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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Notetaking

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For the past year, I have been carrying a notepad and a pen, no matter where I go. Usually, while I’m at work, it comes out a few times per hour. During Officer Training School for the Air Force, I was told numerous times that “a good officer always has a pen and something to write on.” I would proffer that nugget of wisdom to you as well, and I have some specifics.

For years, I would just text myself a note, if I really wanted to remember something. Oftentimes, I’ll be running, driving, or even in the middle of a movie while sitting in a dark theater, when a beautiful nugget comes to me and I can’t just whip out my phone and record it. If I couldn’t write it down, I used to try to convince myself that I’d remember the idea. I mean, it’s a golden idea, I’ll for sure remember it, right?

Almost as a rule, when “I’ll remember” crosses my mind, I forget it. Unfortunately, in those places I mentioned, or especially when in a meeting with a boss or in class, pulling out your phone and texting is incredibly rude. What I’ve found is that pulling out a small notebook and jotting something down is seen as a very respectful thing to do, even if it has nothing to do with the conversation. The others think you heard a profound statement that you wanted to remember, but really, you were writing down a joke for posting on Twitter later.

When I started writing notes in a journal, I carried around a larger 5x8 book with 250 pages. While the crisp, white pages made me feel like I was embarking on an exciting literary journey, I have found that I would cram 3 or 4 notes on a page. After just a few notes, the book would look disjointed and cluttered. And that’s just the times I remembered to bring it with me! Having quick access to something to write on is vitally important. It’s like having an umbrella. It might not always be convenient, but you’ll be glad you have it, should you need it.

The “something to write on” part can mean anything. I have found that it is super unprofessional to pull out a napkin, and envelope, or to write on the back of your hand. Instead, I found these 3x5 Moleskine notebooks in a package at Barnes and Noble. Yes, they sell them at Target and Amazon, but PLEASE go to your local bookstore (not that you need another excuse aside from the smell of new books and coffee…)! The mom-and-pop book shop in my town just closed, because they just couldn’t compete with the massive online marketplace. Those little purchases keep them in business, and we should all do our part! And yes, I know B&N isn’t a mom-and-pop, but there’s a Starbucks in there.

I carry one notebook and my trusty Fisher Space Pen in my pocket at all times. The Fisher is an incredible pen. I’ve owned this pen for over 9 years! Sadly, just last week, it flew out of my pocket as I was running through some extreme weather, and I watched it get run over in slow motion. After I found it, lying bleeding in the street, I had a little funeral. Then, without skipping a beat, I spent another $20 to get my trusted sidekick back. Get one, it’ll be worth your while!

When I don’t have my Fisher, or when I’m feeling particularly fancy, I carry my Kaweco Sport fountain pen, with a fine nib. I use brown ink, based on an excellent recommendation from my friend, Brigham (thanks, buddy!). It is the smoothest pen I’ve ever written with, by a large margin. Fountain pens have been around since 1827, when the Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru combined a barrel and a swan quill (wiki). I’m a huge fan of the Kaweco brand. They make their caps screw on, so it won’t leak in your pocket. This pen is the Lexus, the Mercedes, the Jaguar, of the pen world, and it is a joy to “drive”. It has improved my handwriting immensely, but more about that in another article.

Now that you have a pocket sized notebook and the most amazing pen ever, you’re ready to begin. First, you’ll need some direction, before you go scribbling all over the pages. Before you do anything, write your name and contact info on the last page. I have a stamp taped into mine, along with my address and a request to send it back if it’s lost. My ideas are worth it!

Next, write “Table of Contents” on the front page, and number all of the pages in the book. You can use just even/odd numbering if you want, I do. Skip a good 3-4 pages for a Table of Contents, and then start taking notes. When someone gives you a great beer recommendation for the next time you visit Breckenridge, record the note and any pertinent information on the next available page (i.e.13), then flip back to the Table of Contents and write “13 - Beer Recommendations”. You can always add to that page the next time the topic comes up. That way, when you need to reference something, you only need to scan the Table instead of the whole book.

If you can get in the habit of recording simple thoughts into your notebook as soon as the thought comes into your head, you will be surprised at how many million dollar ideas come to you. I no longer get distracted and fixated on an idea or a thought, because I’m fighting not to forget it. After I write the thought down, I’m free. I focus better. I ask better questions now, because I’m actually listening. I actually keep my golden thoughts for projects now, and I don’t kick myself for forgetting. My old, self-inflicted metaphorical kick-bruises are fading fast, and yours will, too.

Get your equipment here and here and here today!

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