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10 Great Moleskine Hacks

10 Great Moleskine Hacks

In honor of Lifehack’s partnership with Moleskine, I’ve decided to post all Moleskine-related posts this week. Today, I’ll describe 10 cool ways to get a little more out of your Moleskine. While most of these hacks are aimed at the pocket-sized, hardbound Moleskine (what I think of as the “traditional” Moleskine), they can easily be adapted to the medium and large-sized notebooks as well.

So, without any further ado, here they are: 10 great Moleskine hacks!

1. Divide sections with tabs.

Perhaps the most useful product to complement your Moleskine – besides a fine pen, of course – is the Post-It divider tab. Usually sold in sets of three colors – often with funky patterns – these dividers can be used to create sections in your Moleskine, giving you easily-accessible spaces for several separate uses.

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The very first thing I do when I get a new Moleskine is add some dividers. My standard Moleskine setup has three sections: “Tasks” up front, a small “Projects” section in the middle, and “Notes” for the last 1/2 to 1/2 of the pages. But you can divide your Moleskine up however you like – maybe you want a “Reference” section for often-used information, or a “Books” section to record books you’d like to check out next time you’re at the library or bookstore. These tabs are a great way to instantly customize your Moleskine to your exact needs.

2. Work back-to-front.

For people who use their Moleskine as an always-on-you “inbox” to capture whatever thoughts might cross your mind in the course of the day, with the intention of transferring them into a trusted system on return to your desk, try working from the back forwards. Use the bookmark to mark your current page, and use a Post-It tab or flag to mark the pages you’ve already processed into your system. The closer the bookmark and flag are, the more on-the-ball your system is!

3. Number the pages.

The first mark a lot of people make in their Moleskines is to number all the pages. This provides a couple of benefits. First, if you are reviewing something you wrote several days ago and think of something you want to add, you can add a “Cont’d on page xx” note and skip ahead to the next blank page. Second, you can index your Moleskine, recording page numbers and contents on the last few pages or on a card stuck in the back pocket. Third, it helps overcome “Blank Moleskine Syndrome”, that near-pathological reluctance to make the first mark on the crisp new pages of your brand new Moleskine.

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4. Tab the pages.

If you’d rather not have tabs sticking out of your Moleskine, you can still create sections with a little patience and a steady hand. Use an X-Acto knife or other sharp, easily-controlled knife to carefully cut tabs, several pages at a time, along the outside edge of your Moleskine. Cut a template from card stock to guide you and help make your tabs consistent.

5. Carry Post-Its.

Are you getting the picture here? Dustin loves him some Post-Its! I use them all the time, so I never want to be without them. Moleskines offer two options for carrying a stash of sticky notes: first, you can tear off a few from the pad and stick them to the inside cover or blank end-papers; second, you can stick a bunch (in several sizes!) to an index card and stick it in the back pocket.

6. Use templates.

Blank Moleskines can get kind of messy, but it doesn’t have to be like that! Cut a Moleskine-sized piece of gridded index card (or graph paper for larger Moleskines) and stick it behind the page you’re working on – the lines will show through enough to act as a decent guide. But it gets better – with a little tweaking, you can easily print templates, such as the ones at D*I*Y Planner (or create your own using your word processor), to serve the same function, allowing you to have specialized pages for different purposes. Keep your templates in the back pocket when you’re not using them.

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7. Add a pen.

You can, of course, clip a pen to the cover, but… eh. They come off way too easily, or they end up warping the cover. And what’s the point? Using a little duct tape or electrical tape you can easily add a pen holder to the spine. Simply place your favorite Moleskine pen against the back cover, cut a piece of tape wide enough to wrap around the pen and just onto both covers of your Moleskine (with electrical tape, you may need to attach several strips side-by-side), and place the tape sticky-side-out around your pen. Then place a full-width piece of duct tape – or several strips of electrical tape – sticky-side-in to hold your pen in place. The end result is a tape “sleeve” that your pen can easily slide into and out of. Make sure to make it long enough to hold your pen securely.

8. Label the spine.

Use a label-maker, or print out a tiny tag and tape it using clear packing tape. Depending on the use, you can label it with the start date, the function of the notebook, or the name of the project whose plans are inside. Be creative – lots of folks have come up with color-coded tags that look lovely when you’ve amassed a dozen or so full notebooks on the shelf above your desk.

9. Add checklists or reference info.

Print out sheets with information you’ll need over and over, cut it to fit your Moleskine’s pages, and tape it down with packing tape. You can attach it to the front cover or either (or both) of the blank endpapers, creating a set of references that will always be right where you need it.

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10. Mount photos – or a business card.

Wouldn’t it be nice to open your Moleskine and have an inspirational photo of me (or, I suppose, a loved one) to cheer you on? Use photo mounting corners to add a small photo inside the front cover, or onto the front endpaper. Or you can mount a business card, in case it  gets lost – a lot neater than writing your address in the space provided.

Well, those are my ten favorite Moleskine hacks. What about you – what are your favorites? How do you get the most out of your Moleskines?

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

More About Self-Learning

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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