2010
10.24

OK, time for another post from the wonderful world of kaizen!
A few weeks ago, I began reading Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware.

It’s one of those books that is full of self-improvement and self-organization principles and tips, 2/3rds of which you’ve either picked up from elsewhere, or have worked out yourself; but seeing them consolidated in one place (along with lots of other things you didn’t know) makes it incredibly useful. [1. Side note: I'm increasingly loving Pragmatic books, & am slowly getting more; in earlier years I'd try & learn everything about a subject, now I'm getting the hang of abstracting away the clutter, no mean feat for me... ]

At the time I started writing this post, I was 16 pages in. As I finally sit down to finish this post, I’m now about two-thirds through, which is already a clue – I’m re-appraising what gives me value (Lean Development-style) in my life, and prioritising to churn out posts all the time is not once of them. A blogger I am not.

But, near-obsessive note-taking and logging for both documentation and reflective purposes, is! [2. See Livejournal archive for some evidence. I had to force myself out of the habit of random, meandering rambles.] And hence this post.

What kicked this off was the early suggestion to capturing thoughts & notes on physical paper (not computerised to-do lists). And also, having them on you at all times, to capture all thoughts.

This is a no-brainer idea, & I’ve tried this before, but I’ve found it surprisingly hard to implement. Historically, I’ve been both good and bad at this; making scrappy, hand-scrawled notes everywhere, which were then lost or indecipherable, even if I could read them. And, I try to travel light these days – I’ve tried this idea before, using notepads, but – you guess it – I’d leave them behind. So I’d use notes on my phone, tools such as Remember The Milk, etc.,  but they steer you towards linear to-do lists, missing out much of the context of the thoughts (assuming they can even be considered “things to do” in the first place).

So, to keep them in once place (& not written on my hand!), I had the great idea of adding it to my keys, which I have with me whenever I leave the house. But can you find a small, lightweight notebook & pen combo? Nope. Not even the highly-recommended Moleskin do any. The Zebra telescopic pen looked promising, but for £5!?!

One trip to WHS Smith led to a cheap spiral-bound notepad. Problem: cutting the notepad to fit made the paper all scruffy (especially round the edges of the holes, if you’ve ever tried this you know what I mean).

Then a trip to Rymans. Hooray! Look what I found:

It’s a set of Study Cards and a chained pencil!

You’re meant to write on them as some kind of memory test for studying, but I re-purposed them. Perfect, eh?

OK, no. The shortened pencil was useless – when short enough to keep in the pocket, I couldn’t really hold it, or move it round to write with! And cutting the pencil down in the first place… well let’s just say I don’t own a pencil sharpener, and going ot work’s Reception to borrow one juts led to them thinking I was some Scrooge figure trying to get the last life out of a well-used pencil.

So instead… Ryman’s to the rescue again – it’s a Sharpie Mini! Chainable, but the writing part is free-moving.(Incidentally, this is also the first time I’ve ever owned, or even used, a Sharpie. Yes, it’s true, American readers.)

I’ve been using this for about a month now, and in collaboration with other material from the book, I’ve noticed a marked improvement. Every week or so I go through the notes and add them permanently to a reflective journal, Remember The Milk, work plans, etc., as needed.

I’m pleased at how well it is capturing random thoughts that would otherwise have been ‘oh note this down later’, and lost. It’s interesting to see the same phrase written more than once, as I clearly go ‘yeah, great idea, must not forget this’… more than once.

Bonus picture: buckyballs!

Another major topic of the book is making use of the “R-mode Brain”. Read The Book for more, but basically harnessing the “right side of the brain” in a useful way for left-brained, linear people. Got these malleable magnetic balls for myself to use during phone meetings, thought periods, etc. They’re quite addictive.

There’s also the Dreyfus model of learning, but that’s another story / post…

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