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Ellane W

How Drafts, Obsidian and Hook bring it all together

Photo by Efe Kurnaz on Unsplash

Four years ago I set myself a task: recreate in the digital realm the spirit of the highly effective analog productivity system I used in the 1980s.

I was searching for a system that —

  • was easy to get data into and out of
  • had the spirit of digital minimalism
  • wouldn’t fall apart if I ignored it for a few weeks (or months)
  • put me in charge of my own data instead of trusting it to someone else
  • didn’t rely on proprietary software; future-proof
  • functioned perfectly offline on all my Apple…


Can the same principles cross over to the digital world?

Cartoon girl holding a notebook, surrounded by giant notebooks and planning papers
Cartoon girl holding a notebook, surrounded by giant notebooks and planning papers
Image by author

As a young uni student¹ in the mid 1980s, I seem to have been unconsciously, effortlessly organised — according my rose-coloured memory of times past, at least!

I knew what and when things needed to happen, and for the most part, they did. My paper-based productivity system wasn’t perfect, but it was simple, effective, and didn’t get in the way of actually getting things done.

Granted, life pre marriage, children, and running a business was simpler than post, but the system I used ran on principles that hold true no matter how complicated life became.

The Ingredients

My system consisted of 5…


An Apple user bridges the digital–analog divide

View from above of a leather notebook cover propped open. The top of a multi-colour pen is visible between the pages.
View from above of a leather notebook cover propped open. The top of a multi-colour pen is visible between the pages.
Two messy Moleskine Cahiers, with one Pilot Dr Grip 4+1 pen. Bliss. —Picture by Author.

Thanks to the paperless workflow I’ve been implementing between my MacBook Pro, iPad Pro and iPhone, nary a scraplet of paper is needed — or wanted — for 95% of the work I do. I’m a small business owner who used to go through forests of paper every year for decades, so that feels like quite an achievement!

As a paperless convert, digital evangelist and an aspiring minimalist, I’m here to tell you about the notebook and pen that stayed when everything else went to the shredder.

It all started with a pen

The BiC 4 colour pen was introduced to the world in 1970 by…


Trying hard is good, but some things need a softer touch.

Black background with a burning match coming from the lower left hand side of the picture
Black background with a burning match coming from the lower left hand side of the picture
Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

It was only 15˚C (59˚F) in the house when I got up this morning, so as quietly as I could I loaded the fireplace and lit the fire starter. This is winter in Australia; it felt cold.

The wood was dry, but after a very short time I had nothing but spent kindling, untouched logs, and a smoky firebox.

Not a novice here; I’ve built a lot of good fires in my time. After trying a few more things that didn’t work and using another two fire starters, the kindling glowed red, then faded. Again. Sheesh!

We will not burn…


Strength in softness. Let go. Be humble. Embrace curiosity.

Cropped photo of someone doing Tai Chi at the beach, with a cartoon person climbing up their arm and a cartoon person in a boat in the background.
Cropped photo of someone doing Tai Chi at the beach, with a cartoon person climbing up their arm and a cartoon person in a boat in the background.
Image by author, based on a photo used under license from Jump Story

There’s a right way and a wrong way to up your game in whatever it is you do. Guess which one trying harder is? Counter-intuitive though it may seem at first, knuckling down and putting more effort into the thing you’re trying to improve is often the least effective approach — I’m speaking from experience in a number of different fields.

Let me tell you about three of them.

Tai Chi: strength in softness

I’ve been going to Tai Chi lessons for a few months now, and it’s been a wonderful, humbling experience.

Wonderful because it feels great, and because our teacher is donating her…


I can’t handle not being able to make the green dot go away!

Image by Author

Medium has been inviting people to try the beta of their new mobile app for a while now. Or they were (I didn’t apply). I noticed the other day that everything has changed, and boy is it different!

I really like that I can no longer accidentally dismiss a story on the home page (an algorithm-affecting form of ‘unliking’) by swiping it to the right, thinking I’m going back a page instead. That’s one frustration gone. …


Is a moment of freedom worth more than a lifetime of misery?

Photo by Ursula Gamez on Unsplash. Not a pic of our lovely Iroh, but very similar to him.

When my youngest children were 8 and 10, we had a cockatiel called Iroh, named after Uncle Iroh in the cartoon series Avatar, The Last Airbender. I bought him after seeing the bond my brother in law’s (BiL) cockatiels had with him.

Chester loved BiL, was utterly besotted with him. Even though he was free to fly around the house and even to fly outside sometimes, he always came back.

Pining for freedom

We loved our little yellow Iroh bird! He was part of our lives and a great thing for the children.

I recreated as best I could the environment I saw…


I was using Goodplanr's Classic digital planner—it's truly excellent—but now I use my own creations. I'm a part time teacher, and the Teacher's Weekly interactive digital planner (E&R Publications) is very helpful for organising my class.


The best note taking app for the iPad is the one with the features you need for the task or context at hand.

I agree that Notability is best at audio mapped to handwritten or typed notes, but I rarely need that feature. Notability's drawing tools don't shine for me, so it sits unused most of the time.

The best app for my digital planner is Noteshelf, as its drawing tools are miles ahead of the competition. I like to draw and paint in-app, and in Noteshelf I have the option of a pencil, and I can use the highlighter to layer colour and achieve more intensity.

When I'm teaching over Zoom, the best app for the way I work is GoodNotes.

Number one step in choosing the "best app": know what you need! Step two: know what's out there.


Icons are making my interactive digital planner even better

Woman in white shirt using white iPad with Apple Pencil in hand
Woman in white shirt using white iPad with Apple Pencil in hand
Photo by Marek Levák on Unsplash

Lately I’ve been contemplating minimalism, especially in my digital planning workflow, and in the way my devices (iPhone X, iPad Pro 12.9″, MacBook Pro 15 ″) are set up.

I agree with Joshua Becker’s definition of minimalism:

It is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing anything that distracts us from it.

This will look different when you apply it to the way it works for me, and I think that’s the point!

Minimalist, please—hold the fluff

Interactive digital planners have taken off in a big way since the iPad gained the beautiful Apple Pencil and notetaking apps learned how…

Ellane W

Digital productivity enthusiast, teacher, truth seeker.

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