How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard
Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some thoughts, tools, and techniques that may be of help to those of you wanting to affect change in your life or your business. Loosely coupled, the ideas form the basis of a system I call “Three Easy Pieces.” But before we delve into the details, I’d like to provide some background information.
Last week, during a talk with a group of University of Arizona engineering students about investment casting and CNC machining, I couldn’t help but wonder how all of the laptops, tablets, and cell phones in classrooms these days may be affecting their ability to learn.
For, as Arizona alum David Foster Wallace said:
The value of a real education has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness.
When I use computers to take note of my daily affairs I have found that, despite making me feel more productive, it seems to siphon away my attention from the very events I should be paying attention to. While I fully acknowledge the problem may rest solely with me or the fact that I don’t have an awareness app installed on my computer, at this point in my life, I’m inclined to agree with Maria Popova that:
Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.
And that while the “cult of productivity” has its place:
Worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.
As a result, instead of a laptop or tablet, I use pen and paper to capture my notes and thoughts longhand. If awareness and learning are goals in your life, recent research by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer suggests you might consider doing the same: Students who took notes on paper learned more than those who used laptops. Further, their studies revealed that:
Those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material.
But any old notebook won’t do for the task. Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of notebooks, my favorite being the Leuchtturm 1917 (leuchtturm is the German word for lighthouse and 1917 is when the company was founded). In addition to being extremely well-made, reasonably priced, and offered in an assortment of colors and sizes:
- The front has a blank table of contents, perfect for keeping track of longer range projects.
- The 249 pages have page numbers. As a former engineer/scientist I’m clearly biased about this but if you see utility in a table of contents hopefully you’ll welcome the pre-printed page numbers like I do.
- Although I prefer writing on Clairefontaine paper, the paper quality is good and ink-proof. That said, I’m holding out hope for an Evaero Limited Edition Leuchtturm 1917 notebook with the Clairefontaine paper! A German notebook with French paper? Now that’s what I call Engineered by Design™!
- The last eight pages are perforated and detachable, perfect for passing along information to someone while you’re on a business trip.
- There is an expandable pocket attached to the back of the book, ideal for keeping receipts, stamps, money, business cards, etc. Oh, and unlike the Moleskine notebooks I’ve owned in the past, I have yet to have one of the pockets detach itself from the back of the book.
- A page marker and an elastic band to keep the notebook shut when you’re not using it.
- Although there are other sizes available I particularly like the one I’ve linked to in this blog. It’s easy to write in and because the thread-bound book opens flat it fits perfectly on a copier.
- And for OCD nerds such as myself, included is a loose sheet with a grid on one side and lines on the other in case you want to put it under the sheet you’re writing on. There are also stickers for labeling and archiving.
Until next week, in light of his quote above, I thought it appropriate to leave you with a video of an excerpt of David Foster Wallace’s commencement address (hat tip Amanda) to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College.
In your service…xian
Video not displaying properly? Click here.
Having said that, I am interested to hear from you. Good, bad, or otherwise, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m the only person who will read your email and, as time allows, I’ll do my best, at a minimum, to personally acknowledge receipt.