Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Unillustrated Instructional 1: How to use a notebook

For years I've wanted to share some of the hard-learned lessons in my life with my blog readers. I figured I would write up a series of simple instructional posts to cover hints, tips, and solutions to everyday annoyances. Why, I could even illustrate them with photos! All I had to do was get around to taking the photos.

And so I waited...and waited...and waited...

...and finally I thought, Fine, I'll go without the photos!

Which brings us to here.

My first instructional is on something most of us have probably been doing, off and on, since first grade: How to use a notebook. I've spent the last few weeks in a training course for a new job (yes, amazingly enough, some employers are still willing to train new employees for their jobs - and pay them during the training, too!) and have filled several notebooks with notes. That's a lot of notes, covering a lot of subjects, taken over a lot of days. By observing how other people have been taking notes. I've developed some new notebook management skills that have been very useful.

1. Put the date on every page. In grade school I got into the habit of putting the date at the beginning of each day's notes. This made it easy to flip back and see what information was covered on which day, and to review information from a specific day. But after observing a fellow trainee putting the date on the upper outside top line of each page, I realized how much easier it would be to locate a specific day's notes, or to tell which day each page of notes was from, if the date was included on every page.

2. Use the top margin space on every page for broad subject headers. As in a textbook, this makes it easy to flip through the notebook and find which topic was being covered on each day.

3. Use the outer margin areas on every page for specific topic guides. This is the left-hand margin on the left pages, and the right-hand margin on the right pages. You could also use this space for the broad subject headers, but that might be redundant. Instead, focus on what's specifically being covered on that page. Write this information however it works for you. I find it most effective to write it so it can be read when the book is held sideways. I write the words so they are all properly aligned, regardless of what page they are on, when the notebook is held sideways with the spine at the top.

4. Leave plenty of room for future notes. I used to like to fill in notebooks very neatly, or cram them full of information. But you should allow for the possibility that you will be adding notes to your notes somewhere down the line. Maybe this will be an expansion of the notes you have taken, maybe a clarification, or maybe just notes about the notes. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself adding notes to your notes.

And that's that. Whether you're filling a notebook with information for a class, or are just writing poems and stories for your own amusement, following these steps may help make your notebook more useful to you.

Do you have any hints and tips on using a notebook? Let me know in the comments, and maybe I'll add them to this post!

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