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Productivity Pr0n: 5 Unusually Useful Notepads

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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              Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

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              Last Updated on January 21, 2020

              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.

              The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

              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.

              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.

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              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.

              How to Self-Taught Effectively

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

              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.

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              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.

              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.

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              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.

              Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

              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.

              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.

              Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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              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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