Archive for the 'index cards' Category

Pocket Moleskine vs. Levenger shirt pocket briefcase

February 11, 2007

The ultimate productivity showdown


Despite my long standing pocket Moleskine fan status and usage, I’d longingly read many a review and quite a few raves about the Levenger shirt pocket briefcase, an overpriced index card holder that promises to usher you into a new social status along with the ultimate in productivity. When I found that particular item on sale at Levenger for $29.95 just before Christmas, I decided to pick one up as an early Christmas present to myself.

Now, three months later and having test driven both systems for task tracking, note jotting and writing, I present the ultimate productivity showdown.

Size matters

Pocketability is one of the obvious criteria here. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never really been happy with the size of either of these tools. I live in Texas, where you need a jacket or an overcoat approximately twice a year. I also work in an office, and cargo pants aren’t exactly business casual. This almost always necessitates that I carry my paper of choice in my front pants pocket, along with my Blackberry, keys, Leatherman Micra, and pen. Real estate is an issue.

While both claim to fit easily in a pocket, the pocket Moleskine definitely wins in this category. Measuring 3.5″W x 5.5″H versus the pocket briefcase’s 3¾”W x 6″H, the Moleskine’s compact form and snappy elastic strap create the most pocketable package. Both feel great in your hand if you prefer carrying around your notetaking bundle. However, if you want to shove it in a front pants pocket, you’re likely to be more uncomfortable with the pocket briefcase. The extra length makes a huge difference.

Winner: Pocket Moleskine

Creating your mobile workspace

When you’re carrying a tool designed to let you be creative, get work done, and spread out your thoughts and ideas on a cafe table or while walking, it’s important that that tool lets you completely create a mobile workspace. The Levenger pocket briefcase stands out in this category. They call it a briefcase for a reason – the open writing area, the secure internal middle pocket and the outer pocket allow you to sort, store, and organize your cards. There’s always one available for quick writing, and you can stow receipts, business cards and other scraps inside.

The pocket Moleskine does, of course, feature the famous rear pocket. However, the Moleskine pocket is flimsy, and real use will quickly wear it out to the point of requiring repair. Anything you store in it will significantly affect the size and shape of the book. The pocket briefcase is softer and has more room (actually a bonus in this area) so it’s more forgiving of “stuffing.”

In terms of creating a truly mobile workspace, the pocket briefcase is the best bet. The sortability and reorganization capability beat out the linear format of the pocket Moleskine.

Winner: Levenger Pocket Briefcase

Tools for writers

I write. Work-related articles, blog posts, emails, fiction, poetry. Whatever tool I use has to be great for jotting down everything from phone numbers, addresses and grocery lists as well as story ideas, article outlines and even entire pieces of flash fiction. This is one place where I had trouble picking a clear winner. The Moleskine is great for keeping a running list of random ideas that you can always go back to later for inspiration. The pocket briefcase would start to get too full if you kept every card in your stack where you jotted down a story idea. However, a fine point pen and a few “inspiration” cards that you go back to time and again might fix that problem.

Outlining a story is much more satisfying with index cards. Laying out plots and subplots, rearranging and stacking them can really help get ideas flowing.

Winner: Tie


Lots of times a mobile workspace means collaborating with others. It can even mean giving a kid something to do while you’re waiting for the movie to start, handing off a jotted-down URL to a friend, or giving others cards to work with. With a Moleskine, you usually wouldn’t want to tear out pages (they’re not perforated or easily torn). In order to collaborate with others, you’d have to pass off your whole book (of ideas, personal thoughts, lists, work-related items) to someone else, which I’m not always comfortable doing.

Winner: Levenger Pocket Briefcase


For my needs, the Levenger Pocket Briefcase is the best tool for the job. Moleskine still rules the land for paper-based planners, journaling, and writing longer articles or fiction (if you do your writing longhand).

