $19.95, this starts off at a big question mark for me.  Why the additional cost for fewer pages?

THE PAPER

While this paper is the standard weight of 80 g/m2, it is much smoother than the A5 notebook. This is a huge benefit as it works really well with the Pilot Hi Tec-C pen.  This is a pen that does not work well with scratchy paper and will make the ink skip due to the very small tip size.  

Leuchtturm Composition Notebook

NUMBER OF PAGES

While I mentioned that the fewer pages as a negative to start out, it also creates an unexpected benefit.  When writing on the lower half of the page, the thin notebook is a more comfortable for writing and allows the user to fill up the full page as it not as tall.

Page 35 comparison

Page 35 comparison

Using up the full page

Using up the full page

PEN TESTS

The white paper holds pens and pencil really well as is expected for Leuchtturm paper.  I didn't have any wide nib fountain pens to test the drying time, but everything I used below didn't smudge due to the Ink-Proof qualities of the paper.  

Leuchtturm1917 Notebook

Something that caught me by surprise is that this paper is about two shades whiter than the A5 size notebook (shown in Grid layout.)  This helps the pens and pencils really standout as this isn't mentioned in the marketing material and is a nice benefit.

Bright white pages in the Composition Notebook (A5 size notebook shown in square grid layout)

Bright white pages in the Composition Notebook (A5 size notebook shown in square grid layout)

Three title pages

Three title pages

Archive stickers

Archive stickers

Huge pocket in the back cover

Huge pocket in the back cover

MORE DETAILS

  • 121 numbered pages
  • 8 perforated and detachable sheets
  • Gusseted pocket
  • Blank table of contents and numbered pages
  • 2 Page markers
  • Elastic enclosure band
  • Thread-bound book opens flat
  • Ink-proof paper (80 g/sqm)
  • Dimensions: 7in x 10in (178 x 254 mm)

OVERALL

What is lost in page numbers, the larger size notebook makes up for with other benefits that make this a really good notebook. This is now my standard go-to notebook for all my projects and I look forward to checking out the other colors! 

This Leuchtturm Composition Notebook is available in 11 colors and 3 page layouts; you can find them on Amazon here.


If you are interested in joining our mini-crowdfunding campaign we are currently taking pre-orders for The Builder. This is a notebook folio that holds your essential tools like tablets, pens/pencils, a small tool, business cards and a notebook.  Come check it out at a discounted price of $40 by clicking the image below.

Do we organize things to get more done, or does it just feel good?

Blackwings

 

I was recently playing trains with my son and naturally started sorting the cars by type so he could quickly find the ones he wanted.  It felt quite natural to start this way and it was enjoyable to get them all lined up.

This led me to wonder, is it really efficient to do something like this, or does it just feel good?

IT JUST FEELS GOOD

To start, it has been shown that the act of sorting and organizing things has been tied to the dopamine reward center in our brains.  This is why Tetris was/is so popular because our minds like to complete little tasks.  Dr Tom Stafford explored this theory a few years ago when Tetris turned 30 years old in his article in BBC Future:

"The game of tessellating bricks takes advantage of the mind’s basic pleasure in tidying up by feeding it with a world of perpetual uncompleted tasks."
Tetris Drawing

This is the same concept when we make To-Do lists and only work on the easy ones.  Or when making long lists of books to read, workouts to try, meals to make, or places to visit. Afterwards you feel productive and ready to start anything...only to realize you don't have time to get to them.  

To further support the theory that our minds like things to be organized, just look at some of the popular Instagram feeds of sorted objects to help make them feel less foreign.

Flatlays

Side Note: All the Blackwing pencils in my cover picture were purchased from CW Pencils!

Side Note: All the Blackwing pencils in my cover picture were purchased from CW Pencils!

I could go on and on and entire Reddit subreddits have been made showing just how much people love to look at organized stuff called knolling. Okay, so in general, people like to sort and organize things.


GETTING ORGANIZED

The next step is to decide if there is a benefit to getting organized before starting a new project.

"As human beings, it is in our nature to seek order when we are presented with new information, in an attempt to sort and classify that information quickly.  The action is paramount to our understanding of what is being presented."  
- Amy Graver & Ben Jura, Best Practices for Graphic Designers
"Productivity and efficiency depend on systems that help us organize through categorization.  The drive to categorize developed in the prehistoric wiring of our brains, in specialized neural systems that create and maintain meaningful, coherent amalgamations of things-foods, animals, tools, tribe members-in coherent categories.  Fundamentally, categorization reduces mental effort and streamlines the flow of information."

- Dr. Daniel Levitin. The Organized Mind

 

Organized tool kit

"One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity."

- Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tiding Up

Once you start getting projects done, you build your Internal Locus of Control.

