Note taking – launching version 2

As I finish one notebook and start another, the time has come to start on version two of my approach to note taking.

What was version one? This is an approach which organically for me and while it was good there were some issues, the key among these being the lack of clear identification and tracking of events and actions. My posts on my developing approach may be found here.

What notebook are you using? A Rhodia A5 dot webnotebook; perfect size, great paper. I considered moving to a Leuchtturm1917 A5 dot grid notebook. There are advantages to this brand (page numbers, contents page) but after some research* I have learned that the paper is good but not a match for Rhodia. The launch of the Bullet Journal Notebook did lead to some additional hesitation but I’m happy with my choice.

What is new? I now have an index in place for the whole book and a monthly task list. The monthly calendar which has worked well since its introduction remains.

To support these features I now insert page numbers in red at the top outside corner of each spread, a feature inspired by the bullet journal.

  • Index: First two (2) pages of the notebook capturing key topics and related details (project start/end dates, important deliverables, issues, etc.).
  • Monthly Calendar: two (facing) spreads in a 5×6 grid¥, weekdays have one box, with one box for Saturday/Sunday. I note the page on which this date starts in the bottom right corner of the relevant cell.
  • Monthly Task List: one spread, divided in two, used to capture key tasks as they arise. These are typically items which cannot be delivered in the same day and must not be overlooked. I note the page and date on which the action arose. Intention is to capture all tasks here and then migrate any not completed in the month.

The calendar is very useful as much of my work is spaced out over a number of weeks with occasional milestones or deliverables. Along with this index is a means to identify a task or event. This has to go beyond a simple icon/signifier, I need an easily identifiable tag in order to quickly locate the item I am searching for and to efficiently bring tasks forward which have not been completed within the month.

  • Signifiers: the following icons denote key objects
    • Events: dot (●)
    • Deliverables/Actions: open square (□)
    • Important notes: asterisk (∗)
    • Dependencies: an ‘x’ (X) – very rarely used

There is also a change to the constraint.

What’s that about the constraint? It’s gone. No more of that ‘two spreads per week‘ malarkey. Instead, notes are taken per day with no upper limit on the space to be used. In recent use this has led to less than two spreads per week being used and the death of white space at the end of a week. It also gives me the flexibility for those days when I do have a lot of notes to take (i.e. loadsa-meetings).

What structure is used for weeks? I start a new week immediately at the end of the last week. In order to ensure these weeks do not blend into one another I insert a divider of one line detailing the week number^ and the date range Saturday to Friday; this matches the working week structure where I am employed.

Week header
Divider for weeks

What’s the benefit to not buying a pre-formatted notebook? Well, I could buy the Bullet Journal Notebook or return to the meeting notebook, they are certainly well laid out tools, but this would feel like laziness. For me the exercise of having to format the book is verging on the therapeutic; I derive great pleasure from getting out the ruler to set up my monthly calendar page or divide activities/days/weeks. This also provides a break, a few moments of peace which, particularly on very busy days, is invaluable. This is my personal preference.

What other areas are under consideration for change? None. The current approach has developed over several months with various options explored. I am happy now that I have a decent approach that should serve me well. I’ll just have to see how the new additions work. I find this topic endlessly entertaining so research continues.

What now for the the old notebook? it is still kept close as items in there remain useful. Soon though it will be consigned to my locker where it will remain to occasionally make an appearance as a reference tool. The last notebook ran from 6th Jan, 2014 to 28th Oct, 2015; not bad value for €13.


*Research on Leuchtturm: I love Rhodia products so really do not want to leave it for the unknown that is this other brand. The following articles have convinced me to remain with the Rhodia Webnotebook:

^ ISO week date.

¥ In the Rhodia A5 dot webnotebook, one day is nine dots wide (45mm) and eight dots high (40mm). Each of the resulting eight lines corresponds to my working day, allowing me to space events as they occur during the day. Initially introduced here

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