Do you have a “system” for using a notebook? A lot of people talk about using notebooks for GTD– the method of organizing tasks promoted by David Allen’s best-selling productivity book Getting Things Done. I’ve had a few different methods of tracking tasks in notebooks and on a computer and PDA, but here’s my current system, which is somewhat similar to GTD, as I understand it:
The notebook I’m currently using is a pocket-sized Moleskine with plain unlined pages. The first page is an index where I reference pages relating to several key ongoing categories:
- Ideas for this blog
- Ideas for another blog
- Ideas for blog #3
The pages in the notebook are filled with a variety of things– journal entries, lists, drawings, pasted-in clippings. I keep the ribbon marker at the next empty page available.
For the books, movies, and travel lists, I have a red line running around the border of the page, to make them easier to find and flag them as long-term lists that I’d want to move to a new notebook when this one is finished.
For a few key items, I use colored post-it flags to mark active lists. Two of the blog lists are marked with yellow and blue post-its. My active to-do list for general day-to-day tasks is marked with a red post-it. A shopping list is marked with an orange post-it. I sometimes use a green post-it for another key list, such as when I was keeping track of Christmas gifts I’d bought or wanted to buy.
When I fill up a to-do page, I start a new one. If there are lots of not-yet-done items on the page, I leave the post-it flag on it. If most of the items were crossed off as being completed, I’ll just re-write the not-yet-done items on a new page and remove the post-it from the old page.
For the blogging lists, I tend to have several pages with post-its on them indicating still active items. For the to-do and shopping lists, I limit myself to one page of active items, and always find that I complete most of the items before I fill up the page. I re-write the to-do list on a new page fairly frequently, about twice a week.
I keep my work tasks separate, on my computer at work, with new ones jotted on a printout of my Outlook task list. I keep a few other long-term lists on my computer, which is handy– I may experiment with pasting printouts of them into a notebook, but for certain things, I kind of enjoy maintaining them with just pen and paper, and having all those crossed-out completed tasks to go back to.
I like using a Moleskine-type notebook for all this because it has a nice permanence to it, and because the combination of the paper and a nice smooth pen makes writing things down so pleasurable. But using a looseleaf Filofax-type notebook would in some ways be more practical.
Do you have similar systems and habits for how you use notebooks?