Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Paying attention to my "to do" list.

I have dabbled with "to do" lists for decades.  In fact there may still exist, within the English public library service, a copy of "Jennings goes to school" which contains one of my early attempts at paper based organisation.  To have defaced public property in this way is a little shameful, but to have returned the library book without detaching and retaining my "to do" list was clearly a shocking case of GTD failure!

Forty years on, I realise that using scraps of paper, or indeed school library books,  is a somewhat precarious strategy, and that the only way for me to keep tabs on a "to do" list, is to insert it in my diary where I will see it, preferably quite regularly.

So, in my "action fax" (that's the pocket sized one in the videos below), I make sure that my ever growing list of things to be done is inserted at today's diary page, whenever I open my filofax.  In my humble opinion, continually repositioning my "to do" list, so that it stares at me on a daily basis, is the only way!


  1. The 56 pages idea is very good.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, I do find using 56 pages seems to be a good compromise, at the expense of having to occasionally add a note in my (yellow) extra small Moleskine. All I do, as part of my daily review, is to check my moleskine to see if there is any appointment that needs adding to "day 56". It's a very simple routine, and seems to be working well.

  2. Hi, Neil.
    Love this idea. Although I'm a 30-something US female, I've taken the plunge and purchased a pocket Finsbury.
    I have a mini Rio that I love as my wallet. But my Finsbury will keep track of lists, projects and to-do's beyond work. Actually, they're my most important things in life, I'd say.
    I have a few questions:
    1. What exactly do you put in your mini Moleskine?
    2. How long do you microwave it so you don't cook it?
    3. Why did you take the Frixion refill out and put it directly in your book?
    Good work and looking forward to your response and future videos!

    1. Hello PaperMeister.

      The extra small Moleskine comes with 160 pages (80 sheets). In this example, the first 104 pages are used as a "week per page" diary, which covers two whole years. It's the only way you can get to December 31, and still be able to see a whole year ahead.
      The last 40 pages are removed, so there is room for my drivers licence (which in the UK is the same size as a charge card), a credit and debit card, and some paper money. Removing some sheets prevents the spine splitting.
      The remaining blank sheets are used as a perpetual notebook, by using the Frixion insert, which slides down into the spine. This pushes the pages out a little, beyond the edges of the cover, but it serves its purpose well, and that is to create the smallest possible portable "office" and wallet/purse combination possible.
      One thing to note is that the diary entries must be entered using a permanent pen, so that when you heat the Moleskine only the notes in the notebook section are erased. Typically, I will carry a Kaweco Sport fountain pen, with a fine nib and Noodlers Bulletproof ink; but if I find myself with just the Frixion insert then it is simple enough to just make a temporary note on a blank page and update my diary section when I get hold of a pen.

      Typically, erasing all the pages in my microwave takes about 30 seconds, although I do not endorse this method in any way, and you should always follow the safety guidelines for your own machine. Having said that, I'm finding that it's a lot easier to hold each page over a candle flame, especially if I want to be selective about what I erase. Again, I urge everyone to use common sense when using heat as a means to erase Frixion ink.

      I just found that the Frixion insert was a perfect length for the spine of the Moleskine, and the exercise was to create a system that enabled me to carry the absolute minimum. It's all right for you ladies to carry a purse, but us guys have to fit everything into our jeans pockets, which soon fill up with a diary, iphone, reading glasses, keys, coins, and some sort of diary or notebook. My Moleskine based system is tiny when compared to even a mini filofax.

      Update: Probably like many of you who are reading this, I'm continually experimenting with different set-ups, but the extra small Moleskine featured here remains the smallest system I have come across so far. However, my experience has been that after around six months my Moleskine is starting to fall apart, being opened and shut several times a day, neccessitating some clear tape to hold the notebook together. This may well be due to spine being used to store the Frixion insert, but I kinda like the battered appearance of my diary.

