A Simple Habit of Super Performers : Carrying Notebook

Dear Friends,
Let me begin by asking you a question. Has any of the following happened to you :-

– Your friend told you a mobile number to call and you did not remember! And when you did, you don’t know what number he told!
– Your father asked you to pay a telephone bill of Rs. X, which you jotted down on the newspaper and now you can’t find it!
– Your wife told you to pick up 4 items of grocery on your way back from office and now you don’t remember those items.
– While working on a project, a great blog idea crossed your mind.  A few days later, you don’t remember what exactly it was!
– Your boss called you to his office and asked you to finish three things by the evening and you miss doing one of those.
– You attended an interesting self-improvement trainingon Habits – but you did not take down notes.  Now months later everything has washed away and you cannot remember.

If the answer is YES ! Well, we all do it, one time or the other. In the blog today, I wish to talk of a simple habit, that can double your personal efficiency, productivity and reputation in remembering and getting things done. 

About 23 years ago, I joined my parent Engineer Regiment in Assam.  All those who do not know – when a young army officer arrives in the Battalion or Regiment there are elaborate orientation plans for 3-6 months, that he would be walked through.  The first thing on this orientation plan and a fundamentally important thing is to –
“Always keep a Pocket Notebook and a Pen and Carry it at all times”.  
This is the Habit I would write on today. Let me begin by narrating a few things about some of the finest geniuses and their notebook habit –

Benjamin Franklin.         At the age of 20, Franklin set himself a goal of moral perfection. To accomplish this goal, he made a personal improvement program – his 13 Habits ( click here to read ). In order to keep track of his adherence to these virtues, Franklin made 13 charts in a small notebook he carried with him all the time. At 79, Franklin wrote, “I am indebted to my notebook for the happiness of my whole life.

Ernest Hemingway.        There has hardly been a more passionate devotee of the pocket notebook and he would famously declare – “I belong to this notebook and this pencil”. One of Hemingway’s first notebooks, in elementary school he wrote –  “I intend to travel and write” – and see what he became. He carried notebooks everywhere, jotting down notes wherever he was – a bar, a train, a bullfight. He stored ideas, sights, sounds, and smells away in notebooks for future use in his short stories and novels.

Gen. George C. Marshall              As a young Captain between the World Wars, Marshall served as ADC to General Pershing.  Wherever he went, he carefully observed the men he met and would jot down the names of promising candidates for future leadership positions, making notes of their strengths and characteristics.  The names of men like Patton, Eisenhower, Bradley, and Stilwell could be found on the pages of his famous notebook. One small notebook habit, that gave rich dividends during his tenure as the U.S. Army Chief of Staff during WWII.

Ralph W Emerson was the most prolific notebook-keepers in history. He kept 263 notebooks for a variety of purposes. It required a 400 page index to help Emerson find what he was looking for. He made indexes for specific subjects too and an index just for references to People in his notebooks-839 in all. He even had indexes for his indexes 🙂 .

Richard Branson has a long line of notebooks on the library shelf. And he says –
“I have always lived my life by making lists: Lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. Each day I work through these lists, and it is that sequence of calls that propels me forward.”

Branson writes his daily notes
Branson writes his daily notes

Charles Darwin would write his first Evolution tree in a pocket notebook moment it came to his mind.

Thomas Alva Edison would write his first incandescent bulb idea in his pocket notebook, while waiting at a dentist clinic.

Newton would imagine and record his ideas about Alchemy in his pocket notebook.

 Leonardo da Vinci and Beethoven would record all the ideas that ever crossed their mind in their pocket notebooks that they carried everywhere. He would write multiple things on the same page using all the space on the page and at times writing right to left. 🙂

Evidently I read this appropriate observation on the net –
There’s one small clue; one tiny, almost unnoticeable habit a striking number of top performers share. They keep a pocket notebook”.

The Habit for You
Keeping a notebook is a simple indispensable tool for an efficient person. In your world, there are works to do, things to buy, lists to be made, numbers to remember, fleeting ideas that cross your mind, minutes from a meeting, agendas for meetings and critically important conversations to record for posterity. There is a lot that can be achieved by this magical small habit –

A Pocket Notebook with a pen that is handy to carry
A Pocket Notebook with a pen that is handy to carry

“Keep a pen and notebook;  
Carry it everywhere;
Note down the points and
Attend to those points.”

Now if you have decided to have a habit of Keeping a Notebook and Pen. Here are a few things that you should remember –

  1. Keep only one notebook at a time. Date your entries and it is good to have pages numbered.
  2. Have an attached pen or a place to put one. Keep pen and notebook together at all times.
  3. Notebook should be of the size of your pocket to fit in at all times.
  4. The ‘Ideas’ and ‘To Do’ parts can have different sections. Eg. To Do for me is in front pages and ideas & numbers ( tele, amounts etc) I normally note in the rear pages.
  5. Have a time fixed to review the notebook twice a day. Good times are – before sleeping and after your morning tea. Spend about 10 minutes browsing.
  6. Write your top 3 To-Dos of the day in the notebook in the morning and ensure you finish these by the evening. Remember to refer to it many times in the day.
  7. Train yourself to tell the notebook everything that you need to do or to remember in the day. Be in the habit of noting down everything that needs future reference.
  8. In the night review of notes – see what you could finish and is there anything else that happened in the day that needs your attention.
  9. Final word from an ex-soldier- Physical notebooks are better than electronic ones – you figure out why? The battery runs out .
Get a Pocket Notebook which can hold a Pen
Get a Pocket Notebook which can hold a Pen

I can bet that, this one habit can really make a huge of difference to your daily efficiency and productivity. Which means you would be able to accomplish a lot of work in the day. Your daily small achievements will definitely boost you happiness quotient and self-esteem.
“Keep a pen and notebook;
Carry it everywhere;
Note down the points and
Attend to those points.”

Try it and let me know if this made a difference to you … I shall be grateful for your comments, experiences and views on this.

Regards and have a great week ahead 🙂



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