10 Reasons to Start Carrying a Notebook 1


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In my former life as an air traffic controller, I didn’t need a notebook. At least I thought I didn’t. All my writing happened on flight strips and plexiglass and if I was at home getting work done during my undergrad years, I just relied on an empty Word doc on my laptop. No iPhone during that time either. I shutter at the thought of all the groundbreaking ideas I thought of, and then forgot, during this time!

When I made the vocational transition to a world with more meetings and Cube City, I started carrying a notebook to fit in. Everyone was lugging a spiral notebook around just in case the meeting we were heading into might bare a little fruit that need to be recalled later. Life hasn’t been the same since. I’ve dabbled with trying to keep notes on an iPhone or iPad and for reasons you’ll see below, it just doesn’t replicate what can happen when you put pen to paper.

It’s been nearly five years and carry a notebook has yet to yield any Nobel Prize winning ideas, but it has had a number of other great side effects including being more organized, being a better husband/father, and building/developing/completing more long and short term goals that started with just a nugget of an idea.

The more I observe the men I admire and respect, the more I realize I am not alone. Take a look at the leaders in your organization. You’ll be surprised at how many of the good ones leave their iPad and phone in their office and show up with a notebook and something to write with. The impact of carrying a notebook will be different for everyone, but here’s 10 reasons why you should start:

1. An idea synthesizer

When ideas show up, they are rarely fully formed. A notebook is a platform for your imagination. Properly used, it can be a blueprint for making ideas actionable. If you let it, the habit of keeping a notebook can be a priceless tool and launching pad for your mind…no matter what form you get the idea in.

2.  Ideas are unpredictable

It’s impossible to know when inspiration will strike.

  • Ideas emerge sitting in traffic
  • Ideas emerge in between sets at the gym
  • Ideas emerge while you’re grabbing coffee with your lady friend

Few feelings are more frustrating than having a fire in your belly one minute and an hour later being unable to recall the idea. Guys, even when it’s important, our brains have put us on a crash course to forget. Write it down.

3. Convenience fallacy

It’s funny how we think of our phone as a one-stop shop of convenience, but it’s wolf in Don Draper’s clothing. Example: Imagine how often you have a thought about a business, an idea for a blog post, or hear a fact/quote you want to recall later. Now imagine pecking away at your phone and the series of actions it takes to get there…every. single. time.1)reference the danger in #3. Navigate to your notes app, find the write note, screw around with the format, type the note, and pray you don’t get distracted on the way there. It sucks. It’s not sustainable. I’ve tried it.

If you insist on going digital, check out this footnote that suggests a way to have the best of both worlds. 2)If you insist on going digital, you can always do it later. I am sure there are multiple programs and services to help with this, but the one I use is Evernote. In a matter of seconds, you can upload images of your notes into Evernote and it will automatically organize and categorize your notes based on presets you define. Another great feature is that you can actually use the “Search” function and Evernote will look through your PDFs and handwritten text in the uploaded notes.

4. Respect your time…

The Kardashians are an anomaly. Nothing could make Kim K. feel unimportant. 

Sometimes I try and make a deliberate effort, often unsuccessfully, to be without my phone.3)Something I need to do more and will be writing about soon It’s distracting and it’s a deadly time-suck. Having a notebook helps replace the crutch.

4A. …and their time

People feel like garbage when you are screwing with your phone while they’re talking. Like they’re not worth your time.4)This is universally true whether you want to admit it or not They are correctly making judgments about you every second you hammer away at your screen. Quickly jotting down a note in front of them likely has the opposite effect. “Maybe I said something so insightful he had to write it down,” they’ll say.5)Maybe

5. Less “noise”

There are few things more frustrating than having a task that just came to mind, unlocking my phone to accomplish it, and after 20 minutes of flipping through Twitter and Facebook I have forgotten why I picked up my phone in the first place. Not only have I plowed through a good part of an hour by mindlessly wandering through my phone, but the idea is now gone. A notebook doesn’t have colorful apps or little red circles with a number inside calling your name.

6. Key accessory to dressing the part

Take notice of your mentors, people you respect, and people who have the job you want. When is the last time you’ve seen them walk around empty handed? Sure, some may have transitioned to used an iPad and Evernote, but more often than not, they’re walking into meetings with a notebook in hand and it goes with them just about everywhere else, too.

7. Millennial therapy

This image was literally found on an article titled, “6 ways to engage millennials”

In a world that has shamefully embraced adult coloring as a form of therapy, notebooks are prime real estate for some world-class doodling. If you’re in a meeting, proceed with caution though. Because if the people around you have a pulse, they also have wandering eyes. G-Rated doodles are recommended and remain respectful to the host of the meeting. That said, doodling will not only help you get through a particular awful presentation, but it can help keep your body language in check if you are in a meeting that is stirring up some frustration.

8. Total recall

When your notes are written down, the odds of actually referring back to them greatly increase. Once a week, sitting down to sift through your notes can be productive way to spend 10-15 minutes as you recall some of the important details of the week and discard anything no longer relevant. Also, the unique symbols or shorthand you use to provide important details and emphasis are quickly able to be identified. Something that is lost when you are looking at size 12 Times New Roman font on the screen of your iPad.

9. It’s a matter or survival

A well-used notebook is survival resource. From phone numbers to conversion charts to important dates. All these things WILL be needed at some point, having your notebook makes a dead cell phone or bad service a moot point.

10. It will save time for less virtuous matters

I’m not a particularly fast reader. I love movies and great TV series, but there isn’t much time to spend on consuming entertainment. Not to mention, close to nothing is appropriate to watch while the kids are within an ear shot. With such constraints, a free moment to take in a new series can’t be wasted. My notebook is where I store almost all my the recommendations I get on good books, movies, podcasts, articles, and Netflix streaming material. I also write down who recommended it so I can remember to “forget” to write their recommendations down after suggesting something like Aloha as a great movie.

What to carry and what to put in your notebook doesn’t have to be complicated…it just has to be something. I’ll share some of my recommendations in my next post linked below.

Here’s some recommendations about what to get and how to use your new notebook…

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. reference the danger in #3
2. If you insist on going digital, you can always do it later. I am sure there are multiple programs and services to help with this, but the one I use is Evernote. In a matter of seconds, you can upload images of your notes into Evernote and it will automatically organize and categorize your notes based on presets you define. Another great feature is that you can actually use the “Search” function and Evernote will look through your PDFs and handwritten text in the uploaded notes.
3. Something I need to do more and will be writing about soon
4. This is universally true whether you want to admit it or not
5. Maybe

About Brent Nichols

My blogging is, no doubt, all over the map, but hope you'll find something just right for you. Currently living in the D.C.-metro area in Northern Virginia. You know what? I think I kinda like it out here.


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