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My New and Improved GTD Moleskine Hack

I’ve been using some sort of a notebook or paper planner most of my life. For the last 6 years I’ve been a very dedicated Moleskine user. I try other notebooks but I keep coming back to the Moleskine.

Maybe it’s just self validation but I absolutely believe there is a direct correlation between ones ability to think big thoughts and writing in a notebook. There’s plenty of historical evidence to back me up here: The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men.

Two years ago I wrote about how I hack the Getting Things Done
(GTD) methodology and Moleskine notebooks to best suit my needs. For the last two years that post has consistently been one of my top 10 posts. So after 2 years and some tweaking to my system I felt it was time to finally update you on my methodology.

If you’re interested in the office supplies I use (because who doesn’t love office supply prOn?), I have built out a list on Amazon of supplies I use: GTD Moleskine Hacking Supplies.

GTD Moleskine Hack

The first part of my system begins with my weekly tasks page. This is the big rocks I have to get done this week.

The two pages are each divided in half, creating four section: Work, Work Misc., Personal and Misc. Work is client work, Work Misc. is usually internal projects or other work related activities. Personal and Misc. are pretty self explanatory.

They’re not in any chronological order, I just copy over any tasks from the previous week that carry over and as the week progresses I write any tasks that develop back over into the appropriate section.

This provides me with a week at a glance view of everything I have going on and everything I need to do for the week.

The second part of my new GTD Hack is the biggest change I’ve made and, for me, the most important part of the system. I call these 2 pages my “Day Map.”

On the left page I’ve divided the page into two parts. The top of the page consists of two headings:

The 3 Things I Have to do

The 3 Things I Have to Work On

Both pretty self explanatory but I’ve found these little tasks to be really important for me. One of the key tenants of GTD is that you don’t create a bunch of to-do lists that never get done. But for me the 3 things is a good balance of “If nothing else I have to do these 3 things” and “My to-do list is way to long, I’ll never get anything done.”

The bottom of this page is also really, really important it’s my “Return and Report” section. At the end of each day I sit down with myself and ask how the day went. What went well, what could have gone better and what got in my way, and most importantly, how am I going to do better tomorrow.

The right hand page is my day at a glance. I have four boxes for the things I want to do every morning (but don’t always get to), Exercise, Read, Blog & Write. I check these boxes off, when I do them and write notes next to them as to what I actually did. Then I have time slots to for each hour of my day. This is less about day planning and more about time capture. What did I spend my day doing. I’ll often make notes throughout the day. I end the page with another box for end of day planning.

I then use different colored flags to denote tasks, reference items, and good ideas - things I’ll want to come back to later.

The rest of my notebook is filled with notes I take all day long. Each meeting I’m in I write something down about it. Who was there, action items assigned to me or my team, key take-a-ways, random thoughts, etc. I also make sure to take a few minutes each day to write down the various thoughts floating around my head.

My Promise To You

I can’t overestimate this enough; We live in a state of constant over stimulation. Your brain is always coming up with ideas. If you don’t have an outlet for those ideas while they’re still in early development, your brain will struggle to save the goods ones and get rid of the bad ones, freeing it up to work on more good ones.

If you don’t use a notebook at all but are struggling with personal organization or coming up with better ideas I promise that the very act of writing down your daily activities and thoughts will make you more productive and creative. You’ll get more done and you’ll have better ideas. You don’t have to use my system or any system really but just write it down. Figure out what works for you. If it doesn’t work shoot me an email [email protected] and we’ll talk about it.

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • http://twitter.com/enquiringdesign Catriona Macaulay

    Lovely stationery/GTD fetish post thanks! I’m a Moleskine fan myself though the paperback pocketbooks are my personal addiction.

    Totally agree the giant ToDo list is counter productive. As my eyesight and handwriting are slugging it out to see who is worst,  I’m making a big effort to try and get my workflow digital as far as poss. I’ve been getting very fond of mashing up OmniPlan (which I have on multiple devices so rarely not able to drop stuff in there when it needs to be out of my head… best bit of advice GTD gives you!) with Pomodoro (To Do is one thing, Doing another ;) ) and a You Really Better Do list of 3-5 items which I create on a Post-It for planning and visceral thrill of ticking things off capacities. Advantages are not too much transcribing of stuff and the post-it gets stuck to whatever device, space, bag I am working out of. But of course no device could ever be as delightful as a Moleskin notebook!

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    I’ve tried several digital solutions, including Moleskine’s own iPhone app and I just can’t find something that works as good for both ideas and organization as pen and paper. I’m sure I’ll get there at some point but I’m not there yet. 

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    I’ve tried several digital solutions, including Moleskine’s own iPhone app and I just can’t find something that works as good for both ideas and organization as pen and paper. I’m sure I’ll get there at some point but I’m not there yet. 

  • http://twitter.com/hollihigh Holli High Woodings

    Thanks for the update, Tac! I’ve been struggling daily since Mary has come along, with her stuff and still getting fulfilling things done for myself. I’ll give this a shot and let you know how it goes! Adding follow-up to my weekly to-do list. ;-)

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Great to hear Holli-Wood :) Let me know how it goes. I’ll be in Boise in two weeks and we can talk about it then. 

  • http://twitter.com/sheridanfoster Sheridan Foster

    Great suggestions for a merge of the old and new ideas in personal organization.  I have incorporated some of the formatting that you recommend into my combo usage of a LiveScribe Moleskin.  Notes on Paper …, Sync to Computer

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    That’s great Sheridan. How does the LiveScribe pen work for you? I’ve thought about that option but the pen seems bulky and I question how often I’d go back to the digital version. 

  • http://www.darbydarnit.com Petri Darby

    My nature is to work in piles, using sticky note after sticky note for reminders. I have one Moleskine that I use to chart regular marketing stats I want to keep at my fingertips, but another that has been collecting dust - although I wrote some poetry in it years ago and dreamed of writing song lyrics in it. I think I may start anew and follow your lead in this organizational respect. And that will give me a good reason to transition to my favorite http://www.renaissance-art.com leather journal for the fluffy stuff. Their journals are beautiful and make great gifts. No, I don’t get commissions. Just love their products. 

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    I am the king of piles. 

  • LindseyO

    It always amazes me how many iterations there are of the GTD + Moleskine approach. I tried 5 or 6 different approaches, using a couple different types and sizes of Moleskines, each with varying degrees of success.

    I finally landed on using my Moleskine as a capture tool: I take notes in meetings, keep track of what I do all day (handy for timesheet entry!) and jot down the random thoughts that pass through during the course of the day.

    Then, during weekly or daily review those notes get transferred to either my Outlook tasks (for work-related projects) or OmniFocus on my iPhone (for personal projects.) I find it’s a good mix of digital and analog approaches. :)

  • Staff Moleskine

    Nice, would be great to have it on myMoleskine Hacks gallery: http://bit.ly/aMm9X0


  • http://www.notebookstories.com/2011/06/13/moleskine-monday-a-gtd-hack/ Notebook Stories: A Blog About Notebooks, Journals, Moleskines, Blank Books, Sketchbooks, Diaries and More

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