Working tools 7 – Notebooks

Mike Hurley and Federico Viticci, two of my favourite podcasters, are fans of the “multi-pad lifestyle”. I believe the phrase may have been coined on Cortex, a show that Mike does with CGP Grey, but don’t quote me on that.

I live the multi-pad lifestyle too. They, of course, are talking about iPads. I’m talking about pads. Paper ones. You know, like notebooks. I use a lot of notebooks.

Notebooks
A small selection

Current Setup

Let me give you an insight.

1. I carry a pocket notebook and a writing instrument everywhere. When I wake, it is beside my bed. Then, it lives in my pocket or by my side all day. I use it to record anything and everything. An observation, a thought, an aide-memoire.

2. Bullet Journal is my daily driver. A free-format planner if you like. I track things in here and it serves as my task list and time-blocker.

3. Scratch pad or book. Sitting at my desk, I often think things out on paper. Or doodle. If I do this in the Bullet Journal, I would burn through them.

4. Novel Kit. I use medium/A5 size cahiers. These often come in three packs and I use a pack per novel. One is for plot, one is for characters and one is for research.

5. Learning. A medium or large book that lives in my office. I passionately believe in the importance of learning. Whether that be how to use an app, edit a photo or edit a website, I love to learn. I have one book for media skills, one for corporate compliance stuff and one for Greek language.

6. Procedures. Not the most exciting, but I have discovered that I have an enormous capacity to forget things. This leads to a loop of discovery, implementation, amnesia, which whilst fun, is not terribly efficient. I have started writing these up, and they exist in notebooks and digitally. I imagine that the more team-oriented ones will live in the digital world, whereas my own, – say, photography workflow, will live in a book.

7. Standard Memorandum. Here I record a single thought every day.

You can see why I bought a notebook company.

Benefits

Part of this extensive use is, I concede, a vehicle to allow me to use lovely stationery, but it does serve other purposes too.

I need to make space in my head. Getting things down on paper, allows me to forget them. Once one trusts the system, then having written something down, I can forget it and come back to it at a time that suits me. This is a key element of the Get Things Done methodology and many other productivity frameworks.

I find that taking notes helps me maintain attention. If I don’t, I am more than capable of completely blanking a fifteen minute video.

Reference: Not only can I refer back to notebooks as reminders, I can get a glimpse of what I was doing and feeling at specific times.

Notebooks are important to my workflow. It helps that I love them too.

Working Tools – 7. Briefcase

I co-host a podcast, 1857. On episode 51, we inadvertently touched on one my neuroses. Bags. Backpacks, messengers, briefcases, holdalls and everything in between. I am constantly on the hunt for the perfect bag (or bags). Interest was huge! People coming back with questions, advice and suggestions. Many wanted to know what I plumped for – so here we are. For everyone’s sanity, I’ll limit this post to my work bag, nobody is interested in how I pack my shirts. Mostly, I work from my home office, which is directly below my living room. From time to time, I attend meetings, either here in Cyprus, or elsewhere. This might be in my guise as a compliance consultant, the notebook guy or possibly even both. So I need a bag that will sit comfortably with both of those personae. One that can come to a pen show or to a boardroom.

I love Messenger bags and backpacks. However – I don’t like either with a suit. I know that many suits use these types of bag daily, but I find that the bags do not sit right with the jacket. I don’t see the point of making an effort to look smart, then destroying that look with the bag. A specific and personal opinion, I know. Therefore, I am left with briefcases / shoulder bags (some of which can be worn across the body too). The specific trip that I am packing for is, 4 nights, 3 days. 1 day leisure, 1 day being the notebook guy at a pen show and 1 day as a compliance professional. I fly out on Friday evening and return home Tuesday.

Contents

This is what I’m taking:

Digital

Digital Tools
For a short trip

iPad Pro 10.5 (2017). Bose Comfort 35 Noise reducing headphones. Anker charger (4 x USB), Kodak battery pack, AirPods, Punkt M01 feature phone, some lightning cables, and an Apple Watch charging cable.

Analogue

Briefcase analogue contents
Paper, pens and pencils

My LT1917 Metallic A5 and pen. 2 Bellroy wallets. One for pocket carry and 1 for additional cards. Smythson business card holder and LT1917 business card holder. Pocket Notebook and Nock Tallulah mini pen case for a few writing instruments.

All of that will slot into my Tumi briefcase that I bought several years ago, in Helsinki, I think.

Briefcase in Black
Corporate Cobra!

Conclusion

The briefcase is made for a laptop around the 13 inch mark. I can squeeze my 15 inch MBP in, if pushed. The dimensions in cm are 42 by 30 by 10 or so. The bag will fit comfortably under an airline seat, which is my preference. I like to be able to get to anything that I might need without doing the whole seat dance thing.

However, the briefcase is quite rigid and as such requires a ‘everything in its place’ approach. Rummaging around in this bag is uncomfortable. It hurts. It does unzip all the way open, making it TSA friendly. Of course, the rest of the world cares not a jot about the TSA, so don’t think you can leave your laptop in it for scanning at Heathrow.

