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This topic contains 39 replies, has 32 voices, and was last updated by  nadira 9 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #158188


    I have (what I think) is a unique problem of writing things down and making lists. I use many different papers (looseleaf, blank white, spiral notebook, 3-ring binders, post its, 3×5 cards, etc).

    I end up writing things in different places, then I’ll decide to just use one, and transcribe everything from one to the other, then I’m at work and don’t have my notebook or 3-ring binder with me, so I use lined paper to make the day’s notes, or to-do list….then sometimes when I get home, I don’t even take out the paper to utilize the lists, thoughts, etc.

    I’ve tried online, using email, organizers, and nothing seems to work….I have an iphone, and have tried the to-do sites that even have iphone apps….

    I always say I’m a highly organized person on the inside, but outwardly when it comes to this type of paper clutter, I cannot seem to tackle it….

    I will add that while some of the things get done, most don’t…my lists include everything from what I need to do today, to things that I am thinking about doing, random thoughts, etc…

    Then there’s the bills and other paperwork…..

    Anyone else have these experiences? Or have you found a solution?

    Tired of it!! πŸ˜‰

  • #160478


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Wow, how timely…just saw a new post on the homepage about to do lists….LOL

  • #160482


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Sounds like David Allen’s Getting Things Done would work for you. His system includes all kinds of lists, like the ones you describe, but he goes a bit further and shows ways of keeping track of all the lists and making sure things actually get done. When you Google ‘GTD’ you’ll find a lot of info. I have his book, which is called ‘Getting Things Done’ and it has really helped me with all my lists.

    His philosophy is basically that you need to get things out of your brain, so that you don’t need brain-power to remember everything, and put things into a system of lists that get reviewed regularly. That way your brain is empty for other things, rather than trying to remember everything, and the things that need to get done actually get done.

  • #160495


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    I use a 5″x10″ zippered pouch that I received as a gift (it actually comes from Expedia.com). I’ve quit using so many post-its; instead, I tear up all used 8×11 paper into scratch paper (approx 4″x5″ size) and keep piles of them around the house and work. I write all my notes on them. Each day they travel with me in this pouch…to work and to home. Each time I need to remember something, I write it on a piece of scratch paper, put it in the pouch. When I get to work, I look at all and take out those that belong to work…at home, I do the same. When both sides have been used, I recycle. At work and home, I have designated places for these notes. Because they are small, I can carry them in a pocket around home. At work, I clip them to a small notebook that goes with me around work. It works well for me.

  • #160496


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Paper clutter is my biggest problem. Thanks for the ideas you all have posted!

  • #160514


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    I have this same problem! Specifically, I adore notebooks. I can hardly resist passing up a good-looking notebook or blank book, and because people know about my “obsession,” I frequently receive them as gifts. I have separate notebooks for business projects, creative writing (general), creative writing (specific project), home, garden, and multiple areas of interest: current events, theology, etc.

    Part of the problem is that I’m a voracious reader but I don’t have a very strong memory, so I take notes constantly to help me remember what I’ve read.

    Needless to say, the notebooks are piling up. At least they are sort of pretty!

    On a tangential note, does anyone else find that their pulse quickens and their heart beats faster in stationery and office supply stores? πŸ™‚

  • #160515

    Clutter of Writing Things Down


    I know how you feel. I spent the better part of two years trying to find the perfect pen/pencil and stationary combination. I have literally a drawer full of various pens and pencils, and until recently I had two full bankers boxes of notebooks, journals, and sketchbooks.

    Fortunately, I found a combination that works really well for me. So I sold all the unused notebooks at a garage sale. The pens are next.

    I haven’t bought a pen or notebook in a few months.

  • #160516


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Brian, may I ask what that perfect combination was for you?

  • #160525

    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    For general purpose writing, notetaking, etc I like:

    Pen: Pilot Custom 74 fountain pen with Noodler’s ink
    Pencil: Rotring 800 2.0mm with Hi-Uni leads

    Quick notes: 3×5 cards
    Idea journal: Large Moleskine

  • #160531


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Can we all agree brw is NOT ALONE. i don’t think any of us suffer from unique problems. Used to be i’d walk around with a sheaf of papers in my purse each with different information i needed to have with me. I tried pdas and phones and every type of note book, all failed. Only I have recently found one particular type of Moleskin datebook that helps me keep all my notes in one place..if i print it out, I can slide it into the notebook and when i have time i transpose it or cut and paste it in. but usually by then i can throw the note away.

