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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 December 9, 2019

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

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Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

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3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

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Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

5. Learn to Say “No”

I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

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Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

7. Be Intentional

The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

The Bottom Line

The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

More About Staying Focused

Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

Reference

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