Hi everybody!

is there a Manager Tools way to use Notebooks in a more effective way?; like for example finding information quickly or have better order and things like that.

Now I know thanks to Manager Tools  about Cornell notes and taking notes but I'd like to use Notebooks in a better way.

Thank you for any help.  Wish You the best.

José Ramón





kima's picture

Well, I can't say I know the exact Manager tools way to use your notebook but since you haven't had any replies thought I'd share my system.  I have one master notebook that i use for all notes.  I use a Levenger notebook because i like the ease of moving pages to other books but you could do this without one. By section:

1.  My master To Do list.  I also use a daily 3x5 card that i create each morning with the exact list of things for that day.  That way, even when i'm taking notes my list is very visible to me.

2.  Log:  Running log of meeting notes, phone calls, etc.  Date at top of page, title of meeting, who was there, cornell note style.  If during a meeting I have an action, I immediately flip to my To Do section and add it there or if it is for a direct or for my manager i flip to the 1-1 section and add it to their page.  Same for any info for cascading at staff meetings.  As my notebook fills up i pull the oldest log pages and file them in a folder.  I purge the folder at the end of the year after evaluations.

3. 1-1s:  for each direct, 1 page reference listing their goals, development info, etc. and then several pages of notes from 1-1s.  I date a blank section for the next 1-1 and that is where i add notes from section 2.   That way when i have a 1-1, the things i need to remember to discuss are right there ready to go.  If during the 1-1 I realize i need to followup with someone else, I immediately make a note on their page.  I even have a page in here for 1-1s with my manager. When this section starts to fill up, i pull the oldest notes and each direct has a folder in which i file their notes.

4. Staff meetings:  pages for my staff meetings including my notes from the current meeting and notes of info i need to cascade for the next one.  Also my notes for my boss's staff meeting, including any roundtable notes i want to remember for making comments.  I also attend a partner's staff meeting and do the same for his.  If during one of these meetings, an item to remember comes up for, say, a direct.  I immediately note it in the 1-1 section on their next meeting page.

Everything else - metrics, balanced scorecard, project reviews, etc. are online in my computer.  My notebook is for people things like notes during conversations, tracking actions etc. 


Hope that helps!



mjbalbontin's picture

Thanks for taking the time to explain your system so thoroughly Kim. I stumbled upon this thread by chance, and found myself inspired to try something like this too, as I'm also a big fan of notebooks.

I did not know about Circa notebooks or anything like them, and now I'm officially obsessed with the idea of having one! I'm in Canada and there are harder to find here it seems, but I'll keep trying.

Thanks again,



Jose_Ramon's picture

Thanks for taking the time to explain your system. I'm sure it will help not just me but others with the same doubt.

Once again thank you. 

José Ramón

jclishe's picture

+1 on the Levenger Circa notebook. I'm a huge fan of Levenger products and have the Bomber Jacket Circa and Bomber Jacket Pocket Briefcase for my 3x5 cards. I also have one of their 3x5 bleachers for my desk, so I can move notecards between my Circa, Pocket Briefcase, and also have them visible on my desk.

I use a similar method to what Kim described. The beauty of the Levenger system is how modular it is and can be customized to your individual needs. And their stuff is high quality, I regularly get questions and complements on my Bomber Circa notebook.


Gareth's picture

I hope you don't mind me bringing out an old topic.