Once you start getting projects done, you build your Internal Locus of Control.

The Princeton Neuroscience Institute published a study in The Journal of Neuroscience addressing this question directly by studying what happens when someone tries to work in a visually stimulated environment.  The way we process visual information is a competitive system and therefore, we can gain a higher level of concentration when fewer visual items are competing for our attention.  

Keeping your desk organized and tidy helps with concentration and productivity.

Keeping your desk organized and tidy helps with concentration and productivity.

BENEFITS OF BEING ORGANIZED

The benefits attributed to being organized are quite long and hard to ignore when they stand up to testing.  Here are just a few that I believe stand out:

  • Reducing stress and depression
  • Eating healthier
  • Exercising more and losing weight
  • Sleeping better

The above are taken from this article that goes into the science behind each benefit.

IN SUMMARY

To answer the question, 'is getting organized a beneficial act, or just a way to feel better,' I believe the answer is...both. The science behind these ideas can't be ignored and I can see the benefits every time I work on a project.  

There are plenty of people who get a lot done without having a clean workspace, but the science suggests it is more taxing on the brain. (I wrote a whole blog post on this here) There are also levels of organization and all the different areas of life that impact how one can be 'organized' that I haven't addressed.  

Overall, I believe the case can be made that by getting organized it helps generate a positive feeling and helps to get more done.

I hope you enjoyed this post and please let me know if you agree!  

Mike

First look at the new Bullet Journal Companion App

Bullet Journaling Companion
Finally, a great Bullet Journal App to go along with the paper notebook.
— Everyone

Ryder Carrol has released a beautifully designed app to work alongside your Bullet Journal. While this is not to be used as a replacement of the journal, it is a great resource and reminder tool.

The main premise of the app is to encourage the user to reflect on the day with two reminder notifications.  If you click on the notification you are rewarded with an inspirational quote and the satisfaction of crossing off the day off in the calendar.  

Companion Calendar

The Morning reflection helps to give the day purpose and the one at night helps review and catalog the day to help remember what you accomplished.

Priced at $2.99, this app is designed for the beginner and intermittent bullet journaler that wishes they could remember to update their journal every day.  For some journalers, this price will seem high as they don't need a reminder for something they do naturally.  However, for the beginner just starting out, this app is a must have.  The cost is the same as buying a pen loop or a new pen to use with the journal, but this app has some really nice features for those just starting up.

  • Articles - If you are not convinced of the benefits on Bullet Journaling, or need some inspiration this is a collection of well-written blog posts.
  • Guide -  This is the collection of all the beginner videos introducing the core concepts on Bullet Journaling.
  • Reflection - This is basic premise of the app and based on Ryder's recent TEDx talk about Leading an Intentional Life.
  • Store - It is scary easy to buy a new Bullet Journal designed by Ryder and made by Leuchtturm.  
My personal BuJo

My personal BuJo

If you are interested in the app you can find it HERE.

In case you haven't seen Ryder's TEDx talk, here is the video.  I liked the analogy of shopping while hungry.

If you have the app, do you have any thoughts on using it?

What can you put in the A5 size notebook folio?

After receiving some important feedback from customers and doing my own testing, I would like to offer some guidance on the types of notebooks and tablets that fit inside the First Edition A5 Size (7in by 9in) Notebook Folio.  This is the slim version of the folio as there will be a wider folio coming soon to accomodate other, wider and hardcover notebooks like the Leuchtturm1917.

iPad Mini with Blueprint Blue Notebook

iPad Mini with Blueprint Blue Notebook

First, the following notebooks have been tested and pictured to show their fit.  Above is our own notebook in Blueprint Blue.  As this is a modular design it also can accommodate the following notebooks:

  • Original Content Books Notebooks - A5  (5.75 x 8.25in)
  • Moleskine Soft Cover - Large (5 x 8.25in)
  • Moleskin Cahier - Large (5 x 8.25in)
  • Code & Quill - Traveler (5.5 x 7.7in)
  • Maruman Mnemosyne Notebook A5 (6.25 x 8.25in)
  • Hatch Notebook - A5 (5.75 x 8.25in)
  • Mead Planners - (6 x 8.5in) 
OC Books Notebook and iPad mini

OC Books Notebook and iPad mini

Moleskine Soft Cover Notebook

Moleskine Soft Cover Notebook

Moleskine Soft Cover Notebook

Moleskine Soft Cover Notebook

Moleskin Cahier - Large

Moleskin Cahier - Large

Code & Quill - Traveler

Code & Quill - Traveler

Code & Quill - Traveler

Code & Quill - Traveler

Maruman Mnemosyne Notebook A5

Maruman Mnemosyne Notebook A5

Maruman Mnemosyne Notebook

Maruman Mnemosyne Notebook

Hatch Notebook and iPad mini

Hatch Notebook and iPad mini

Hatch Notebook

Hatch Notebook

Mead Spiral Planners

Mead Spiral Planners

Mead Planner Notebook

Mead Planner Notebook

The second issue that has been identified from early testing is that the tablet clips need to be adjusted in the second manufacturing run.  Until that time however, some clever customers discovered that the clips can be turned around and hold the iPad mini.  Here is the closeup of the clips like this.  

iPad Mini
The clips can also hold small paper pads like the Doane Paper Notepads.

