Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Moleskine Planner/Journal/Wallet Setup and Hacks

The cpo Method of Moleskine Organization

My Everyday Carry Moleskine :: It's my planner.  It's my journal.   It's my wallet.

EDIT:  I have since updated my tabbing method to use Book Darts instead of the i-clips you see pictured above.  EVERYTHING else in this write-up is still valid and in use today.  Read this...then go check out why I am using Book Darts instead of i-clips now:  I've got lots of photos for you there too!
EDIT;  I am on my second Moleskine notebook, and I have made a few minor revisions to the system after several weeks of use.  This post is still very valid, but when you are done with this...make sure you read about Book Darts, and then go see the latest revision:

Much like the rest of the world...the turn of a new year is the time I find myself most concerned with organization, planning, task completion, and fun new projects.  In additional to the usual desires to become better organized each year, I also made a resolution to keep a journal.  In preparation for this, I went out and picked up a Moleskine-like notebook from a local office supply store (not the one you see here). I started journaling (sp?) with it right away.  Also, as usual, I was kicking off the new year with a fresh daily planner.  It was about the same size (perhaps a little bigger) than the 5x8 notebook I was carrying around.  I won't go into why I prefer manual record keeping even though I also carry an iPhone (personal) and a Blackberry (business).  I just prefer it.  It works for me.

So anyway...I found myself trying to lug around a daily planner and a journal, along with my usual items such as a wallet, and a couple of mobile devices. I was happy...but I wasn't really happy.  I wanted to be MORE happy. After a little research I ended up with a system that I think will work well for me.  I saw several Moleskine "hacks" that I really liked, and it gave me some ideas. I combined information from several other blogs and Moleskine-lover websites and built what I think to be the perfect system for me: and it combines the planner and journal features, and also serves as a minimalist wallet.  Now when I have my Moleskine, I have everything I need for most situations, including credit and gas card, identification, and insurance and a little cash tucked in the back cover pocket.

Here is a close-up view of the i-clips magnetic page markers and the Leuchtturm1917 Pen Loop.

So, lets' get on with how I set up my Moleskine.  You may set yours up differently, but that's the great thing about this sort of project -- it's as individual as the people toting them around.

My Moleskine of choice was the Pocket sized squared (grid) notebook.  I liked the grid paper because I feel free to use it in various ways. It's simple to write sideways or draw or box or whatever.

I glued a few things into my book, as you will see in the pictures a 2012 calendar and my Bible reading plan.  A glue stick is the perfect way to accomplish gluing items into your book.

I glued a year calendar into the front cardboard (on the other side of the owner and reward info page).

On the very front inside cover, I glued the current month's Bible reading plan.

I then numbered my pages...every other one...starting with 1 and labeling all of the odd pages. You can label them all if you want...but it's not necessary. If I can find page 125, I know that 124 is the one right before it. ; ) The key to my organization is to not think of this journal as something I start in the beginning of the book and fill up from left to right until I am out of room. That is how I used to keep a notebook. This is more of a multi-sectioned, yet expandable, concept. I saw lots of discussion about the GTD (Getting Things Done) strategies...and I don't know anything about that...but some of the ideas I implemented in my book came from folks who used a GTD-like system for organization.

The next thing I did was work out what sections I wanted in my book, and how many pages to devote to those sections.  It's just a guess for now, but I won't waste space if one section grows faster than another...I'll just expand the growing sections into unused areas of other sections.  It's much like the way your computer handles files on your hard drive and organizes where to find them with an index.

My index, labeled @index, is at the very front. Page 0. The very next page is labeled as page 1, and starts my @todo section where I will keep track of actions and tasks.  I devoted 7 pages to this section (remember -- it can go beyond 7 at any time, but I had to start somewhere). As you can see in the picture below, I later decided I wanted separate @todo sections for personal items and work items, so I subdivided that section.  My work actions start on page 4.

