Business Magazine

Personal Organisation #101 - the Single Best Idea

Posted on the 17 January 2011 by Alanhargreaves @RechargeToday

Do you know this internal dialogue?

In the meeting: That’s great info. I must look up that website before the next meeting.

Next week: Where did I put that URL? I know I wrote it down in the meeting. Where was it?

The week after: I’d better log on again and print off that download. What did I do with the password? I scribbled it on a post-it note. Where’s that? 

Just prior to the next meeting: What were the key points I took down from that website? I wrote them on a pad. Where’s that pad?

It might not have been a URL. It might have been someone’s contact number, or their address. Or maybe it was the outline of that absolutely brilliant idea you had for a presentation while you were waiting in the departure lounge. It was so clear in my head after I had drawn all the circles and arrows. How did it work again? 

For me, those dialogues stopped in 1995, when someone made a simple suggestion. Prior to that I had tried palm pilots, scribbling in my diary, dictaphones and various electronic inventions which tried to solve the same problem. They always looked like a good idea in duty-free. I would later try Blackberries, iPhones and smart pens. But so far, I have always ended up retreating to the simple suggestion of 1995. 

What was it?

It was the Plain Book.

I call it that because that’s what it is. I buy them at the local newsagent. I am now on my 17th. It is A4 in size. It has 168, ruled pages. There are no tabs or dates. The only pictures in there are the ones I doodle. It cost $1.45. I will probably have to buy another one before the end of the year. 

There are two things I can say about plain book #17.

  • It will travel with me EVERYWHERE until it is full.
  • I will put EVERYTHING in it. 

Everything. Notes I take in meetings; chance items that I hear in passing; the IRR someone said was essential for the project to work; URLs; flight numbers; ideas for anything; how much pocket money I agreed to give my daughter and for how long (preferably signed by her); suggestions for my wife’s birthday present(s); great diagrams for presentation slides. Even the odd business card gets stuck in there, as do some crucial post-it notes written on the fly. Like I said, everything.

The problem I have with all the alternatives is that there is always one extra step to make it work. Have you tried drawing great circles and arrows on your Blackberry? Or sticking a post it note in your iPhone? 

I use an iPhone for diary planning and for communication. But it is just not one-step enough for me to capture EVERYTHING quickly and with a minimum of fuss.

It is not because I am digitally-challenged or techno-phobic. I am open to any new idea.

I got all excited recently when I experimented with a Livescribe Smart Pen. This is an excellent product. It’s like a dictaphone on digital steroids.

Unfortunately, when I tried to use it as a replacement for my plain book, I ran into problems. The pages were perforated and started to tear and I lost a few. Sometimes the battery in the pen ran out and I didn't have the recharger with me. Other times I took the smart book with me but left the smart pen in the car. 

The ability to download my notes onto my computer is a great feature, but I invariably didn’t get around to it. It meant calling up the site and doing stuff. I am one of those people who never looks beyond the first page of results on Google.

I love the product, but by the end of the month I had retreated to my plain book.

I once managed a complex business transaction while stuck in a Middle East transit lounge when it was the middle of the night just about everywhere else. I was able to do this because all the crucial information was in my plain book.

Not that long ago I won a legal argument on the back of notes I had taken in a negotiation meeting several years before. They were easily referenced. I found them in Plain Book #6. It took a couple of minutes.

In a seminar just after my 60th birthday I was asked what was the single best idea I had encountered throughout my career when it came to personal organisation.  My answer was not a digital solution, or an inspired matrix, or a motivational quote. It was this:

The single best idea I was ever given was to carry a single book with me at all times. To write everything in it. To never throw it away. And when it was full, to keep it in a single pile with all the ones that came before it.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Maddison Krebs, Real Real Thing Interview & 5 Quick Questions

    Maddison Krebs, Real Thing Interview Quick Questions

    Maddison Krebs has been setting goals for herself since she was a little girl, and with a lot of hard work and perseverance, she's achieving them. The Okotoks,... Read more

    The 21 September 2018 by   Phjoshua
  • Temco TT-1 Super Pinto

    Temco TT-1 Super Pinto

    @ Arlington Municipal Airport, Arlington, TX February 2008 Produced by Texas Engineering and Manufacturing Co. (Temco), the Pinto was originally proposed to... Read more

    The 21 September 2018 by   Htam
  • Equity Investment Platform Preparation Best Practices

    Equity Investment Platform Preparation Best Practices

    If you are one of the thousands of entrepreneurs who need equity funding to get your startup going (no loans to repay), you are probably overwhelmed at the... Read more

    The 21 September 2018 by   Martin Zwilling
  • Keto Boom Means More Options and More Temptation

    Keto Boom Means More Options Temptation

    According to CNN Money, keto is booming. We see it with keto's popularity on social media. And with it's dominance with Google searches. This helps spread the... Read more

    The 21 September 2018 by   Dietdoctor
  • Songs of '78: "Le Freak"

    Songs '78: Freak"

    Considering how dominant disco was in 1978--as I noted way back in February, it was unavoidable that year--not a lot of disco stands out in my memories,... Read more

    The 21 September 2018 by   Russellarbenfox
  • Fairy Godmother – ‘Spit It Out’ EP

    Fairy Godmother ‘Spit Out’

    Following the ‘Attic Space’ EP (released by Fox Food Records earlier this year), Alyssa Thomas’ Fairy Godmother project makes a return with ‘Spit It Out’. Read more

    The 21 September 2018 by   Spectralnights
  • My Beauty Routine: Stella

    Beauty Routine: Stella

    While it's fun to read about the beauty habits of celebrities, I find it most helpful to learn about the beauty habits of women who have lifestyles, ages, or... Read more

    The 21 September 2018 by   Wardrobeoxygen