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A little known hack from Japan to get your notebook organized

Adam Akhtar |
August 12, 2014

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.

Here's how it works.

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.

writing down an idea in your notebook

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.

create an index in your notebook

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.

tag your first entry

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.

A fully tagged notebook

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.

Spotting trends

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 this 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 with the 4 hour body for example 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 this notebook hack?

Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @highfivebids

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