So as you can see, as I was thinking about what I wanted to keep in my book, tasking and actions was one of the items.  Here is a breakdown of everything I decided to keep track of:
  • @todo
    • 7 pages
    • tracks actions and things I need to accomplish.  
    • uses common methods for tracking status in boxes (Covey, GTD, etc)
  • @daily
    • 16 pages
    • this is the calendar to track appointments, by week (photo below)
    • it uses two pages per week with a section for each day
    • there is a separate section for overflow appointments for any day
    • I have allotted 8 weeks for this journal, but not sure how much I will really use
  • @work
    • 50 pages
    • this is for work-related notes and journal entries
  • @home
    • 50 pages
    • this is my personal journal area...for whatever I want 
  • @church
    • 50 pages
    • this is for church-related notes, revelations, scriptures, whatever
  • @random
    • whatever number of pages are left... 10-12
    • this is for random items, like lists or other notes that may not fit nicely into another section (jotting down phone numbers or addresses, etc)

The first real text I have is the index which tells me where each section is found. The I start the @todo section.

I use the two-page per week calendar hack to track appointments for the week.

After I got the Moleskine organized the way I wanted, I considered how I wanted to mark the sections.  I saw lots of people who use sticky notes or other paper markers...and that is certainly the cheap and easy route.  I originally thought I might like to use Book Darts and I set out to find some of those.  I didn't find any, but while I was at Barnes&Nobles looking for them, I ran across i-clips.  [Remember, I found Book Darts and am now using them:] These are little magnetic paper markers.  They basically clip around a page magnetically.  They are easy to move around, and because they have a little heft to them, they provide good tactile feedback when trying to find a section.  They do take up a little space, however, and add slightly to the thickness of the book.  Go back up to the second image from the top of this page, and you will see what I mean.

The i-clips I bought were the "Punctuation" version. I really didn't care what was on them, as long as they weren't too ugly.  ; )  The good news is that while one side of these has punctuation marks (in the form of ? @ & and !) the other side has an arrow.  That's pretty cool.  Like I said though, I am not concerned with what is on them, because I use the color and location to find where i want to go.  I know the order of my sections, so from the top down, I can hit the major sections of @work, @home, @church, and @random pretty quickly.

So far, I like them.  I will still check out Book Darts if I happen to run across them, though.

As you can see, I use the page markers to quickly find the writable space for any section.
I typically only need 2-3 credit cards and my Driver's License most of the time.  I tend to carry around a bunch more in my wallet than I actually use on a daily it is about an inch thick.  Taking those necessary items out of my wallet and moving them to my Moleskine allows me to use it as a wallet as well. And since it fits in my back works perfect.  I still have a wallet that I keep all of my random junk in...but I don't carry it around with me all the time. When I know I'll need it, I'll grab it.

I built my card holder from instructions I found here:

It was pretty simple. I just used a thick card-stock type photo envelope I found laying around in my office.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

On the very back cardboard sheet, I glued a makeshift credit card and driver's license holder. You can also see the pen loop.

The last thing I wanted to share with you was the pen loop I found.  It was a total impulse buy from The Container Store...but I thought I would give it a try.  It's works nicely, and is pretty simple. There are tons of "hack" instructions to do something similar with tape.  I just happened across this and bought it.  The elastic is good and tight. In fact, it was a little challenging at first to use with my LAMY Safari Fountain Pen, which happens to be my writing utensil of choice.  The LAMY is very thick and it doesn't slip easily into the elastic as a normal pen with a pointed section might.  In fact, after I bought it, I thought I wasted my money. just a few days, the elastic is starting to loosen up a bit, and I found an easy way to get the pen in there (stretching the elastic by pulling on it as I fit the end of the pen into it).  It's getting easier, so I may keep it around a bit.

A couple of thoughts on placement.  I didn't just stick it in the middle of the Moleskine, but rather lined the pen up and placed it on the pen to figure out where I wanted to put it. If I just put it in the middle, the pen cap might be in the way of getting the pen even with the top and bottom of the Moleskine.  I didn't measure, but it looks like the Pen Loop may be just a smidge below the center line on the back cover. Not much though.  But when I slide the pen in, and slip it all the way to where the cap touches the loop, the pen is perfectly centered.

Given all of the trouble I had getting the pen in and out at first, I was almost wondering if it might not have been smarter to put the pen loop higher up the that the loop would go around the cap rather than the barrel of the pen. That way I could just leave the cap connected to the book, and pull the pen out of the cap to use. I'm still considering that...but as I use it, the loop is breaking in nicely.

