I had to see what all the fuss was about. I have been visiting ‘productivity porn’ sites like 43folders and lifehacker (and their associated flickr groups) off and on for a year. And last weekend I finally swung by a Barnes & Noble and picked up a Moleskine grid-lined notebook.
When I first opened it up, the experience was a bit deflating. I caressed the cover. I sniffed the binding. I investigated the pocket in the back. I don't know what I was expecting… a shining beacon? A choir of angels? I guess it's impossible not to be a little underwhelmed after the way these things are hyped on the Internets.
So I tried it for a week, sitting aside my usual cheap black-marbled composition book, half full. I carried the Moleskine notebook to meetings and seminars. I did some course planning and sketched some project ideas. I'm just up to page 12, and I have to admit it has grown on me already.
Having grid-lined pages comes in handy. It allows you to write landscape or portrait equally well. It supports very neatly-drawn ad-hoc tables. (I'm tracking meeting-time preferences for members of my committee on one such table.)
But more important is the size: 13 x 21 cm, which is a lot narrower than my old composition books, and a more extreme aspect ratio than even ISO 216 A-series paper. A narrow page is useful for typographical reasons, of course, but even for note-taking it seems to work out well. It's hard to use my composition books on my lap or otherwise in the absence of a desk… but I guess that's also partly because of the soft cover.
Anyway, I'd like to write more on my quest (and misadventures) to find suitable tools for project planning and task tracking. LifeBalance was fun for a while, but it doesn't run on Linux, and the interface is too ‘widgetized’ for my taste. I set myself up on Backpack a few weeks ago; I like its interface and concept but there are certainly drawbacks for realizing the cross-cutting concerns of GTD (project view vs. context view). This morning I'm checking out org-mode for Emacs, and for now I'm amazed, but I'm still reading the manual. I guess once I manage to settle into something truly workable, I'll write about it here. I'm sure to David Allen it's a travesty to spend so long chasing down the perfect system rather than just getting things done. But to me it feels like a legitimate (but, so far, unending) meta-project to sharpen my tools.