      One final thought: choose the yellow version of the extra small Moleskine, it's so much easier to find if you accidentally drop it in a crowded bar.

    2. Neil,
      Thanks so much for responding.

      I'm currently an Art Teacher, but I want to be a full-time novelist so I'm always noting things. I have different Word files that I put things in (names, character mannerisms, etc.) but the mini Moleskine would be perfect.

      I assume you put your ID, cards and money in the pocket to the back. Again, brilliant. I'm trying to become a Minimalist and I like this idea of a permanent temporary notebook so all my notes can be typed away. Yet I still have my notebook left.

      Plus, I really like the idea of plotting using a Frixion pen because as the story changes...erase erase...correction correction.

      And as to the microwave...I live in Texas, so I bet all I have to do is wait for a hot day (tomorrow) and throw it in my car. Poof. Clear notebook.

      Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions. Going to go 'play' with my set up now. I wish I'd had your advice on the notebook color about 3 months ago, but I'm sure I'll manage with purple. =)


    3. Hi Papermeister,

      Just a quick response: Temperarures inside a hot car can indeed erase Frixion ink. I use up to 20 pages a day simply because Frixion ink has allowed me to change my writing behaviour - I no longer have to be frugal. The Moleskine paper appears to be able to withstand being reused up to around 100 times. The pocket at the back of the Moleskine fell apart within a few days of purchase - I'm currently holding everything in place with an elastic band - it works surprisingly well. Use the Moleskine as a working tool - accept that it will wear out as you continuously use it again and again - but which allows you to use as much paper as you want without any guilt. And finally, if you're trying to organise a number of Word files, why not try "Scrivener", a word processing package devised specifically for authors.

    4. Neil,
      Thanks, again, for responding!
      I write things down all the time. Post-its have been my life saver and I've done a few experiments on using them, erasing them, and reusing them. Love it!
      As to using Scrivener...I like paper! I'm fairly old fashioned. I write on paper.
      But what I really like about using the Frixion pens is that I'm working on a plot outline and I can fix as I go! No more retyping and reprinting (wasting paper and computer ink!)
      I finally indulged in what I thought was going to be a pocket Finsbury from Amazon (it's used). After opening it, it's a Kensington! What is so weird is that the pocket Moleskine pages actually stick out considerably. But I'm working on my planner and happy as a clam (even though I'm cutting each page manually and hole-punching using a single-hole punch.)
      Have a great day--look forward to new posts/videos!

  3. Hi PaperMeister,

    I'm not Neil, but I reckon I can have a stab at providing the answers for you. This is based on my understanding of GTD, and my having watched all of Neil's videos.

    1. The mini Moleskine is a GTD data capture device and (duplicate) miniature diary. It's the landing craft to the Filofax's mothership, and can go with Neil wherever he might not want to bother carrying his Filofax.

    2. About 60 seconds, depending on the oven's power. If in doubt, start at 30 and work your way up. Allow the paper to cool between experiments.

    3. The Frixion's refill is much slimmer than the pen's body, and having no rubber grip is much smoother. Jabbing the entire pen into the Moleskine's spine would break it. Also, it would look hilarious.

    1. Hi Brian.

      I agree that inserting a Frixion refill into the spine of a Moleskine doesn't do it much good in the longer term, but for me it lasts long enough.

      I use Moleskines as disposable notebooks and enjoy the tactile pleasure of writing notes in crowded rooms. And for my journal entries, that I want to still be around after I'm long gone, I put my trust in notebooks made by Rhodia. Horses for courses, as they say here in the UK.

    2. Brian,
      Thanks for responding. I appreciate it.

      I really wanted to know more about these '20 pages of notes' Mr. Neil writes a day. Secretly wondering if he is a writer, also. But thanks for clarification.

      Think I'll steer clear of the microwave and use my hot car. Have you tried it?

      Have you created a Pocket Wallet and included the mini Moleskine with Rhodia? I'd love to hear how you've tweaked your system.

      Thanks again,