June 6, 2014

finally, the perfect Moleskine organization?

After many years of trying to figure out the perfect way to organize a notebook, I think I've finally got it. You see, I love like my iPad (I love my Android phone); I have dozens of note apps (that I've been culling, but that's another post) on iPad, phone, and desktop that I use quite a bit. But I've discovered that I'm one of those people who still prefers to write and carry a notebook. To that end, I've read dozens of Moleskine hacks about numbering all the pages, cutting tabs into sections, using labels to divide sections,etc.-- clearly, I'm not alone in my obsession to organize my notebook. I've tried many of these hacks, but none actually worked well. Page numbers inevitably became messed up (especially if I was inclined to rip out a page or two), too many sections and taking notes became a struggle to make sure the right note was in the right section, etc...

I wanted a system that was 1) easy to implement, but 2) also organized enough that I could find important notes again. Most importantly, it couldn't be so structured that I would have to think about where to take notes before actually taking notes (after all, the whole point was to be able to take notes quickly! and a too-structured system always ended up with me throwing my hands in the air and just writing everywhere).

So the other day, I took out some old notebooks (the failed hacks) to see how I actually take notes, the kinds of notes I actually take, and to see what I really wanted in a notebook that I carried around all the time. I discovered that I really needed the following:
  1. a planner,
  2. daily tasks and notes,
  3. work-related notes, and 
  4. creative/organizational or general notes

So I decided to create a notebook that was very simple-- only three sections: 1) planner (I figured I could merge a planner and daily tasks and notes into the same section), 2) work-related, and 3) all other notes.

The next thing to consider how to organize a calendar that also included notes. This is no small tasks. There are dozens of planners out there with a small section for notes. Even Moleskine's classic planner is horizontal calendar on the left side and right side notes section. 
The problem is that I hate the horizontal layout; apparently, I'm a vertical planner kinda gal. I like to see at a glance my weekly scheduled time and horizontal planner does not give any sense of organized time (e.g. appointments) for me. 

I tried the Moleskine vertical planner, but I didn't like that much better. The week is spread across two pages and the notes section is at the bottom-- which made tasks kind odd (it made me feel like tasks had to be associated with a particular day). Besides, I found that it was definitely more planner than notebook-- there were so few pages for taking notes, that it became kind of useless as notebook. 

So I went to hacking my Moleskine (the key is really writing things out on a notebook, heh, hhehh, hheh). And I think I've finally figured out the system that works best for me. But I also believe that it's easy and flexible enough for anyone (otherwise, I wouldn't be making this post). Of course, I realize that to some extent, organizing a notebook and by default one's way of taking notes is very personal and idiosyncratic; still, see what you think of this system.

Step 1: The first thing I did was leave the front 5 pages as "Index" pages. I used to put a "TOC" at the back of the book, but my mind just doesn't think that way-- I hated flipping to the back to add a new entry so a front Index is the way to go for me.
Step 2: Next, I numbered all the pages (NOTE: number the odd pages, so that you have page numbers on front and back-- too late for me, but next time).

Step 3: Right after the Index begins my calendar. I counted 52 weeks + 12 monthly pages so I needed at least 64 pages. I created monthly calendars and taped them to the pages as the starting page for each month.
I love these pages-- month at a glance, a tiny notes section on the bottom (and on the left side page!). I also like using tape, others may want to use glue, etc., but I prefer the tape look.

Step 4: Now for the weekly planning...this is where I really needed to do some thinking and where I believe I made the biggest breakthrough! You see, I had tried hacking various weekly calendar layouts before, but never quite found the one that I loved.
week across 2 pgs, no notes...

week across 2pgs, notes at the bottom
week across 2pgs, notes at the top
The last one was close to perfect, but not quite. I still didn't like the notes section spread across two pages like that. Then I hit on a genius idea! What if I made the calendar vertical but turned it on the side? Then I would still have a schedule that was easily planned out and full page for notes!
Instead of making a vertical calendar across two pages, or squeezed into 1 vertical page, I turned my Moleskine 90 degrees and made a vertical calendar on the left side pages, but allowed the right side pages to be entirely blank for notes and that week's to-do list. The rotated left side vertical planner was vertical enough to accommodate 8am-7pm times! Now I could see my scheduled time on the left quickly and easily, but also have plenty of place for notes!

Step 5 (last steps): Finally, I added my two main notes sections.
  • Work
  • Everything Else
The trick to keeping the pages organized is whenever you start a new note, give it the following:
  • tags (something like #phone, #home)
  • a title
  • and date
Then record it in the Index. If a note goes for several pages, you don't need to title each page. But each new note should get these things. Record the new notes in the Index and you're set. That's it-- no no dividing into 3, 4, or 5 sections, no "Memory" or "Catchall" sections (presumably, if I'm making a note, I want to remember it!),

The only other hacks I've added are a pen loop like this from Etsy or this and a clear Post-it Pocket to the inside front cover. The pocket is cheap and can be found in tons of places. I leave stickers in here, post-it notes, etc.-- makes grabbing stuff so much easier!
Lastly, I'm currently using an Evernote Moleskine, but I also love (and may even prefer) an Ecosystem, flexible cover, grid notebook. I think Ecosystem notebooks have better quality paper than Moleskine notebooks, I like that ALL the pages are perforated (so you could always rip one out), and it's 100% recycled. I have to admit that I also like that it's 100% made in the US.

No comments:

Post a Comment