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Index Card Hacks

Index Card Hacks
Index Card Hacks

    I love index cards. I’d like to blame Merlin Mann and his hipster PDA for this obsession, but I don’t use a hipster PDA and still I find myself unable to pass the index card rack at Office Depot without stopping for a look.

    Index cards provide a sturdier alternative to notepad paper, making them ideal for “throwaway” notes like directions or phone numbers — notes I’ll need to carry around a bit but won’t need to keep permanently. They’re also useful for note-taking for any task where you’ll need to re-order the notes later — I use them a lot in my research to record quotes and reference information. And if you’ve never indexed a book (and who has?) you might not realize that they’re pretty useful for indexing, which I think might have something to do with why they’re called “index cards”.

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    How to make vertical index cards

    The manufacturers of index cards seem intent on frustrating me in my quest for vertically-aligned index cards. It’s as if a secret cabal of paper goods producers has gotten together and decided that nobody could ever possibly want cards in profile layout (3″ wide by 5″ tall). They do love to tease, though — Post-It has sticky-backed index cards in with a profile layout, but they’ve decided to make them a non-standard 3″ x 4″, which is useful only for mocking me.

    So I make my own. First I got one of those cheap plastic paper cutters designed for scrapbookers and other crafters, and later I found an old-fashioned guillotine-style cutter at a garage sale for $5, with a cast-iron cutting arm and a blade that’s seen better days but works well enough. Then I picked up a bulk package (500 cards) of 5″ x 8″ index cards. Then I got cutting! Here’s what I do:

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    1. First, set up the cutter. You can, of course, use the cutter’s ruler to measure each cut, but that’s a) slow and b) sometimes inaccurate. Instead, I use a guide — another index card to measure my cuts against, so I end up with standard-sized cards. On the guillotine-style cutter, I tape a card up against the cutting edge, and feed the big cards in from the outside; on the paper trimmer, I do the opposite, so the card hangs over the outside edge.
      This is what the paper cutters look like after setting them up to make vertical index cards
      • Line up the big cards, a few at a time, with the guide card. You have to experiment a little to see how many you can cut at once. On the trimmer, I can only do two at a time; on the guillotine, I can do 4 or 5 at once (I could probably do more if the blade was sharper). Make sure the cards are stacked together evenly, and are pressed solidly against the guide rail.
        Using the guillotine cutter
          Using the trimmer
          • Cut once, then re-align for a second cut: The first cut leaves a 5″ x 5″ square. Move it forward and line the new edge up with the guide card.
            Using the guillotine cutter to make the second cut
            • Cut again. The second cut will leave you with a stack of 2″ x 5″ leftover strips. If you’re a big reader (like I am), congratulations — you’ve just solved your bookmark problem! If you’re not a reader, I’m sure you can find another use for your card strips — or give them to your kids (if you have any) and see what they come up with.
            • Enjoy your upright index cards. Each 5″ x 8″ card makes two 3″ x 5″ cards, whose layout roughly matches that of regular letter or A4 notebook paper. I find this layout easier to work with — a stack fits in the hand better, and is easier to write on. And there’s more room for lists (I could put them in two columns on “wide” cards, but that doesn’t scan well).

            How to make dry-erase index cards

            The dry-erase index card hack

              Vertical index cards are great for checklists, and I wanted to make a weekly task checklist I could slip into my Moleskine, so I wouldn’t have to copy recurring tasks into my next actions list every week. That means it has to be something reusable (it’s no use moving these tasks out of my Moleskine if I’m going to have to rewrite the list every week anyway) and something I can keep with my current tasks as I move forward through the notebook.

              This is what I came up with:

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              1. Write your list. Write down your list, leaving at least 3/4″ between the left edge of the card and your list items. Within that margin, (about 3/8″ from the left edge) draw a small checkbox for each task. I’ve done a weekly task checklist, but anything you do where you need to make sure you do each step would be appropriate.
              2. Comparison of tapes as dry-erase surface

                  Put a piece of clear sticky tape along the left edge, covering the checkboxes. This is your dry-erase surface. Line it up flush with the left edge. For best results, use the shiny kind (with the glossy finish); the matte- or satin-finish tape (sometime called “invisible” tape) will not erase as well.

                • Trim if needed. Any overhang will be annoying and will gather lint in your pocket or bag and dry-erase ink when you erase.
                • Use a thin dry-erase marker to check things off. Yes, it’s one more thing to carry, but I always have a bag with me anyway so it’s no big deal.
                • When you’re ready to start the list over, just erase your checkmarks. Use a tissue, paper towel, whiteboard eraser, your finger, or even your shirt if you don’t mind having marks on your clothes. Erase from right to left, so the ink doesn’t smear onto the unprotected paper part of the card.

                True, you could just write your list in ink and make your checks in pencil, but a) pencil rarely erases entirely, and b) rubber erasers degrade the surface of the paper.

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                If you really like the idea of a portable dry-erase board you can fit in the back pocket of your Moleskine (or just tuck into the pages), try covering the surface of a card with 3″ packing tape. This could be used to make any index card template from DIY Planner reusable — I can see this being useful for the mind-map template, if you’re the kind of person who likes to make mind-maps. Treat cards with dry-erase ink on them carefully — direct contact shouldn’t hurt them, but anything that rubs across them will take ink with it.

                What other index card hacks have people come up with? How do you get through the whole pack of cards? What possible use are 4″ x 6″ cards? Let us know in the comments.

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                Last Updated on June 26, 2020

                How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

                How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

                It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

                So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to be motivated and get what you want:

                1. Find Your Good Reasons

                Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

                You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

                If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

                Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

                Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

                • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
                • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
                • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
                • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

                Here’re 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams.

                2. Make It Fun

                When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

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                Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

                Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

                They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

                Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

                A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

                • How can I enjoy this task?
                • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
                • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

                As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

                Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

                However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

                3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

                When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

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                You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

                That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

                If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

                Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

                My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

                4. Recognize Your Progress

                Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

                We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

                Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

                Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

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                For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

                You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

                Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

                For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

                5. Reward Yourself

                This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

                Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

                Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

                For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

                For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

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                For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

                Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

                The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

                Mix and Match for the Best Effect!

                Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

                Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right away. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

                Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

                Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

                More Tips to Boost Your Motivation

                Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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