The notebook

notebook-2011This is my notebook for 2011.

I suppose the proper term for this item would be journal, but I’m not sure I’ll be using it in that manner. I’m not sure how I’ll be using it, or whether I’ll be using it much at all.

When it comes to using a notebook or journal, I’ve been pretty inconsistent. Every now and then, when I’m browsing a bookstore, some sleek, leather-bound journal will catch my eye, and I’ll buy it. But it rarely works out. I can’t seem to commit to using them for very long. Maybe I’ve become to digitally dependent.

One thing I’ve noticed about academia, though, is that a lot of people — administrators and mid-level managers like me — tend to use notebooks. They carry these big, hardbound things to meetings. A former boss of mine would lug around two notebooks and during slow times in some presentations would transcribe notes from one into the other. Some of the notes would be color-coded with highlighter. A lot of these note-takers’ books also include a paper calendar, but I gave up on paper calendars long ago — about the time I got my first PDA. (Remember those?)

Of course, the cooler people will carry iPads. I’m not there yet.

Anyway, over the past several months I’ve gotten the sense that my hybrid method for taking notes and keeping stuff organized — yellow legal pads (for meeting notes), reporter’s notebooks (for interviews) and a smart phone (for calendaring, messaging and occasionally jotting down a to-do on the fly) — isn’t quite satisfactory. Even when I incorporate many of the tricks I’ve learned from LifeHacker, I still feel like something is missing. I still don’t feel quite organized, quite together. I’d like to be able to keep stuff all in one place. I’d like to be able to flip back and refer to my notes — important things, not just to-dos, but minor epiphanies, blog or story ideas, snippets of conversation — from time to time. Plus, the tactile sensation of writing things down, as opposed to pecking on a keyboard or a screen, appeals to me.

But lugging around one of those big notebooks like other administrators do isn’t my style. So the other day while in Staples with my wife, this smaller, pocket-sized notebook caught my eye. It has a soft, pliable leather cover and fits easily into my hip pocket. It was cheap — $8.99 — so I bought it.

It’s an Eccolo, which is a company based in Italy. The Italians are better known for their style and artistry than for their organizational skills, so we’ll see how it goes.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

7 thoughts on “The notebook”

  1. I’m a fan of the so-called Hipster PDA, which consists of various color index cards and a binder clip. Simple, inexpensive, fits in the pocket, and easy to organize during and after meetings.

    http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/03/introducing-the-hipster-pda

    (I went a step beyond the basic and wrapped it in a cardstock cover, an image cut from our college viewbook.)

    I also write my weekly to-do list on the back of a piece of recycled paper to keep as a chronological historical record, and will even break out the items on index cards on my workspace for prioritization and to keep up motivation levels. Someday I’ll probably pass it on to the college archives, and with that in mind I choose recycled paper that has back-side institution-related info that might be of interest to someone someday, as well.

    With a job that is Web/electronic focused, and in a job where I telecommute and work out of a home office, using paper and pen is important to me as a way to maintain balance away from the Web and technology.

  2. Robin – I’ve read about the hipster PDA and am intrigued by it. But I’m afraid it would become an object of ridicule were a non-hipster like me to use it.

    Bob – Thank you, and happy new year back atcha.

  3. Wait–jotting meeting notes and to-do lists down on various reporter notepads and piling them on the desk is NOT the best organizational system out there? Uh oh.

    Actually, I’m reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and so far it has helped me get my digital and paper project files in order. My weakest point is getting my paper meeting notes into my system, but I like your idea of using a nice but compact notebook. Let us know how it goes!

  4. Davina – I highly recommend David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It has helped me a lot. Another book that has helped me is LifeHacker, by Gina Trapani, which is sort of a GTD for the digital types. (The LifeHacker blog also provides lots of helpful tips.) Rachel Reuben and Karine Joly swear by a book called Bit Literacy (and discuss it on Rachel’s blog).

    The main thing is finding a system that works for you — and then sticking with it. (It’s the “sticking” part that eludes me.)

  5. I love the small calendar/notebooks for organization, I used a similar one for many years. Easy to use and to carry. I was also and more recently, one of those with the large hardcover notebooks filled with stacks of FranklinCovey calendar, organization, and note pages. I used it for about 5 years until I realized it was taking more time for me to organize in that thing then it took me to actually do the task. I sometimes spent several hours updating my todo list.

    I currently like using Outlook and Basecamp now. That way, when the day is done, I can close/turnoff my computer and walk away from my work tasks and not carry them around with me.

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