Saturday, May 3, 2008

What's the deal with Moleskine hacks?

It's a little hard to fathom how fixated so many people are with Moleskines.

I'm pretty much sold on the product. I'll pay a few extra dollars on notebooks and datebooks if the extra quality and style causes me to be more productive, which it does. So I get the basic appeal. But some people are using them in ways that I'm literally having trouble comprehending.

Like this guy. He's explaining his system for writing to-do lists in a Moleskine. Ho-hum, doesn't sound too technical, does it? Well, I don't know what to make of this:

(ITERATION): An iteration number for tasks pushed forward. This gives you an at-a-glance look at how many times the task was moved forward; it also gives an idea to the degree of “stubbornness” of the task. You increment this value every time you process tasks and push them forward.

That's just one of the six parameters you're apparently supposed to enter for each to-do list item. This was a wildly popular blog post, so it must have made sense to some people. Not to me.

It did get me thinking, though, that it'd be nice to have some kind of really efficient Moleskine system. I just need to find a happy medium in between the complexity of that guy's system and my current system, which is to look for the nearest piece of scrap paper whenever I think of something I want to remember to do. Keeping track of these loose sheets of paper is harder than just keeping everything important in my head. (And I can't deal with electronic personal organizers -- makes me too nervous, for various reasons.)

OK, here's someone else who has a system that seems more down-to-earth. At least it doesn't have iterations and incremented values. But she has too many tabs and slips of paper sticking out of the notebook (as you can see from the photos). All I want to deal with is a Moleskine and a pen.

I also can't handle something where you're somehow moving tasks around from one priority level to another. Too dynamic! It has to be more stripped down than that so I don't get distracted by the mechanics of the system.

So here's my plan. I got the Moleskine "address book," which has alphabetized tabs on the side. But I'm using these for tasks instead of what they were intended for.

Blackbird Parlour

I'm dividing the book into the following categories:
A ---> top priority
B - E ---> buy (stuff I want to buy)
F - J ---> friends/family/people (anything social)
K - N ---> kitchen (grocery lists and stuff I want to cook)
O - Q ---> odds & ends (anything that doesn't fit the other categories)
R ---> recording (ideas for a music recording project I'm working on)*
S - V ---> $ (budget)
W - Z ---> work (anything job-related)

This seems like such a neat and organized system that it can't possibly work. But I'll let you know how it turns out. Of course, if you have any suggestions, please put them in the comments!

* Naturally, you could leave out the R section and just have a slightly longer "odds & ends" section.


Simon Kenton said...

Personally I do job-related stuff in Outlook and in a quadrate pad; and complex (hundreds of sub- and super-ordinated) tasks in MS Project or a clone.

What I don't see in these time-management articles is

1) what's important, long-term. ("It's surprisin' how few people mean anything from one year to the next." Peter Wimsey) You get a few important decisions in a life, and a few long-term personal projects that really matter. It's really important (and really satisfying) to devote 10 - 30 minutes a day, every day, to the personal goals that will inform your whole life. If you don't do this the priorities of others will master yours.

2) a sense for those tasks, like mastering calculus, Latin, and Hatha Yoga, which require attention every day.

It doesn't have to be true, and I hope it isn't for you, but a time-management system can prove a seductive entree into surrendering your whole life to the pursuit and successful completion of nits.