Monday 6 October 2014

Interview and giveaway - Sheng Chen of DIY Fish.

I have watched the phenomenon that is DIY Fish sweep through the planner community in recent months. I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to talk to Sheng Chen, the woman behind it. Here is my interview with Chen. Read to the end for your opportunity to win a free set of inserts.

1. Who is Sheng Chen and what’s the whole Fish thing about? Show us a picture of you with your favourite fish.

I was born in Shanghai and currently live in Singapore for more than 10 years with my husband. We have 2 boys, 3 and 9.  Fish is my cyber name behind my planner related designs which started from 2012.

This is me and my treasured Life Mapping(™) Special Edition 2014 - The Singapore Rare Butterflies Set which I have spent almost a year to prepare, study, and paint these beautiful butterflies and their host plants.

2. Tell me about your DIY Fish Life Mapping(™) Filofax and Midori inserts. What gave you the idea and how did you develop it?

Life Mapping(™) methods includes color coding, time-managing and journal writing.

It is not an idea that came into my mind suddenly but it can be a long story.

I have been using bonded notebooks to write my “little secrets” since I was in primary school. In primary 6, I started to mark the edges of my school books like a dictionary because I have to study so many text books and I need to locate the information efficiently. I realized that this is a useful and beautiful method so I started to decorate and mark the edges of my notebooks too.

Below is an old address book that I used in year 2000 which is remarkable because it’s my last address book before I transferred all my contacts into phone.

In 2011, I joined many Filofax, notebook, scrapbook groups and forums. From there, I start to know Filofax, Davinci, Franklin Covey, Hobonichi, Dodo Pad and many experienced notebook/paper binder users. After I got my first Filofax in 2012, my desire to create my own pages became stronger and stronger. I have read many articles about time management, how to take notes and how to write journals and came across to Peiling Lin* (林珮玲 ) ‘s method of how she marks her notebooks to be searchable. This is a sparkle, which encouraged me to continue my way to mark the notebook edge. But loose leaves are different from bond notebooks which do not have a flattened edge and that’s why I created the Index Page Marker to go with the color coding system.

Life Mapping(™) Inserts version 1 are traditional inserts which I have concentrated more on the color and illustrations. But very fast I realized that they can not satisfy me. Base on my own needs and after many rounds of redesign, I launched my Life Mapping(™) Inserts version 2 series which have monthly calendar, weekly calendar and daily pages all in one glance.

Now, Life Mapping(™) System has more than 6 series which include 2 kinds of Midori style notebooks that base on the need of different users. And there are more coming soon.
LM MTN v2.2
LM MTN Classic

*Peiling Lin is a famous author/speaker in Taiwan who has published many books about note taking.

3. You are very visible on the planning-related social media. How did that come about?
A big thank you to Carie Harling who 1st reviewed my Life Mapping(™) Small Projects Management Inserts. She translated my complicated and techie thoughts into a very professional but easy understood language. Because of her, people started to know me and understand my Life Mapping(™) System. .

Another big thank you to Danielle Paulson who set up the Life Mapping(™) Community FB Group. This group has successfully attracted many great souls from all over the world to share and exchange their knowledge and experiences of using planners and Life Mapping(™) System.

Last but not least is to thank the Philofaxy community. Without that community’s knowledge, guide, help and support, I wouldn’t be here.

4. You take a lot of time and care to provide detailed support for people as they start to use your system. How do you find the time?

Squeeze. Less sleep and play with my kids but work.I am adjusting myself recently to have more time to rest and stay with my family.

5. The Life Mapping(™) system works brilliantly and looks beautiful. Which of those two objectives do you have to work hardest on?

The flow. Once the structure and the flow is right, the beauty of the system will come out naturally with the user’s personality.  

6. Where do the ideas for new features come from? How about some hints on what we can expect in coming releases?

The ideas are from my everyday using experience, all kind of Filofax, notebook, time management, scrapbooking related videos and blog posts, and the most important from the feedbacks of my users.

I am planning to convert Life Mapping(™) Version 3 style into MTN style booklets for users who prefer weekly pages. There will be 2-3 styles.  

There’s another exciting development under way too. I’m working with another designer to bring a new time visualisation tool to Life Mapping(™). It’s going to change the way people think about their days.

7. At the moment Life Mapping(™) exists as inserts people download and print at home. What plans do you have for changing that model? Will there be a standalone DIY Fish planner book in the stores one day soon?

I have been thinking about this and searching for good quality paper. I am not sure yet if they will appear in stores but they will be available to purchase online one day.

8. What are some of the things you use your own planner for? What do people say when they see you using it?

Work schedule, family members schedules, journaling, doodling etc.

In office, many times, when people see I have a big book to write in, they will borrow paper and sometime even my pen. In public places, unless it's in a library or cafe where I will have my own table, I don't normally take out my binder.

9. How can people reading this get on board and try the system for themselves?  What are the main options?

People can visit my Etsy store. Here is an overview of what’s available there.

Life Mapping(™) is a kind of color coding,  time-managing and/or journal writing method. All Life Mapping Inserts have side index bar for color coding and searching.  Life Mapping Inserts/notebooks use grids and it’s quite well known that you can use smaller size binder to achieve bigger writing space.

The most popular Life Mapping(™) Inserts (LMI) is LMI v2.2 which you can have month, week, day all in one glance. This is good for people who like to put everything, combine work and life into one binder.


LM MTN v2.2 is similar as above but has month, week and/or month, daily page at one glance.

LMI MTN Classic is an on the go Midori style booklet. It has horizontal format with month at a glance, monthly checklist, week at a glance, to do pages, note pages.

LMI version 3
is for users who prefer their binder to be light and stick to weekly pages to write and plan. Monthly calendar pages can be unfolded to work with weekly pages.


There are 4 kind of weekly pages, 

Life Mapping(™) Planner is for small projects management. Warning: Please do not purchase unless you tried and know how to use it.

Life Mapping(™) system has tradition inserts too. And I am still expanding the designs

You can always check the Product Catalogue for more information and new products.

10. And finally, Chen, please tell us about your special giveaway offer.

THREE readers will get the Life Mapping(™) inserts or booklets of their choice FREE. Here’s what you have to do to be in with a chance.

Join the Life Mapping(™) Community Group on Facebook if you’re not there already; like the DIYFish Facebook page and answer one or more of these questions in a post:
  • What inserts/booklets are you using now (whether DIYFish or not)?
  • What do you like and dislike about your current using inserts/booklets?
  • Why would you like to try Life Mapping(™) Inserts/booklets?
  • Which Life Mapping(™) Inserts/booklet would you like to win and why?
  • How do you plan to use it?
If you want your post to qualify for the giveaway, start it with the letters “GA” and then type your answer. Make sure you post it on the DIYFish Facebook page. You can answer more than one question if you like, but you’ll only qualify for one entry in the giveaway draw. The draw will be made after one week, so make sure you post by the end of next Monday, 13 October.

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