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13 Things to Do with a Moleskine Notebook

13 Things to Do with a Moleskine Notebook
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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