Visual Notetaking for Added Value

Visual NotesWhen you try and remember something, like a favorite summer day, does the memory come back as text? If you're telling someone how you want a new house to be built, would you open a word processor up and start typing instructions? Our brains are wired for a mix of systematic thinking on the left side, and visual thinking on the right. So why, then, do we take notes primarily in textual form?

Keeping an Accomplishment Log

Hey everyone, I'm out this week on personal matters. Instead of leaving Thursday blank with nothing new, I asked Eliza Metz for permission to reprint one of her creativity articles to help inspire you all. This article is taken from BeMUSEd #9. Eliza (also known as moderngypsy in most art circles) is a goddess amongst creative enablers. She makes her own journals, knits her own socks, writes and publishes books and zines slammed full with creative tips and tricks, and teaches classes on all sorts of creative and fun art topics from creating your own imagiNATION to crafting revolutionary art. You could say that she's my mentor. Because if it weren't for her friendship, classes and inspiration, I'd have never thought I could write articles for creative souls on a productivity site. Read more about Eliza and her publications at

Some of you are already on my yahoo group, doItNOW, which kind of started as just a little thing for me and a few friends, as a way to communicate what I was doing with a Control Journal to try and keep motivated, organized, and clear in the New Year. Word got out and it’s growing by the day and has become a little more like a creative life-coaching-in-general type thing, which uses three basic steps to help get things under control. The Control Journal, which is based on the whole thing only for art stuff; getting into the studio and making SOMETHING for 15 minutes in mid-afternoon/evening; and the third thing: An Accomplishment Log.

Mind Mapping for Business

Click to enlargeThere's an exercise I practice about once every three months that I call "Should I Quit?" In it, I map out all the reasons why it's a great idea to stay at my current place of business, and I map out all the things that bother me, and that might merit my packing up and moving on. I use it as a way to purge frustration, but also, as a way to uncover new thoughts about a situation or topic that I believe I have all the answers for, and there's where mind maps come in.

Mind maps are an excellent tool for unlocking information and connected ideas by representing information in a visual medium. I'm a big convert to using mind maps. I use them for blogging, for story ideas, and other creative endeavors, but I also use mind maps for business in a number of ways. Here are some of the uses I have for the new Hipster PDA Edition v3 Mind Map card.

Sketch Journalling: One scene at a time

Now that the new v3 D*I*Y HipsterPDA is out, I thought it’d be fun to give you all a new project. Sketch journals become fun, quick and quirky projects that capture and distill certain elements of your life down into fast and simple drawings. Leonardo daVinci kept one, Danny Gregory keeps one and now you can too. Keeping a sketchbook is a great way of keeping track of creative ideas and getting in the habit of regular drawing, as well as being a useful, visual brainstorming tool for when you’re feeling short on ideas. More importantly, it gives you the perfect opportunity to put those new 1-up Storyboard cards from the D*I*Y HipsterPDA core pack to good use.

Journalling Prompts: Resources for those days when the blank page bites back

Journal writing can be hard. The blank page sits ready, teasing you and your pen. A million and one thoughts swirl around in your head and you can't settle on just one thought or idea. And as soon as the best idea one does float into your mind, you start to worry about whether or not you can get it down and how that will all look on the finished page of your journal. Or perhaps maybe you never get an idea at all, so your page sits blank once more, awaiting the muse. Sometimes it's easier to not write than it is to write at all with all this pressure.

Fortunately, for those times when you feel the pressure, or can't think of a single thing to write about there are prompts. These small snippets of thoughts or questions or pictures help assist you in getting out of the writer's funk and into the writing process. Strangely, collecting prompts can also be addicting... so this week I've decided to share with you a few online and offline resources where you can get some quick fix inspiration to get you writing in your planners as well as meet some groups who are also journalling right along with you.

Workplace Spirituality: Finding Happiness in a 9-to-5 Job

Spring is here, the weather outside grows warmer and the world blossoms and deepens in green. Instead of being outside, tending to the wild forest that has overtaken my backyard, or hiking in the hills, I’m inside, working; building rapport at my new job at a company who’s giving me work I love to do. Once again I am working hard and trying to find the balance between my work-life and “home” life. Productivity (getting things done) has always been one of my main strengths at a company. However, I usually go overboard, shoving aside the other side of my life, my spirituality. Disconnecting myself from what I want to do, believe in and value and letting others define who I am.

We spend so much time at work: inventing new processes and creating new toys to make us more useful that sometimes our core values and beliefs get lost amongst the paperwork and email. We forget to take a break and remember what our true purpose is and sometimes that we are allowed to enjoy what we call “work”. We dissociate ourselves from our spirit and passions. We become cogs in the machine. Of course, I disbelieve that this has to happen. I like to think that we can strike a balance between having a spiritual self and a 9-to-5 job. I think that spirituality in the workplace is attainable and that people can enjoy and have fun in their work-life.

