Note-Taking and Notebooks: Organizing the Blank Pages

Welcome back to the Wndsn series on effective note taking. In the previous installment, we introduced note-taking and written organization as a subject of focus, and then we introduced some of the different types of notebook subjects that abound. Now we’ll start with the breakdown of the suggestions.

Organizing the Blank Pages

  • Create a TOC or Index

The suggestions in the guide start with the above. The main principle presented here is that there is little point writing things down if you cannot find these things later. Want something, gotta find something, what better way than noting where you put that note, and that involves page numbers and how to collect page numbers in one place for easy reference.

A table of contents (TOC) is a list in the beginning of a notebook that contains chapter headings and then subheadings. If your notebook is more structured and has these sections naturally, this is easy to enact. A TOC is particularly useful in notebooks that are project-specific or reference-oriented. It is less useful, and perhaps too strict, on notebooks that are open-ended, whether it be a spark file or daily task management.

Next, an index is a collection of keywords at the end of a notebook and then, crucially, a page number written down after it. This combination of a list paired with a page number allows for rapid information search and retrieval.

Let’s say your notebook is more of a household organizational one, and you are tracking both ideas for future homesteading and more mundane tasks such as paying quarterly taxes. An index would look something like this:

Homestead Ideas … 2, 6, 13, 29, 35

Tax Payments … 6, 30, 57

Obviously, we cannot make an index without page numbers, which leads to our next suggestion:

  • Number all pages

Due to customer demand, some notebook manufacturers are now printing numbered pages themselves. The absence of numbers should not be a deterrent to using any particular notebook, however. Even if your notebook does not have them, it does not take much time to do it yourself. We purposefully did not include numbers in our Explorer’s Notebook so that you may decide on your own numbering system and direction.

To be honest, this idea of exercising a TOC/Index can be difficult to perform regularly. You have written that note and now you have to take that extra step and write down the note for the note in the front (table of contents) or back (index). But right here, this is where you are clearly stating your intentions with this notebook.

What are your true intentions? Is it a highly structured living document that furthers your goals, a comprehensive collection of ideas you may want to act on, a working extension of your brain and creative process? Or is it a journal where you are noting your day, random stuff, more or less a brain dump? The former requires much structure, including a TOC and/or index. The latter, if you are trying to get the idea or information out of your head without organization, needs light structure at best and may only need an index. The user must decide how much organization is too much, or not enough.

Next Installment: Delineating and Organizing the Content. Your task: are you very precise or are you more of an info dump note taker? Where do the notes end up after you have written them? Are they on the back of receipts or napkins, jumbled in a bag? Are they spread over notebooks you start and then never look at again? Are they on your phone and not written down? Are you only writing down important things, or is literally any idea acknowledged?

See you next time!

The picture shows a page from the Wndsn XPD Explorer’s Notebook inside the Papa Wallet by Thousand Yard Studio.