What the heck is an Idea Book?

We are formed by the narrative of our conversations, the books we read, the things that we say. Words give us the capacity to articulate our dreams, to express our feelings, to speak of the truth that forms us most deeply. – Sarah Clarkson

I have a deep-seated fascination with the elegance of words and linguistics. Ravishing prose can make me swoon. Perhaps the real reason behind my fastidious note-taking during meetings, while reading, or listening to a good book is this amorous affair with locution that I’ve been entangled in for years.

Which brings me to a simplistic tool that assists me in organizing all those words, notes, and ideas that I’ve captured in my playful lexicon romps.

An Idea Book is nothing more than a modest nothing-fussy-or-fancy-spiral notebook. The one below is a priceless treasure. And to quote one of my nieces, “Aunt Karen is all about convenience”. True.

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As you can see via the photo above, a coffee stain and the vertical bendability* crease assuages the gimcrackery factor. I recommend both.

The Idea Book is the intersection of mindfulness and productivity. Along with my love of words and books, I love lists and organizations. Idea Books have changed my life.

Specifications:

  •  a college bound or a wide-ruled spiral notebook.
  • 220 pages or less is ideal for me. I go by the bendability factor*.
  • skip the first page and begin regurgitating notes, book & movie recommendations, quotes, jokes, gift ideas, reminders, running songs that you want to add to your Apple Watch, a reminder to call the dog-sitter about your upcoming long weekend, jot down notes from a phone call for a visual reminder and for conversation-starter-fodder for your next phone call, yada yada on the following pages.
  • the first page and the inside cover will be where your index will be placed.

*Bendability factor is important to me because often an idea will seize my attention while I am driving. I need a notebook durable enough to handle me flinging it across the car in a hot second as well as to enable me to grip it in my right hand, while holding a pen and the steering wheel at the 11 o’clock position with my left hand. Depending on the turning motion of the steering wheel, the notebook might get caught in the middle and temporarily fold in half like a taco. If the notebook is too thick or isn’t pliable, it gets flung to the side. Safety first!

Some people call this a Bullet Journal, but let’s skip the violence. Idea Book raises your creative bar. It singles you out as a thoughtful intellectual.

You don’t have to leave blank pages in between disparate ideas and you don’t need to group various categories. Your index will point you where you need to go when navigating to that eccentric note scribbled three weeks ago.

An Idea Book organizes your items for easy retrieval whenever you need them.

While you’re sipping a cup of coffee, a cocktail, or when you are placed on hold with your dentist, number the right-hand pages in increments of two (start with page 2, 4, 6, etc). This simple activity is relaxing and has certain zen properties. As you’re numbering, breathe deeply. You can sit cross-legged in the chair and balance a book on your head; or ask a prepubescent child to practice their writing and counting-by-twos-skills on the pages (the illustrious Tom Sawyer tactic).

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Note: you don’t have to enter all the page numbers, just get some pages started, or do the numbering later. If your notebook has multiple sections with a separator page, you may want to number the first section as A2, A4, A6; the next section can be numbered as B2, B4, B6. Take another deep breath. Relax. You are in the process of bringing organization to your chaotic world. Feel free to slip a blood pressure cuff on  and watch your systolic and diastolic pressures plummet to remarkable levels.

Note to the above note: alternatively, you may want to do your page numbering in the privacy of your bedroom, bathroom or when nobody is looking. Witnesses may get judgey and think you’re a weirdo. But those viewing the final product will admire your genius.

In the top margin of each page, I’ll write a category of what that page represents. I often put the date on the page too. I haven’t figured out why I do that yet, but so far, it’s working fine! Below are examples of some of my top-of-page categories:

  1.  Book Club (this page may indicate the next meeting date, what I need to bring, where the meeting will be held, summary of the book).
  2. Travel (I may jot down ideas for side-excursions relating to an upcoming trip; maybe the airline details, travel dates, car rental info, the AirBNB attributes, reference numbers…whatever I might need to book the trip).
  3. PDUs & CPEs (as a PMP and CPA, I need to track my personal development units and continuing professional education requirements).
  4. Podcasts (I jot down my favorite shows to review again later or ones that I want to recommend).
  5. Phone calls (as I’m listening to my messages, I’ll jot down pertinent details).

I do write on the odd-numbered pages too; I just don’t feel the need to number those pages, the arithmetic is simple.

THE INDEX. After a handful of pages have been populated, I alphabetize my categories in a Word document, cross-reference the page numbers, print it out, and tape it on the first pages of the notebook. VOILA!, your thoughts, notes and ideas are catalogued in a simple, organized system. You can update the index and reprint it as your notebook expands. Or simply hand write in additional categories, page numbers.

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Feel free to rip pages out, even if they are pre-numbered, the index stays intact.

Your structured tool is portable, let it follow you like your shadow, you’ll be ready for whatever life throws your way.

The Idea Book is deceptively simple and keeps you audaciously organized. Our brains behave differently when we go analog; our brains become engaged and our thought processes become more refined and thorough. When we write by hand, we retain more. And let’s not forget the beauty of the gel pen. Or perhaps a fountain tip is your preference. No technology can match that.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci

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