    The only overarching advice I can give is, carry a note book and force yourself to put all your data in one place. It’s damn hard but worth it.

  • #160532


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Wow! These are some great posts…and great ideas.

    I don’t feel so alone now!

    I’m trying Evernote (which I already had an account, but didn’t realize there was a Mac computer application, web app, and iphone app.) I thought it was only a web app – so the syncing to my iphone at least will keep multiple lists in one place.

    I actually read GTD when it first came out (and wasn’t popular yet). I totally agree with getting it out of your head, but once it was out of my head, it wasn’t organized, so it re-populated in my head! And I would write it down again, then at some point find the older note/list that had the current items on it as well! It’s been a vicious cycle.

    One thing I really *love* is writing things down on paper, so I am going to continue to do that, but not sure just yet how to manage the paper….I don’t like very small notebooks, and love to write on a full page of paper…I can scan them to Evernote I guess.

    I think maybe the moleskin and a nice writing instrument and forcing myself to write everything down in one place is what I will try….that along with the Evernote – so I have a little bit of the writing and also the technology I love as well!! I’m a computer geek, too!

    @EraserGirl – what moleskin are you using? and when you say you print out, are you using a web app for that or just printing out a list/email, etc.?

  • #160537


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Not sure if anyone addressed one of the real problems that brw mentioned, the “review” part. This is something I have struggled with. You really, really have to work on the habit of actually reviewing your lists. Even if they are all in one place, it won’t help a bit if things are written down, but you never review the list. Best thing I ever did to start was just putting time on my calendar to sit down and look at my lists once a week. Then that turns into twice a week, then once a day, etc… Building a new habit takes time and work.

  • #160540


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    One thing that’s helpful to me is the ability to see all my lists at once. This is where a lot of online list makers fall down for me, because they only show one list at a time, so it’s very hard to see the big picture. I use an online site (http://webtodo.wndmll.com/) that allows me to create several lists on the same page, although I’m sure there are others that work this way. You could do the same thing with a paper list.

    I have a list of things to do today, tomorrow, this week, this month and long term, as well as a couple of specific lists for projects I’m working on. Since I can see them all together, I can figure out where to fit longer term goals in with my daily goals, etc.

  • #160545


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    This is so me! Paperchase (a really cool stationery shop in the UK) is one of my favourite places. I love carrying around notebooks and at one point I had about three different ones in my handbag, all for different things. But like @brw said you end up having different versions of the same list, in different locations and things don’t end up getting done. I do love lists and it does frustrate me that I am an organised person by nature but my outward image does not always reflect that, as I can’t find things I have written down.

    I’ve tried to limit myself to just one notebook, where I write everything down and this is getting better. At least I can find things and it helps me to be able to see the ‘bigger picture’ too. I can also work through things and tick them off.

    I tried doing it online or on my blackberry but I like the freedom and convenience of a good old fashioned pen and paper!

  • #160550


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Don’t get trapped into the “i’m a buying stuff to get organized, so it’s not technically clutter” trap. I have had a THING for blank notebooks since i was a kid and if i cleaned my house i’d come up with 8 or 10 of them all unused. The same goes for ‘nice’ writing implements.. i have a drawer of those. <hangs head in shame> I LOVE stationery stores and always troll the aisles, looking for that PERFECT item. I am not allowed to acquire any more of each until i use up the ones i have.

    I use my Moleskine 18-Month Large Soft Cover Weekly Planner daily. http://www.moleskineus.com/moleskine-18-month-large-soft-cover.html
    I use the calendar on the left to track and events and record what i spend on things and when i make payments etc.. and the blank page on the right to make all sorts of notes, names phones, shopping lists, anything i have to write down quickly. (I even use all those extra pages in the front and back to keep running lists..dvds, gifts etc..)

    When i print stuff out, i just print a page and shove it in the book. usually maps and directions, emails with contact names and such. bills that i have to hand deliver, get stuffed in there as well. it’s not huge to bursting because i pull things out as much as i put things in.

    Many people like to get very INVOLVED with their organizer. you can spend a fortune on Rollabinds and Day timers and buy costly proprietary sheets and print them out one and lovingly assemble the binders. I’m not that fascinated with the process. i just want a little book in my bag with all my junk in it.

  • #160555


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    I too suffer from the desire to find the “perfect” way to document, track and maintain the perfect ..I don’t know what?? πŸ™‚ I am contiuously trying to perfect the process. I feel some much better that I am not along in my quest!

