A is for…. Alwych

A

Alwych is all-weather notebook!

“Alwych Notebooks have been a firm favourite for more years than we care to remember. Everything about Alwych is special, from the strong flexible ‘All Weather’ cover, to the section-sewn opaque pages. They are constructed to keep your notes safe.

People who spend a lot of time pursuing outdoor activities and like to take notes appreciate the ‘All Weather’ flexible cover and durability of their Alwych notebook. The ruled pages are printed on light cream paper to increase opacity, so reducing ‘shine through’. They are then section sewn for strength, before being welded into the strong durable cover.”

I personally have not tried this notebook (you can find a great review on Black Cover if you want more information). I’m not an outdoor person and and all-weather notebook has not become a must-have notebook – the worst experience I have had is getting my notebooks a bit damp and I have certainly not lost a notebook to scottish weather.

Have you tried an all-weather notebook? Alwych or otherwise? If you don’t have – you ever needed to?

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Moleskine Monthly Planner 2015

moleskinemonthlyplanner

There seems to be a repeat in my habits. Last year was not a great year for blogging – my focus was on buying a house, getting married and getting a new job.

So once again I am resolving to put the SPARK back into my blogging (yes I have bought a SPARK notebook on Kickstarter) but to help with my Blogging I am once again returning to using a Moleskine Monthly Planner to plan my blogging and social media strategy as well as record my goals using my How to Organise your Blog method from 2012 with a few modifications.

Keeping on Schedule

Since ‘growing up’ I have found it hard to blog regularly and consistently. I hope that my Moleskine Monthly Planner will help with this as the Month on two page spread allows you to get an overall picture. If you want you can work out when you have time to blog and when you might want to (or need to schedule posts). I hate scheduling posts (probably one of the reasons why my blogging has become so sporadic). Usually the only time I schedule posts is when I am doing the A to Z Challenge. The monthly view helps you plan ahead, spread your posts out evenly, and work out where you might find some time to dedicate to blogging.

Setting Goals (and tracking goals)

In 2012 I set a lot of goals & objectives. That didn’t work out. I didn’t track them, I didn’t review them. They stayed at the front of my Planner which I never looked at as I would reach straight for the bookmark and miss them completely. This year I am intending to use the ‘Notes’ Column in the Monthly View to help track progress and will record any measurable ‘stats’ at the beginning and end of the month – mailing list subscribers, twitter followers and blog views etc.

moleskine planner (inside)

   For example this is what the end of January looks like.

One of the reasons I keep coming back to this planner again and again is that there are a so few monthly planners on the market (i.e. with JUST a monthly view and pages). If you have any suggestions please let me know, otherwise, share how you plan your blog posts?

Pukka Pad Project Book

pukkapad notebook

The Pukka Pad Project Notebook is a cheap and easy notebook to use on the go. I bought this one in WH Smith in an airport – as I felt like writing on the plane.

This Pukka Pad Project Notebook is part of pukka pad’s stripes range.

Specification:

  • A5 (but is available in other sizes)
  • 250 pages of 80 gsm paper
  • Perforated Pages
  • Moveable Dividers
  • Wirebound

The feature that makes this a ‘project notebook’ is the dividers. This means that you can split the use of the notebook. For example I have a section for Ideas and Things to do List, a section for Free-Writing, a section for content and a section for resources. The dividers can be moved so not all your sections need to be the same size and this is a great function that not all project notebooks have.

Overall, this notebook made a great addition to my monthly notebooks collection. It was suitable for scribbles and random notebooks and for tearing out pages when I needed a page on the go.

However, I was disappointed by the paper. It lacked something. My favourite pens did not glide over it and I did not enjoy the experience. I write because I enjoy to write and this was a disappointment.

I also found that some of my highlighters would be visible on the other side of page while some inky pens could be used (such as Stabilo Fineliners) others most certainly could not (a Sharpie bled through two pages).

If you are looking for a notebook to organise your writing and make you more productive – this project notebook has potential. It performs well as a notebook, with the useful features like the moveable dividers and perforated pages ranking it above other affordable options.  However, as a notebook to use to enjoy the experience of writing – give this one a miss.

Notebooks – the professional approach

As any regular (or not so regular) reader will know I love notebooks and I have blogged on a number of occasions about  how I use my notebooks. This has mainly been in the context of studying and notetaking and I was reminded that I haven’t discussed how I use notebooks in my professional life and how this differs from the academic approach.

