I need an SOP for my LRN

Pretty much everyone I’ve ever worked with uses a bound notebook that they dutifully take to every meeting and that contains notes from every meeting they’ve been to and which through they can easily flip to a needed note exactly when needed in a subsequent meeting. I, however, have never done this, preferring to write notes on random scraps of paper, which I then file in a folder for a given project, resulting in a very full file drawer, which, of course, I don’t have with me at meetings. I’ve also half-assedly experimented with various to-do list type apps and never quite settled on any one method that I really liked. Plus, I learned from one of my work’s research policy documents that if you discover something patentable, you need to have your notes in a *bound* notebook, not a binder or on random loose pieces of paper. Because you know I’m going to discover somethng patentable any day now. So, I decided that it was about time that I gave this bound notebook thing a try and I ordered a red one, because everyone else has black or blue and I figured it would be easier to not get mine mixed up with someone else’s if I had a red one. And I also figured I’d be less likely to leave it behind at a meeting if it’s brightly coloured than if it’s a subdued colour. Also, red is awesome.

Little red notebook My little red notebook (LRN). It matches my winter coat and my purse – totally coincidental.

So now I have my little red notebook… but I’m not really sure exactly what people do with this thing. I mean, I figure you write the date and then write some notes and probably indicate which of those notes are “to do” items – basically what I used to write on scraps of paper that would be all disorganized and such, but now it’s all nice and neatly bound and ready for inspection should I develop something patentable. But I feel like I’m missing something. Like all the long-term bound notebook users know some secret thing that makes them 233% more productive than me. So I’m putting it out to all y’all: Are you a takes-bound-notebook-to-meetings type? How do you organize your notebook?

Little red notebook

7 Replies to “I need an SOP for my LRN”

  1. I always thought a little red notebook was for setting Quotations from Chairman Mao to music.

    Seriously though, way back when I worked a proper office job, I would attend meetings with a leatherbound folder containing a legal pad. Ever since my time on a high school debate team, I’ve found legal pads optimal for taking notes. Much of it is a matter of appearance — clients and colleagues will tend to perceive that their ideas are being taken more seriously by someone with a neat clean note-taking method rather than an apparently haphazard approach.

    For organizational purposes, I never did much more than put the date, location, and purpose of a meeting across the top of a page where notes about that meeting would be recorded. Sometimes I would also note names, mainly so that I could remember what to call a new acquaintance who turned out to be important in the context of ongoing work. Though I experimented with a system of file folders to organize my notes and other records by project, in the end I found that consumed more time than it saved. Though each pad would span 12-20 weeks, simply not losing them was enough to make the practice useful.

  2. For some reason, we always called it a book, not a notebook.

    Not only for immediately patentable stuff but also some wickedly out-there idea you may have joked about in passing that someone else takes and turns into a billion-dollar empire (Date the pages!). You also help your employer prove that your idea was expressed during your work hours and therefore the employer is entitled to the copyright.

    On a completely separate note… The book is also useful in blackmailing with an offer to split proceeds without letting said employer know (what are the chances that someone else has it in their little bound book that Dr. snow said that at that time on that day?).

  3. I am on leave, as you know, but I am a total notebook devotee. I note date, location, and meeting attendees at the top, as well as the general subject. I then take notes. I am a total nerd, though — I take highlighters with me. I note action items (for me or for others) and I circle them in different colours of highlighter. And I try to confirm who’s responsible for what at the end of each meeting.

    As if that isn’t bad enough, at my desk I have a coil-bound notebook in which I map out daily “To Do” lists. After meetings, I make sure that I add the action items to that list, and ensure that tasks move forward when I make the next day’s list. I also check back to the minutes of previous meetings just to ensure that action items haven’t fallen through the cracks.

    Am total nerd.

  4. I think this blog posting wins the award for the longest comments EVER!

    @Demonweed – How long did you keep the notebooks after you filled it up?

    @Guessed – I like your multipurpose goals: patentable AND blackmail!

    @Sarah – Nerds rule. Also, it does not surprise me at all that you have a very organized system! I have a coil bound day planner book on my desk – I don’t actually use it for tracking meetings, since I have my iPhone for that, but my office was insistent that I order one (the office orders everyone’s day planners), so I used that as my weekly to-do organizer – listing the to do items that *must* be done on a given day (taken from my much bigger to-do list… which is either on my whiteboard, on some other paper, or in an app… I just haven’t figured out which system I like best, so I keep rotating through as I get frustrated with one system and moving on to the next.

  5. To put things in context, I helped to establish company A as an undergraduate, worked for two years as a partner at company B in the Big City, then had a parting of the ways and worked for salary back at company A for a couple of additional years. I kept my notes as long as I kept my employment, but I left them behind in the spirit of goodwill toward whoever might carry on with my projects. I flipped through to pull out personal contact information, irrelevant scheming, and moments of random silliness; but I abandoned the bulk of my notes three times over a five year period as a function of changing employers. No doubt a few moments of random silliness were left behind with the serious information in each case.

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