Posts Tagged ‘equipment’

Great Idea-Mapping Tool — Giant Stickies

March 14, 2012

This video from Daniel Pink provides a great demo for how to use giant stickies. Pink has started using these instead of whiteboards. One important benefit is that you don’t have to erase your previous work — you have an archive of the thinking process that led you to where you are now.

The product he demonstrates here looks like the Staples Stickies restickable tabletop easel pad.

My Favorite Tools, Episode 1: Ginormous Stickies from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

AB — 14 March 2012

Why You Really Need to Carry a Pocket Notebook

August 26, 2010

One of my all-time best practices as a thinker is to carry a pocket notebook. This allows you to capture ideas at the moment they occur to you. Recording an idea at the moment of inspiration is crucial, as you will lose most ideas if you wait to write them down later.

A great article on this topic appears on Brett and Kate McKay’s Art of Manliness web site — see “The Manly Tradition of the Pocket Notebook.” The McKays found some great historical quotes about pocket notebooks, such as this one from a doctor, written in 1918:

When I started in practice, I got in the habit of putting many of my spare moments (had plenty of them!) into studying up some of the rarer diseases that we had to deal with. I would read up all I could find on one subject, then I would take some time in thinking it over, then I would formulate a plan of treatment and write it out in a pocket-notebook. In after years, that old notebook helped me out of a good many difficult situations; and some of the best work I have ever done has come from those notes.

From Toothpaste for Dinner comes this great cartoon:

Why you need to write down your ideas

AB — 26 August 2010

Best bookmarking tools (for actual books)

September 18, 2009

My favorite bookmarking tool has become the 3M Post-It Arrow Flag, rather than the traditional bookmark.

Nowadays, I only use a traditional bookmark for the book I keep by my bedside, which always stays there and never gets rough duty.

For all other uses, the Arrow Flag can’t be beat, as it stays in place and can be used to mark the exact sentence or paragraph where you left off. And it is more versatile. For example, it can be used on a stapled printout, whereas a regular bookmark would be useless in such a situation.

Arrow flag - best bookmark at workThe Arrow Flags don’t last forever, as they eventually lose their stickiness — but they do last a good long while, and you get 96 of them in a package.

If you’re looking for a little more style, you might try the copper Page Dart. At about $5.00 for 12 of them, they’re more expensive than the sticky-arrows, but they’re quite elegant and stay in place on the page as well.

AB — 18 Sept. 2009

Carrying your stuff

September 12, 2009

One vital aspect of being organized as a thinker and knowledge-worker is to make sure you have what you need with you at the moment you need it. That means you have to be prepared to carry stuff.

This is not always easy to do, especially if you live a varied life in which you fulfill multiple roles — for example, parent, worker, student, teacher, exerciser (as in going out for a run or walk or to the gym), shopper, errand-runner, and so on.

So it is vital to think out ahead of time which things you need to carry for each role or task and be prepared to take those things with you when the time comes.

For me, where to start on this topic is a toss-up: pockets versus wallet/purse. These two topics really go together, but I will start with wallet/purse.

Part of me wants to say that it’s a tragedy to have to mention purses here. I think it is crazy that so many women’s clothes don’t include pockets, forcing women to occupy a whole hand or shoulder to carry a purse. This hampers mobility and makes the user more vulnerable to theft.

However, I also recognize that not being burdened with pockets and the stuff that goes into them is a style issue for many women, so I hate to be too critical.

Here is a picture of my wallet.

Al's wallet

This wallet is an Eagle Creek travel-style wallet. It is made from synthetic materials and has a velcro close. It is very large, which I like — it can carry everything I need — credit and debit cards, IDs and membership cards, retail loyalty cards, money, checks to deposit, store coupons, and extra house and car keys in case I lose my regular set or get locked out of the car.

Unfortunately, I am not able to find this wallet online to link to — perhaps Eagle Creek no longer makes it. It is a very durable wallet — I’ve had mine for about five years now.

A wallet is a very personal thing, so it’s hard to recommend purchasing one online. Better to be able to hold it in your hand and root through it, making sure it has the compartments and other features you need.

When it comes to purses, it’s hard for a guy to know what to recommend. However, this organizer from Buxton shown here looks great and seems really useful.

A few years ago I bought my wife an AmeriBag, which she loves. She doesn’t use it as a purse so much, but she takes it to work with her as a carryall for daily “rough use.”

