On what do you write notes


For phone messages, ideas that come to me while I'm working on something else, etc., I use 3x5 scratchpads. These are super cheap, so I have no qualms about scribbling five words on one, throwing it in my inbox, and tossing it out after processing.

For meeting notes and the like, I use an 8.5x11 pad, preferably grid-ruled. A grid-ruled 8.5x11 spiral notebook is also nice, as I can mindmap on the fly in landscape format.

For brainstorming and planning, I use either the same 8.5x11 pad or an 11x17 sketchpad.

I tend to dedicate notebooks to ongoing projects. The exact notebook depends on the project. Moleskines are nice for this sort of thing, but YMMV.



If I'm driving, I use my digital recorder.
For day to day quick note-taking, I always have 3x5 cards in my back pocket. It's especially good for capturing ideas while I'm teaching a class. Quick, easy, and very little distraction to the class.
In general, my main note taking is my Palm.


Eye-Ease Notebooks, FYI on The Daybook

Single-subject notebooks, about 7"X8". Made by National with that green "Eye-Ease" paper, plain kraft-colored covers. Plus I always have a jotter of some sort in my bag, in case I forget the notebook--right now, it's a miniature composition book with B&W marble covers, about 3x4". Also use a digital recorder in the car.

Just discovered something I haven't ordered and don't know that I shall, but thought someone might find interesting. "The Daybook" ("your day in a book"). It's a spiral-bound batch of white "Action" pages, with the bars and boxes constituting a tick list, and every 7 pages there's a yellow "Outstanding Action Summary" page. You enter everything that didn't get done/processed in the preceding sheets on that page, and make those priority items. Seems pretty straightforward as a "next action" holding pen of sorts. No calendar function that I could see.

NFI, etc.


I write down notes on many things: index cards, sticky notes, etc. But this doesn't matter, as everything gets processed into my Someday/Maybe, Projects, or Actions lists. As long as your notes are getting into your system, you're fine.


I have to go with Brent on this one. Anythings that's to hand gets used. The important bit is remembering to put in your In Box.



The joy of index cards

I use a Hipster PDA (aka index cards) or whatever I have on hand - scrap paper from the printer, old envelopes. My whole GTD set-up is analog: I have a small paper calendar, the index cards, and a small file box with dividers to organize projects, next action reminders, etc. A "list" is all the cards in a given section of the box. I'm a work-at-home dad, so I needed something that was easy to use in the midst of domestic chaos without the risk of the preschooler inadvertantly trashing electronic gear.


note taking

there are two contexts for notes:

Anything I do at my desk, on my phone, in front of my computer, I type into a Microsoft Word file. The name of this file is Work Log - . (I should mention that I'm an excellent typist). Every day, I type the date in bold text and begin my entries for that day.

Everything goes in this file - phone conversations, meeting notes, projects, ideas, quote of the day, contact info, etc. - it's like a giant in-box. At the end of each day, I process what I entered in this file.

Some advantages to this system are: 1.) it has provided a running log of activities that I have used to go back and retrace my steps, 2.) has helped me at performance review time at year-end, 3.) the search feature helps me find things very quickly, should they not get processed correctly.

When I'm away from my computer, I use a notebook. I use whatever is handy in the supply closet. On the cover, I write my name, the name of the company, and the range of dates from the first entry to the last entry (last entry obviously isn't filled in until the notebook is full). I keep all non-computer entries in this one notebook, and continue using it until it's filled up.

I process notebook entries the same as I process my Word file.

I've been using this system for at least 13 years. It started when I was a helpdesk/LAN admin, and I needed to justify to management what it was I did all day (I was the only technical person in a non-technical company, and few people understood the nature of my job). I found it helped me in other types of jobs since then.

After reading GTD, this collection mechanism now feeds my action lists.


Hey Paul,

It's Tim (tjisolutions from the AR Bord)

As I recall you are a pda user?

If you are here is the process that works great for me

If my iPAQ is not open or handy I just take notes on any of three notepads on my desk or in my car or at home and jot the note --
- before I go home for the day I process all my notes into my pocket pc into it's proper context. If it doesn't fit anywhere it goes into a daily journal in word

If my iPAQ is handy it goes straight in and follows the same road

- before I leave my car same thing

- before I go nighty night same thing at home

as a side note I was at a business conference over the weekend and took notes exclusively in my pda using the block recognizer it ended up being 9 pages single spaced 10pt. font and I love it.... no bulky notepads and the notes are searchable yayyy :)

Hope this helps


Good stuff....

This issue is the one that I have been trying to refine. I became a Franklin Covey user in 1995 and in 2003 began migrating my time management and organization to my computer at work using Outlook.

