This is the guest post by Laura Fulton.
Notebooks, or rather, the act of writing in them, has been proven again and again to positively impact our productivity. From improving our memory to organising our chaotic thoughts, there are few devices or gadgets quite as versatile or reliable as the humble notebook.
We may enjoy using stationary at home and in our downtime, such as the hundreds of thousands of self-proclaimed #stationeryaddicts on Instagram, but with the typical workplace found to be exceedingly distracting to the average employee, you may see beneficial effects on your focus and productivity from working alongside it as well.
To help you get into the habit of using your notebook during the working day, have a look at our daily schedule and see how you can learn to love your notebook too.
What is inside?
7am – Wake up
As you wake to start the day, note down any of the immediate worries, or brainwaves you had during the night.
Morning journaling has proven to be an invaluable use of your time, with the idea first being made popular by writer and director, Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, and has even been taken up by businessman and four-time bestselling author Tim Ferriss. He says that these “Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head”.
You may not write 750 words before breakfast every morning – many of us barely make time to brush our teeth – but even 300 words or an dashing-out-the-door scrawl can help get you ready for a busy day ahead.
8am – Commute
Now, you should be washed, dressed and on the road after a hearty breakfast. If you catch a bus or a train, this the ideal time to put your pen to paper again.
Look at the day ahead of you and make your to-do lists, in whichever way you like. Many people enjoy the organisation of bullet journalling, others prefer to divide their lists into “needs” and “wants” and others still prefer a more ad hoc way of listing. Regardless of which way works best for you, it’s been proven that your brain loves organisation.
Psychologist and author Dr David Cohen says that this desire for to-do lists and organisation comes down to three reasons: “they dampen anxiety about the chaos of life; they give us a structure, a plan that we can stick to; and they are proof of what we have achieved that day, week or month.”
So, don’t wait until you get to work. Focus your mind before you even reach the office.
9am – Start your work day
Now you’re in work, you can officially get started with your day. Review your to-do lists, check them off, and keep your notebook at hand. This is where you and your notebook should be working in synch.
For example, as you work on one task, you may be struck with inspiration for another. Don’t allow your mind to drift away into that other idea and ruin your current workflow. Instead, make a note of the brand new idea, as a way of actively putting it down for later. Of course, once you have completed your current task, you can return to the idea and look at it with fresh eyes.
During your workday you may also come up against complex idea and complicated concepts. This is another chance for you to utilise your pen and paper. Sketching these onto paper and visualising the problem at hand, can help you better understand a concept which might be overly wordy. It may also highlight an aspect of the idea which you had not considered, or still do not understand fully.
There is also no need to be too strict with how you use your notebook. Let your creativity flow all day, making quick comments and thoughts as you continue your work, drafting different headlines or ideas in pen and paper before transferring to your laptop.
10am – Morning meeting
Whether you are freelancing or working an office job, you will most likely have a time during the day when you have to attend a meeting or call, and whether it’s a simple chat about your tasks for the day, or a longer, in-depth discussion about the future of your company, you should keep your notebook by your side.
Obviously, you’ll want to remember the key points from those conversations, and it might seem more efficient to bring your laptop or phone along and record notes digitally, your handwritten notes still have a better impact on your productivity.
It may be a slower method of making notes, but researchers have found that this actually forces you to be “more selective in recapping key components” and therefore help you engage with and better remember the material at hand. Mueller and Oppenheimer said, “Laptop notetakers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and re-framing it in their own words is detrimental to learning”, proving that a little extra time can actually be more beneficial in the long run.
1pm – Lunchtime
Now that it’s lunchtime, you can take a break. You can doodle and write or plan what you want to do that evening. Review your to-do lists and reevaluate your time for the afternoon, if you find that you actually aren’t able to do everything you wanted to today. You might add uncompleted tasks onto a new list for things to do tomorrow, or find a new way to achieve them, such as delegating or folding into a different task.
You may even take this moment to vent any frustrations that you have had during your day. Clinical psychologist Beth Jacobs said that “Journals are like a checkpoint between your emotions and the world”, so before you start mouthing off to your co-workers and social media, try writing down anything you have been annoyed or disappointed at during your day.
4pm – Writer’s Block
It’s nearly the end of the day and your eyes are watching the clock rather than the task at hand. Don’t write off your last hour just yet – you can still give your lagging productivity a last minute boost.
For example, allow yourself to do what your school teachers always scolded you about: doode. Not only were Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and other great minds avid doodlers, but the act of doodling has been proven to positively impact our productivity. We engage better, recall more and de-stress when we doodle, so don’t be afraid to pick up your pen.
If you’re still having difficulty, this is the perfect time to get brainstorming. Unlike laptops and phones, there is no delete button with a notebook, meaning when you start spitballing ideas, you just have to keep going.
You may have a list of ten or twenty ideas for a headline written by the end of it, and some will, of course, be terrible, but perhaps in one of those awful lines, you’ll find a hint of something good – great, even. It could be just a word that leads you in a new direction, or a phrase that sparks inspiration in you, or exactly what you’re looking for.
5pm – Home at last
Finally, tick off the last of your to-do list and move anything to another list which has not been completed. You might want to reflect on all of the progress you have made, to give you a motivation boost for tomorrow, or if you find that you haven’t done as much as you would have liked, consider how to make tomorrow more productive.
Maybe you could make a note to install a URL blocker, to keep you away from social media, or to stay more focused by taking regular breaks every hour and sketch 7 check boxes to make sure that you do.
Once you are satisfied with your to-do lists and reflections, it’s time to destress and let go. If you have any lingering to-do tasks or ill feelings in your head, write them down and get the out. After all, regular relaxation and rest sets you up for a more productive tomorrow.