I use a day book for work and play. It’s full of my appalling scrawl, which only I can read, occasionally. I like to take notes; it helps me commit things to memory.

Some people prefer to abandon paperwork altogether, preferring to keep their notes digital. I like to have my book with me and scribble away, unless I’m taking meeting minutes, in which case I will go digital too to save on time and avoid duplication.

Writing, or at least holding a pen, helps me think, and helps the thoughts flow and find meaning through meaningful connections.

My day book is my bible. It would be almost as bad for me to lose my day book as it would my laptop. I don’t like other people writing on it. I was once in a meeting with someone senior who I had only met that day, and who wanted to answer my question with an illustration. In a weak moment, I said he could use my notepad. He turned the page to the next double spread and scrawled away in the middle of it, a small two-by-two matrix he could have easily verbalised for me. In later days I ‘fenced off’ his scrawl and wrote notes from later meetings around it.

Here are some of the things I do to make my day book as useful as possible.

  • I use an A4-size lined note pad, with bound pages that can’t be easily ripped out or fall out. I find the smaller ones mean I don’t take enough notes
  • I always write the date down for each day I use the day book. This helps me retrieve historical notes if I need to refer back to them
  • From a self-preservation point of view, it’s sometimes useful to take records of important conversations, in case you have to say ‘no, actually you said this and we agreed this then’
  • When I scribble down an important point, I put an asterisk next to it. Then, when I’m gathering together my thoughts or action lists, I can quickly scan through my notes and harvest the important bits
  • If I have an unrelated thought of something I need to do, perhaps something personal like pay an important bill or phone someone about an important matter, I write it at the top of the page, above where the lines start
  • When I have a completed an action, I cross it out. If I’m updating a to do list, I cross out the previous one and add the outstanding actions to the latest list. That way I don’t have random actions that I may overlook littering my day book
  • I make all my notes bullet points, using either a further indented bullet or a curly arrow for a sub-point or the causal effect of my previous point. This has the effect of increasing white space around my notes and stops the text looking impenetrable
  • In the inside front cover of the day book is my email and address and mobile phone number, for the kindly soul who finds it to contact me so I can get it back
  • When I finish a day book, I carry the old book and the new one around together for a ‘transition’ week. I then store the old day book on a home office shelf, next to the previous old one, and keep them for a number of years, as if they were financial or legal records

Day books are great. They’re your indispensable companion for the weeks, months and years.