  • #160562


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    I used to do exactly what you’re doing now, so you’re not alone! πŸ™‚

    For me, a moleskine notebook has really helped. I got a small one (blank/no lines) that I can carry with me everywhere and write general thoughts in it as I go in the front, and to-do items in a list in the back (having them separate helps me not lose track of the stuff I need to do, but having it all in one notebook is convenient).

    If I get business cards from people, or I’ve scribbled a note on another piece of paper that would be difficult to transfer to my book (like a drawing or something), I can put it in the pocket in the back of the book so I don’t lose it.

    Once in a while I’ll flip back through older pages and read what I’ve written. Pretty interesting!

  • #160570


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Anyone tried autofocus? It’s a simple GTDish system that combines all to-dos in one notebook. It’s not perfect, but it has reduced my blizzard of separate lists and notes. And I have that GTD confidence that all the things I want and need to do are written down and reviewable.


  • #160573


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Oh, I have so been there. I still have paper notes *everywhere,* but breaking this bad habit has been a priority for the last several months, and it’s getting better.

    Before I got my iPhone, which has required some changes in my system that I’ll talk about another time, I had settled on a three-place solution:

    1. A Moleskine Weekly Notebook (the kind with the week’s calendar on the left side of the spread and a blank page on the right) for keeping my schedule and my to-do list. It’s rare for me to have more than one or two appointments scheduled on any given day, so the small space dedicated to each day was fine. Notes relating to a certain event or day could go on the bottom of the to-do page.

    2. A small notebook for my purse to capture random notes/reminders that I could then transfer to the calendar or act on later as necessary.

    3. A spiral notebook for my desk to capture random jottings, notes from meetings, and so on. Pages can be torn out and recycled as they become obsolete, but because the pages are bound together, they can’t wander away otherwise. I have a wacky memory in that I can remember that I wrote a particular note about 1/3 of the way back in the lower outside corner of a left-hand page, so this system isn’t too onerous for me.

    This worked pretty well, although it did have some drawbacks:

    – If I was out somewhere and someone wanted to schedule something with me, I didn’t have my calendar with me so I couldn’t make firm plans on the spot.

    – The purse notebook ended up being a bit of a black hole in that things went in but were rarely seen again. (It was, however, very handy to have something available to write on at all times; sometimes just writing it down is enough to make me remember it.)

    – If I had to move appointments or to-dos around (a frequent occurrence in the unpredictable world of publishing), it got very messy.

    The iPhone has replaced the calendar/to-do list and the purse notebook (although I’m still struggling with coming up with workable systems for those), but I’m still using the sprial notebook and love it. My current favorite is the Sasquatch Idael Book from Carolina Pad for random jottings that don’t have to live on my person. And I’ve moved all the Post-Its out of arm’s reach.

  • #160575


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    I also use a purse notebook..the 3″ spiral bound kinda to write notes that i tear off – shopping lists etc.. to me these aren’t the same as my Notebook..if i scribble something in it that i need to save, i transcribe it to the Moleskin. But i do carry both, the spiral just fits in my coat pocket better.

  • #160580


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Another one who loves pens and good paper. I love making To-Do lists. Just the act of writing things down seems to make the chores less of a chore. I keep a paper planner (often switch systems mid-year if I get the urge to change). I have a difficult time not buying new notebooks too.

  • #160595


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Several thoughts:
    1. My husband is naturally disorganized and has tried a zillion systems, but the only one that ever worked even a bit is Google calendar, and I think that is just because he wanted to use it–deep down–for some reason. You have to want to use it.
    2. I am more naturally organized, but far from perfect. I use scraps of paper for short term grocery-type lists, but longer term—-forget about it. I believe it is because I really don’t believe in longer term planning deep down; as I get older and wiser, I realize the futility of it. There are too many unknowns and if you are too focused on your plan, you miss opportunities anyway.
    3. In the event I do want to keep something, I use nicer things—-better pens and a small Moleskine Volant— so I respect them. You can get great deals on Cross pens at TJ Maxx often, and that is nice enough for me.
    4. For scribbling, as in journals and creative writing, to reduce the anxiety about “writing in something ‘nice’,” I use cheap composition books.

    Bottom line: the only thing that will work is what you really want to have work.

  • #160611


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Like most of you I too am a list making, stationary loving machine. However, I’ve come up with a system of list making tactics that have served me well.

    1. I keep two purses in rotation at all times. One is for work and the other for school. Both contain a small notebook with important information and To Do lists that haven’t already been processed.

