How to Use a Notebook to Make 2008 the Best Year Ever

The notebook has been around forever. Do you remember your first one? It probably had very wide lines and perhaps a spiral binding. You used a fat pencil and traced letters until they became second nature. Before long you learned script. Then you migrated to pens. Some of you, dear readers, are now Moleskine aficionados and are selective and perhaps downright snooty about your pen choice. The lefties here might have learned that it is easier to start at the back of a notebook so that you don’t rub your hand across that lump of the binding as you write. (The righties here don’t get that sentence – nevermind, read on righties.)

By now you are probably just as comfortable with a keyboard as writing. And, to make 2008 the best year ever this Black Belt activity requires you to stop using that keyboard. Don’t panic, I’m talking about just 15 minutes per day when your notebook reigns.

Here’s the activity (the why comes later):

  1. Get a timer and set it for 15 minutes – use the one on your cell phone, a freestanding one ($10 at a general merchandise store in the kitchen section), or the one on your watch.
  2. Go to a place with few distractions – consider a conference room, a coffee shop, the sofa in your home in a low activity room (only put on music with no words such as classical or zen music), and do not stay at your desk.
  3. Open your notebook.
  4. Start your timer.
  5. Stare into space or close your eyes and see what pops into your mind.
  6. Once a topic comes to mind, write it on your notebook and stop thinking about it. You’ve put it on your list so that you won’t forget the topic. You’ve put it on your list to clear you mind of that issue, thought, concern, action item ‘to do’, discussion, etc. Do not replay full discussions. If one comes up, write the topic and hit “pause” on your mental replay.
  7. Hang in there for 15 minutes. Keep letting go of topics and wait for the next. Breathe easy. Stay still. For some of us that will be 15 minutes that feels like an hour. Others will fall asleep this time. Try not to do that next time. Some will have three things in the notebook for the session. Others will have 23 notes. The goal is to make room in your day and mind to let things come to mind that are squeezed out during the crazy busy distraction-filled time with family and co-workers.
  8. When the alarm goes off, return to your routine. Take your notebook with you and integrate the most important idea with your plan for ‘what’s next’.
  9. Repeat daily.

It’s most effective if you put that 15-minute block of time right on your calendar and respect the appointment with yourself as if it were a meeting with Warren Buffet, Oprah, or Tiger Woods.

Why you shouldn’t use a keyboard: distractions. There are too many temptations to do other things when you’re at your keyboard and computer. Few of us can be at our desk and computer with the lack of distractions that is required to have your notebook be the key to making 2008 your best year ever.

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