Given the central role technology has in our digital age, there is always a lot of hype around the best new laptop. Some boast about their notebooks being the best for small business. Others speak to how their laptop notebooks are the best fit for your niche work, whether that be a cloud based business or work in the field where you need sturdy equipment.
What about the good old school notebook-notebook? You know, that notebook made out of paper?
It certainly seems boring by comparison despite research that shows how taking notes by hand with pen and paper is much more effective than typing them on a laptop anyway.
Interestingly, some paper-based notebooks have evolved as well. Even though they don't have fun technology bells and whistles, they might not need them to help you keep your notes organized, remember what is most important, and then be able to focus on execution.
As an entrepreneur, I actually use one of these old school paper notebooks and was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with the CEO of the company.
Samuel Valenti IV is the CEO of Ghostly, a creative organization focused on music and productivity products. He talked about his own challenges he used to have with his teams in terms of documenting, organizing, and getting alignment on brainstorming sessions and strategic direction when they almost exclusively relied on technology to manage those things.
Then he and his team started using something called Action Method Books and found it so effective that they acquired the rights.
When I spoke to Sam, he articulated the value proposition with clarity:
"We are definitely seeing a movement back to paper. We see it with big companies as well as small creatives. People are going that way because paper is tangible and is a great way to talk about shared purpose. Technology doesn't offer that, especially as people seem to be trying more than ever these days to get out of their inbox."
What are Action Method Books? What makes them so cool?
Every day, I used to carry around with me one of those black composition notebooks that I used back in college. I diligently took my notes in those notebooks. I had one for every client. When I needed to do something with those notes, I went right to my composition notebooks and pulled the information I need.
The challenge, though, was that when I went back to my notes, there was no structure inherent to how I took them. It wasn't as though I was a disorganized note taking mess. Meetings go in lots of different directions. The result can be notes that follow that same meandering flow. It was still a lot more effective than trying to sort through pages of word by word typing on a laptop, but there were still opportunities to improve.
Action Method Books started to solve these problems for me by doing something so simple that it's hard to believe we missed it. Behance, the creators of the notebook, simply organized the notebook into the four key areas we all generally need when taking notes.
These simple improvements worked wonders in terms of my thought organization and clarity.
To help understand how the notebook is organized, imagine opening up two adjacent pages. On the first page are three key organized areas:
1. Action steps:
A large defined section of the page where the note taker can capture critical action steps in a way that doesn't get lost in the rest of the notes. The action steps are pre-numbered and ready for entry.
2. "Backburner" items:
A small section at the bottom corner of the page that allows you to jot down important things that you may want to follow back on later but aren't critical right now. Many of us have those thoughts and want to capture them but they, too, can get lost in the rest of the notes.
3. Preparation and Focus items:
This small section allows the note taker to plan for meetings and address focus items.
The adjacent page is all open space (but formally constructed open space). It is a full page of dot matrix graph background that allows the note taker to notate or sketch. This kind of section is critical and helpful not only for creative types (for whom Action Method Books were originally created) but also the rest of us in the business world who find ourselves drawing business models and other graphic representations of our strategies all the time.
In an interesting way, Action Method Books are an improvement upon the "back of the napkin" in a much more organized, functional and retainable way. That's good news for napkins everywhere but may be bad news for even the best laptop notebook technology.