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Productivity Pr0n: 5 Unusually Useful Notepads

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Productivity Pr0n: 5 Unusually Useful Notepads

5 Unusually Useful Notepads

    Hi. My name is Dustin, and I’m addicted to notepads.

    I first realized I was addicted when I found myself prowling office supply stores in the wee hours of the afternoon, trying to score a college-ruled composition book. Pretty soon, I couldn’t go anywhere without my works – a battered red Moleskine and a black Sharpie click-pen.

    And it got worse. I started thinking, “maybe there’s a perfect notebook out there for this particular project.” My Moleskine’s 192 leaves bound in pocket-sized covers wasn’t enough to satisfy my growing need for specialty papers.

    The worst part is, I liked it. And I stand here before you, still liking it. Loving it. Yes, my name is Dustin, but I”m not a mere addict. I’m a paper enthusiast, a connoisseur of the carnet, a gourmand of the grid line, a foodie of foolscap.

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    Let me show you a few of my more exotic finds.

    1. Rollabind

    20100202-Rollabind

      Also marketed as the Levenger Circa system, the Rollabind (or just “Rolla”) is an infinitely customizable, assemble-it-yourself notebook made using a Rollabind punch and Rollabind discs. Basically, you take the pages you want to assemble, punch the binding edge with the special punch, and insert the discs into the punches to hold it all together. The holes are open on one side, so you can remove and insert pages at will, and the unique design allows the whole thing to be opened flat, making them easy to write on.

      The system can be used to compile planners, address books, journals, or just about anything else you can imagine, using pages of your own design, pre-printed pages akin to those sold for Dayplanners and the like, or templates from the DIY Planner site. Both Rollabind and Levenger sell a range of kits with punches, discs, and covers (from simple pressboard to luxurious leather). Circa/Rolla notebooks are a bit pricey compared to off-the-shelf notebooks (though some of the expenses, like the punch and reusable discs, can be amortized over years of notebook-making) but are pretty comparable in price to organizer sets from DayRunner or FranklinCovey.

      2. Whitelines

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      WHitelines vs. REgular Lines

        Whitelines paper has white lines. Seriously.

        If you’ve ever, say, tried to photocopy something you wrote or drew, you already know one use case for paper with white lines. If you’re a creative sort who maybe needs some lines to keep everything at the same scale but would rather not have to compete with those lines when displaying your ideas, you know another. And Whitelines has you pegged, because they make paper with white lines.

        So here’s the deal: Whitelines notebooks are made with a lightly toned paper lined or gridded with white ink, so you can definitely see the lines while you’re working (meaning you avoid the “over-the-cliff” curve you get when you write on unlined paper) but step away just a bit and the lines fade away. And there are bindings for everyone, from hard-bound Moleskine-like notebooks to perfect-bound paperbacks to glue-bound notepads (so you can tear sheets off),

        Available in the US only through specialty retailers (mostly book stores), Canadians and Western Europeans can find them at your national Amazon stores as well as in several chains. Prices are comparable to Moleskines of the same size and format. Use the store finder to find out how to get yours.

        3. Behance Dot Grid Book

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        20100202-behance

          Behance notebooks are beloved of creative professionals, and the Dot Grid Book and Dot Grid Journal are a pretty good indication of why. Designers want the precision of a grid, but they also want the grid to “disappear”, to get out of their way so they can work. In other words, they appreciate good design in notebook grids as in everything else.

          And these notebooks from Behance are nothing if not good design. The “Book” model has a semi-hard “suede touch” cover that is spiral-bound to lay flat on a table or other surface; the “Journal” model is hard-bound like a Moleskine for portable knee-top use. Both have a super-light but functional grid of dots to guide without constraining so you can do layouts, tight design work, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

          4. Aquanotes

          Aquanotes

            The age-old problem of how to capture notes in the shower may have found a solution. No more messy bath crayons or grease pencils – here comes Aquanotes! Aquanotes are suction-cup-mounted notepads made of 100% waterproof paper that can be written on however wet they may be. So you always have a notepad handy at what experts say is our most creative time, shower time.

            The only problem is, where do you keep your pencil?

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            5. Notepod

            NOtepod

              Got an idea for an iPhone app? There’s a pad for that.

              Notepod is an iPhone-shaped notepad, with an unlined  writing area where the iPhone’s screen would be and gridlines on the back, packed in 100-page board-backed notepads. The implementation is new, but like the iPhone itself, the idea goes back a long ways, to the original battery-less paper Palm Pilot. Of course, you don’t have to be an iPhone developer to use a Notepod – it works just as well for on-the-fly note-taking and jotting down phone messages or, for the real low-tech, replacing your iPhone entirely (though you need a really good arm for the text messaging function…).

              Know any other cool, super-functional (or just super-neat) notepads out there? Let me and the other addicts- er, afficionados know all about them in the the comments!

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              8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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              8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

              How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

              Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

              When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

              Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

              What Makes People Poor Listeners?

              Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

              1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

              Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

              Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

              It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

              2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

              This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

              Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

              3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

              It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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              I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

              If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

              4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

              While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

              To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

              My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

              Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

              Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

              How To Be a Better Listener

              For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

              1. Pay Attention

              A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

              According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

              As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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              I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

              2. Use Positive Body Language

              You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

              A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

              People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

              But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

              According to Alan Gurney,[2]

              “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

              Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

              3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

              I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

              Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

              Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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              Be polite and wait your turn!

              4. Ask Questions

              Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

              5. Just Listen

              This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

              I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

              I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

              6. Remember and Follow Up

              Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

              For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

              According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

              It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

              7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

              If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

              Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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              Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

              Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

              NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

              1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
              2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

              8. Maintain Eye Contact

              When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

              Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

              By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

              Final Thoughts

              Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

              You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

              And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

              More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

              Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
              [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
              [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
              [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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