The 90¢ solution to becoming organized, creative and successful

Drop your smartphone and surrender your tablet. Technology is wonderful, but sometimes a step in the other direction can be of surprising benefit.

What costs less than a dollar and does wonders for catalyzing creativity? It’s certainly none of the aforementioned technological wonders. The device I speak of dates back many centuries, and was carried by the likes of Darwin, Da Vinci, Newton and Hemingway. That’s right – it’s the notebook.

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After many months of procrastinated intention, I finally dropped the 90 cents it cost me for a pocket-sized scrabble pad, and it has arguably changed the way I function (much for the better).

Here’s why:

It’s an organizational godsend

Keeping a notebook organizes your thoughts and ideas, thus organizing your life. Carrying it on your person allows you to jot down thoughts as they come to you, documenting your brightest light bulbs while they’re still fresh.

It also forces punctuality. I write down to-do lists on a weekly basis, consistently setting goals for myself. I’ll contemplate what’s in store for the coming days and record the most vital details.

Penning my to-do also ensures that I don’t neglect important plans and deadlines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve avoided a missed date or necessary errand, all thanks to the notebook. Grocery lists, appointments, directions, requests and work prospects are just a few of the day-to-day entries I’ve been making. But it’s worth far more than this.

It’s a creative catalyst

Having a notebook will catalyze your creativity. It’s an all-in-one document to fill with your imagination and unique vision: doodles, famous quotes, blueprints, lists, stories, dreams and revelations. And it won’t disappear when your hard drive crashes.

Some of my best ideas come to me spontaneously, and at the strangest times. Whenever I hear or read or think of something fascinating, I write it down. Later on I can look back at these bits of wisdom and derive inspiration for my own work.

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Just the act of writing can help you clear your head and hash out your best ideas. There is a plethora of research and commentary to support the fact that using a pen and paper can enhance your creative potential (among many other cognitive functions).

When one of those aforementioned spontaneous ideas pops up, I’ve found that many times it creates a chain reaction of creative spark. Grabbing the notebook is a chance to take that inspiration and run with it, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t ride the wave of your imagination’s musings.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid or crazy idea; write it down and leave it for a rainy day to look back at and refine. The best ideas begin as little seeds that grow and transform, and I think a quote from Inception says it best:

“An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.”

And your vehicle for highly contagious ideas is the pocket notebook. But I’m not done yet…

It vastly improves memorization and success

I personally have a very visual memory, and for some reason it’s far easier to recall something I’ve written by hand (as opposed to typing or otherwise).

Perhaps it’s the way I can envision the arrangement of those words when I jump to recall my thought. It’s the shape of the paragraph’s perimeter, uneven lean of the lines and subtle stylistic markings of my memo. I’m not just recollecting the words: I’m seeing the way I wrote those words on the page.

When you take the time to inscribe your ideas, you’re doing far more than pecking a keyboard. Writing out an idea gives it a presence in reality that you can hold and digest. You become accountable for the future of that creative figment, and an unshakeable connection is forged.

To this effect, handwritten ideas are also more successful ones.

Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews of the Dominican University of California completed a study that proved people who hand-wrote goals and discussed them with peers were 33% more likely to see them through. He had this to say upon its conclusion: “My study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals.” This is just what the notebook is all about, folks.

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This may be a comparatively minor success in itself, but this article’s publication is a testament to the notebook’s effect on goal achievement. I jotted this idea down weeks ago, and it has consequently culminated in a blog post following my self-reflection, writing, research and revisions.

So do your creative, personal and professional lifestyles a favor: splurge 90 cents for a notebook and get to work.

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