best tricks with favorite things

I spent a couple of hours at Starbucks (Yupangco Makati branch) waiting for my sister to finish lunch with friends. It was her last day in Manila; I was to take her to the airport in the late afternoon so she could catch a flight back to Dubai, where she has been based for the past ten years.

I had some of my favorite things with me to pass the time productively.

The coffee is a Double Tall Dark Cherry Mocha nonfat, no whip, one Splenda. (“Are you sure you still want the Splenda, ma’am? The syrup is very sweet…” I always add one Splenda when I take an extra espresso shot.) The caffeine jolt is necessary to jump-start my brain.

The book is the ninth edition of Theories of Human Communication by Stephen Littlejohn and Karen Foss. It is one of the bibles of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. It explains around 126 theories, give or take a few. I read and re-read chapters when I have free time.

The mobile phone is a year-old Nokia 5310 XpressMusic. They didn’t have the pink one when I got this one, which I would have bought for the color. I prefer skinny candy-bar phones, which I can easily hold in one hand for texting. I dislike clamshell and slider types, because the more moving parts there are in a gadget, the more parts there are that are likely to break.

The fountain pens are my daily road warriors. Lacking a proper pen case that can accommodate the six or eight pens that I rotate on a monthly basis, I use a plastic Waterman case that the red Hemisphere came in. Yes, I know, it’s not the best thing for the pens, they’ll scratch each other, but it’s only temporary, I promise.

The purple leather two-pen case is a Christmas gift from my friend Leigh.It’s adorable, just as she is.

Armed with these things and in between downing gulps of coffee, I wrote entries in my ”communication diary”, a large Scribe (Moleskine knock-off) notebook covered with olive silk. The diary is homework for our Communication Research 201 class with Dr. Joey Lacson and must be entirely handwritten. I used a different pen for each entry, so the words pop off the pages in a whirl of colorful inks – Private Reserve Naples Blue, Caran d’Ache Sunset, J. Herbin Cyclamen Rose, Pilot Iroshizuku asa-gao (morning glory blue).

I also texted the entire Board of Directors of the company I work for, telling them that it was a year since they hired me and thanking them for giving me the opportunity to work with them. After that I cleared my messages and deleted unnecessary files, freeing up valuable storage space for data.

I snapped photos of my pens using my mobile phone camera to use as my phone screen wallpaper.

From time to time I would jot down meetings and other reminders in my planner, while at the same time listening to too-loud conversations of other patrons rather than tuning them out. It’s not eavesdropping because they are talking loud enough for others to hear. As a communication student, it’s one way of observing communication behavior in the field.

One young woman, a self-proclaimed frequent traveler, complained to her friend in the colegiala accent of privileged female private Catholic high school students about losing her baggage on a flight to Paris. “It was the first time, and I never though such a thing would happen to me,” she said. “Don’t take anything for granted.”

At another table, an elderly man sitting with eight friends was telling them about a recent golf tournament he played in. “I played eight holes then almost collapsed,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling ill or anything. It just shows that anything can happen, even the least expected.”

My two hours at the coffee shop were well-spent. I completed several important tasks, relaxed in soothing surroundings, and was reminded by others of an important bit of wisdom – “Never take anything for granted.”

Multi-tasking with things that are chosen carefully with functionality foremost in mind helps you be more productive. Find out what things work best for you given your own particular way of doing things. What’s good for someone else might not be what’s right for you.

Once you’ve found out what kind of tools you’re comfortable with and make you more effective, stick with them, while still keeping an open mind on new things. It’s not a case of old dog, old tricks, but rather old dog, best tricks.

When my sister texted that her lunch was over and she was on her way to meet me, I packed up my favorite things, drained my coffee cup, and walked out the door with a sense of accomplishment. Now that felt good.

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