For the most part, when an item comes in (phone call, voice mail, colleague comes by the office, or some other request or idea comes up) I record a new Journal note in Outlook. If I immediately know it will become a project, I record it as a Task and categorize it and maybe make a few notes about the next action. But typically, I don't have much time to complete tasks at the moment they present.

I liken the Journal to the right page of the Franklin binder. One of my daily Outlook tasks is to "Review Previous Day Journal Entries" Yes, I'm really a goof...I need reminders like this or I'll forget to do it and it is so much like the old "Planning and Solitude" of Franklin. I use the Advanced find, journal entries created "yesterday", or on or after a certain day if I was out of the office for more than one day. And also with the "Find" capability in Outlook...if it never made it to a task, later on I can still "Find" it and see what action or information I captured at the time it was recorded.

If I didn't resolve it in 2 minutes the previous day, then I task it. I simply drag the Journal item over to the Task icon, make a few notes, record the next action and set a follow-up date. I use categories to, but most stuff remains in the "uncategorized" category.

This all works beautifully when I'm sitting at my desk, but the problem was elsewhere (meeting, hallway, in the staff area, at home or church.) I have a Palm, but I hate writing on it. And I miss my Franklin Binder; it was like a little security blanket... My idea was the same as what has come up several times in this thread. The 5x8 spiral notebook in a nice cover. Have one available (just one at at time) anywhere I am. I throw it in my work portfolio or in my purse on weekends. I incorporate reviewing it with the "Review Previous Journal Entries" from the Journal in Outlook. This way it stays on one computer when I sync it to my Palm.

I don't mind typing in Outlook from the written notes because I type really fast. (One skill God gave me that makes up for a whole slough of other shortcomings!) The notebooks with perforated sheets are great. They can be torn out and put in a project folder or given to a staff member or colleague. By putting dates just before the first entry of a new day on the pages that aren't torn out, I can reference in the electronic record back to the notebook if really necessary. (Doesn't happen much- remember the 5/6-2...yea, yea, I know...old Franklin throwback stuff) These can be kept for long term retention with the dates on them.

If I remember something driving on the road, I leave a message on my work voice mail and then make a journal note or task while reviewing voice mail.


I have gone back to paper...

I have tried digital entry via pocketpc's tablets etc but I have reverted to paper.

I use a pocket notebook for lists by context and for adhoc notes. This is with me all the time.

I have a larger journal in the office for meeting notes the next actions get taken onto lists everyday.

Being office based I am trialling using separate notebooks for larger projects or standing meetings to keep the flow of information in one place. These then site in the relevant project files with other hard copy notes, project plans etc.

One reason paper works better for me for notetaking/planning is I'm an avid mindmapper and I find paper more flexible for my often disjointed thought processes!

I am in the process of setting up a blog to journal my experiences in finding the solution that works for me..feel free to look and comment (there's no ads or commercial angle purely a personal journey)



Blog Link

The link to David's website is missing a "d" and directs to another site. Just a heads up.


Here is my post from another discussion...

Hello everyone, I wanted to share my relatively new, index card filing system. Actually, it is for small slips of paper that contain thoughts, or personal ramblings and can be used for practically anything. It is also a speed system which you can easily access important information.
I started out with a 3x5-paper system but graduated to a 4x6-paper system that I now use. I found the 4x6 scratch pads more useful, mainly because they are larger and easy to expand your thoughts on. The main idea here is a paper system that is mostly on 4x6 scratch pads. It allows for easy access and superb organization.

I look at this 4x6 system as being an addition to a normal manila or a Tickler File system. It’s great for bibliography information, random thoughts, school, writings. I use mine for major subject areas in my life that are very important. For example, (from the picture) my files are listed as such:

TO DO – For un-filed slips of paper
Trash – To be reviewed for thoughts I may want to keep after I throw them away
Business – self-explanatory

Let me comment briefly on the pictures below. You can see my extra scratch pads in the rear of the box. You may also see I have 4x6 index cards in the box, these are only for spacing and I do use them for flashcards in school. A 4x6 system like this is nice because you can also use 3x5 scratch pads if you want. I prefer the larger pieces of paper. The whole system is easily contained and takes up little desk space. I find it a great smaller system as compared to a large filing cabinet. The printable Avery tabs are inexpensive and print very readable and small text. They work spectacular.

Here are the three –exact- items to build your own miniature filing system. Robert Pirsig was right.

Office Max 4x6 scratch pads

Globe-Weis® Recycled Index Card Storage Case

Avery Index Tabs - 16221

GTD Wannabe

In response to jrdouce's comments about electronic notetaking...

