What Works for Me
I’m a curious person. I enjoy learning about what makes us productive and have spent countless hours scouring the web for the best and ideas. I then incorporate these tips into my own methodology and systems, only to begin anew when the next "cool" toy passes across my radar. I’m sure many of you also enjoy seeing what others use and how they use it. So welcome to my toys and my mind. I hope you enjoy seeing what I use to get everything done.
This article series explores, in depth, the paper-based and electronic tools and methodologies I use to keep my busy and active life wrangled and in order. These are the tools and toys I use daily to get a whole lot done. This week I’ll explore my paper-based methodology and the collection of toys first. Next week, I'll open up my digital life and show you all the gadgets and software. Finally, in three weeks, I'll give you tips on how to merge your paper and electronic worlds to make your own DIY system.
Why it works for me? It's flexible and captures the spirit of DIY perfectly. I love that you can get as fancy as you want with the hipster. From a stack of cards to using a bound version with fancy colors that help you separate your life, the hipster is just a varied as our laptops.
Being introduced to the hipsterPDA is what got me into my productivity streak and DIY Planner. I was working for a major corporation at the time, going to many meetings and carrying a really heavy 3-ring binder around. Enter Merlin Mann and his hipster PDA idea. What elegance, what brilliance! I was amazed at how free it felt using those pocket sized cards. I decided to test this new idea out, giving myself a week with a small case and a few cards. Just to see if they could do everything my large notebook could do. Within a few hours, after the first trek across campus, I was hooked and ready to toss my large notebook and planner. Not only was it physically lighter, but I loved not having spirals get in the way of my writing. This is important to me, as other lefties can agree.
Back in those days, I used a slim hipster that held a meager 50 cards. Colorful dividers separated my cards based on keywords that held meaning to me. Shortly after, I graduated from that slim case to an all out Levenger version: complete with Plastic Folders and a shiny Leather Rope Accordion File (holding over 80 cards). However, I didn't stop there. These days I'm using a the Levenger Circa PDA to carry my thoughts around between home and work. Oh, I still use the bound PDA. It currently sits on my desk and holds all my current project and story ideas. I consider the Accordion Case to keep the long term and on-going project case while the Circa PDA is the portable-toss-in-my bag-daily-use hipster capture device.
Through Merlin and the hipster links, I found this blog, called A Million Monkeys Typing weblog. Where the author wrote a post requesting writers for some new site idea he had. Eighty posts later... well, here we are.
Why it works for me? The small size frees my mind from feeling intimidated.They are the best size to quickly capture the constant stream of thoughts and ideas my mind churns out. Index cards are great when you want to capture bite sized notes and ideas that sit on a single card. I don't worry about ruining a card like I sometimes do with my bound notebooks. I can store or trash the cards as I please and they take up little space when I'm out and about.
Pile of Indexcards
Why it works for me? This is the first system for note-taking that's appealed to me on different levels. It's simplistic, caters to the creative side with it's fun icons, and plays well with my organizational side as well. It's also very flexible and can be used for any career or scholastic discipline you throw at it. I also find it fun to see how many lines each category contains in my growing box. Hawk calls this the DNA of your mind and note-taking and can show you just how often you spend in one section or another.
Pile of Indexcards is the brainchild of a guy known online as Hawk. I discovered this site about a year ago. His wiki describes his system far more in depth than what I'm covering here. So I highly recommend you read through it. Below is the main section that inspired me to incorporate his system into my own.
Hawk's system revolves around tagging your thoughts with icons based on four simple categories. Each card is dated and then tagged with a line across the top for storage. The following describes the four categories and symbols:
- Record. These cards have a icon of a circle on them. Use this card type to contain journal thoughts, health notes, appointments, phone numbers, etc.
- Discovery. These cards have an icon of a light bulb. Use this card type to write down your personal thoughts and discoveries. Things like my DIY articles and other wacky ideas about my life, the universe and everything in between get written here.
- GTD or To Do Lists. These cards have a check-box on them. Use this card type to write down all the items you need to do that day, week or before an major event. I leave the check-box blank until all items on the card have been filled.
- Reference. These cards have a open book icon on them. Use this card type to keep track of famous quotes, web quotes or things others have said that you want to keep for later reading.
D*I*Y Planner Forms
Why this works for me? Well, other than the obvious *ahem*... I fell in love with Doug's forms before I knew of this site. I love pre-printed forms ad Doug's were the best out there at the time. Professionally done and catering to all aspects of life; rather than just the basic planner concept.
My hipsterPDA would be extremely empty if not for Doug's (and our forum contributor) DIY Planner forms. They fill much of the pages of my bound and file hipsters. My trusty companions are always here when I need to write something down. My current favorite forms include:
- Project Cards-- all my current "projects" go on one of these cards with their associated notes.