Holding Onto Your Books: DIY Book Leash

I was talking to a friend last week and she casually mentioned that she purchased a new type of bookmark. Normal everyday, run-of-the-mill bookmark apparently are no longer any good for her reading habits. They were weak, got lost easily and never stayed in their place when she put her paperbacks in a bag. Now, I’ve seen new types of bookmarks on the market that claim they can stay in place. Bookmarks you can hang over a corner and those you hang into books like a paperclip; but I've never gotten them to stay. Instead they've slipped off more often and always got lost at the bottom of my backpack.

What makes this new type of bookmark so great? It’s called a Book Bungee and she got it from Levenger. The Book Bungee looks like a normal everyday bookmark but it comes with a strap that you wrap around the outside of the book and over the bookmark so not only does it keep your place but it also protects the pages from getting torn or bent. When I saw this ingenious new idea, I thought about how similar it was to other book closures I have used in the past to keep my art books closed. Being the big Do It Yourselfer and crafty person, I figured out how to create my own Book Leash. In fact, I’m going to share with you how to make two different versions in this article.

Review: Book Arts by Mary Kaye Seckler

It's been awhile since I've written more about bookbinding or binding techniques. This week I return to my series of bookbinding (which started here and ended here) by giving you a review of one of my favorite bookbinding starter books. There's a lot of good books out there about bookbinding and more are being added to the shelves. If you have the time and desire, I recommend that you go to spend some time at your local bookstore and read through some of the various books. It can take time and some research to discover which book's instructions help you in making your own books.

Ever since I turned from journal connoisseur to journal maker, I've been trying to find those rare books that teach me how to make interesting styles of books without the technical jargon and confusing stereo instructions written in some language requiring babel fish to decode. I prefer reading instructional art books that contain numeric step-by-step instructions and lots of pictures. After reading a few books in the stores on the subject and finding that most of them seemed to be written in that stuffy, old, college text book style with vary little pictures to reference, I was glad to find this little gem. It's called Book Arts, by Mary Kaye Seckler and it's published by Design Originals. If you decide to buy it, I've attached a link for you to purchase it at at the bottom of this article.

Quick Tips: 5 New Uses for the Actions Quadrant Template

Continuing with my Quick Tips series, I'm going to cook up 5 new ways of using the Actions Quadrant (Classic v3.0) template. Those of you who want to follow me can get the card from the D*I*Y Planner Templates Core Package. I picked this template because it seemed like a good challenge. It’s quad grid seems best suited to conquer and divide tasks and projects into smaller and more manageable chunks.

However, with a little bit of imagination you can use the form to become:

A decision making tool. The Actions Quadrant template makes a perfect decision making tool. Use this form when you’re faced with complex decisions that have multiple choice solutions, each with their own set of consequences. Write down the situation in the box provided just under the grayscale line and then create 4 different scenarios and a list of results of taking those actions. For example, let’s say you’re considering a career change. Write down something like “What would be my life if I was doing something different?” in the box above and then list 4 different options in the Quadrant title boxes. Like, Artist, Writer, Astronaut, Retail. Then use the remaining checkboxes to brainstorm ideas on how your life would be like and all the advantages and disadvantages to being in that career. Once you’ve filled out the form, you’ve got some ideas on what may be the best decision to make. Who knows, you might be surprised at the perspective it gives you.

Multi-store Purchases tracker. Use this form to keep a small track of items you want to purchase at the store or multiple stores. If you’re like me, you may go out for the day, and end up going to multiple stores instead of that heavenly all-in-one place. Use this form to write down a quick list of all the items you need at 4 places. That way, you have a nice single list of what you need for all your places. As an added bonus, you don’t have to worry about losing 4 different lists!

Episode Guide. Okay, this may seem weird, but I know a lot of people who like to track episodes of their favorite television series. You could print out a whole bunch of these templates and create a whole history of your favorite t.v. program, episode by episode. Record episode summaries and notes, star information, and bloopers for 4 shows on one card. When you’re done, why not bind the sheets together, making a handy reference book. Of course, you don’t have to stop at episodes. You could also do the same with your favorite books, chapter by chapter; or favorite music groups and their discography.

Student Class Planner. When I was in Jr. and Senior High School, I found that planning my classes for the year was a lot harder than it seemed. Not only did you have to pick each class (and make sure you got the "favorite" teacher) but you also had to make sure that you didn’t double up and get in 2 different classes at the same time. Students can use this card to plan out each quarter of their school year by listing each quarter at the top and then writing down the list of classes, teachers and times in the check lists.

Student Homework Tracker Students can use this form once again to help their studies. Use this form to track track book homework assignments by chapter and use the check list to track any questions or notes you have regarding the text. You can also use this form to summarize main points and test objectives when studying for that next exam or quiz.

This has been my Quick Tips creative re-visioning of the Actions Quadrant template. Do you have any other suggestions for how this D*I*Y Planner template can be used? Feel free to post your ideas below.