The clips can also hold small paper pads like the Doane Paper Notepads.

Here is a list of the notebooks that currently do not fit in the 'slim' notebook folio:

  • Leuchtturm1979 Hardcover - Medium (A5, 249 pages)
  • Rhodia Webnotebooks - Desk size
  • Code & Quill - Origin
  • Whitelines - Hardcover A5
  • Baron Fig - Confidant
  • Evernote Notebooks Hard Cover - Large
  • Commit30 - 2017 Notebooks

I will be working with my manufacturer over the next few weeks to get the updated folios adjusted, but in the meantime, if you have a folio already, please let me know if you have any additional feedback.  Thank you!

Mike

Notebook progress and shipping update

I recently updated the shipping date to all my products to Feb 2017 and wanted to explain a little more about this.  (I have emailed everyone that has been kind enough to order already.)

When I launched my Kickstarter campaign back in August 2016, I had no idea this would overfund by 300%.  As I expected to order far fewer notebooks, and they are all being handmade here in the US, it has put a strain on the small, family-owned printer.  They are doing an amazing job and progress is showing every week, but I did request one additional thing that has put them officially behind schedule.  I asked for every notebook and sketchpad to be shrink-wrapped individually. This was due to the fragile nature of the paper products during shipment.  I have been receiving other Kickstarter rewards that come through the mail scratched and dinged up and don't want this to happen to your items.  

Here are some progress photos of the notebooks and sketchpads. Thank you for your patience during this long phase of the fulfillment process!

Cheers!

Mike

The trick to being productive in 2017...

2016 To Do List

Is wrapping up 2016.

Before moving forward into the New Year, consider finishing up your to-do list in these final days of 2016 and organize your work-area to be ready to start anything next year.

A few things to consider while organizing the spaces you use on a daily basis:

  • Put away everything on your desk and wipe off the surface
  • Pick up all the clutter around your home and find bins/storage for things you want to put away
  • Clean up your car and clean out your trunk
  • Clean out your work bag

Doing these small tasks helps the hippocampus region of your brain and frees it up to focus on more important items, like moving short-term memories into long-term.  I wrote more about this in an earlier post here.

Clear off as many items from your 2016 to-do list as possible

Clear off as many items from your 2016 to-do list as possible

Finally, look back at 2016 and decide what you regret not doing last year. Commit to this in 2017 and do it. Don't let another year go by living with the weight of not doing what is most important to you!

The Volt Planner is a great notebook tool for 2017 as well.  Check it out here.

The Volt Planner is a great notebook tool for 2017 as well.  Check it out here.

To help with getting ready for the New Year, I recommend a book by Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project.  Mr. Bailey has demonstrated his knowledge and experience through his blog at http://alifeofproductivity.com/ where he writes about testing all manner of productivity tools and systems. This book is a great summary of the outcomes and worth the money to have only the useful options and examples laid out in an engaging format. 

I appreciate the open source writing style that shows the truth behind how he arrives at his conclusions and take-always. This is what sets this book apart from any other productivity book as this allows the reader to actively learn and retain the most important teachings of the book.

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to free up more time to work on projects they care about.

The Productivity Project is available on Amazon HERE

Find more information on Rule of 3 here.

Find more information on Rule of 3 here.

I had a chance to ask Mr. Bailey what he thought people should focus on when looking to 2017 and his response hit at the core of his teachings around time, energy, and attention.

I think one of the most powerful ways to accomplish more—whether on a daily basis or in general—is to work more often with intention. My favorite rule for doing this is the Rule of 3—where at the start of every week, as well as at the start of every day, you think forward to what three things you’ll want to have accomplished by the time the day and week are done. We should do this at the start of every year, too. Instead of creating a massive laundry list of things to get done, for 2017, choose just three goals. This will help you separate what’s important from what isn’t to really decide what’s important and meaningful to you.

 

Chris Bailey's latest TEDx talk is a great introduction to his year of productivity experiment.

To help get you started working on your own three goals for 2017, I encourage you to leave a comment below with the things you will be focusing on. As an incentive, I will send a copy of Mr. Bailey's book to one lucky winner chosen at random, to be announced this Friday, Dec. 23rd. I hope this will encourage you to get working on your goals with intention and purpose!  

