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Just Say “No” To Notebooks

1-04826-00_boldline_spiral_notebookJust Say “No” To Notebooks

Bound and spiral notebooks may make sense for taking notes in school or keeping a journal, but they are terrible for keeping you organized.  I have seen thousands of (usually) half-used notebooks in my clients homes and not once have I seen one used as an effective organizing tool.

I would add notepads to this list and exclude binders, which can be useful for reference material.  The problem I have with notebooks is that they tend to trap information in and there it stays.  There is no plan for retrieval and no way to organize ideas in a useful way.

The idea behind notebooks tends to be to capture ideas as they come to us.  A single notebook can include to-do lists, doodles, calculations, poems, phone numbers, brainstorms, quotes, floor plans, websites, and so much more.  Creative projects, accessible information, and action items all belong in quite separate places.  If they are all bound together, hidden inside that notebook, they will probably go no further.  You can kiss your creativity, accessibility, and activity good bye.

The notebook problem gets worse.  There is rarely just one notebook with current information.  Many notebooks leads to much confusion.  This confusion is compounded by the fact that there are often multiple categories represented on a single page.  It can be very easy to forget that you had written down the number for the electrician on that page of calculations and doodles.

I recommend collecting bits of information in an envelope labeled “information to enter.”  Then it becomes an action.  This action may involve entering the information from the business cards, scraps of paper, and Starbucks napkins into a database or an address book.  It’s also a task that is so straight forward that it can be delegated.

For action items I’m a big fan of little post-its arranged on your day’s schedule by priority.  I like the adjustability of them.  They are moveable,  visible, and useable, not locked  in a book.

Creative projects may make sense in a notebook, but it is much easier to organize the project if you use a loose leaf notebook.

Odds are, if your notebook is bound up, your ideas, information, and productivity will be too.

Am I wrong? Do you stay beautifully organized with notebooks?

 

4 Comments
  1. Everything you say makes sense. However, I couldn’t help noticing the absence in your post of electronic devices. This makes me wonder if you have not found them to be effective tools….

  2. I keep my favorite recipes organized with a notebook with divider tabs. It is far better than recipe cards or torn pages stuck inside of cook books.

  3. I do the same thing with my recipes, assuming you’re talking about the loose leaf binders. If you mean the large SPIRAL binders with dividers, I’d be shocked to hear that works well.

  4. Karen, sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to your inquiry. I have used several different smart phones and definitely find them useful for scheduling fixed events
    and information, especially with the automatic syncing of Mobile Me, but I do not find them find them as compelling for actionable items as a handwritten note.
    Whether it’s an electronic device or a spiral notebook, you don’t want your to-do’s to get locked inside. That said, if you are good at getting your to-do’s to done
    with an electronic device, I have no problem with it.

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