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A simple way to organize notes

Today, our daily lives are so hectic that it can be tough to find a reliable place to keep our important notes, appointments and ideas.  Here are some fresh ways that can keep you and your thoughts organized and the process of jotting them down enjoyable.   Please enjoy this guest post by fellow blogger and productivity consultant, Jan Wencel of Spark Productivity.

We all need various systems to keep and maintain our personal productivity.

  • A method for tracking our contacts and the interactions we have with them
  • An approach for storing and honoring our appointments
  • A reliable place to house reference, archive and support material
  • A technique for capturing and completing tasks and storing ideas
  • And a place to collect our notes from meetings, phone conversations, etc.

This post is all about notes. A simple way to organize notes is to:

  • Buy a single notebook you love dearly
    • Chicago bookstores, stationery places and museum shops are terrific sources for specialized notebooks
    • Size can be a critical factor to adoption, considering not only the notebook footprint when closed, but also when open
    • Are you looking for a pocket (3.5 x 5.5), junior (5.5 x 8.5) or large full sheet (8.5 x 11) sizes?
    • Is having the notebook lay completely flat a requirement?
  • Select a complimentary pen/pens you enjoy using
    • I’m a big fan of using any color other than black so the notes feel a little less like work
  • Consider what rules you want to apply to your notebook…for instance,
    • What components should each entry contain?
      • Name(s)
      • Topic
      • Date
    • Where do actions live?
      • Within body & marked
      • In margins
      • Outside of notebook
    • What shorthand will you use to denote certain items?
      • circle actions not done
      • X actions completed/captured
      • / strike areas where review no longer needed
      • * important information
  • Take it everywhere you go
  • Page through your notebook @ least once per week to uncover undocumented tasks


When I’m playing organizing coach, I’ve found a direct correlation between people loving their notebook and people using their notebook, so I’ve been on a search or two for something special. I want to point out some of those finds in case their handsomeness can help you get and feel more organized.

  • Circa notebooks are the offspring of a binder and a notebook; they are a superb choice when you need to incorporate reference papers, divide, add to, & possibly re-order pages (yes you can re-order pages with ease!)
  • Action Day Notebooks are another good choice, as they are beautiful & offer structure including an index; the meeting & idea notebooks in particular are worth investigating
  • A quick search on SeeJaneWork will faithfully result in a feminine notebook or two in their ever-changing inventory
  • I’m intrigued by these Japanese notebooks with unique dotted lines that beg for good handwriting and drawings; though the notebooks are thin, they just might be this professional organizer’s next choice
  • Behance, one of the companies I heart so, produces several lovely notebooks, most are better for task management systems, but the dot-grid selections are good for organizing notes
  • Built with the premise dark lines distract and white lines don’t (amen!), Whitelines notebooks are another winner; they feature a gray sheet with white lines.
  • Moleskin is a popular choice because they offer a variety of sizes, styles, colors, and their paper is beautiful; I buy the Cahier Large Squared Notebook in Kraft Brown and then typically adorn the cover with pretty paper (you already knew I was a geek, right.

Do you have a favorite we missed? Tell us about the notebooks or methods you find keep your notes organized.

Thanks, Jan, for your insights!
Jan Wencel is a certifiable GTD/inbox zero nerd. She runs a time management training business in Chicago, Spark Productivity, Inc., similar to Simply Placed. She has been my invaluable accountability partner since 2006. You can reach Jan at or

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