Here’s a picture of an AmeriBag:

The attraction of the AmeriBag and the Buxton organizer is that they provide numerous compartments and features that allow the user to organize her materials, rather than just throwing them all into an open bag.

Al's shirt pocket with writing toolsNow to pockets. To me, clothes without pockets are almost criminal. I no longer buy shirts without pockets, as I need a shirt pocket to carry my writing tools without damaging them. Many years ago, I tried carrying pens in my pants pockets, but found that they would get broken when I sat down.

Cargo pants are one of the greatest inventions for thinkers who also care about being comfortable. In the leg pockets of my cargo pants, I can carry my smart phone on one side and my bulky wallet on the other.

Cargo pants pocket with wallet

Unfortunately, leg pockets have not yet appeared on dress slacks or men’s suits, so when I need to look professional, I have to just bite the bullet and put my wallet in my back pocket.

Stuff that can’t be carried on your person has to be carried in some kind of external bag. The two obvious choices are rucksacks (backpacks) and briefbags (briefcases).

I use a rucksack when I go out for a task that will require extended walking — if the setting of the meeting permits the informality of a rucksack.

For more formal situations such as business meetings — or when the walking will not be extensive, I use a small flexible briefbag (with a strap, so it can be slung over a shoulder. Here are my current rucksack and briefbag:

Al's rucksack and briefbag

Both the rucksack and the briefbag have laptop compartments, and important feature to me, as I usually bring a computer when I travel out of town.

For crucial activities with specific equipment requirements — certain books, notebooks, papers, files, etc. — I set aside a briefcase or bag specifically equipped for that purpose. For the most part, the briefcase is the permanent repository for the required items. That way, I don’t have to worry about loading up the briefcase every week before I head out to that meeting — and there’s less risk of forgetting something.

Al's Meeting CaseFor example, as a voluntary religious teacher, I attend meetings for worship twice a week, at which I have extensive teaching and pastoral responsibilities. The meeting case show here is the one I use for those meetings.

This is a Goodhope Computer Catalogue Case. It looks great and is very rugged and well-made. My main complaint is that the middle section is somewhat hard to get your hand into to retrieve a book. To be fair to the makers, though, that middle compartment was originally meant to hold a laptop rather than books. Below is a photo of the case when it is closed.

Meeting case closed and ready to goIn the past, I have used a meeting case that was completely open at the top. I think that was a better design, as it allows the user to reach in quickly to grab a book or other item. With the Goodhope case, I often find myself groping for an item placed in that middle compartment. So I think next time I have to buy a meeting case, I will go back to the open design.

Most knowledge-workers these days have to be mobile at times. Give advance thought to the equipment you will need for the various situations you confront — and how you’re going to carry the stuff you need.

AB — 11 Sept. 2009

Spine labels for spiral notebooks — Somebody please invent them!

August 23, 2009

I’ve never seen a solution to this problem: When you’ve used spiral notebooks for many years, how do you tell them apart on the shelf? Here’s what I mean:


Kind of a mess, huh? How can I find all of the treasures no doubt concealed in these notebooks?

I guess you might be able to slip a label down inside the spiral of a notebook, but if you opened it a lot, the label would probably get mauled.

Anyway, this seems like a niche need for which someone might be able to invent a marketable solution!

AB — 23 August 2009

My thinker’s shirt-pocket gear

August 23, 2009

My family is ashamed to be seen in public with me, but I am prepared for most situations that thinkers encounter away from home, because I always have my custom gear in my shirt-pocket:


Here’s the exploded view with specs below:


From left to right:

1. Spiral-bound note pad, 3″ x 4″, blank (not lined!) paper — I get these custom-made cheap at the print shop of any big-box office-supply store like Staples. They can be made from an off-the-shelf package of note pads.

2. Four-color ballpoint pen — The only one I’ve been able to find is the one made by Bic. Includes colors blue, black, red, and green.

3. Pen-size highlighter — The one shown is a Sharpie.

4. Three-way pen — includes ballpoint (blue or black), mechanical pencil, and PDA stylus — This one is the PhD Multi by Papermate, the most dependable of its type and price range.

5. .005/.20 mm fine-line marker for very fine notations and interlinear notes — The one shown is the Micron pen, but Prismacolor also makes a pen of this type.

AB — 23 August 2009