    2. As a gmail fan, naturally, I use the tasks lab. I have made a habit of keeping the tasks bar open with my email so that I can add new lists, edit current lists, or prioritize my tasks quickly. It can also be printed out which is useful for packing for trips. Normally, I transfer tasks from my school notebook to a list on my task lab so that I can have a consistent reminder since I check my email more than I attend classes. It allows me to schedule block my time on google calendar if needed.

    And… because I can go list crazy, I have been trying to limit the number of my lists considerably from my old paper model. I try to keep my number of ongoing lists below 5, but this is flexible. Of the five, I always have To Do, Goals, and Shopping. This is helpful in not losing or missing information between the many lists I could possibly make.

    3. I journal often and for that I keep a medium sized black hardcover moleskin. I use this for creative work mostly. School notes/research notes are contained in specific spiral notebooks.

    4. For longer term plans I create notes on the desktop of my computer. These notes are typically my weekly plans and goals that are loose outlines for my week/month/project. This is helpful when I find myself with loads of free time and need to guilt trip myself back to the library. πŸ™‚

    I have tried Evernote with mixed feelings. While I think that it is good at offering a long term view of plans/tasks. I think the set up is a bit ugly. Also, I find that bookmarking information is easier. However, if I was a bit more mobile with my information and needed it stored online would be a huge selling point. But, until then I have my flash drives and the old fashioned email.

  • #160613


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    Wow, this is therapy for me. Terrific comments and ideas. I hadn’t thought my paper issues were so common! I have read the whole canon of GTD. But I have an awful tendency to make the same lists over and over -(usually because I can’t find the previous ones in my paper clutter).

    I am also drawn by the lure of a blank page and the promise of complete order that it offers! In my mind, each new list will be the last and I will triumph at last. I have also tried many electronic organisers, including Omni and Things. They’re fine in theory. But somehow I just cannot seem to make them work – out of sight, out of mind perhaps.

    But paper multiplicity certainly doesn’t work either! And separate lists for different project areas (home/work/personal etc) on separate bits of paper mean that I never inter-relate the lists and just get overwhelmed again. I’m working on using one book to write everything down – just haven’t found the right notebook yet!

    I agree that the weekly review is crucial – the lists mean nothing without it. It’s taken me many years to realise that simplicity is everything and that the simpler the listing process, the more chance there is of actually getting tasks done.

  • #160625


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    @ Lilliane P- thanks so much for referencing pocketmod.com! I had never seen that and it just might fit my needs. My daily repeating to do list and food diary can fit as well as room for other lists or things to remember. It’s the right size for me – thanks

  • #160635

    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    So good to hear from so many kindred souls!

    @jennybug, you say “Does anyone else find that their pulse quickens and their heart beats faster in stationery and office supply stores? πŸ™‚ ” That made me laugh out loud. I know EXACTLY how you feel.

    I’ve always been into writing things down and making lists (in fact, I had to start a whole website about organization obsesson, that’s how strong my compulsion is!), it’s the only way for me to stay sane with so many little wisps of thoughts.

    For me, I mostly use Apple Mail to make these lists and notes. I use the “note” function. That way, all that stuff is with me on my office and home computers, my laptop and my iphone. That’s worked really well for me.

  • #161766


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    I am a huge listmaker, love having all those items from trivial (take out garbage) to things to do before I die!

    After trying all sorts of systems, from elaborate to simple, I learned that simple works best for me.

    I carry a notebook with me and use it for everything other than my actual calendar. It’s a mid size notebook, spiral bound, and I have a highlighter clipped inside the spirals. It is chronological. I can easily see what items are incomplete as they are not highlighted.

    I have a Master To Do list on my computer. Every few months, I look and update it. Most of these are goals that ultimately make it onto my daily lists. I’m not tied to this and it is not something I need to review daily.

    The key thing is to keep one notebook with everything in it. If I scribble a note on a post it or scratch pad, I staple or tape it into my notebook.

    My only exception to this is when I’m working on the computer and I remember, oh, return books to library tomorrow. I may put it on a post it…and then that goes into the notebook.

    My grandfather taught me over 50 years ago that it’s best to write your list before going to bed so you can go to sleep with a clear mind. I also keep a pad of paper and pen in my nighstand drawer…just in case I have a late night thought that I wish to record.

    Ultimately, I’d like to record everything in my calendar (At a Glance Weekly version, large size). I’ve attempted this and find there’s not enough space for all the list making and notes I create!

  • #161768


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    i work from home, running my small company.
    i have an in-tray and another tray for orders.

