I was listening to the Mikes on Mics podcast a few days ago and heard of some Elite Harvard Ivory Tower Intellectual pooh-poohing my paper notebook. Alexandra Samuel actually isn’t an elite Harvard intellectual in the sense that I’m lampooning, but she is a writer for the Harvard Business Review and she put up a piece entitled Dear Colleague, Put the Notebook Down which filled me with righteous wrath.
Go read it first. I’ll wait.
A search of the Eyebrow will tell you that I like notebooks. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. But “writing things down” can mean many different things nowadays. Typically, I take notes in a spiral bound, graph-ruled notebook that lets me keep everything together. This notebook goes everywhere with me and I just have to flip, flip, flip back to the appropriate page and there’s what I was doing, and who I was talking to.
Which made the blatant and horrible condescension of Alexandra Samuel’s piece so enraging! I actually read the article while at a stop light immediately after finishing up the Mikes on Mics podcast so I was driving home full of anger. How dare this woman insult my work skills?! She called me a useless hire because of the time it would take to transcribe a set of meeting minutes into an official document. Fuck her and fuck the horse she rode in on.
Then I thought about it. And I thought about it some more. And I realized that she had a point.
My veteran notebook serves me well and I have a stack of them in my drawer that I’ve filled over the years. Just this morning I went back to page 12 of the current notebook to check some notes written down during a phone call about the number of buses accessing a middle school. After that, I reviewed some meeting minutes that I’d made last week when discussing with a client their needs for materials submittals. That has been the majority of the flipping back that I’ve done in this notebook. I regularly go back and check to be sure my open tasks are complete (or irrelevant) but that is all. The notebook is a static storage system that serves in case I need to reference something. It does not interface with the internet, nor does it directly populate my Remember The Milk account with errands and tasks. It can’t download to a document so that the meeting minutes I need to type up are 70% complete.1 Ms. Samuel’s points here are valid and I think that I will take her (pointed, hyberbolic) lessons to heart2
So here’s what I’m going to try over the next little while:
As this is a bit new, I’m sure there will be some bugs involved in the process. One thing I know will be a problem is off-line connectivity. Evernote is wonderful, so long as you’re connected to the internet. I have the PC program on my laptop, but it takes 5 minutes to boot up and that’s nearly so useful as flipping open my notebook. I have my iPhone, but again, if no internet, no Evernote4.
It’s all a grand experiment! The thing I will keep in mind is that this whole process should increase my efficiency and ease of use. If not, it’s back to the paper notebooks.
Update: I’ve discovered that Evernote has an offline mode with a premium subscription. I’ve paid for a month.