Essays on Technology and Culture

Falling Off The Notebook Wagon

I have a confession to make. About a month ago, I fell off the wagon. Sure, I’ve had good days where I’ve kept it together and tried to do what’s right, but I just lapse again.

For the last month, I’ve failed to keep a notebook—at least a systemized one.

Whether Bullet Journal, Dash/Plus, or any of the other various analog systems for making and organizing the various bits of data we collect during the day, I’ve failed to keep it up. Though, I will say that my system of Bullet Journal combined with a dash of Dash/Plus has helped this last batch of notebook use last a lot longer than previous attempts.

So, it’s time to diagnose exactly how, and why I let this happen. The first problem, I suspect, was when I decided to switch to a Multi-Notebook system. Instead of cramming a thick, pocket Moleskine journal into my pants every day, I would switch to a thin pocket notebook (in a leather cover) for daily carry and capture. At the end of the day, I’d unload anything into my large Moleskine, which I would also use at my desk for work and long-form notes and writing.

The first point of failure was when I found myself just not using my pocket notebook for much. Out and about, it’s much easier to capture stuff on my phone and shunt it where it needs to go through Drafts. At my desk at work, I could just drop stuff into the day’s page without having to worry about recopying it later. Even when something did end up in my pocket notebook, it never got recopied into the “main” notebook. I don’t know why I thought I would recopy stuff out of one notebook into the other. I hate repeating work, and copying stuff out of one notebook into another falls under that criteria.

The next point of failure was that I never found much of a use for the notebook beyond mere capture. I tried using my notebook for day-to-day task tracking, but so much of my day-to-day work is stuff I can just do. In GTD, there’s the “two-minute rule,” which states that if you have a task you can do in two minutes or less, instead of capturing it, you should just do it. For me, it’s more a “five-minute rule,” but the principle stands. Instead of writing down that a certain task is going to have to be done today, better to just do it when it comes in.

Without tracking tasks and events, what do I use it for? There’s book notes, but I’ve never been much of a note taker, try as I might. There’s sitting and writing stuff for Sanspoint and elsewhere, which I’ve done in both my main notebook at work, and my pocket notebook when out to lunch/dinner/drinks. It’s great to just whip out a pen and start scratching down parts of an essay, instead of trying to write it all on a phone keyboard. This piece started in my pocket notebook, after all. I still have to retype it to get it into WordPress, but that’s an opportunity to revise, so it’s not repeated work per se.

What I need to do is find those places where a notebook is the best tool for the job, and for me. So far, that’s writing stuff on the go, and capturing stuff when my phone would be harder, or at least socially imprudent. (One thing I learned about carrying a notebook, is that when you write down a person’s information, they’re impressed.) Then, of course, I have to make time to open the notebook up again and process all the stuff I’ve written down. Something I should incorporate into my Weekly Review process. If my notebook usage steps up, I can even make it a daily task. I’ll worry about a system later.