- Potentials Quicklist-- I store to-do lists and any Someday/Maybe projects on this list. Sometimes the grocery list goes on one of these cards.
- DIY Planner Storypack-- ideas for any story, character, setting go on these cards as well as story snippets themselves.
- Storyboards -- single frame with lines to write under it. Great for sketch journalling.
- Various others -- I occasionally rotate and try out new forms when they catch my eye. Currently, I have a few finance, address and harmony sheets in my desktop hipster.
Levenger Circa System
Why it works for me? It's a binding system like no other. I'm able to quickly bind and rebind, sort and remove paper quickly and without thinking. As I use the top-bound variety, it also doesn't get in the way of taking notes. I love how I can recombine my hipster and reconfigure it to fit any project need. Smurfing paper with the Desktop Punch is also fun. Of course, I also love having the cool factor of a leather bound case.
Thanks to a certain review done last year on Levenger's Circa system, I've found another way to organize my cards. The Circa system not only gives me the flexibility to bind any size of paper into one notebook (I have several project binders that share letter size, index card size and junior pages.). I'm able to choose whether or not I want my cards bound on the side or top. And thanks to the handy Desktop Circa punch I can Circa-fy any piece of paper (or D*I*Y Planner form) and add it to my journals. I also use the Levenger Circa White and Color Tabs to keep all my thoughts organized by project.
Why it works for me? Hopefully this one is self explanatory. *smile* However, I am picky about pens and ink. I prefer the fine to micro line widths (my current standard is .38mm). My favorite ink colors include black, blue, green and purple.
What would capturing notes be without a pen or two or twenty? *ahem* Yes, I'm addicted to pens. Besides gel pens, my current favorite pens include the Uni-ball Singo Elite 38mm,
Organizers and Storage Devices
Why it works for me? My house would get messy if I left all my forms and cards laying around. Small containers keep my thought tracking devices everywhere so I can have them when I need to write something down. I also like to keep a permanent record of my thoughts, therefore storage is a necessary for me.
I have several containers at home and at work to corral all this paper. Sitting on my lap desk, I have a small metal holder by Eldon (the link was the closest thing to what I have that I could find). This holds various pens (including a Sharpie for those burned discs), index cards and some screen wipes for my MacBook. I've divided the index cards up by types using Levenger's Plastic Index Card Tabs. This way, I can quickly grab a new card when I need to jot particular thoughts down. I have a similar set-up at work, except that organizer rotates and holds a few more pens, a ruler, scissors, and a stapler.
Soon, I'll purchase one of Levenger's PDA Docking Stations. The moment this gem came out, I saw an immediate need and had a strong desire to buy three of these. Two for home (I have a second hipster project that begs for a dock), and one for work. Not only would they contain everything my current "dock" has but they also include a cut-out (the true dock) to set your hipsterPDA into it. Perfect, elegant and compact.
In the archive department, I use a collapsible storage box for all my archived index cards. I purchased two of these at Office Max. The cards are divided by month and seeing that I have yet to go beyond a whole year of note-keeping with this system, I'm not sure what I'll do when I hit the annual mark.
Why it works for me? I am a writer. Journals help to keep the longer entries and exercise-like writing samples I do bound together. If you know your thoughts are going to go over a card or two or three, I'd switch it over to the journal where I have the space to go into details with what I'm writing about. Currently, I use a Pocket-sized Moleskine that's wrapped in a Renaissance Arts case that also holds a few index cards.
Why it works for me? My current bag works for me because it is lightweight, allows me to carry everything I need and also doubles as a protector for my MacBook. It's lightweight and feels like an extension of my body.
I'm always on the go. And when I do head out away from my abode, I carry the minimum with me: a journal, my hipster, two pens, a reading book and a tarot deck. Not to mention my iPod, wallet and keys. But not just any old bag can do. I love slingbags. I've tried messenger bags and just can't deal with how the bag weight hits across my hip when I move.
You'd think that with all I have going on here, the only bag to use would be big enough for all this AND the kitchen sink. All my bags were chosen for particular purposes and features. My number one bag, recently revamped to fit my beloved MacBook, is called Buzz by Tom Bihn. It holds enough room for my MacBook, a few books, my tarot deck, hipsterPDA, wallet, and keys. Oh and a water bottle for when I'm out on the town.
All these items and categories come together to help keep me organized day in and day out. They give me space to write the ideas that flow constantly from my mind and keep me on top of everything I need to do without forgetting much. And with that, I think I'm going to wrap this up as it's a bit long. There's enough good ideas in this article to keep you all busy and entertained until next week I hope. Next week, I'll be back with more of what works for me when we dig into my digital life and what I use to keep my online life organized. Feel free to leave me questions and comments.