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13 Things to Do with a Moleskine Notebook

13 Things to Do with a Moleskine Notebook
We here at Lifehack have been huge advocates of the Moleskine as a tool for ubiquitous capture — for jotting down ideas whenever and wherever they occur to you. They’re also great for keeping your task list and other information you might need over the course of the day. But those are hardly the only things a Moleskine is useful for!These days, Moleskines come in all sizes and colors, in a variety of specialized formats, and in both hard-covered and soft-covered versions. From the just-bigger-than-a-business-card extra-small Volants to the nearly letter-sized extra-large Cahiers, there are notebooks that can be adapted to just about every purpose.

Here are 15 ideas to help get you started. Feel free to share your own Moleskine ideas in the comments!

1. Blog log

I run several blogs aside from the work I do at Lifehack. Each of them has it’s own medium-sized Moleskine notebook (a soft-cover one — I don’tneed all the pages of the hard-cover notebooks for this) in which I record passwords, configuration information, and notes for future changes. When I’m brainstorming post ideas, they go into their relevant notebooks, along with any other miscellanea related to each site.

2. Expense log

Use a lined or grid-paper notebook to track expenses throughout the day. You can easily store receipts in the back pocket, and reconcile your notebook with your accounting software at the end of each week or month (epending on how extensive your expenses are).

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3. Computer log

The last log, I promise. Setting up a new computer is a pain in the rear-panel, so I like to keep everything together — passwords, registration codes, and especially the ever-elusive WEP/WPA keys for my wireless networks. I have one book, with tabbed sections at the back with the infromation about my family member’s computers and networks that I know, sooner or later, I’ll be called on to fix.

4. Replace your wallet

The Cahier pocket-sized notebooks have vinyl covers that are strong enough to take the abuse of your pocket — so why not eliminate your wallet and replace it with a wallet you can take notes in instead of stuffing with them? Stick your cards in the back-cover pocket, fold your cash into the front, and voila! Want something more secure? How about gluing powerful magnets onto the front and back covers for an instant money clip? (Note: magnets or credit cards, not magnets and credit cards — pick one or the other).

5. To-done list

Use a Moleskine as a daily list of tasks you’ve finished. As you finish something, add it to the book, along with how much time you spent and when you finished. This can be useful in a weekly review, if you’ve got so many tasks that you don’t always remember where you are in any given project, but it’s more useful as a kind of journal of accomplishments.

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6. Outboard brain

Use the Moleskine MSK Wizard to create reference pages full of useful information and paste them into your Moleskine. The site can produce formatted contact lists and schedules, or you can make free-form pages mixing-and-matching your own text and images.

7. Photo log

OK, this one really is the last log (I’m lying, it’s not). Use a small Cahier or Volant to record information about your shots — where you’re at, who’s in the shot, and so on. If you still use film, this is the place to record exposure information, as well as anything special about the gear or settings. Stick an 18% gray card in the back pocket, and glue in exposure tables and other information if you’re still learning.

8. Baby book/family album

The watercolor Moleskines have thick pages that are perfect for attaching photos and paper souveniirs like birth announcments (use photo corners to attach photos —  you may have to remove pages if you add too many).

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9. Family reference

Create a single volume with all your family’s important information in it, including: birthdays; medical information; addresses of doctors, dentists, and other service providers; favorite colors, foods, and otehr faves — especially for family you see infrequently; numbers of local take-out restaurants; school information; bank account, insurance, and auto VIN numbers; and so on. Leave out the passwords and social security numbers — if it ever got misplaced or stolen, you don’t want any information that could leave you vulenrable.

10. Reading journal

My high school English teacher suggested I write down at least a few lines about every book I read. I did not take his advice, and I regret it. So last year I started doing just that — I even whipped up a little template that I can put behind my current Moleskine page to guide what goes where. Although I don’t record everything in my Moleskine — I review books professionally, so a lot of my thoughts are recorded in my manuscript file instead — I am trying to make an effort to record a few thoughts and impressions about everything I read “non-professionally”. I wish I’d done this in grad school — I’d love to have a more organized version of my reading impressions than has survivied in my scattered grad school notes…

11. Conversation log.

OK, this time I mean it — no more log. (For real!) Use a Moleskine to take ntoes about all your professional conversations. I am just starting one for my source interviews for magazine articles — it occurred to me that I might better organize my interview notes in a single notebook with an index than they way I work now, filing looseleaf pages with each project’s files.

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12. Make a “mind atlas”

An atlas is a book of maps, so a “mind atlas” is a book of mindmaps. Moleskines are fun to write in and look good — two characteristics that make them especially suitable to creative work. If you like to write and draw — and chances are, if you find mindmapping useful, you do — using a dedicated Moleskine will make it that much more enjoyable, and that means you’ll do it that much more.

13. Job-hunting guide

Use a Moleskine — whatever size is comfortable — to record all the important information from your job hunt: info about each position you apply for (1 per page or two should be enough space), the date you applied, the date and a description of any phone calls, who you spoke with, what you wore to each interview (helpful if you get called in for a second or third meeting!), and notes from your interviews. A Moleskine looks nice and professional when you take it out in an interview, and you’ll look nice and professional when you can easily remember every detail of each prior meeting.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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