In a previous newsletter article I reviewed David Allen's book "The Art of Getting Things Done." Allen has somewhat of a cult following but that doesn't diminish the importance of his message. On the contrary, the fact that there are so many people scrambling for a workable system to increase productivity is evidence that most of us react to our surroundings rather than live proactively. In business these "reactionaries" scramble about from one crisis to the next and feel like they never get anything done. I know, I've been there (and have been known to go back and visit occasionally). For that reason I'm constantly on the lookout for tools to help me be more productive. One of the best I've found so far is the Moleskine notebook. They cost about ten bucks at Books-A-Million and after a couple of weeks you'll think they're worth their weight in gold. Here's how I use mine.
I basically have two tools that I use to keep track of projects and to-do items. The first is an excel spreadsheet on my laptop. It lists all of the things I have to do from client projects to home repairs to errands I need to run. Each to-do item is classified according to a specific context (home, desk, calls, emails, etc). For more on context sensitive lists read Allen's book or do a web search for GTD (short for Getting Things Done). The second tool is my little black Moleskine notebook.
If I am in the office my excel spreadsheet is always open so I can add items while I'm on the phone, going through mail, working on a related project or doing anything else where I might need to jot down a note to follow up on something in the future. If I am out of the office I have either my laptop or my notebook with me. There are some situations were lugging out the laptop isn't convenient (although Michael Linenberger's book has helped me change that). At those times I have my unobtrusive notebook where I can jot notes and record to-do items. A to-do item in my notebook gets an empty check box placed next to it and when I have my laptop out again I add these items to my excel spreadsheet and cross them out.
The Moleskine works well for several reasons.
- It's the right size. I can slip it in a jacket pocket or the back pocket of a pair of pants and take it with me anywhere. I'll often bring it to lunch where I can take notes much easier than if I had brought along a full size leather portfolio.
- It's professional. At $10 these aren't cheap but I have no problem pulling one out in front of CEO's or other potential clients. In fact, I often get asked where they can purchase one for themselves.
- It's durable. The hardbound cover, cloth marker and elastic strap take a lot of abuse without showing much wear.
- It's easy to write in. Having a hard bound notebook makes all the difference when you're trying to scribble notes in your lap while having coffee at a table the size of a dinner plate.
As a general rule it's always good to have a pen and paper at hand. For me the Moleskine has been a good little tool for capturing important information in almost any setting. If you have your own tips or tricks for increased productivity do me a favor and share them in an email. I always enjoy hearing how other people cope with the frenetic pace around them.
Joey Brannon is the founder of Axiom Professional Group, a tax, consulting and accounting firm in Bradenton, Florida. Mr. Brannon is both a CPA and an EA. You can find out more about Axiom by visiting www.axiomcpa.com.