Productivity: Notebooks

“When inspiration calls, you’ve got to capture it.”
–Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group

I carry at least three notebooks with me at all times. I know it might seem a bit overkill but that’s just how I roll these days (aside from it being an indication that I’m probably losing my mind—err… my memory). One notebook is dedicated to keeping my monthly calendar, weekly schedule, and daily agenda. Another notebook is dedicated to personal journal entries. A final notebook is dedicated to various notes I collect from meetings or events that I attend or just any ideas and insights that come to mind.

I find notebooks to be one of the most valuable additions to my productivity arsenal. And I’m not the only one. Top businessmen like Richard Branson and Bill Gates to creative writers like Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway to scientists like Isaac Newton and Leonardo Da Vinci all kept some sort of notes and/or notebooks. They saw the great benefits of habitually jotting down ideas and insights.

What a notebook really helps me do is free up space in my mind. I don’t want to have to worry about figuring out an important thing that somebody said. Or figuring out the name of a person that I just met. Or trying to remember something crucial that I need to do. Or recalling a great idea that I just had. I don’t want to spend my limited energy and willpower trying to remember something that probably should have been written down in the first place.

And so, by getting into the habit of jotting things down in a notebook, I am able to focus my attention on more pressing matters that are right in front of me. Then, at periodic times of the day, I simply go back to my notebook, review recent additions, and scan the rest of the pages to see if I’ve missed anything. I can’t tell you the number of times my notebook has saved me from embarrassment by reminding me of the name of a person that I met once and saw them again at another event.

I personally like having a physical notebook. I get one of those tiny Moleskine ones and carry it in my bag wherever I go. I personally find it faster to write down information on a notebook than to type it on a device like a cellphone. Also, I find that actually writing something down with my own hand helps me retain the information better in my memory. However, if an electronic device is your thing, don’t let me deter you. Any form of notebook is certainly better than none at all.