Notebook share – Being a ‘List Guy’

I have always been a ‘notebook guy’ – since I was about 16 . I carry one and a parker jotter pen literally everywhere.

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I have always been a ‘notebook guy’ – since I was about 16 . I carry one and a parker jotter pen literally everywhere. Perhaps it started as an emo diaries thing or just an affectation that I thought would look ‘cool’. But the thing is, there is a natural law which goes something like: ‘If you carry a note book and a pen you will end up using it’.

I’ve had a lot of types of notebooks over the years and switched over to Moleskine’s variants in 2013. Since then they have all developed a fairly consistent archive aesthetic.

I have way more in a box but some of them are A4 and don’t fit on this shelf

So this week for the first time (perhaps) this year I wrote a list of 21 things to do this week and when I hit post on this blogpost I will have done 18 of them.

Thats not a bad score for the first week back in to giving a shit mode.

I’ve archived over 10k emails in gmail this week, everything is tagged and filed. SO SO GOOD!

I’ve always run my life from lists. My general policy when I’m in a workplace is ‘if you didn’t see me write it down then it is not going to happen’. This has been an extremely useful rule at several startups i’ve worked in. To the point where close colleagues will say ‘write that down’ to me.

Sometimes, people who are younger than me (an occurrence that is increasingly more and more common to me much to my creeping horror – I was always the youngest person in the room since going right the way back to helping run the Geekscene DIY collective in Margate at 15ish) laugh at me about that rule. But they quickly understand that I’m not joking – I’m a week late on something, they chase me and I say “Argh I didn’t write it down”.

Indeed Alex from Common Knowledge chased me up this week for a testimonial and I realised I hadn’t written it down as he asked me in the Dark Forest whilst I was away in the Netherlands last week.

I started writing lists properly very soon after getting my first proper job out of uni. Before then I’d only worked in retail and many of the tasks daily/weekly were routine and could be held in your head, scribbled in the shop diary the day before by another supervisor. I found very quickly in the office environment that I just couldn’t keep all the things i needed to do in my head, and getting in trouble for not doing something sucked.

Eventually when I was a team leader in the shared service centre I worked in. My todo list would be written out every morning, and I’d carry over about 1 column of a 2 column A4 page every day. By the end of the day I’d have filled the whole page and marked off a lot. A running list of 100 things to do however is an endless task and not very psychologically healthy.

I should also note: There is absolutely no point in staying late or working yourself to the bone in a start up environment – Especially if you are in the senior layer but you actually have very little influence over anything super important. Don’t get manipulated to finish one more thing before you leave – The endless list of things to do will still be endless the following morning.

I sometimes wonder what sort of person I would have been if I’d found the secret of lists before I was an ‘proper’ adult. At school or university even. My life could have been very different.

I reckon if I was growing up now, I’d be extremely into bullet journaling (my notebook kinda looks like one anyway see below)

Notes from the zoΓΆp workshop last week

I can see how/way I got in to project management and implementation consulting and eventually operations management. It’s a natural progression from being a ‘list guy’. Offloading your tasks one layer of abstraction higher into a project plan is obvious in a techno social institution like a company. AND as a result of being ‘The keeper of the list” you get to tell other people when and what they need to do as well.

But this week I’ve surprised myself by how easy it is to return to the feeling of having wrestled back some control just by having a list of things to do.

I have been running the last 18months with a daily chore list – meditate, write diary, write LAP or some fiction, Make my podcast on a Friday etc but doing that means you feel satisfied having done the bare minimum. As i understand it daily habit building is supposed to build on everything else you do daily so you can do more – not the bare minimum.

The running list in physical pen and paper zeros/zooms in on immediate priorities.

I did a GTD course years ago as a project manager and it changed my life. I am not naturally an organised person at all but GTD combined with project management training were vital skills that I took on board and it changed my day to day. However I very rarely apply them outside of the work environment to my own life. With the exception of all my bills and utility filing system.

Seeing as I’ve been freelance for 18months now perhaps i should … Anyway this is a long way about saying that i feel good about the last week and want to carry the momentum into next week – buy writing another magic list.

Heres a doodle of Tim Ingold I found. I think it looks just like him
Image result for tim ingold
See. The hair is perfect

Permanently Moved

The Anthropogreen


Catching up the last two weeks. I cover some of what I said at Bordersessions festival in The Hague.


You can subscribe to Permanently Moved in itunes: or search in all your favourite podcatchers.

Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded in one hour by @thejaymo

Dipping the Stacks

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The Ministry

Yeah fuck loads of stuff got done this week. The first of the samizdat PDFs coming soon. By encouragement from m1k3y


I re-red dark night of the soul by John of the Cross this week. Its full amazing lines.

Silence is God’s first language.

Is one of the truest lines i’ve ever read and makes me belive that my meditation practice is actually getting somewhere. As i know this to be true.


Louis Center returned to twitter this week. But in the Dark Forest he sent me a link to this track. Its amazing if you are in need of a dose of Super Sweet Glitchy Chiptune in your life right now.

I’ve been listening to it non stop this week. Even going as far as making it my alarm clock music. (RIP rollin’ by limp bizkit)

I also bought a USB to 3/4 inch jack cable this week. For the first time ever I can plug a guitar into my laptop with no external device. I’m not really sure about the build quality of the cable but for 11 quid on amazon its already been worth the money. I might do a proper review of it at some point.

My SG <3

Remember kids:

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11 responses to “Notebook share – Being a ‘List Guy’”

  1. Di avatar

    Enjoyed your post, the power of the pen (cil) is mighty. From ” to do lists” “diary entries” and “holiday memories” a great sense of gratification comes from putting pen to paper.The older I get the more I have to write!!!

  2. […] Jay Springett on notebooks and lists […]

  3. […] I love people talking about their notebooks and their processes. Here’s a good example of how to use a notebook, daily, to function using lists. […]

  4. […] It’s been such a weird week. We got back from Benedict and Mina’s wedding on Tuesday afternoon. So I was wandering around on Wednesday thinking it was actually Monday, then Panicked and dove into the mountain of stuff I put on my list.. […]

  5. Jay avatar

    Minimalist A6 Moleskine Pocket Bullet Journal Notebook set up. Video talk though and photoblog with explanations.

  6. […] stays self contained. I like Leuchtturms for them. You can see a picture of some on them on in this blog post about how I like lists.I tend to favour A4 notebooks when I am at work in an office. They never […]

  7. Jay avatar

    Minimalist A6 Moleskine Pocket Bullet Journal for 2021. Photoblog and set up walkthrough. Includes Gsheet layout guide link.

  8. […] back on the impact of GTD, the reason it hit home so hard is because I was already a list guy. Still […]

  9. […] It’s also funny what a year of doing a photo 365 will do to you. Compare the photo above the the one I took back in 2019 in the post about notebooks and obsessive list making. […]

  10. […] I’m still in the process of doing step 4, but several projects on the turn out involve learning Affinity Designer/Publisher. Man I love lists […]

  11. Jay avatar

    The year is definitely coming to a close – projects are wrapping up and things are being ticked off the list of things to do.

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