Spaced-repetition, the final frontier. To boldly go where no samurai notebook has gone before.
I’ve used notebooks for a long time. For a while, I was doing “morning pages”, a method popularized by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. (I highly recommend it.) Using this method, I would get up and write three handwritten pages of whatever flowed out in the morning, whether it was complaining, nonsense or whatever. Morning pages are a great bridge between the dream mind and the rest of your day and your life. Cameron actually suggests waiting a while before reading these rants, etc and I have a few boxes of them somewhere, waiting to be read, mined, and discarded.
I think it’s really important to have a space or page where you rant, complain, dream, etc to yourself. I have a space on my laptop called morning blurts, where I complain and brainstorm if I am not inspired to write on a specific topic.
However, my “Samurai Notebook” is a little different. First of all, it is a physical notebook. I like Japanese notebooks because they are light, sturdy and stand up to punishment. More importantly, a samurai notebook should include mostly forward-moving stuff, though there maybe a few rants here and there.
A random dissection of the last month’s notebook reveals:
- Steve Chandler’s Four Circle Time Management Circles
- Random ideas that came up while I was working on other projects
- Kanji flashcard practice
- Quotes from “The Making of Modern Japan,” “Zen and the Art of Making a Living“
- Sentences from my Japanese flashcard program
- Random observations: “Mei (my one year old daughter) just tore the title page of “The Spirit of Tao” in half and presented it to me. Is she trying to teach me something?”
- Copycat sprints–copied out sections from Japanese books I like and want to learn from.
- A running list of things and experiences I want in my life
The content of my notebooks change depending on how much time I have and what my current focus is. However, for my Samurai notebook there are two requirements: it’s mostly forward moving stuff and I review it using an adaptation of little nifty technique called spaced repetition. For more information, see my post, “Spaced Repetition Systems: How to Forget About Remembering.”
In short, I go through my notebooks regularly, and kind of on a schedule. In a perfect world, I would read my entries on the following schedule:
- one day later
- two days later
- four days
- one week
- two weeks
- one month
- two months
- four months
- eight months
- a year , two years, four years
A “review” doesn’t mean some serious academic examination. It could involve just a quick glance. After I review the entry, I date it and label what kind of review it was: 2D for two days, 1W for one week, etc. If there is an old idea I want to keep current, I place a note to myself to myself in my most current notebook so it stays current and in the mental mix.
Why do this?
- The scheduling aspect keeps review from being overwhelming.
- Since this notebook has your forward moving ideas and plans and murmurings, it gives you control of your mental channel. (BTW if something stops being interesting to review–put a big X on it.)
- It is a great, organic tool for continuing to work on big, life projects in what David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, “reminders of of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust.” (p.15) Allen explains that it is key to have a Weekly Review because, “everything that might potentially require action must be reviewed on a frequent enough basis to keep your mind from taking back the job of remembering and reminding.” (p.46)
- It’s fun and requires no batteries, upgrades, or monthly payment plans.