Pen review: Pilot VBall Grip Extra Fine

September 22, 2006

I will go out on a limb and say that the Pilot VBall Grip Extra Fine is possibly THE definitive pen for the hpda. I’m always a fan of the Pilot G2, and the new G2 mini seemed perfect for the hpda, but it doesn’t come in fine point, which I consider a must.


Enter the Pilot VBall extra fine. This pen carves fine lines into index cards like it’s giving them a new tattoo. If you can (and like to) cram as much tiny handwriting as possible onto your cards, consider picking up a pack of these at your local productivity pr0n office supply aisle.

DIY 99 cent hipster PDA case mod

September 18, 2006

I love the hipster pda. No matter how many organizational schemes and methods I come up with, I always end up back in my familiar stack of index cards. I had a hipster before it was named the hipster by Merlin Mann.

However, my one problem with the hipster was that I need ubiquitous capture, and my pocket is a rough place. There’s keys, pens, change, a Blackberry, and a Leatherman tool already in there. My hpda is like the last guy thrown into the drunk tank on a Saturday night. He’s bound to get roughed up.

My solution? A 99 cent DIY mod that can be easily made with some scissors and a sturdy poly two-pocket folder from Office Depot. Here’s the exact one I used. Online it claims they’re 1.99, but in my local store they were only .99.

Step 1: Cut your folder. Open the folder so that it lays flat. Cut out the bottom right corner of the folder in the general size of a 3X5 card – I stuck some cards in there for measurement. You’ll notice that I also snipped off the corners for locating cards more easily. This leaves you with a “pocket” that has two sides open.

Hipster cover mod 4

Step 2: Insert your stuff!

Hipster cover mod 1

The clip can still be used to keep at least 15 cards secured inside. This durable case keeps your cards safe without adding any significant amount of bulk to your pockets. The case also makes your hipster water resistant and “encrypted” so that others can’t glance at your cards. It’s a winner!

Hipster PDA Tips for People Obsessed With Productivity Pr0n But Bad At Actual Productivity

July 15, 2006

So, I went a little crazy with my Hipster PDA. I have 7, count ’em, 7 different types and sizes of index cards, and I’ve experimented with all the different mods, color combinations, templates and tricks you can imagine. Below is a list of Hipster PDA resources as well as a summary of what I’ve learned.

a million monkeys typing » D*I*Y Planner Hipster PDA Edition
John Norris
Just A Guy – Adam Gurno » Tricking out the Hipster
GTDTiddlyWiki – all your tasks are belong to you

Getting Things Done … for teachers: Ductster PDA
Levenger Shirt Pocket Briefcase
The Index Card Wallet
Ryan Stewart’s HipsterCover

Hipster Variants @ 43FoldersWiki
Hipster PDA/Hacks @ 43FoldersWiki

Other links/tips:
Organizing Your Hipster PDA
Hipster PDA tag @ Technorati
Hipster PDA tag @ Flikr
Hipster PDA tag @

Office Depot’s selection of index cards
Office Max’s selection of index cards
Pilot G2 Retractable Gel Ink Pens
Fisher Space Pen
Cross Ion Pen

Index card apparel:
The index card t-shirt

Summary of my time and obsession with the Hipster PDA:
When I get obsessed with something, I get REALLY obsessed with it. My girlfriend is usually blindsided by this, and in this instance she woke up one Saturday morning to find me setting up a new printer that would handle 3X5 cards, surrounded by scattered half-printed or screwed up DIY Planner: Hipster PDA edition templates.

I tried EVERY suggestion for templates, modifications, and additions that I’ve linked here, and more just from reading forum posts or seeing others’ ideas on Flikr. I put together about 4 different hpdas before I finally found one that I actually use consistently. Here’s what I learned.

“Hipster PDA Tips for People Obsessed With Productivity Pr0n But Bad At Actual Productivity”

1) Go out and buy all the cool pens that everyone mentions in relation to the Hipster PDA. No really, go ahead. You won’t feel right until you’ve test-driven them all. Then, when you realize that all the new pens are too big/too small/the cap falls off/are too pretty/made you afraid to remove them from your desk/whatever, use the pen you normally use. If you must make ANY change, go for a fine or extra fine point version of your usual pen preference.