These were the items I bought (impulse buys!) i-clips from Barnes & Noble and the Pen Loop from The Container Store.

So that's pretty much it.  Oh! Wait!  I need to tell you how I plan to make sure that I don't waste space if one section fills up before the other.  Metadata and indexing.   Like I mentioned earlier, it's a lot like how your computer keeps track of data on a hard drive.

Let's say I fill up the personal @todo section right away.  That's pretty realistic, since it's only 3 pages.  One option would be to find the next spot in the journal that has a few contiguous empty pages. I wouldn't want to do it at the work section of @todo, because there isn't much room there to begin with.  It's likely that I'll find it somewhere in the @work section.

I'll just allocate a few more pages (4 perhaps) in the middle of the @work section for more @todo items.  I'll note the page numbers that I allocated and then add that to the @index.

The new @index for @todo might look like this:
  • @todo  (personal) 1-3, 40-43
  • @todo (work) 4-7
Now when I look at my index, I can tell that pages 1-3 has the beginning of my @todo items and then it is continued on pages 40-43.

I'll also add some metadata within the section to let me know where to go next, by putting something like "--> 40" at the end of page 3.  If I am reading through the list, I'll know it continues on page 40.  At the beginning of page 40, I'll put "<-- 3" to let me know that this is a continuation of page 3 information.  See?  Simple really.

Now what do I do if my @work journal reaches the end of page 39 now that 40 is used for the @todo list?  Same thing.  I know that 44 is blank (since I only allocated pages 40-43 for the @todo continuation) so I will use "--> 44" at the end of page 39, and "<--39" at the beginning of page 44.  I'll update the @index to reflect the changes, at it's back to business.  I essentially just skip the few pages that has something else on it, and keep going.
  • @work 24-39, 44-
I wouldn't put an end number on the @work section, because I want to make sure that space can be used for whatever I need later should that be the case. If @work fills up really fast, I might allocate some pages at the end of @personal and keep going.  

Additionally, I plan to use metadata for journal entries whenever it makes sense. Just like I continue pages, I may point a specific entry to another page that has a related entry...if I am continuing the thought.  Time will tell how much I use that "feature".

Oh, and the back pocket...a few things like my insurance card, receipts I need, a little cash, etc.

Well, I hope you found something useful in here. I probably gave this much more thought than anyone should give to using a pocket-sized notebook, but that's how I roll. ; )

Please let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on anything. Enjoy!

Manufacturer links to the products described on this page:

Moleskine Pocket Squared Notebook
LAMY Safari Fountain Pen
i-clips Magnetic Page Markers
Leuchtturm1917 Pen Loop

Much of the information I used to develop my system came from some of the following references (that I could remember, anyway).  Either way, if you are interested in such a things...there is tons of great reading here.


  1. II wish you luck with this setup and hope you will post an update after you've lived with it for a few months.
    I don't mean to criticize because I enjoy reading of efforts to create the perfect and personalized system. However, I won't hesitate to suggest folks have been doing this for decades and, I have found, they quickly end. Deconstructing, tweaking, refining and rebuilding tend, if one is objective, toward reductionism.; one eventually arrives back where one began, trying to create the perfect system.

    I notice the only thing your system has over mine is less bulk. Buto gain that I would abandon flexibility and the conveninece of preprinted forms.
    I would rather use a compact or pocket/slim size loose leaf planner system from Dayrunner, Daytimer or Franklin.
    Hope this works for ytou, please let us know.

  2. I commend you for writing a thorough and informative article on this. Just thought I'd mention how I dig the idea of having a bible reading plan at the very beginning, it's a good way to keep devotions at the forefront of our minds.

  3. This is exactly what I've been searching for. Thanks!

  4. "@church
    50 pages
    this is for church-related notes, revelations, scriptures, whatever"
    LOL. Shame you wasted those pages to superstitious nonsense. Get well soon.

  5. I like this idea, and I'm prototyping something similar:

    Email to pre-order.

  6. Do you have the mowallet pdf file to share?
    Thanks :)