Tooltip Thursday - Tooltip #1 - The Notebook

IMG_2433Welcome to the start of a new series.  I have learned over the years that efficiency and productivity are often something type-A personalities like myself put in the way of actually focusing on our passion and what we really want. Notwithstanding the above disclaimer, there's a lot of people out there that are thirsty for ways to increase their productivity, and with my background in incessantly tightening those bolts, each week I will share something that has enabled me to get more done in less time.

Today's tool is the humble notebook.

In today's Internet-age, there is an ever-increasing urge to push things up into the cloud and go paperless.  I love having all of my notes in one place, and I like being able to track things from wherever I am.  That being said, there's no substitute for the ease of use of the notebook.

Here are some ways that owning and using a notebook will make you more efficient:

  • No fumbling, no user interface.  A notebook is as simple as you can get.  Grab a pen, start writing.  That's all there is to it.  When I want to get something out of my head, sometimes the best way to do it is to simply start scrawling.  Need to save your work?  No problem, it's already done.  Need to open a new document?  No problem, just turn the page.
  • Distraction free.  A computer is a great thing, because it can do so many different things.  This is also why it's a bad thing.  Facebook, e-mail, multiple browser tabs and windows, there's an endless list of things that will distract you from your task at hand.  A notebook does not suffer from this problem.
  • Hyper-portable.  You can throw a notebook into your bag and take it with you anywhere, or simply carry it in your hand.  It doesn't require a power source, and you can use it in the brightest sunlight.  You don't need an internet connection.  This translates to less fumbling and wasting time when it's time to pack up and go.

"Hey Adam", you say, "this is turning into an ad for Moleskine.  How does adding one more thing actually make me more efficient?".  That's not your voice.  It's mine - my voice three years ago when I bought my first Moleskine notebook.

Let me just put it out there - I bought it at least 55% because I liked the romance and the branding.  The clean red cover was attractive to me, and I loved the idea of carrying around a notebook with me to my meetings.  But, over time and with use, I discovered that there are a lot of ways this notebook fit into my daily routine.

Here are some uses that will benefit your productivity:

  • Use it for anything top of mind.  Have you ever had an idea, and then let it go, simply because you didn't want to distract yourself from what you were doing and bring up the appropriate application to capture it?  A notebook is perfect for this.  Open it up, grab your pen, and scrawl whatever is on your mind.  Not only will this capture the idea (where it can then later be transferred to a more appropriate place), but it will also clear your mind of the distracting thought; which leads to my next point.
  • Use it as a sink for your distracting thoughts.  Deep focus makes challenging tasks possible.  The corollary to this is that the more you are distracted, the less complex the tasks you can take on.  Keep your notebook beside you, and whenever a distracting thought enters your head, write it down on the notebook.  My thoughts show up like: "Hey, I wonder what allowed the Egyptian empire to stay in power for three millenia.  That is fridiculously long.  I should Wikipedia them."  Wiki Egyptian Empire gets written in my notebook, and I go back to my work.  Doing this not only stores the thought for later, but it frees it from your mind.  You know you have captured it, and your head will let you return to work.
  • Let it be your first point of triage.  The mind is a great place to have an idea, but a terrible place to hold one.  Putting things on to paper lets you get it out of your head and create the tiniest bit of distance between the idea and yourself.  By writing out ideas, you will give yourself some space to objectively consider them.  It becomes easier to evaluate whether or not you want to pursue the thought.  The result is that you will experience less overwhelm, and greater clarity.  (I didn't end up researching the Egyptian empire any further).

That's all for today.  Keep coming back every Thursday for a new tooltip.  Not all will be this long, but I promise that every one will allow you to be more productive.