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.

J is for Journal

Journal

I keep a journal.

In the past, I used a brilliant app called Day One. This allowed me to update from my computer, my iPad and even my phone. I could ‘geo-tag’, add photos, a soundtrack even.

Now, I use a fountain pen and a notebook.

Keeping a journal helps me stay grounded and focused. I don’t have a prescriptive format for the journal. I may write a single line one day and five pages the next. I may celebrate the successes of the day or lament the failures. I may simply record events without judgement. I have a friend (No, I do, really), who writes entries with titles like ‘Carthago delenda est’. Cato the elder, I think.

Initially, I wrote entries in the mornings. However, I found that writing a journal put me in a wistful, contemplative state, which is not ideal when I have things to get done, so now I write in the evenings.

If you don’t keep a journal – consider it. It is scientifically proven that you will be more attractive to the opposite sex if you keep a journal.

OK, I made that last bit up – but keeping a journal will help you understand where your time is going, and time is one thing that we can never get back.

B is for Bureau Direct

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I blogged yesterday about Amanda, my writing buddy. (Her excellent blog is here)

She introduced me to Bureau Direct purveyors of fine stationery. They have become my ‘dealers’. No, seriously – this stationery stuff is addictive.

I have graduated to the hard stuff. Daily, I am taking a big hit of notebook – in fact this post began in a Rhodiarama. I’m a habitual Rhodia user and I sometimes cut in some Clairefontaine too. To change things up, I sometimes move away from the French gear and get a bit Teutonic – there is nothing wrong with a Leuchtturm 1917 now and again. It really is that bad.

Bureau Direct understand the link between creativity and stationery. With a good notebook and a fountain pen, I can instantly transport myself to different worlds, where the only rules are ones that I decree. The website is excellent, the deliveries are prompt and the customer service absolutely superb – but have a care. Once bitten, you might find yourself compulsively going back for more. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!

When finally, my time comes, some poor soul will be in my garage scratching his head;

“The wine, I understand. But what on earth did this guy needs thirty two thousand notebooks for?”