    EVERYTHING goes into the in-tray as soon as it arrives.
    if someone calls me, or a thought occurs to me…..i write it on a piece of scrap paper and throw it into the in-tray.
    letters to be answered…in-tray.
    orders coming in via phone or email….straight to the order tray.

    every day, whenever there is a lull….i take the in-tray and i ruthlessly go through everything, one piece at a time and i do whatever needs to be done next to that piece of paper, to move it on.
    pay bills and file them.
    write up order forms and place in order tray.
    return calls.
    order stuff.
    prepare envelopes and stamps.
    file random ideas for upcoming products appropriately.

    i’ve got a fancy smartphone (it’s a lot smarter than i am) and i know how to use it…but really, i mainly use it for calender, phone, contacts.
    i like having a back up of all those things, just in case.

    it’s taken me years to get this organised and it really is a matter of having a little bit of discipline every day.
    if i left it for several days, it would be a horrible mess, requiring a huge mental effort to get started.
    but if i can keep the inboxes small, i am much happier to start on them.
    and i am all for keeping things super simple.
    my commitments beyond my work are deliberately minimal.

  • #163630


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    @bandicoot, i love your system and the simplicity. must be ruthless with myself and my papers.

  • #163679


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    I’ve tried numerous ways of keeping lists and never liked any of them overly much. Paper lists eventually get too messy and overloaded with “done” tasks, so then you have to rewrite.

    My favorite tool right now is Remember the Milk (http://www.rememberthemilk.com/). I believe they even have an option for the iPhone. I can keep my list online, organize by date or priority, have repeating tasks, etc. Fortunately they don’t block this website from work so I can access in both places. I don’t have a smart phone and often times I’d think of something I need to handle when I got home.

  • #163741


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    I use a composition book for my notes and to do lists at work. Any random scrap of paper (like post-its) are taped into the book if I want to keep them.

    I start a new page for each day, and spend the last 15 minutes of my workday writing down my to do list for the next day. I make sure I write down long term projects too, that way they are carried forward from day to day. I keep about a years worth (usually 3 books) in my file cabinet at work in case I need to reference something, after that they are shredded.

    Not the most technologically advanced system, but it works for me. I still keep my calendar and contacts synced between Outlook and my iPhone.

  • #163742


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    “Things” is an awesome organizing application for the Mac. Intuitive with a beautiful interface and reasonably priced.

    Anyone know how I get a link in here?

  • #164000


    Clutter of Writing Things Down

    @brw – I know EXACTLY what you mean!!! I have wandered through Office Max, Staples, etc., etc. looking for the perfect notebook, pen, agenda planner, etc. *My pulse quickens and my heart beats faster in stationery and office supply stores…* I’m a history person, so I get a kick out of making timelines, one for different periods of music in europe, Latin American history, etc… So I need different color pens for different countries. And the paper has to be high enough quality so that the color doesn’t run through…
    Anyway, I’ve found that binders work really well for a number of things. My history notes go in different color binders, depending on the period/continent. I keep a hole punch on the desk, and use pads of narrow ruled 20 lb. paper for notes. Then they go in the binder before the next class (so that papers don’t fall all over the floor if I drop the folder they are in πŸ˜›

    I use a 3 3/4″ x 6 3/4″ notebook for my agenda planner. I can keep current calendars in there, regardless of whether I currently think I need daily/weekly pages, but I always use monthlies.

    I then have separate sections to note different types of information: shopping lists, menu plans, and the infamous ‘to do’

    I’ve also read GTD, but I’ve put my different lists in different size notebooks, and depending on whether it is for home, or outside home.
    So, I think the best I’ve come up with yet is to write on the top of each page in my ‘to do’ section: Errands, Calls, Home (cleaning/fixing/mending), ‘At Computer’, and ‘At Desk’ (answering mail/filing/writing).

    I’ve started carrying a small moleskin notebook to write down what I eat, exercise, time of meds, etc.
    I also have a 5 x 7 journal where I write down lots of other stuff.

    I keep thinking that I really could put everything in one notebook (my agenda planner) but then I can’t carry it around everywhere, because it has everything in it πŸ˜›

    I also got a blackberry a couple of months ago. I can use that when I’m lying down (pens aren’t as forgiving), so I also write to dos & to buys in there, with the intention of rewriting them, with varying degrees of success. Also calendar items, because it has the reminder functions. πŸ™‚

    The thing that comes in the handiest on my BB is the memo. I can put in all kinds of random information, because I can search a word anywhere in the title.

    But I have to say that any system, no matter what one uses, will work only if one actually LOOKS AT IT! And that’s the part I’m working on now…


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