2) Print out every template you can get your hands on. In fact, buy a spare pack of index cards just for this purpose. Check them all out. See how they look in 3X5 form. Then, when you realize that the lines are too small/the lines are too light/”this template just bugs me because…”/you have lists and ideas and notes that don’t fit into any available online template, you have two choices. These two choices are based solely on the kind of geek you are. Are you a Geek Who Craves Structure or a Geek Stifled By Structure? Craving geeks will need to make their own templates (or modify an available template) to exactly fit their ideal hpda structure. This is the only way you’ll ever be able to have a template for your prized People to Maim if I Ever Get the Chance or Rare Arachnids I’ve Spotted On My Balcony lists. The stifled geek needs to give up on templates all together. Trust me, the ruled lines (or grid, if you prefer) provide enough structure for you. “Tag” your cards with general topics and ideas so you understand what the hell you’re looking at when you flip through them later. Or don’t. No pressure.

3) Buy a large assortment of different types of index cards. I recommend the following:
Oxford® White Recycled Index Cards, Unruled, 3″ x 5″, Pack Of 500
Oxford® White Recycled Index Cards, Ruled, 3″ x 5″, Pack Of 500
Oxford® Tabbed Index Cards, 1/3 Cut, Ruled, 3″ x 5″, White, Pack Of 50
Oxford® Color Bar Ruled Index Cards, 3″ x 5″, Pack Of 100
Oxford® Color-Coded Index Cards, 3″ x 5″, Multicolor With Assorted Edges, Pack Of 100
I also recommend the following items for filing used cards:
Oxford® Blank Manila Guides, 1/5 Cut, 3″ x 5″, Box Of 100
Eldon® Card File, 3″ x 5″ x 3″, Black

4)Gather this stuff up and sort it around, mess with it, and organize it until it resembles something unique and crazy… but it just might work.

5) Recognize the differences between todo lists that are ongoing/longterm and daily. Do your best to keep these items on separate cards.

6) Get an idea/project/cluster of stuff that doesn’t seem to fit into any category or onto any template? Make a new card, and a new template, if necessary. These are index cards, and they’re cheap. With this system, it’s better to keep information encapsulated than to try and cram it all into one general category. For example, you have a grocery shopping list going. Instead of jotting an idea for an office supply you need to get onto your grocery list, make a new card. The grocery list is temporary and you’ll probably feel like tossing it once you’re done with your weekly shopping. You might not make it to the office supply store until later in the week, when you’ll still be carrying around your shopping list plus the one or two items you need from the office supply store.

7) Use the backs of cards for continuations, not new lists/ideas. Encapsulation is key.

8) Keep blank cards in the back. Don’t include too many spare templates. If you’ve been carrying them around for a week and haven’t needed them, take them out of your stack until you do.

9) Even though the hpda is supposed to be the ultimate in disposable portability, I can’t stand to cram it into my pocket, making my neat cards all bent, sweaty or smashed. To solve this obsessive compulsive dilemma, always carry at least one card with you. Think of this as your hpda “laptop” that you can use while out and then “sync” to your main hpda when you get home. Tuck it into your wallet, your money clip, or your pocket. You can always add it to the stack if you have to jot something down while you’re out. And besides, who ever needs to write more than one card worth of stuff while they’re at the store or the mall?

10) If you’re interested in the hpda, you’re probably one of those people (like me) who is intimidated by complex fancy organization solutions or fetishized planners like Moleskine notebooks and Day Runners. The cheaper and junkier your hpda is, the more likely you are to use it. Don’t fancy it up. Don’t order monogrammed 3X5 cardstock, no matter how tempting it may be. Don’t clip it with an expensive money clip… 3/4 inch binder clips are the hpda’s best friend. Most importantly, do whatever it takes to make your hpda usable to you.