Study Toolkit - the 2015 edition

October represents for me the start of a new study year with the Open University. Nine months of part time studying, my fifth year out of six. It has been tough and challenging and at times I have questioned why I am doing this. 

To make the stressful period more fun I revel in the stationery items I can use. However this year my study toolkit takes on a slightly different set-up. From October I will be taking a course in a completely different subject area - Design thinking: creativity for the 21st century. This means a lot less reading than my previous courses and probably less analogue note taking. In light of this I am expanding on my first study toolkit post, and creating the 2015 edition. 

My 2015 study essentials  

My 2015 study essentials  

MacBook Air 

This course is primarily carried out online. My beloved 11" MacBook Air will be used for the main online tasks, uploading images and completing my written assignments. 


When I don't need to be on my Mac my iPad will be the second in command system. At some point in the next few months I will be upgarding to an iPad Air 2 to allow me to take advantage of the new features in the recent iOS 9 update. 

The Notebook

Of course being the stationery nerd that I am, I will have a notebook for any note taking that may be required. This time round I will be using the recently launched Shenandoah edition Field Notes memo book. I wanted to use a small and portable notebook that is easy to carry around and can be used alongside my digital tools.

iPhone (soon to be 6s Plus)  

I found an interesting YouTube channel from someone who has taken this course last year. A requirement is taking photographs to record your work and feed back into an online portfolio system. This particular person decided to take this one step further and to video his work. Borrowing, ok perhaps stealing from this idea, I have decided I will use the iPhone's time lapse feature to take multiple pictures of me doing particular tasks and activities. I am not very comfortable sitting in front of a camera and talking without waffling so this seems like the next best idea to me. I will upload these videos to YouTube and send on to my tutor. 

Travel Tripod and the Glif 

Both of these are essential for use with my iPhone. Using the Glif alongside the tripod means I have a ready to go set-up for time lapse filming when needed.  


This will be an important tool in the absence of physical books on this course and perfect for studying on the go with the iPad. I usually prefer reading from physical books and taking notes with pen and paper - shocking I know - but this year and with this course I will be forced to embrace more digital tools. 

OmniFocus 2 for iPad 

My current tasks

My current tasks

This is a new addition to my workflow. I used the original OmniFocus a long time ago on the iPad but I wasn't using it for a designated purpose and therefore quickly got bored. However as time has gone on and I have taken on projects OmniFocus seems like it could really help me out. Plus the app has changed significantly from the version I used. I will add my study tasks, assignment preparations and reading lists into OmniFocus to keep track of everything. This will also be useful for all projects I have on the go, so will not only be used solely for studying tasks. I will have this on my iPad and iPhone to begin with as I use these a lot more during the day, when random thoughts are more likely to pop into my head. 


I have this on my iPhone and iPad and I really like this tool for thoughts and ideas on the go. I have small lists within the app and I use these to capture ideas when a notebook is not handy. I also love using this app for long-running lists that outlive a notebook, such as blog ideas or reading lists. 


Day One 

Day One is a great tool to capture and remember memorable moments and photographs. I have used this semi-regularly for some time but I think this could be a useful tool for my latest course. One way to develop and learn is having an understanding of how you work and Day One will be perfect to capture my study progress as well as anything I create. 

iA Writer 

I use iA Writer as my Markdown editor of choice. I will use this to write my assignments and then export the plain text files once complete ready for submission. I really like the layout of iA Writer. I use this in dark mode usually on full screen. I have the apps on both my Mac and iPad and share documents through Dropbox so I can pick up and edit documents on both devices. 

In Summary

Obviously on top of this list of study tools, pens and pencils will come into play. I am not outlining these items in this post as these will change throughout the year. My monthly loadout posts will give all the details about the tools I am using during that particular month.  

I am aware as time goes on that this list of study essentials will undoubtedly change, in particular with the apps, but for starters I think this is a pretty solid set-up. If anyone has any recommendations for apps useful for studying please let me know. 


Digital meets Analogue

With The Finer Point being in it's early days I did not want to dwell too much on reviews. Therefore I thought I would use this post to give a quick run down of the digital and analogue tools that I use on a day to day basis. I have been a fan of technology for some time and due to my professional work life appreciate how technology has changed peoples everyday lives. I also love the humble world of pens and paper, sometimes technology is just not needed. This post is a load out of what I am using right now on an every day basis. 


My trusty MacBook Air. It's love

My trusty MacBook Air. It's love

My MacBook Air is a new toy and therefore is currently getting a lot of attention. This is my second Apple laptop but my first Air. I love Apple products from a design perspective but even more so I love how everything just works. I don't need to be a computer genius or load a ton of software onto my device to get started. With Apple it all just works. I am a part time student and my MacBook Air is vital to remote studying and getting my assignments written and submitted. 

The every day carry set up

The every day carry set up


My iPhone is all about taking photos, listening to podcasts (most of which are pen related) and keeping up to date in the social world. You may have guessed I am a bit of an Apple fan. I never get tired of the iPhones. They may not be the most advanced phone on the market but without mine I feel lost.


As you may have noticed from my first review I am a fan of Field Notes. These guys come with me everywhere and I am rarely found without one. Sometimes typing a note on your phone, with the automatic spell checker changing what you've written, just doesn't cut it. If you need to draw something or sketch out an idea pen and paper is the only way to do it. This is where Field Notes comes in. For me you can't beat it. They're not too big, not too small and it really doesn't matter if they get beaten up. Paper quality on the whole is pretty good depending on which edition you may be using. The seasonal releases keep everything interesting and get everyone talking. Such a simple idea but a great concept and something which has become a vital part of my set up. 


With a Field Notes must come a pen, and at the moment my go to pen is a Muji 0.5 gel ink pen. There is no bleed, lines are crisp and look great on the page. I picked these pens up on a whim some time ago and didn't really use them but the more I do the more I love them. 


I find myself using a pencil a lot more these days. Pencils have never been something I have used a lot in the past as I can never find one I like. I don't like too harsh a line, I hate sharpening them constantly and I don't want something that will smear. As a result I didn't really bother. However as part of my studying scribbling in my text books is a necessary evil and I hate doing it in pen in case I make an error. Pencils have become something I am more interested in for sure. I have just ordered the Palomino Collection pack from, which suggests my fascination is growing. 


To be truly digital everything has to be in the cloud, right? I use Dropbox for pretty much all of my documents these days. Access from other devices has proved useful to me in the past and I like the idea that if my laptop breaks, it shouldn't be an issue. I don't use add any media onto my Dropbox account purely because of space (that all gets backed up on an external hard drive). 


Working with all of these things together I think I have a pretty good combination between the digital and the analogue. Over the years I have tried to go purely digital and keep everything online or in the cloud. Turns out it really doesn't work well for me and for what I need to do. Sometimes putting down the phone or laptop and sitting with my Field Notes means I come up with better ideas and find new ways of managing things.