Weekender: A Review of Myself Trying to Use Field Notes

Some people use small notebooks where they keep their GTD 1 task lists. The idea of always carrying a thought and task capture system is appealing to me because I am ADD 2.

If I don't capture the incoming stream of tiny tasks I need to accomplish, they don't last long inside my ADD brain. I have an iPhone that I always carry with me and have used for this in the past, but I wanted to give the analog pen-and-paper method the old college try.

Enter Field Notes

I bought some Field Notes at the recommendation of Sid O'Neill over at Crate of Penguins, hoping to enter a world of GTD bliss — capturing all of my tasks immediately, no longer letting my ultra-creative thoughts fall to the wayside 3. Maybe, just maybe, my mind would become laser focused and intentional at every moment.

I learned the famous Dash/Plus system invented by Patrick Rhone, an ingenious way to keep a running task list using a system of malleable dashes and plusses. So I slapped my brand new Field Notes in my back pocket and charged into the world ready to dash and plus my world into submission.

And then I lost my pants.

Well, I didn't lose them, lose them. I just put them in the laundry hamper with my Field Notes imprisoned in the back pocket. And I forgot about them.

Two days later I realized my error and liberated the Field Notes from the clutches of the dirty laundry. I re-equipped my Field Notes with the same precision and gumption that Batman has when he straps on his Bat Utility Belt and sailed into the rough seas of my daily thoughts.

Aha! An epiphany! I finally had a great idea and the first chance to use my new tool!

No pen.


Overall, I would rate myself a 2/10 on my ability to use an always-with-me paper method of capture and task management. Other days since these first few tries have gone similarly poor or worse. The Field Notes, as a product, are simply the best notebook to use for this type of thing — if it works for you. The Dash/Plus system is absolutely brilliant, and I desperately desired for it to be effective in my routine.

The times I was diligent about writing down items, I would forget what page I wrote them down on. I don't have great handwriting so it would sometimes be hard for me to read what I had already written. With my iPhone, even if I can't pinpoint the exact note, I can search for what I'm looking for.

I think for now I'm going to stick to my iPhone. I'm using Vesper for creativity and inspiration, Evernote for documentation and research, and Apple Notes for quick and dirty mind dumps or for those moments when I need to briefly retain small tidbits of information. Things is my go-to task manager.

But what about when I don't have my iPhone and I can't jot ideas down? I've been trying out a nifty trick with some success for the rare time I do have a good idea in the shower — singing.

I will sing my idea over and over until I either can't forget about it or I'm now at my iPhone. It sounds silly, but it works for me.

I am horribly far from reaching GTD, inbox-zero, completely-caught-up-with-my-life heaven, but now I know that using pen and paper, for me, is a disaster.

You should buy Feld Notes and give the Dash/Plus system a try — together, they form a gorgeous system — if you're not ADD or bad with paper.

  1. "Getting Things Done", a book and task management system by David Allen. Check it out. It's amazing.
  2. Not the hyper kind of ADD (ADHD), the mind-drifting, stare-off-into-space kind.
  3. I don't have these light-bulb moments as much as I want to, others seem to, or perhaps I should.