A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The dilemma of choosing that first notebook

Everything MacImage by ♥ China ♥ guccio via Flickr
As a convert to notebooks from legal pads — or, to be honest, legal pads, looseleaf, or whatever scrap of paper happened to be lying around at the time I needed to write something down — I was faced with the dilemma of which notebook to choose as my first mainstay. The decision was not easy at all. It didn't exactly keep me up at night, but still . . .  (The notebooks in the picture to the right are not mine, I just think they're cool.)

I got into notebooks through GTD.  Many GTDers are Moleskine fanatics. So when I started looking for Moleskines online, I started running into so many other notebooks and blogs about them, I could hardly wait to try each and every one of them. It will take me years to work through the possibilities, but I want to try them all now.

Some people get around this dilemma by using lots of notebooks at the same time. At the Notebook Stories blog, Nifty explains his current setup and concludes:
So that comes to 7 or 8 notebooks with some degree of active usage right now. It almost doesn’t seem like enough to make me a true notebook addict… maybe I should start a few more!
OK, so if it's good enough for veteran notebooker Nifty, it's good enough for me, right? I wish.

I have a multiple-notebook setup right now, but I have to be careful, because some of them serve as "capture tools" in this Getting Things Done workflow I'm trying to implement. A capture tool is anything you use to capture a thought as it occurs to you so you can return to it later and process it, i.e., integrate the idea into your project lists and action lists. Capture tools, like other "collection buckets," must be emptied regularly and frequently for the GTD system to work. (Keep in mind, I'm parroting the book here; I'm just getting started on my GTD implementation, and thus can't speak from experience.)  And, since you need to trust that you'll do so, you have to be careful about having too many of them.

With that in mind, here is my current set-up, likely to change many times in the coming weeks and months:

Moleskin Cahier, pocket, ruled (bottom right) - this is the capture tool I keep with me all the time — all the time —to capture thoughts, write down phone numbers, jot down a quick instruction from a client, etc., while on the go. To make sure I always have a pen handy, I keep a Fischer Trekker space pen on a lanyard around my neck.

Large Piccadilly ruled (top left) - this is my general notetaking notebook for work (another capture tool). It stays on my desk all day, goes with me when I visit a client or go to court. I use it to record the progress of my day: time spent on client projects, tasks performed, expenses, and notes from meetings and court appearances.

Whitelines Perfect Bound A4 Squared (top middle) - This is where I keep legal research notes. If I'm looking up the law, this is where I write down what I've found. Since that research translates into tasks (like adding certain authorities to letters, briefs, or memoranda, or perhaps telling a client or another attorney about my findings), this is also a capture tool that I must make sure I "process" regularly.

Moleskine Cahier, large, ruled (bottom left) - this tucks nicely inside the back cover of my copy of David Allen's Getting Things Done. I use it exclusively for notes from the book. This notebook serves partly as a memory aid (since I find writing things down makes them more memorable) and party as a capture tool (since some of those notes require follow-up actions to implement GTD.)

Moleskine Cahier, x-large, ruled (top right) - I use this notebook exclusively for my GTD weekly review. Or, I should say I intend to use this book exclusively for my weekly review. The weekly review is a big stumbling point for GTD practitioners, so I'm hoping that a log of weekly reviews will make doing the weekly review a more attractive prospect, and that having a history of my weekly reviews in one notebook will come in handy.

Clairefontaine A4 French-ruled staple bound - I'm still waiting for this eBay purchase (similar to this one). This will be my handwriting journal, where I will practice writing to develop my cursive writing skills. The idea here is that the French ruling is supposed to aid writing skills and keeping track of my progress in a single notebook will give me a better visual picture of my progress (or lack thereof). Since this doesn't act as a capture tool, I don't have to be concerned about this being one capture tool too many.

There are still more I want to try, but I think I've got enough on my plate!

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