Last year I chucked electronic to-do lists and started writing down my daily tasks, ideas, and notes on paper. It’s the one change I made that kept me on track and boosted my productivity day in and day out.
Look, I’m all about paperless — using tools like Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs, Rocket Matter, and a host of other apps to keep my hard drive lean and my information accessible from anywhere, at anytime. But there’s nothing like having a notebook with you at all times, with your daily to-do lists and notes, crossing off completed tasks, and recording ideas. A notebook that you can bring to meetings and reference at will.
Here’s how it works:
The $15 Action Book, based on the Action Method and designed by the Behance team is awesome. At its most basic, the page is divided into three sections — Action Items (that would be your to-do list for the day), Notes, and Backburner (ideas for later).
Or, save a few dollars and get a set of 5 notebooks from the fabulous MUJI for $3.95. They’re located at many airports and an outlet happens to be close to where I live. Divide the lined pages by drawing a line down the middle with “Notes” on one side and “Action Items” on the other. Draw a horizontal line near the bottom of one column for your “Backburner” ideas.
Every night I write down my action items for the next day: Legal Productivity blog post on…, marketing meeting, sync with Larry, webinar follow-up, etc. I try to keep it to 5-7 core items each day. Too many, and you risk being overwhelmed and the quality of work suffers.
If an idea pops up, I put it in the “Backburner” column, usually in a different color ink so I can quickly leaf through the notebook and identify them at the end of the week or month. MUJI also has a selection of cool pens.
The “Notes” column is filled up during telephone conversations and meetings. I don’t worry about having enough space in this column since I use Evernote for the majority of my note-taking.
I no longer scramble every morning wasting time to figure out what I need to accomplish that day; I experience a visceral sense of accomplishment as I cross off each completed task; and ideas are no longer lost or forgotten as they’re captured in my “Backburner” section. I can also now quickly review notes related to each day and task.
Many of you probably do some form of this already — on a post-it here, and a slip of paper there. Try formalizing the process with an “Action” notebook and see your productivity increase and your nerves tamed.