Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
As I cleaned off my desk last week, assimilating my work items into my personal desktop, I realized that I had a pile of collection notebooks. Eight of them, in fact.
While most of my processing is electronic and is transferred from PC to PDA and back, some items are done long-hand, in notebooks. These are generally the items that occur to me when it is easier to write things on paper than into electronic format, either because of availability, or the type of work I am doing. It is difficult to put doodles and mind maps into the PDA, for instance.
What had happened was as I decided to use a notebook to keep notes, I started segregating the contents of the notebook. There was the notebook for work projects, the one for web design ideas, the one for writing, and the general task capture. Instead of having one place to write things down and process, I had splintered them into multiple captures.
I needed to rein this in. It is impractical for me to carry all those notebooks with me. I put all the notebooks except one into my notebook storage box and prepared to live life with one notebook.
But how do I get the retrieval capabilities from one notebook? Here is how I use my single notebook:
- Use the pages sequentially. This saves me from doing a multiple-notebook in one scenario, and finding things all over the place that need to be consolidated elsewhere.
- Write everything down on dated pages. By dating the page, I have a frame of reference for the notes. I can usually recall the general dates I worked on something last, so it becomes very easy to refer to things.
- Use check boxes for to-do items. If the item is something that needs to be done, I put a small box next to it. If I complete it that day, I cross it out. Otherwise it remains to be entered.
- Use flags. I use the 3M document flags in five different colors. Green marks the current entry page. Yellow marks the last place I processed to. The other three colors I use to mark pages that I may need to refer to such as book notes and article research.
- Process from Yellow to Green. At least once a week, I process from the yellow flag to the green. Once a page has been completely assimilated, I cross out the page. Any to-do items that are put in the system for further review and marked with a horizontal line. Any page that has material I could use later, even if it has been transcribed, gets flagged.
Photo by Lord Biro