At work I use notebooks a lot less than I did as a student. I work in a paperless office, we have excellent filing and case management systems therefore notebooks are less of a priority – but we all have them. There is obviously not the same structure/flow of work and I don’t need them all the time. Their main purposes are: meetings, to-dos, instructions from fee earners and notes/reminders.Everything else (specific work) has a place on our system/electronic file.

As alwaysI have a rather structured approach. My work notebooks/pads include:

  • 1 notebook per key client (A4 exercise books)
  • Spiral-bound Reporters Notebook for general meetings – easy to carry downstairs to the meeting-room, but enough paper so I’m not writing in tiny lettering and I can slip a pen in the spiral bit. I frequently write the “minutes” and type up what I write and circulate it round the team anyway. Everyone else can get away with having no notebook.
  • Binder with pad for legal updates –  This is for when we have legal training or update meetings -I use a binder so I can attach any information given out – case notes, power points etc but still have the pad to take notes.
  • selection of A5 and A6 Legal Pads for scribbling instructions – this is my desk pad – I scribble things when people come and talk to me or give me instructions, I also draft attendance notes, doodle when on hold and do the math.
  • A7 Black n’ Red which has a permanent place in my pocket for when I am walking around and someone calls me over to ask me to do something and I need to take notes. Or for when I go to see a fee earner about one thing and come back with an extra couple of jobs they want me to do. I can note the important stuff in this notebook so I don’t have to take up their time revisiting/emailing
  • To-Do notebook and mousepad – for maintaining my to-do list.
  • The “Bible” – my how-to guide for others. I made an extensive one in my last job for when I left and I’ve been putting together something similar to make it easier for me to train up new members of staff, as i am so busy I need them to get into the swing of things quickly. (more on this later).

What approach do you take?

Notebooks: Ladybird Books

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As a kid I had the complete Vintage Ladybird Collection – in true organisational and childlike fashion my collection was numbered, colour coded and stickered with my name. So when I saw notebooks in the style of Ladybird books (similar to my penguin book notebook) I had to have one.

I originally saw hardback Little Red Riding Hood notebooks (£8.95) in Vinegar Hill last week which I was considering but I ended up ordering a paperback version of Puss in Boots online at Kiss Me Kwik for £3.99 (plus £1 P&P), which arrived a few days later.

The notebook is the same size as the actual vintage books, and you have to properly crease the notebook open to write inside. The pages are plain rather than lined, but are thick quality and smooth to write and draw on. Looking forward to enjoying this notebook on the train tomorrow.

My Study Project: The notebook edition

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Over the next few weeks I intend to tackle the mess in my so-called study. Since finishing the Legal practice course, everything from the past year has been dumped in piles around the room and it is beginning to look a bit like a graveyard for law textbooks, notebooks and folders.

Today it was time to tackle the notebooks. The notebook collection here is very different from my eye-candy ones of my childhood when my collection was all about the look, now my notebooks also have a more academic appeal. My intentions are to weed out the practical from the beautiful and try and come up with a more organised way for displaying such notebooks rather than have them stacked in my wardrobe.

The collection of notebooks used in the last academic year:

The left hand side is a pile of my spiral notebooks – which are practical, cheap and easy to cart around but somewhat lack that spark that made me love notebooks in the first place. I will single out my favourite spiral notebook which I used for accounts here (such a waste for my last classic rhino notebook –  I have been guilty of buying these in bulk during undergrad).

But just because notebooks are pretty, doesn’t mean they don’t have a practical side to them. One of my recent favourites has been the Alife B6 Planner.

The Alife planner is notebook, with a PVC enamel covering (available in a range of colours). What is so great about this notebook is that it is made to be functional – with a variety of pages, labelled on the front as: Free Writing 176 pages, Free Drawing 196 Pages, Memo 16 pages, Information archive 16 pages. It also has plastic pockets in the over to place loose bits of paper (and in my case souvenir beer mats).The notebook is incredibly durable and survived a month backpacking round Europe. I purchased this particular notebook in Paperchase. Alife Designs also have produced a wide range of similar style notebooks with a variety of specialised purposes which I totally love. However, the only website I’ve been able to find them to buy on is paperpuppy.net (int shipping to the UK is priced at $24).

