Mark of the blog Ice Blue Banana recently asked me and a few other bloggers some questions about content creation (which you can find here; it’s a great read!). One of the questions was, “How do you find the next subject you will write about?” I answered by saying that I write about my experiences and about things I’ve read, and that I keep notes in a series of notebooks.

Brankica of Live Your Love (and a faithful Blogging Bookshelf reader) wanted to hear more about that system, so this post touches on that and a few other things I do (and that you can do, too) to be a more productive blogger and get more done.

This post is pretty scattered and not very organized. And yes, I see the irony in that :)

Notes that I keep

I keep copious notes, lists, and records. It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed doing, and it has proven to be useful for blogging. Here are some of the lists that I keep:

  • Blog post ideas
  • Product ideas
  • New website ideas
  • Things to get done in the near future
  • Things to get done today
  • My income and expenditures as they relate to my blog
  • Blogs that I comment on (watch for these lists in either Friday’s or Monday’s post)
  • Blogs that I should be commenting on
  • Time I spend working on my blog
  • Various usernames and passwords
  • Various blog statistics and numbers

And there are probably more; these are the ones I thought of off the top of my head. Some of these lists I keep on the computer and some I keep in notebooks.

Keep your notes organized!

I’m old school. I keep a lot of notes in notebooks as opposed to on my computer. Why? I don’t like always having to have my computer within arm’ reach. I spend enough time on the stupid thing as it is. For example, I like being able to read a book anywhere in the house and not have to mess with taking my laptop with me. Instead, I just grab a small notebook.

I know that my buddy Steve Scott calls this an idea notebook. I don’t know what I call my system. I guess… my idea notebooks?

Whatever system you choose to keep your notes (computer, notebooks, Evernote, iPhone, or whatever else works for you), be sure you keep them organized.

I’m going to explain MY system, and I’d love to hear your ideas on it as well as how YOU keep your notes.

My 3 notebooks

My 3 notebooks: the small one, the very small one, and the leather binder.

I have three notebooks that I keep notes in (as shown in the photo):

  1. A small 5” x 3” (127mm x 76mm) notepad that I take with me wherever I go. It fits in my pocket, but not very comfortably. It’s fine when I have a coat on, but not so great for just keeping in my pants pocket.
  2. A very small notepad that easily fits in my pocket. This is actually just a 5” x 3” notebook that’s been cut in half! I take this one with me when I don’t want to carry the larger one or when I don’t think I’ll be writing much down.
  3. A small leather binder (that holds 8.5” x 5.5” paper) with various dividers in it. More on this in a minute.

Sometimes taking even the small notepad is a pain, so I just take a pen and write on the back of my hand.

So regardless of where I am or what I’m doing, I always have something to take notes with. I hate forgetting my great ideas! :)

Why 3 notebooks? Well, I already said what the two smallest ones are for; I take them with me wherever I go and write down whatever comes to me (and since I’m constantly thinking about my blog, that happens often). The real magic happens when I get home. I transfer everything from the small notebooks to the binder. Once I do that, I cross out the item or page in my small notebook.

The binder.

The binder, with the page of miscellaneous notes (blurred) and the 5 divider tabs.

My binder currently has 5 divided sections in it (I’m constantly trying out new ones), and they are:

  • Blog post ideas (for Blogging Bookshelf)
  • Product ideas (just a big list of them)
  • Blogs and domains (blogs I’d like to start and/or domains I’d like to buy)
  • Finances (what I spend money on and how much money I make)
  • Expounded product ideas (I take a page or two and outline some of the various product ideas in more depth)

I also have a single page at the front that’s devoted to misc. stuff. As soon as it gets to be more than one page long, I throw it out and start a new one.

I love this system. It allows me to stay organized and add or remove pages and dividers as I feel necessary. It’s the result of many years of trial, error, frustration, and brilliant ideas lost forever.

Keep track of all of your passwords

I used to waste a ton of time trying to remember my various user names and passwords. When I couldn’t remember, I’d have to go through the whole enter-your-email-address-and-we’ll-reset-your-password thing. This wastes precious time.

I have a Google Docs document that I keep all of my passwords in. All of my passwords are coded so that only I can understand them, so even if someone DID manage to hack into my account, they wouldn’t be able to tell what my passwords are. Hopefully I never get amnesia and forget that I have this document…

My to do-lists

This is a trick I learned from Murray of Murlu fame. I use a small dry erase board (see photo below) to keep track of all of the things I need to do on any given day. The left side of the board is for things I need to do in the next couple days; the right side is for things I need to get done today.

Other systems

My workspace

The filing cabinet (with unsorted papers on the floor in front of it), the dry erase board (on top of the cabinet), and my amazing chair.

I have a small, two-drawer filing cabinet that I keep important documents in. I also put my printed out ebooks in there (I don’t like reading ebooks on my laptop; I need an iPad!).

When I need to sketch out infographics or make big lists, I use a regular large notebook.

I have a small, simple calendar taped to the wall next to my chair that I use to plan out my posts for the next month or so, though usually I write a post the night before I publish it.

I have a page that contains a bunch of 10×10 grids on it that I use for blog commenting. I cross off each box when I leave a comment. That’s how I know how many comments I’ve made. Sometimes I’ll do the same for tracking retweets. This isn’t the best system, and I’ll be changing it in the near future.

I could (and probably will… It’s going in the binder under “Blog post ideas”!) write an entire blog post on how I organize everything on my computer, so I won’t touch on that here right now.

I like to use Notepad (.txt) documents for some of the lists on my computer because I sometimes Word distracting and slow-loading.

Your turn!

I know that everyone has their own system of notekeeping and that everyone plans differently and takes different notes. I want to hear what YOU do!

  • What kinds of lists/notes do YOU keep?
  • How do you keep these notes (computer, notebooks, etc.)?
  • What kinds of lists or notes would you like to keep but currently don’t?
  • What systems do you use to organize your blog and your life?

As always, I’m really looking forward to the comments here! And as always, I really appreciate and respond to every one.