Tuesday Hack: Circa Notebook Spine Labels

Circa Notebook Spine LabelsWhen I converted my freelance business files to a combination of Rollabind and Levenger’s Circa four years ago, I decided to store my Jotz notebooks disc-down in my filing cabinet, identified by their color-coded finger rings. When it came time to convert my inactive records to Circa, I opted for a hanging folder hack, identified by ordinary hanging-folder tabs.

But what if you store Circa notebooks on a bookshelf, spine out like an ordinary book? Here’s a quick and inexpensive solution that might solve your problem.

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tuesday hack: rollabind hanging folders

Rollabind Hanging FoldersRegular readers know that my freelance writing business is completely “on the rings.” From creation to disposal, almost every printed document I work with ends up in a Rollabind or Circa notebook. I have Circa notebooks for administrative documents, project files, and permanent archives. For admin files, I use punched poly folders. For project files, I use Jotz Refillable Notebooks.

But for the permanent records — as defined in my PaperJamming schedules — I decided to do something different. I transferred permanent records to their own Rollabind notebooks once they were no longer needed in the admin or project folders, which I stored in plastic file boxes. While this method worked fine, it lacked a certain elegance — that sense of modular panache which Rollabind and Circa users have come to expect from these systems.

What I wanted, in other words, was a Circa-fied approach to hanging folders.

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my hpda configuration

My first hPDAI discovered Merlin Mann’s hPDA concept around the same time I discovered the Rollabind disc binding system, and for me the benefits of combining them were immediately self-evident. I hacked my first “field-strength” ring-bound hPDA using covers from an old poly folder, a strap made from an elastic hair band, and three small Rollabind rings; it proved to be rugged, reliable, and indispensable.

The only problem I had was that the thin covers allowed the rings to torque sideways when stored in my back pants pocket, flexing the covers and the cards at their weak hole joints. So when Levenger introduced its CircaPDA this past summer — using the same extra-thick clear poly covers as their other Circa notebooks — I quickly retired my original covers and have been proudly packin’ Circa ever since.

Quality-wise, it was like moving up from a kit car to a Lexus. But regardless of the bodywork, it’s what’s under the hood that ultimately counts. Here’s what’s under mine:

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mail.app for freelancers (mac)

Mail screenWrapping up my discussion of the three techniques I use to manage my freelance writing business, today I review how I’ve configured Apple’s Mail program to manage work e-mail.

(Note: while the tips are Mail-centric, other mail management programs like Thunderbird probably have similar features and plugins that you can tweak to get similar results.)

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path finder for freelancers (mac)

My Path Finder ConfigurationI rely on three things to administer my freelance writing business: paper files, electronic files, and e-mail. I’ve already written about how I use PaperJamming and Rollabind to administer my paper files; today I’m going to write about how I’ve customized Cocoatech’s brilliant Path Finder app as my ultimate electronic file manager — and how you can, too.

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tuesday hack: rollabind disc dispenser

Rollabind ring dispenserThe Tuesday Hack is a little early this week because I couldn’t wait to introduce my weekend DIY project: a prototype Rollabind ring dispenser.

As I’ve already described, my paper file management system is now based almost entirely on Rollabind. And with one exception, the transition has been as smooth as I could have ever hoped for. The one exception? Where to put all the discs.

I’ve been collecting rings on an as-needed basis — ordering them a bag or two at a time from Rollabind or Levenger and keeping the leftovers in the original baggies which I kept in a box. Up to a point this technique worked fine, but it was — well, inelegant. And since much of the Rollabind aesthetic derives from its sense of order, I wanted to find a better, more orderly solution. One that showed me how many discs I had, made discs easy to get, and didn’t take up much room in my crowded supply closet.

Here’s how I made the proptotype . . .

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tuesday hack: pda harmony

The strengths of the hPDA concept — ruggedness, reliability, and simplicity — derive from its preferred medium, the humble 3×5 card. But as hard as it is for me to admit, paper does have its limitations. Ink affixes the data to the storage medium statically, and in doing so it limits the user’s ability to manipulate the data.

On the other hand, while electronic storage offers magnificent interactivity, the data manipulation and search experience can be more complex and intensive than on an index card. If only index cards could sort themselves!

But until scientists figure out a way to manufacture smart 3×5 cards (and for any scientists reading this, there’s probably a Nobel Prize in it for you), here’s the best of both worlds — a quick hack for my wife’s Palm that blends the yin of a PDA with the yang of a hipster (or is it the other way around?). It uses three small Rollabind rings affixed to a sheet trimmed from a poly file folder, which is then slipped into the leather holder’s card pocket. A stylus with a built-in pen allows her to translate between the two with ease. The hPDA is perfect for shopping lists, quick reminders, and taking notes on the fly. The PDA manages her complex and ever-changing calendar.

Now if I could only get her to use my hPDA templates

tuesday hack: 3×5 docking station

hPDA Docking StationHere’s a quick little hack that lets you park your hPDA and Circa 3×5 notes right in front of you while you work at your desk.

My Hipster PDA features three small Rollabind rings across the top, turning it into a reporter style flip notebook. The small rings are unobtrusive in the back pocket, and facilitate flipping back and forth between pages more easily than removing and reattaching the standard hPDA binder clip.

The use of the rings (okay, they are properly called discs, I know) lets me transfer notes between my back pocket, master notebook, and assorted project files quickly. But in the office, I like to park my to-do list right in front of me while I work.

Other than Levenger’s classy — but ginormous3×5 card bleachers, there are no free-standing desktop card holders out there. So I decided to make one . . .

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tuesday hack: elastic pen loop

I’ve never been a big fan of the stitched-on pen loops that come with many daily planners, pad holders, and upscale notebooks like the Circa Leather Foldover. I find that when the notebook’s open, they get in the way; when the notebook’s closed, they keep the book from closing all the way.

I talked with my wife Mary Jo about this (a creative spouse is the secret weapon in the arsenal of many a good hacker) and she came up with the idea of using a length of cloth elastic braid, the kind used for waist bands and sleeves, which you can find for pennies a foot at any craft store. The only tools you’ll need are a ruler, scissors, a needle, and matching thread. The result is simple, elegant, stylish, and superbly functional — the essential ingredients of a hack that you’ll come to rely on. Here’s how to make one…

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