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10 Great Notebooks Productive People Love

10 Great Notebooks Productive People Love

Although I’m going on 10 years as a PDA/Smartphone user (Palm IIIe – Handspring Visor Neo – Treo 180g – Zire 72 – Treo 680 – Blackberry 8310), I love notebooks. A good pen on nice paper makes me much happier than the feel of a stylus on a plastic screen or the clickety-clack of a thumb-board. My personal notebook inventory consists mainly of three kinds of notebooks:

  • A pocket-sized Moleskine : I love the reporter’s notebook or standard lined notebook, though lately I’ve been using the tiny extra-small Volants, whose soft vinyl cover stands up to my back pocket better.
  • Tops Docket Gold letter-sized pads : These are my favorite pads for writing; they are the only letter-sized top-bound legal pads I’ve been able to find with both narrow rules (most legal pads are wide-ruled) and an extra-stiff cardboard backing, perfect for lap-top writing.
  • Hardbound Foray notebooks: Foray is an Office Depot house brand; they make several sizes and colors of hardbound notebooks. The front dozen or so pages are project planning templates, which makes them useful for, well, for planning projects. I keep one for each major project I’m involved with. (I couldn’t find a link to the particular one I use; they’re sold in the executive journals section of the store.)

But I’m always trying out new notebooks — at the end of the day, they do the same thing but some are just more of a pleasure than others. And I do a lot of writing and note-taking, so anything that makes that feel less like work and more like play is A-OK by me.

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Here are a few of the notebooks (and their note-y cousins) I’ve tried, owned, or just plain lusted after.

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  1. Moleskine : The classic. I’ve said more than enough about Moleskines already! (But for someone else’s perspective, check out the fan blog Moleskinerie .)
  2. Picadilly: A lower-priced knock-off of Moleskine’s notebooks that many claim are just as good as Moleskines. All the reasons you’d buy a Moleskine apply here, with some leeway for differences in paper or binding.
  3. Rhodia : Rhodia notebooks come in several styles (including a hard-cover Moleskine-like journal) but the classic is the soft-covered, stiff-backed pad bound with staples at the top. Known for their orange covers (though they also come in black) and loved for their high-quality paper, Rhodia notebooks are available in a variety of sizes andfor as low as a couple dollars each. (For a taste of why Rhodia notebooks have such a cult following, check out the blog Rhodia Drive .)
  4. Field Notes: Simple notebooks with a retro flair and a whiff of adventure about them, Field Notes are soft-covered, saddle-stitched notebooks with a straightforward, no-nonsense attitude. Field Notes are $10 for a pack of three pocket-size notebooks, and each shipment includes a fistful of goodies including matching pencils and click-pens.
  5. The cheapo spiral: The basic, no-nonsense cheapo notebook with spiral binding across the top or down the side. I hate them with a passion, but other people love them — they’re cheap, simple, unpretentious, and most importantly they get the job done. Plus, they’re available practically everywhere — supermarkets, drugstores, convenience stores, and of course office supply outlets.
  6. Levenger Pocket Briefcase: Not a notebook per se but an index card holder, Levenger’s pocket briefcases are made of quality leather which gives them a luxurious, almost decadent air. Most have a space for holding one “ready-to-use_ index card and a pocket to store used cards and spares. They’re not cheap, at about $30 and up, but everyone that owns one swears by it.
  7. The Hipster PDA: At the other end of thecontinuum from Levenger’s luxury is the bare-bones, stripped-down hipster PDA. A stack of index cards bound with a binder clip and *presto!* — you got yourself a handy, pocket-sized notebook. GTD’ers love it because they can record thoughs one per card and toss them in their inbox for later processing when they get into the office or home.
  8. Rite-in-the-Rain Tactical Notebook: Designed for military use, these perfect-bound, vinyl-covered notebooks literally go anywhere — the light green pages are waterproof! Add a Fisher Space Pen or other waterproof, write-anywhere pen and you’re good to go, and go, and go. I still have one from years ago (I managed a military supply store on the US Army base many, many years ago) and can vouch for the pages’ waterproofing. Though I don’t camp much, when I do, I take my Rite-in-the-Rain notebook.
  9. Scientific Notebook Company lab notebooks: Lab notebooks are more than just a place to take ntoes, they are a permanent record of scientific progress. SNC’s notebooks are designed to be used in support of patent claims, so each page includes headings for project info that are useful for anyone’s projects. (The footers include lines for signatures and witnesses, which are less useful, but take up little space.) The standard notebooks are hard-bound and letter-sized and run $12-20 US; vinyl-bound soft-cover student notebooks can be had for under $4 a pop.
  10. Livescribe Pulse SmartPen system: Not technically a notebook — and really, overkill of the worst kind, but: oh my! When used with the system’s specially-prepared paper, the SmartPen records every stroke of the pen plus audio of the class, lecture, meeting, or otehr event you’re taking notes on! You can later download your notes to the computer, effectively solving the “paper can’t be backed up” problem. For only a couple hundred bucks.

What are your favorite notebooks? Let us know in the comments!

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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