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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 April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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