How I Try To Keep On Top Of Things

Before there were apps, there were notebooks.

I like apps, but I still like notebooks, and frankly I find it a bit uncomfortable if I don’t have one with me at all times.

What do I do with them? I spent part of the weekend drawing mind maps in my notebook – including rough sketches of things covered during the latest online course I ran.

This included wonky pictures of the tools available within Instagram to remind to myself how people on that course (about making videos) struggled to find things on their phones.

Also, thumbnail sketches of specific videos participants made or shared during the course, to demonstrate certain simple principles:

And I drew a map of an automated sequence of actions I painstakingly put together for course participants:

SYWOGV ConvertKit Automation.jpeg

With these mind maps on paper, I’ll be well prepared for the next time I run the course – much better than if I had to work my way through all kinds of online material.1


As well as mind maps, I use notebooks to make lists – who doesn’t, at least a bit? In his long essay, The Crack-Up, F Scott Fitzgerald described list-making as a way to stay sane.

I also write down quotes and ideas I find here and there, to help me absorb them more fully. I once read something fascinating in the London Review of Books about poor George Orwell’s obsessive list-making:

“He kept a Fishing Log when he went fishing, an Eggs Laid Log when he kept chickens. He could not read a newspaper without measuring the distribution of column inches: ads v news. Orwell the nerd? […] Some of his lists induce a sense of pathos. Was Orwell never, so to speak, off-duty?”


And finally (for now, anyway) I use notebooks to keep a record of things to do and things I’ve done.

A book coming out soon, which I’m lucky to have seen in proof copy, discusses the benefits of Bullet Journals for people with ADHD. I’m not going to attempt to quote it (I haven’t copied anything out yet) or paraphrase.

And I’m not saying that I do or don’t have ADHD. I’ve never been tested. But I do have a skittish mind, and using the notation of Bullet Journals seems to help me feel a bit more on top of things.

I recorded the short video (above) to show you the three basic elements that I use every day:

O for an appointment
. for a task
- for an idea

When a task is completed, I put an X through the .

In the past, I might have scribbled over or rubbed out a completed task, but this way, with the elegant little X beside it, I keep a record of what I’ve done.

I hope you find this helpful. Thank you for watching / reading.

1 The course is called Show Yourself With One Great Video, and can be found here: what-is-show-yourself-with-one-great-video