I'm starting to think my notebook system isn't working - I like the idea of having a single notebook for everything but as highlighted already on this thread it is easy to lose the detail. I moved to a Midori Traveler's Notebook because I liked the idea of a journal that ages over time and also allows more than one booklet but found it lacking. The primary reason is that unlike the Moleskine I had it doesn't 'lay flat' which makes taking notes a little uncomfortable.
I am now back to my trusted black Moleskine (added the pen holder that I bought with the Traveler's Notebook) and take notes from every meeting and phone call. I highlight actions I need to take (AP) and others have agreed to (WF) and tick when they have been complete - When I have some of my scheduled 'email time' left I transfer the (AP) and (WF) items to my outlook task list and cross the (AP) or (WF) out with a simple X.
(AP = Action Point, WF = Waiting For)
Whilst I like the idea of being able to move pages from one section (or notebook) to another I don't think I will get on with it. I also don't like the metal 'ring binders' but understand why it is so popular. Whilst out of my budget the range offered by Smythson (what Mark uses) has made me reconsider that view! Yet as someone who has an office at home with (at most) 5 to 6 off-site visits per month I need a system that factors this in.
Interestingly because I am almost always hiding behind a phone/computer I took it as an opportunity to use a OneNote system for practically every meeting and phone call - yet it didn't work. I found myself not very engaged in the meeting when making digital notes (should that be a bullet point or in bold… maybe underlined!?) or asking the other person to excuse the typing as I am making notes (and not doing email with someone else!).
Which brings me back to what notebook and system should I use. My bosses boss moved from a simple $1 notebook to a Moleskine after seeing mine - or at least I like to think so as between two meetings (it was several months however) the $1 notebook left and in came the black Moleskine. I'm sure that wasn't really the reason but at least it gives me some guidance as to style of what notebook is acceptable.
Then we have what system to use. When I had a team I found using a single notebook for everything including the O3s (and logging feedback etc) unsuitable. My current thinking is to have a notebook (Moleskine) for each major area which at present is just one - when I have staff again that will become another major area.



cynaus's picture

Hi Kim

I'm currently setting up my zippered notebook following your guidelines (which I've heard Mark outline in the past). I'm just a little confused as to the difference between log and staff meetings sections. I can see having a section for meeting notes, though wouldn't you subsequently move them to the Staff Meetings section when done? If so, isn't this an extra step and wouldn't you just take the notes in the Staff Meeting section? 

If I use the Log section for a one-off meeting (ie being in HR, I have plenty of impromptu meetings with supervisor, staff, managers - which I could put here and that would require an action or follow up later. Are these the types of meeting notes you're talking about - ie anything that's not a staff meeting or one on one?



timbarcz's picture



what size Moleskine are you using/recommend?


Is anyone using notes which then they scan after the fact into a digital system (OneNote or Evernote)? (In fact there are Moleskine books for better integration with Evernote).



Gareth's picture

Hi Tim,

I use this one -

For me anything smaller or bigger isn't practical enough for my needs (travel / room to brainstorm).

I've debated using the Moleskine version for Evernote BUT it just adds another level of processing to the system that I want to keep as simple as possible. I *know* that I will spend to much time setting up the system and keeping it going - all the while not getting enough value out of it to justfiy it.

They also do a professional version ( I've not used this version before but looks interesting - HOWEVER - just like the Evernote version I *know* I will overthink the use of it and that will distract me from what I really need to be doing.

I've just bought a new fountain pen (Vanishing Point / Capless) therefore may move to a plain version rather than ruled in the future.



timbarcz's picture

Thanks for the thoughts...pardon my ignorance but can you explain the following comment in more depth?

"I've just bought a new fountain pen (Vanishing Point / Capless) therefore may move to a plain version rather than ruled in the future."

Gareth's picture

Ah let me try that point again. The notebook I use has ruled paper but might try plain paper when moving to a fountain pen as I would rather use plain paper with a fountain pen. Personal preference. 



spiderwj's picture

I just gave up using my moleskine notebook.  I found it was a bit too small and my vanishing point fountain pen bled through the pages.  I have a day-timer 7-ring planner that I am filling with blank white pages to use as a notebook.  I am not sure if this is my final solution to a notebook but it allows me to put slightly larger pages (split A4) in it and easily organize and archive old notes.  I used to use a paper calendar in the day-timer but I am working to transition to a digital calendar.  If the day-timer doesn't work, I may go back to the moleskine in an extra-large format and try using a different pen.