Oct 25, 2015

Much Needed Mental Notes

I actually had this great idea for a post, which I didn't write down and now I forgot completely about. This has been happening a lot lately to me, probably due to the fact that I'm going insane with the project we are working on for the University, going over number, filling up chapters and lots of work papers for the auditory we are doing and on top of all that, I still have work to do at the office.

It's kind of sad that this actually happened to me on October, which is my most inspirational month of the year. I actually had been flying on an amazing wave of inspiration for INAT (you don't really need to know about that) and... and I had to do work and had to stop my fickle muse midflight. Sometimes I'd really love to forget about everything and just write or read or do only the things I feel like doing, and not the things I have to do, even if those things are things conducive to stuff I really want and set my eyes on. I guess my mind tries to escape my reality in these moments.

Perhaps it is due to the mind acting like a bird trapped in the cage of a million tasks, all of them requiring much mental and physical energy, that it starts shedding all the ideas around.Something comes up and it quickly lets it go. So, how can we actually try and capture them? Well, the basic idea any organizational guru or anyone with good organizational skills would tell you is: record the idea the moment it comes to mind. Have post-its handy, jot down the idea when it comes to you, or the thing you can't forget, the task or whatever, and then stick it where you'll see it.

I'm big on using post-its and often stick them around myself to remind myself of things I might be prone to forget. When I'm more on top of my game (and my mind isn't working against me), when ideas about some project I'm working on come up, I take a post-it and write it on it and stick it on some surface right before me at the place where I work on that project. For instance, at my workplace I've two huge picture posters on my cubicle walls. One is next to me and the other in front of me. You can´t see the pictures themselves anymore as on the one to the side I put post its and notes about reference information: phone numbers, reference information, notes about regulation I must keep at hand and stuff like that. On the poster in front of me I stick post-its and notes about tasks and things I need to tackle.

Another method used by many people, and which is quite good for a lot of other types of ideas, as well as the mobility it offers, is using a notebook to record those ideas. The notebooks can be of any size or any kind you like or can find. The idea is to keep that notebook with yourself at all times - along with a working pen or pencil - and take it out everytime an idea comes to mind or you think of something you need to tackle or do, and write it down. The system you use for it can vary depending on what works for you the best. For instance, you can write your notes and ideas from the front to the end of the notebook (depending on what you see as the front of the notebook), and from the end forward you write down your to-dos and tasks and stuff you have to deal with. That's just an idea. You could also just open the notebook and write in it and fold the corner of the page if you wrote down something you have to deal with later, like a grocery list or a note not to forget paying your utility bills, for instance.

I use notebooks for ideas, and also for taking notes, when, for instance, I'm with my classmates and we are making decisions about what to do with the project we are working on. Like the minutae of our meeting. I'm quite forgetful, so my tasks and to-dos go into post-its at work or at home on my weekly wall planner. I use these planners by post-it, which you can use flat on your desk or stuck to a wall. I put it on the wall, and try to remember to fill it every Sunday night with the stuff that has to be done the next week. Sometimes I forget, which is OK, because my filofax has all my appointments and tasks. This wall weekly planner is also my board where I stuck my post its. Some are recurrent post its, like appointments with my friendsor stuff I should remember regularly, so when I don't use them I keep them to the side. Others are one timers, so when I stick one of them on the white calendar they stand out and I read them all the time. However, this is how it works for me, If you want to try it out, you should do whatever works for you.

One thing I've noticed in the organizational world is that there are people who are more concerned about the notebook or the whatever they use than the actual use they give to them. Something important you need to know about the notebook you'd use is that it most be a notebook that works for you. Honestly, a flashy, expensive notebook would do nothing for you anymore than a cheap notebook could do. There are a few fashionable brands like moleskine, which is really beautiful and has nice colors and all, but it works just as well as simple staple or glue bound notebook. Some do choose moleskine notebooks for their durability, as it would take better being stashed into your pocket or your bag, pulling it out, pushing it in and so on. Stiffer covers also give you a better surface for writing in those cases you have to hold the notebook in your hand. However there are plenty of cheaper options that also give you a stiffer cover.

Another system is the midori. There are these midori traveler journals or something like that is a leather cover with a string in the middle. The idea is that you use this cover to put in it a notebook, usually a midori notebook, which has a special size that fits the cover. The system also allows you to amplify the number of notebooks you can fit in the cover. I've seen videos for fitting up to three notebooks. The  advantage of this system is that you can carry more notebooks, all in one cover, and you can use them to organize better your notes. You can have a calendar or planner in one, another for notes and another for to-dos, for instance, BUT if you are looking for something simple, not a huge system with many notebooks and stuff like that - and trust me, the simpler the system, the better - get one notebook and make it work.

If you are new to this and the idea interests you, let me give you a piece of advise: before you start think what would you really want, what is your goal. If what you want is to remember things that need to be done but a planner don't work for you because you forget to look at it, go for post its. Stick them on the fridge, on the window, on the mirror in the bathroom. Hell, put the most important ones of the coffeemaker! A notebook won't work for tasks and notes that are time-related if you are not going to open it, so don't even go there.

If you'd like a way to record errand thoughts you have, ideas, stuff that don't need to be dealt right away, a notebook is perfect, even if you are not in the habit of checking it everyday, because when you are looking for the idea, you'll remember your notebook, and page through it and check your notations. For instance, say you have a project of making a business. From time to time ideas ocur to you about what would you like for your business, how could you develop this or that, ane even note down data for possible investors, providers, or tips on legal stuff, things you need to consider, requirements you better fill... you get the drill, right? Well, when you sit down to work on your project to get it working, you can take out your notebook and get all those ideas, discards those that don't work for your project and use those that do work. You don't have to remember the whole thing because you notebook does that for you.

My advise for you is also not to go shopping for a notebook, spend in something fancy that migt end up unused in some box or drawer or something. Start with whatever you have at hand. Sure, maybe you are not like me, with tons of unused notebooks and journals laying around, but sure there's some small, old planner you've got years ago with something you've bought, or a promotional notebook... and if not, really, go for the cheapest you can find that's functional for you. If you have no idea what should you look in a notebook for it to be funtional, go for the size: find something that's not heavy and which you can stash in your bag or your pocket. And really, any old planner that went unused or still has space would do. Take a rubber band and hook a pen or pencil to it and you are good to go.

Try it out first, see if it works for you, see if you get to use it, if you are comfortable with it. Who knows, maybe you work better with an app on your phone, and not a physical notebook, so let the first be a cheap try out, something you won't mind spending in if in the end didn't work for you. I, myself, are very old school, and I'm a kinetic, very tactile person, so the physical stuff work better for me, as my journals, notebooks, post its and my filofax can testify, so this is what I use (not with a glass quill, mind you, but with pen or pencil)

Now, having a system doesn't mean that the system is bulletproof and it will work every single time. Sometimes I still forget to make my notes, sometimes I mix stuff and do new things, like sticking post its in my notebooks. I have a notes section in my filofax that does have notes but probably I'm taking it out next year since my filofax is very stuffed and I prefer taking notes in my notebooks anyway (I work with two, one for notes on anything and another to organize more literary notes, though sometimes the notebooks have other notes as well in them). Sometimes you forget to use your system, and that's ok. It doesn't matter, as long as using it isn't a drag for you. Remember, you don't have to work with the system, but the system has to work for you. Yes, you have to get used to it and use it, but make it exactly the way you want it. Nothing more, nothing less. And it can change anytime you want it to change.

So yeah, try it out, what could you lose?

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