The other notebook I’ve chosen to highlight is the Pantone Universe.

Another brightly coloured notebook. I’ve again chosen blue – who knew I liked blue that much? Pantone is all about colour. And the brightly coloured note books show off that colour. Both on the cover and on the inside with red narrowly lined paper rather the usual dull colour. Good quality paper easy to write on. I used this notebook for blogging ideas while I commuted to university. Smooth for writing on, even on the move. I bought my notebook at John Lewis, but it is also available from Ryman’s.

For more on the notebooks I have used during my LPC year (for academic purposes and otherwise) please have a lot at my flickr collection for more information and photos and my separate post on designing your own textbook.

Design Your Own Textbook

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During the run up the to exams I was blogging about the lack of a good textbook when it came to a couple of subjects and how this meant we had numerous resources to refer to in an open book exam. I questioned whether self made notes could replace the textbook and toyed with the idea of designing my own textbook, but was initially worried I wouldn’t have the time so late in the game.

Challenged by the idea of completing such a task I wrote my own text book for both my Commercial Law and Commercial Property Law which I felt were the 2 subjects with the weaker notes. If I was doing the LPC over again I would probably try and do this for all the subjects since I obtained over 80% for both these subjects.

How to get started?

Firstly you need a large CHUNKY notebook (do note that for the compulsory exams the amount of material required would probably require more than 1 notebook). I used Ryman’s case bound memo book for this purpose:

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The notebook itself was a great choice although the downside that some people may find with it is that because it is case bound it is not easy to remove pages and may prefer a perforated book. However as a person who would yank out a page at the smallest mistake and start again, this notebook was good training for me – both to plan and be more careful, and also to make do and realise the book is for my private use and a simple crossing out won’t matter too much.

Why Bother?

Once you’ve made a decision on the notebook to use, next it is important to decide what to use it for and what you want to get out of the book and plan how you are going to achieve these aims.

For example for commercial law – I wanted the notebook to replace the rest of my materials. In fact for the exam, almost everything I wrote came from this book and I only looked else where for a couple of things. This was important for several reasons:

  1. It cleared space on my desk and saved the time that I would have spent flicking through various resources – i.e. more writing time.
  2. By writing all the information in the book and organising it myself I KNEW the information much better and was more confident about the material. In addition I also had a much better idea of where to find it in the book.
  3. I moulded the book into a combination of the textbook notes, my notes and research and the tips and information given by the tutor. Therefore it was a much higher standard of information.

The contents

Using my commercial law notebook as an example I will show you how I put my book together. What will be best for each subject / individual will vary and I do suggest that you use whatever is most suitable – but hopefully this will give you some inspiration.

On the Electives course, most of the material is taught in it’s own distinct workshop. So I kept the “workshop” format which essentially became the 10 chapters of the book. The information was than broken down into a mixture of key information / bullet points, statutes and case law to back up the information and extra information to enable me to show a greater understanding and flesh out any exam answers.

Another key thing to put in is the things that will help you in the exam: ways to structure your answers, things you always forget/get wrong, mistakes friends made in case you make them too and finally any other advice the tutor gives you.

And finally try it out. Use the book to complete prep, tackle your mock exam etc – this helps you realise what extra things you need. I used my notebook in my mock exam and as a result I decided to number the contents page with page number and not just the title. It was great to spot things you might have previously overlooked.

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The Organisation

As well as having all the information combined into the notebook, it is also important that the notebook is organised. I did this in a number of ways:

  1. The contents are colour coded. I used different colours to distinguish the information. This can either be to make the information easily to understand, make the pages more atheistically pleasing or simply to aid a visual learner.
  2. The pages have two numbers: the first is the workshop / chapter number and then the second is the page number of that chapter. (nb. the contents page and index will list these numbers for easy reference).
  3. Tabbing. Tabbing doesn’t work for everyone. But the way I did this book was the same as I would have done any of my LPC textbooks. Different colours for different topics, in a running sequence. And then different style tabs to represent the key topics and exam hints.

Verdict?

What you get out of your notebook, depends entirely what you put into it. It is an impressive learning tool and study aid as well as a resource. It helps your understanding of the subject matter to coherently put it down on paper without just copying from another textbook. If you are a visual or kinetic learner – this will be an excellent method to add to your revision techniques, only difference is it starts a little earlier than the usual revision.