Tools like Evernote make organizing and finding information really simple. Yet despite that, I still often find myself using the humble notebook to jot down valuable ideas, especially when I’m on the go.
However notebooks are hard to organize your ideas. You either split your notebook into several sections for each ‘category’ and end up wasting valuable pages in the quieter sections or you just write your ideas as they come along making them hard to find later on.
If this sounds familiar then you are going to love this little hack I was taught here in Japan by a friendly salariman. It’s a little messy, and not something I’d use all the time but for the right subject could come in handy. For lack of a better name I’ve decided to call it the Highfive notebook.
Introducing the Highfive notebook
The back of your notebook will act like a tag list or index. Every time you create a new entry at the front of the book you’re going to “tag” it.
For example let’s imagine you’re keeping a notebook for recipes and you just wrote down a Chinese recipe on the first page.
Next you’d go to the last page and create the tag ‘Chinese’ by writing it on the first line right next to the papers left edge.
Now you’d go back to the first page where the recipe is and on the exact same line as the ‘Chinese’ label you just wrote you’d make a little mark on the right edge.
You’d make this mark so that even when the notepad was closed the mark would be visible. After repeating this for various recipes you’d now have various tags visible on the notebooks edge.
Now if you ever wanted to find a Chinese recipe you’d simply look at the index, locate the Chinese recipes label and look along the visible edge to find every single page which has been tagged as Chinese. Then it’s simply a case of flicking to each page.
And of course, you’re not limited to one tag per page. You could tag a page 2 or 3 times. So if you jot down a chicken stir fry you could tag it as “Chicken” and “Chinese”. Now you can find all recipes by their cuisine and ingredient.
Then why not help spread the word by sharing this with your friends?
Because flicking pages is important for the system to work you need a notebook which
- is bound tight (glued, stapled, string bound) and not a spiral type
- has 50 pages or more
- is either lined, dotted or gridded to make lining up tabs easy
My favorite notebooks from good to best
Quite a few commenters below have asked what notebooks and pens I use and the correct answer is – it depends on the situation. But here are my favourites listed from good to best.
Good – Muji notebooks
For less important stuff, stuff which is likely to get messy such as recipes, I love using the Muji lined notebooks which are shown in the pictures above. They are not built to endure rough treatment but for everyday use are great.
They are smooth to write on and hold ink well with only a little show through with my fountain pen. I buy them in packs of five so I always have a notebook to hand and for the price it’s hard to knock the value.
Better – Moleskine notebooks
For more important things such as my journal or sketching I turn to either Moleskine or Leuchtturn notebooks.
Moleskines have long been the king of notebooks and it’s easy to see why. The two I own have lasted ages and are still a pleasure to write on.
There are a few types but my particular favorite is the soft cover variety book which really helps with the flexing and flicking of pages . Though softer than their hard cover cousins they are still strong and offer decent protection.
Best – Leuchtturm 1917 Notebooks.
Recently however I and many others have discovered the Leuchtturm 1917 Notebooks. And these may be the Moleskine killer of notebooks. They’re only slightly more expensive but have much better paper quality. They can handle ink i.e. fountain pens a lot better with no bleed and little show through.
Every Leuchtturm notebook’s page is numbered and they come with an index at the front so you can double the Highfive system up with the old school way of organizing notes.
Both Leuchtturm and Moleskine notebooks also have a pouch in the rear where you can keep loose notes. I use it to keep a spare piece of card to act as a protective rest for the page underneath when tabbing pages.
One more awesome way to use the Highfive notebook
Although I haven’t done this myself I was thinking those tags could also act like a kind of tally or frequency graph.
For instance, if you used the Highfive notebook as your diary you could monitor how you felt over the course of a month by tagging each entry happy, sad, motivated, tired etc. Then after several weeks you could look at the edge and all the accumulated tags and get a rough snapshot of how you felt.
This could be useful for tracking progress in your various goals. If you’re trying to lose weight you could keep a daily journal tagging things like ‘Kept to diet’, ‘Went to Gym’, ‘Didn’t drink alcohol’ etc. The more tags visible on the side the better you are doing and the more it will spur you on to stay on track and spot where you need to try harder.
How I’m using it
I’m using this tagging system to note down all the moves I learn in Brazllian Jiu-Jitsu. Moves always start in one position i.e. standing up and finish in another i.e. taking the opponents back. By tagging each move where it starts and where it finishes I can search my notebook and create combinations of moves that flow effortlessly from one into the other. Pretty nifty right?
So how will you use the Highfive notebook?
Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @highfivebids