Briefcase opened out
Only useful in the US

The shoulder strap is detachable and adjustable. It can be worn over the shoulder or across the body. It’s very high quality, and I suspect will last forever. The slim profile means that duty free shopping etc is not going to slot in this bag, but will either need to live in its own bag or be slipped into the wheelie with my clothes.

If I was slipping down to a coffee shop to prominently place my notebook and iPad and look the ‘hipster writer’, I’d want a softer, less corporate briefcase, but that is,
a: Because I’m a poseur
b: For another post

Overall, this is a high quality briefcase, well-designed and built. It sits between the minimalist “cool” size and the corporate road warrior “all bases covered” size. Yet still, I find myself drifting to bag websites…

Working Tools – 4. Bullet Journal

You may know that I run Nero’s Notes, where I sell notebooks and the odd bit of stationery. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that I use quite a lot of notebooks myself.

I am resolved for 2019 to keep a bullet journal, or indeed, a series of them. If you are not familiar with #bulletjournal, where have you been? That aside, go check out this excellent overview from the man that created the system. You can read about my earlier experiences with the journal here.

Quarterly System

I have decided to use one book for a quarter, at which point, I will move on to a new one, regardless of how much space remains in the current book. This is a departure; typically I flog a notebook until every single page is covered.

Why the change?

It’s all related to goals and flexibility. I do like a bit of goal setting. Traditionally, I draw up a list of annual target and goals for each area of my life, the hope being, that these will guide my every action throughout the next twelve months. It may be my age, it may be the scale of my endeavours, or it may be the modern world – but I now find that twelve months is a very long time. Therefore, I’m splitting the year into quarters, and setting goals for thirteen weeks rather than fifty two.

I will still consider the outcomes that I’m hoping for at the end of 2019, but in terms of actionable items, I’m going to focus on just the first quarter. As that quarter comes to an end, I’ll conduct a review and set targets for the next three months. There is nothing original about this approach – I’m sure that I have read it in several different places and guises. However, I’m just co-opting the time frame, in an effort to keep my goals relevant to my reality.

My goals are more diverse now, than they have ever been. There’s Nero’s Notes, Lime Training and Consultancy, this website, 1857 and my novel – just in the ‘Work’ sphere. Breaking things down into quarters forces me to focus on small, “doable” actions. This, I hope, will help ensure that my goals do not overwhelm me and become irrelevant.

Migration

A part of the bullet journal method involves a process of migration. From day to day, month to month or even journal to journal. This is a kind of enforced review and will keep reminding me of the goals set. That is not to say that they cannot change, only that if they do it will be something that happens with intention, rather than by default.

Furthermore, having lots of pages available in each journal will encourage me to make more notes. This is in part inspired by the concept that when looking to have a good ideas, a great way to get going is to focus on having lots of ideas. Joey Cofone, CEO and co-founder of Baron Fig, reminded me of this on a productivity podcast that I listened to just the other day.

Conclusion

You can find my 2019 set up here – and I will continue to update here on the site (category Journal), for better or worse.

 

#BulletJournal #BuJo

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I regret to report that the star of my last post, Samuel has still not signed up for the blog. I suspect that his emergency business trip has kept him busy.

The laptop is re-listed on eBay, so there is every chance I will have another long exchange with a fraudster. If I do, I’ll report back.

#BulletJournal. If you have not heard of this system, you can find out more at this excellent website. I am experimenting with several analogue productivity tools, and the bullet journal is the latest.

For the moment, I will not show you any of the internal pages. I need to learn how to electronically obscure some of the more private data.

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This is my index so far.

I use the # symbol for collections. These are pages where I track specific things. There is a log of my postal correspondence (if you are under 30, google ‘Letters’), a log of things that I am waiting for, a reading list and ideas for blog posts. I will soon add a habit tracker.

The BulletJournal, for me, acts as daily task manager, note capture space, and reference hub. I don’t use it much as a calendar or for reflective journaling. That’s my choice. Despite my love for the analogue approach to many things – I have yet to discover something that can compete with an electronic calendar. Accessible from anywhere, and most importantly, shareable.

Every day, I “rapid log”. I write down things that I need to get done, things that I need to remember, or just observations. It’s quick, it’s easy and forgiving. It doesn’t interrupt my flow. As I go through the day, items get ticked off, crossed out or processed in another way. At the end of the day, or maybe even at the end of the week, I review the logs.

This review is the key exercise. This is where I sweep up all open bullets and either carry them forward or deem them no longer relevant. There are no loose ends. The system has mechanisms for deferring and scheduling bullets, which can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. For me, the critical thing is to stop using my brain to store data, but to act on things.

The #BulletJournal system rewards. There is something very satisfying closing out a day with every bullet dealt with.

Yes, I know that there are some amazing apps for this. I own a decent share of them. Todoist, To do, Wonderlist, Any.Do are all brilliant and I have used them in the past. For me they all lapse quite quickly, as they cover only the task function. I then need to use another app for the notes. Somehow, pen and paper engages me more. It feels like commitment.

Ultimately, being productive and organised comes from within. Not from a book, or from a system.

Speaking personally, I need all the help I can get.