Extremely Useful Notebook Organizing Hack

I was so thrilled when I ran across this notebook hack, allegedly from Japan, on Instagram. I fill up lots of notebooks and frequently use a single journal for work ideas, personal projects, and domestic planning (trips, meals, shopping, etc.). Finding things, across volumes, and within volumes (of Maker’s Notebooks), can be a real chore. The only real way of fixing this access problem is taking the considerable time to index everything.

This simple approach allows you to fairly quickly build a back-of-book (or front, if you like) index of significant content as you go. Here’s how it works:

First you start off with your content. In this example, Adam, who runs the blog High Five, is making a recipe book. Here’s his first recipe.

He begins a listing of recipe types on the final page of his recipe notebook.

Based on his index of recipe types, he puts the appropriate marking on the outside edge of the page for this Chinese recipe.

And here you can see that by placing corresponding marks on the edges of the pages that map to the recipe index in the back, Adam has organized his recipes for much easier access.

I’m definitely going to start doing this in all of my notebooks. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below on how you organize and index paper notebooks and project journals.

9 thoughts on “Extremely Useful Notebook Organizing Hack

  1. That’s a great keyword index. Love how you can have a single page appear in multiple sections. (Chinese and Beef in the example above). The only problem I see is remembering everything on the back page when you’re creating the content and putting the mark int he right place.

    1. One could also start by using a lighter color (yellow highligher?) for the initial edge marking and using a darker one (red?) to later ID favorites. This would add an additional variable to the mix. For folks using this in a work setting at meetings, use of the removable Post-It type tags would be a way of flagging action items in the notebook that could provide a fuller context than the seperate typical calendar/to-do list.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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