Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hacking My Notebook for 2010

I was surprised at the number of people who responded to my posts on the value of keeping a notebook, so I decided to write some more about this beneficial habit.

For most of 2009 I carried a pocket Moleskine, a hard cover notebook with a cardboard pocket in the back, a book mark, and an elastic to keep it closed. Previous years I have used the reporter version of this notebook. The reporter notebook is the same size, but it opens upward, in the same way that a steno pad does. It has a cardboard pocket on the back, and an elastic to keep it closed.
Though it still had many pages to go, I decided to start a new Moleskine for the new year. And I decided to return to the reporter version of the Moleskine. I prefer the reporter Moleskine because it's easier to use the full width of the page because they are not bound in the middle like a book.

I thought about the different ways I could set up the notebook. On various websites I have seen some pretty elaborate notebook hacks. Knowing my own tendencies to not follow through on something I start, or simply to get stuck, I decided to keep it simple.

On the inside front cover there is a place for my name, and the words "As a reward: $___." I wrote my name, and put in the amount of $25.

Below that, I have written seven or eight of the phone numbers I call most, people that I am close to, including my daughter, a few friends, my therapist, and my rabbi.

I then numbered all the pages in the right hand bottom corner. This is a boring exercise, but it's also the secret of getting the most from your notebook.

At the top of the first line page I wrote, "Contents." Leaving ample room for Contents entries I skipped to the top of page 6 and wrote, "Phone Numbers." I split the alphabet into quarters, and wrote the letters for each quarter at the top, and halfway point of pages 6 and 7. I'll have space for 40 to 60 names and phone numbers, depending on how many snail and email addresses I include.

As the first Contents entry, I wrote, "Phone Numbers   6 to 7."

My first note for 2010 was written at the top of page 8, and my second entry halfway down the page.

Beneath the Phone Numbers entry on the Contents page , I wrote, "January 1 - 8," and on the line below it, "January 2 - 8."

When I have a specific note I don't want to forget, I can also enter its subject, as well as date and page number, on a contents page.

The other useful notebook hack is use of plasticized tabs, available at any Staples, to bookmark pages of specific interest.

I'm still thinking about whether to start working from the back of the Moleskine to track all money expenditures. Given my tendency to spend carelessly, it makes sense to track my money. The beauty of a pocket notebook is being able to do it where ever the expenditure is made, rather than waiting until later when I may forget or just not feel motivated to make the notation.

So that's it, a simple way of hacking a Moleskine. Some people have more sophisticated approaches, and you'll find their hacks at:

For those interested in David Allen's Getting Thins Done ThePigPogPDA incorporates a simplified GTD system called "Doing GTD Without Doing GTD."

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