During our day, many of us, by choice or by employer requirement, document our activities, calls, meetings, and customer visits in some form. For some, it is an employer generated form. For others, the Palm’s notes component fills the bill. Outlook also provides a place for notes but, not being portable, they are useless away from the office. EssentialPIM has one of the best note components that I’ve seen in PIM software, with text formatting being available, capability to insert graphics files, and an ability to attach supporting documents. Yet, I choose to go low-tech when I take my notes. Fast, quick, very portable, my Moleskine fills my needs perfectly.
Reg, over at Elemental Truths, posted about his RAM Text system today, so I know I’m not alone desiring a low-tech answer. In fact, he added some commentary on how he set up his system, how he uses color pens and highlighters, and how he uses different sections of the notebook to document his day. I use very similar tools and techniques as Reg, and can vouch for its usefulness and efficacy.
I would add, however, that to really make the low-tech answer truly work, one has to set it up to make information retrieval easy. The work for this starts when the book almost full.
Leave the last page blank:
- Scan the pages, transferring all contact information to your contacts lists and highlight any important information that you deem would be useful in the future.
- Use colored paper clips to flag the most important information. Use no more than 6 – 8 paper clips per book.
- Number the pages.
- On that last blank page, create an index of the most important information. List the information by keyword and page number. For example, to document a conversation, the person’s name and topic of conversation, coupled with the page number would do nicely. A quick scan of the index will yield information quickly.
- Label the binding of the book cover with the date range it covers.
- Put the book in your bookshelf.
I know there will be those who are shouting, “That’s too much work! I can find information faster than that with my [insert your favorite high-tech gadget here]!” Yes, today’s technology (e.g., Palm, Outlook, EssentialPIM) can make information retrieval faster and easier, but they have their limitations. PDA’s, I feel, are on the way out, yielding to smart phones. However, those damned little keyboards have already given me Blackberry Thumb. High-tech solutions have given up the battery ghost too many times, right when I needed to record information. I’ve dropped a Palm, whose screen promptly shattered, leaving me without essential reference material for over a week. A simple notebook, however, never runs out of batteries, never has a corrupted file, and can take more of a beating than any Palm that I've owned.
In the personal marketing arena, frantically searching for an outlet to plug in one’s dying laptop does not make one look professional to one’s employer or client. However, opening that classy Moleskine and using a $150 pen sets one apart from (or above the) crowd quite nicely.