I’ve been using a Moleskine pocket notebook for the past few months. I got it after reading Getting Things Done, which inspired me to externalize and persist the ideas, goals, todos, etc out of my head and onto paper.
I had been using a Palm for quite a while. When I was in sales, the original Palm Professional was really important to keep me reminded of all the appointments my sales guy and I had (I was an SE), all the people I had to contact, etc.
But over the years, I realized that it was pretty hard to enter information quickly into the Palm. The last straw however was when Graffiti was changed and many of the single-stroke characters I was used to became two stroke. So I’ve been steadily entering more and more things onto paper, but never systematically and I had been using large form factors, which made my notebooks not too portable (except while at the office). And if your notebook isn’t portable, you’re going to lose thoughts.
Enter the Moleskine, which is great. The only problem: they only have 192 pages. And I took 59 pages of notes at WWDC 2005, leaving me with one blank page. So my Moleskine is effectively full!
What to do now?
Well, I remember having read about this invention called a Hipster PDA. When I first saw it, I chuckled. But after talking to Ryan, I realized that I had been under utilizing index cards. Index cards have a nice property that they can be filed in a card box, are relatively inexpensive, widely available, and can be spread out spatially to say see what many of your thoughts / sketches at once. So during a recent trip to Staples, I picked up a big pack of regular index cards, some grid index cards, and some binder clips. And I assembled my first Hipster PDA, made of index cards. However, I found that the ones with the grid pattern were much better, since you can write vertically quite easily and it gives me some guidelines for doing 2D sketches of UIs, workflows, etc. I like to visualize things.
I actually put together the Grid-based Hipster PDA (maybe it should be called a Gridster PDA) before WWDC just to try it out. I did find it better for sketching. And I found that I wrote more and sketched more. The reason is because the Moleskine is so svelte and swanky, you start to think before you write or sketch: “Is it Moleskine-worthy?” And I think this is a bad thing… You don’t want anything to come between your thoughts and persistence, because thoughts can be quite fleeting. But index cards are so cheap, even the grid-based ones, that you don’t mind messing up and throwing it away (optionally tearing it apart), but you would never think about tearing out a page from a Moleskine.
Epilogue: At the WWDC Blogger Dinner, I met the incomparable Merlin Mann, the one who started off my journey into GTD, who blogs 43Folders. I showed him my Gridster and mentioned that I liked the grid cards. He pulled out his and voila, he had a Hipster with grids too! He mentioned that he liked writing on the white side, with faint blue grids to guide him. I like to write on the grid side myself.