Use Your Notebook To Be More Productive

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Use Your Notebook To Be More Productive

Building upon the last post about organization, I wanted to share the application of the Getting Things Done system using a tool that I have at all times and many of you are familiar with, my notebook.

Notebook Cover

How many times have you heard the phrase “Always have paper and something to write with”? As a member of the military, this is something drilled into me from the beginning. I have carried some sort of notebook and a pen in my pocket for my entire military career. While I understood the purpose, to capture everything that is important, my notes were a combination of scribbles across many pages that lacked a system for implementation.

The notebook is a tool that most of us start out with to become organized. From grade school, through college, into our adult life, and especially the military. The notebook is where we can write anything that comes to mind. Thoughts, ideas, sketches, and to do lists fill the pages of our notebooks. They are invaluable tools to capture what is on our mind, but are they organized to help us execute things better?

For me, I have never really had a system. I just wrote things down in the random order in which those things appeared in my head with hopes of reviewing and executing those thoughts in the future.

It’s funny that such an indispensible tool, recommended by so many other people as a way to be better organized rarely comes with advice for how to be productive. Recently, I came across a system called the bullet journal that I have begun to use to make my notebook a useful tool to get me organized.

It is an analog system for the digital age. You can record the past, organize the present, and plan for the future. Unlike other productivity tools, it utilizes a blank page to become whatever you want it to be. It can be a calendar, a to do list, or a great place to capture thoughts.

Notebook inside

It is an application of the Getting Things Done system that I wrote about in my last post. It uses the concept of “Rapid Logging” as a way to CAPTURE all your thoughts and ides so you can get them out of you head into a place that you can rely on in the future so that you do not have to worry about remembering in the future. Next, it gives you a follow up way of processing all of these thoughts into categories so that you can execute the tasks in the future.

For me, this transformed the tool of a notebook into a practical system that made me more productive in my life.

Though you can apply this system to any notebook (like your green Army notebook), but I have two favorites that I use.

  • First, I like the Evernote Moleskine notebook in graph paper. The bookmark allows me to mark the page I am working on while the rubber band allows me to securely grasp any loose items like business cards, printed pages, or even photographs without fear of losing them. I like the graph paper because it gives me horizontal lines that support writing while also providing vertical lines in a grid that create a framework for sketches.
  • My second favorite is the Leuchtturm whitelines dotted notebook. Similar to the graph paper in the Moleskine notebook, the dots provide a framework for both writing and sketching while minimizing the lines present on the page. It also features the bookmark and rubber band present in the Moleskine notebook.

Of course, you can use whatever piece of paper that works for you, but I recommend finding a notebook that you love. Find something that you enjoy holding, opening, and writing on the pages. Remember, the notebook is a tool for your system, so make sure the tool is something you love using, otherwise, it will collect dust once the novelty wears off.

This is just one system that works for me, but there are many more systems out there. What systems do you use in your notebooks? I would love to share those with everyone else on the site, just leave your ideas in the comments or email me at damian@milbiz.com

Check out the video!


Hope 2015 is off to a great start for you and that you turn your ideas into amazing success.

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