Managing Notes and Tasks
For years I’ve strugled managing notes and tasks; The (typical) work information I need to collect and manage from day to day. Here is but a fraction of the ways I’ve tried, and where I’m at now.
Pick a Tool
Use a PC only; But I can’t take my PC or laptop everywhere – so not a good option for me
Use a PC & handheld sync’ed together; Only became a viable solution in the past 2 years of so. A good solution that exposed a personal flaw – Sometimes typing notes on a PC is just not acceptable or appropriate… and my typing skills are not good enough!
Use the Hipster PDA (link); Worked for a while, and I liked the index card concept, but the process was just too detailed for me to follow for very long.
Software Only; I’ve use many of the tools that are out there including Evernote for notes, many versions of the Getting Things Done methodology, and tools like Remember the Milk (I still use Microsoft OneNote to collect notes from meetings that I’ve scheduled and where assigned tasks are expected… more on that elswhere).
Pen(cil) and Paper: Year after year Pen and paper has been the default… the go-to tools used to record the stuff I needed to record. But how to do that..?
What kind of Pen and paper..?
So I have my tool type defined, so what’s next?
Sticky Notes: a tool that many of us use on a day to day basis, but they are not portable. Great when you need to jot a quick piece of information and have nothing else available. If you do use them (and you should quick things), make life a bit easier and use one of these.
Index Cards: I used these by taking a small stack and holding them together with a really small binder clip. was too small for many of the things I needed to write down – I make a poor solution for me worse by abreviating many of the things I wrote on these cards… then forgetting what the abreviations meant!
Folder sheet of Paper: I user a good quality paper and was able to fold it so it fit my shirt pocket, but a folded sheet of paper in your pocket gets wrinkled and looks crappy. Not a good choice
Pencil or Pen: Pencil never gives me a dark enough line – So the pen is an obvious choice… Which Pen... Dont get me started..!
Notebook: The most common site in corporate America. Easy to use, easy to get. Good choice.
What Kind of Notebook..?
Solid-bind: Books like Moleskine are made with some of the best paper out there. It feels so nice to write in a Moleskine, but the solid bind makes it difficult for me being left-handed… and you cant fold the book over. So for a normal 8.5 x 11 book, the book is always taking up over 16 inches. As much as I want to use a Moleskine… I can’t.
Legal Pads: Paper tears away too easily, and the paper is thin… Nope.
Spiral: Easy to find. I can write on the page from column to column. I can fold the book over. Good Choice
What kind of Spiral Notebook..?
After buying notebook anfter notebook from office supply stores (read: carppy notebooks) and bookstores (read: expensive and crappy), I found Miquelrius. Vinal covered spirals. Strong, heavyweight paper. Plastic, relatively stiff notebook covers. A perfect choice. The notebook I’m currently using is a basic quad-rules notebook, but Miquerlirus now has project/person/style specific books, such as the Evolution Daily:
Finally, how do I use it..?
I use a front-to-back/back-to-front approach. What does that mean?
Notes: When taking notes, i write in the notebook starting form the front of the book, writing in it in the usual way. When I need to take notes on a new subject or topic, I enter the date, and topic and underline it.
For critical or important items in that subject, I use a simple asterik to note it (see the image on the left).
Tasks: When recording tasks, I write in the noteboox starting in the back of the book, and moving forward, effectively seperating my notes from my tasks, but keeping them in the same book.
I’ll record the date that the next string of tasks were written, check them off when done(I dont cross things out,as they may be notes or refference points later on), and I’ll use the “P” symbol to denote personal vs. work-related tasks.
I use this notebook and process for personal thinga too, so I needed a simple way to note personal tasks (so I could easily ignore work tasks on the weekend). See the image on the right.
This is how I’ve been working over the past few weeks, and it feels natural, but it is only as good as my ability to use it consistantly!