Cheers and Happy Holidays! 

 

Paper Notebook Gift Giving Guide

DSC_5763.png

The Holidays are here, and if you need a gift for someone who appreciates quality notebooks, here is a list that may help you make the right choice.

 

Programmer - Code & Quill Hard Cover Origin - $20

To help keep notes and ideas organized, the dual page layout is ideal for professional creatives.  

Code & Quill Origin Notebook

Teacher - Passion Planner - $25-30

From Planners that follow the academic calendar year to Undated Planners, this company has a great line-up of notebooks for teachers.  

College Student - DotDash Pocket Notebooks - $10

Every student needs to write things down eventually, and these are the best-looking pocket notebooks around.  If you are looking for something other than a notebook, the whole lineup of products offered by Nock Co will make anyone look good.

PHOTOGRAPHER - BARON FIG CONFIDANT - $16

As my photography friend, Michael Tallman, told me, "writing down notes from client meetings and conferences is key to keeping track of everything and available." The Baron Fig line up fits well in any bag and are beautiful notebooks. Check out their limited Work/Play II edition.

Traveler -  Midori Travelers Notebook - $38

This is the gold standard in travel notebook sets, and it has developed a huge fan base to help show how to use this simple system. For a primer on this, Jet Pens has a good resource here.

COLLEGE PROFESSOR - APPOINTED NOTEBOOKS - $24

As most professors have a need for spiral bound notebooks, these are the one they have been looking for.  They look amazing, have great quality paper, and lay open while lecturing.  

Appointed Notebook

Children - LEGO Moleskine Notebook - $24

Gifts that don't require batteries are a great option, and this is one that they can literally build on with the lego board on the front.  It also helps hold the LEGO pen!  

Bullet Journal Junkie - Original Bullet Journal Notebook - $25

Most BuJo users are always looking for the best notebook, and the top pick is always Ryder's original notebook made by Leuchtturm. The alternative is a dot grid or square grid Leuchtturm1917 on Amazon.

Bullet Journal Leuchtturm1917

Entrepreneur - Hatch Notebook - $25

If you know of someone that comes up with some great ideas for new products, they need a place to keep them all organized.  Enter Hatch, the brilliant and beautifully designed notebook system.  The creators just had a great Kickstarter campaign, and the result is a wonderful notebook that is easy to use and fill with good and sometimes bad ideas :)

Hatch Notebook

Engineer - Rhodia Dot Pad - $10

Every engineer I have ever met likes to have everything in order, and well-made.  The Rhodia notepads are a perfect tool for any mechanical, chemical or electrical engineer due to their amazing paper and overall construction.

Rhodia Notebook

CEO - Levenger Circa - $42

Levenger is the standard when it comes to office supplies for executives. Their folios and briefcases are as common as BMWs but many chiefs don't have the notebook to accompany them on a daily basis. 

Outdoorsman/Woman - Rite in the Rain Notebook - $7

Water and paper don't mix. Unless you have this notebook. This paper is magic for how well it holds up. This is a must for any hunter, fisher, or backpacker. 

Blogger - Commit30 Notebooks - $20-29

The Commit30 Idea Journal or Planner can help your blogging or podcasting friends stay focused and set goals to get their new content completed by setting real deadlines.

IMG_8260.png

Reporter/Journalist - Field Notes Front Page - $13

Designed by Field Notes with John Dickerson, (host of CBS Face the Nation) this is an updated design to the classic reporter's tool. 

Beer Drinker - Brewers Passport - $24

Drinking beer is a physical action, not a digital one.  So it makes sense to pull out a notebook and pen instead of a phone.  This notebook is a good resource for identifying flavors and ingredients, and goes beyond the untapped app to help remember exactly what you liked about the beer.

Brewers Passport

Writer/Author - Composition Notebook - $2

It isn't about quality for first drafts, it is just about getting it down on paper.  Designer Michael Bierut has an impressive collection that holds all his random thoughts.  If you want to splurge for the new upgraded version currently on Kickstarter, check out comp for $19.

Comp by Aaron Fay

Gadget/Tech Geek - RocketBook Wave - $27

For your friend that doesn't use notebooks, this is one they will be interested in.  First, it is connected to an app that can scan and upload the pages to many different cloud services (dropbox, evernote, google docs and more..) Second, you can wipe it clean by microwaving it!  Find out more here, and they also have a new version on Kickstarter.

Everyday Carry/Survival - Field Notes Kraft 3 pack  - $10

For the guy you know that carries everything in his pockets, he is going to need more of these notebooks.  Just trust me...or the folks over at everydaycarry.com.

 

If I missed anything, or you have other suggestions please leave them in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!

Mike