Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Making it work for me...

I just did something unspeakable. I ripped pages out of my pocket Moleskine. OK, I didn't rip, I perforated them neatly with my cute little Xcut perforator and gently pulled them out. But still, some may say, a violation of the precious Moleskine.
But, this little Mole, or the system I was using, just wasn't working for me. It's a pocket ruled Moleskine, and I had it set up as a GTD notebook, according to a lot of the systems linked to on this website. First, I had an inbox for all of my to-dos, which contained a column down each page to write the context in; then a section for different contexts- @home, @campus, @mum etc, then a 'Project' section for anything more complicated than just a couple of to-dos, then a uni work section where I would list assignments, a 'Waiting for' section, and a section where there were post-it notes so I could write down ideas and then transfer them into the relevant place in my filofax. I thought this system would work for me because I needed a place for my non-urgent to-dos, and I was struggling to keep track of them in my filofax. They were behind a divider; and out of sight = out of mind. Also, I was struggling because instead of dumping these to-dos into an inbox and processing them later, I tried to work out their context then and there, which meant I spent longer trying to work out where they should go than it would have taken me to do them. So; my plan was to write all of my to-dos down in the inbox section of the Moleskine, and frequently process them into the right context, and then make myself achieve them. This sounded like such a perfect system, it would undoubtedly work for me; how could it not?!
I tried to make this work; I willed it, BEGGED it to work. But... even if the system is perfect in theory, there's always a hurdle. And that hurdle was me. The system called for me to process the to-dos. I did that occasionally, but not enough. And then even more importantly, it called for me to DO them. There are 2 problems here: my life is very busy; and I am very lazy. Very.
For the past couple of weeks I have walked around with 2 Moleskine/moleskinesque notebooks in my handbag (plus my filo in my hand, and my school notebooks in my backpack!). The first one was my GTD notebook; the second, my Blackwell's bookshop Moleskine-knock off, half the price and just as good! I needed this second one because I always have ideas for assignments as I walk around, and I couldn't write them in my Moleskine, because that was just for to-dos. A whole Moleskine, just for to-dos... that never get done. Today I realised I also need a place for my more general ideas as well as my uni ideas; Christmas presents, things to consider buying, horrendously incorrect maths equations etc... Besides buying ANOTHER notebook, I decided to commandeer half of my Blackwell's notebook as my general ideas notebook. Easy-peasy. But there was still a stinging resentment towards my GTD notebook, as it obviously wasn't working for me. A couple of days ago I considered whether I could tear the used sheets out and use the notebook separately, but thought against it; I don't want to destroy something I had paid a lot of money for.
But thinking about it tonight, I could quite easily use my Blackwell's notebook for all three things; uni work ideas, general ideas, and to-dos within each of them. I realised that I DO need something to act as a brain-dump for me, a place for me to dump my thoughts. There is something very beneficial to writing things down; even if I could remember that idea later, which I probably do with about 60% of my thoughts, sending the thought through your nerve-endings and muscles, out though your fingers, into a pen, and then out onto paper through the ink is VERY cathartic, and just helps me hold that thought better. Anything that wouldn't have been remembered anyway is duly captured in ink permanently, and can be accessed later. For me, nothing is better than pen, paper, and the act of writing.
But, you might say, won't you forget to process these ideas? Well, I don't think so; I like looking back through my filled-up pages, because I feel proud that I have filled them, and just by doing that I cross off things that I have already dealt with or are no longer relevant. Other things will get processed to their relevant place. Or, just by reading them over and over as I flick randomly through my notebook, they will find their way into my brain permanently, where I can recall them at will. This notebook may be, in essence, a brain dump, but it's also a brain re-filler. If that's a word.
So, I decided, I'm not going to let my GTD notebook sit there all forlorn, and me regret ever starting it on that doomed course. So I carefully took out the filled pages (there wasn't many of them). Now it's a tiny bit slimmer, but you can't really notice that pages are missing unless you open it up to where I've pulled them out. The page numbers I wrote in there when I first got it now don't match up; but I don't care. The beauty of my much cheaper Blackwell's notebook was that it wasn't an expensive notebook, so I didn't feel bad about filling it with my bumpy handwriting (I write as I walk through campus); but I always stopped and tried to write neatly in my Moleskine, and wait until the ink dried before I closed it, which was annoying. There's a freedom in being able to treat your notebook as you like. It works for me, not the other way around. When I start using my Moleskine as my next notebook, I will scribble in it as I like. Because I can.
And if (when) this is successful, I'm going to treat myself to Leuchtturm 1917's pink notebook. A nice incentive!

Just to finish with, this picture made me laugh :)


  1. Hey! I just wanted to let you know I've passed on a blog award to you on my blog :)