I've recently purchased a Mobile NoteTaker (see http://www.nexconcepts.com/products/mobile_notetaker/index.html). Basically, it's a calculator-sized thingy that you clip onto ANY piece/pad of paper. And a fancy pen. Write on the paper, and the image is captured in the thingy. Upload to computer. Voila.

I've used it for monster meetings - you know, the ones that last 6 hours or more, because you all live in different countries and get only get together every quarter. I end up taking minutes of the meetings and it is so much easier for me to just scribble for 6 hours than to type out 6 hours worth of minutes. In addition, the minutes can be full of drawings, scribbles, arrows between concepts, etc. etc.

I've also thought about using the notetaker to brainstorm, but I find I prefer either mindmapping on computer, or scribbling a mind map. I find that I don't actually like the pen that comes with the notetaker, which actually does affect how much I want to use it!


do whatever works, as long as it -> Inbox

I think that you can use whatever you like, as long as each thing goes into your inbox (collection). I wouldn't worry about dating individual items, because in the processing phase (done every day or two) you'll be going through each one, deciding what it is, and what needs to happen because of it (next actions, someday/maybe, etc.) Then you can throw the notes away or file them as needed. I personally found it very refreshing to be able to toss meeting notes after 'harvesting' next actions from them. Before implementing Allen's techniques those notes would be floating around and in the way because I couldn't quite figure out what to do with them. (Note: I *do* date my meeting notes because there might be time-sensitive next actions, or I may need to keep them for reference. But I don't do so for individual items or mind sweeps.)

Regarding the specific tool you use, Allen is pretty agnostic, as long as you always have something with you to quickly capture thoughts as they occur - get them out of your head ASAP so that you can focus on the moment. He calls this a "Ubiquitous Capture Tool" (UCT) and it can be anything portable. My boss carries the one davidco sells via Levenger, but you can use: your palm, an inexpensive small notebook, index or business cards, a folded up piece of paper, blank pages in your planner, etc. I prefer the latter because I carry my planner everywhere I go, and I like having everything integrated (more at http://ideamatt.blogspot.com/2005/08/fare-thee-well-hipster-pda-i-barely.html). Good luck!




i find a perfect way to keep track my notes

Paul@Pittsburgh said:
I couldn't think of a succint title for my question.

During the day I make a lot of notes - phone call conversations, notes on thoughts, actions, follow ups, planning etc. I don't seem to have a good system for this though and it's something I want to improve. So I am looking for feedback on what others do -

Do you use loose paper (legal pad) and use a new page for each record and then file it or toss it after it is processed

Do you keep a chronological log where everything goes in in sequential order - and you just process it and maybe cross reference and keep for archival purposes.

Do you have some other system.

As my GTD implementation progresses I think I will be doing more action/planning/listing electronically or with Mind Maps, so the extent of paper notes for this will reduce. But paper is a great medium for making quick notes with phone conversations and meetings.



Hi Paul,

Some time ago i had the same problem. It's hard to keep track of all my activities and all the notes i make through the day. But i discovered a great way to keep me organized. It's very easy to use and you'll have quicly access to your notes. You can keep track of anything that crosses your mind ;)
I hope this will work for you too. The application is called SunnyNotes and you can see what is all about on the next address:


Life is simple if you are organized! Use SunnyNotes to make it simple!


I obssessively believe in the value of information being in electronic form wherever possible because of the ease of searchability, compactness, copy and communicability. Having said that, I have found no better method of making notes than on a spiral notepad. I use the notepad as the major part of the inbox and score off items once I have processed them. The speed and flexibility of writing on paper is a huge advantage when recording incoming items which are sometimes fired at you in quick succession, and also when you're planning out the details of a complicated project.

Richard Love

This thread addresses notes as input, but they can also start as or become reference material. I use Mindmanager maps to capture & store notes used in this way.


Best of Both Worlds...

treelike said:
I obssessively believe in the value of information being in electronic form wherever possible because of the ease of searchability, compactness, copy and communicability. Having said that, I have found no better method of making notes than on a spiral notepad. ...

I've been using a logitech digital io2 pen with their basic spiral notebook for just that purpose. Processing my io2 documents is part of my inbox activity. The OCR is reasonably good considering that sometimes I can't read my own writing...

Once I've completed the OCR process notes generally go into DayNotez so they are searchable on the palm, though I'd really prefer to be able to load them into Outlook Journal items. Unfortunately pocket journal for the Palm OS is no longer supported or available, and I've not found anything that will sync to the palm from Outlook Journal....