new hpda templates: note capture

hPDA note capture templateTwo new downloads today designed for taking notes on-the-go. These note capture forms (in both portrait and landscape format) are designed to let you take quick notes that you’ll transfer somewhere else later — a website to bookmark, an action item to add to your calendar, or even a great idea for a new hPDA template.

Active Voice offers templates as free .png graphics that you can drag-and-drop to your desktop and use in your favorite planner. They are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 License.

Check out the new note capture templates on the downloads page.

paperjamming: file management 2.0

Cluttered DeskWhen I was a full-time records management and archives consultant, one of my tasks was to conduct surveys of our clients’ files and assess their recordkeeping practices. Despite the wide range of business conducted by our clients, the themes of their file-management stories were depressingly similar:

  • Outdated or nonexistent file management plans
  • No centralized colllection points or dedicated staff
  • Uncertainty about who was responsible for keeping what
  • No guidance on how long to keep files
  • Paperwork management not integral to day-to-day operations

Their combined inertia inevitably fueled a downward spiral: I don’t know what to do with these files. I’ll deal with it later. The same goes for these files. I’ll just add them to the pile. Now the pile is way too big for me to manage. I don’t know what to do with these files. I’ll deal with it later . . .

Sound familiar?

Maybe the trick for those of us living in the era of life hacks and wikis is to find a way to turn the old model on its head and shake the useful loose change out of its pockets, to improvise new and better ways of managing files for our wired world. Welcome to the world of PaperJamming.

Continue reading “paperjamming: file management 2.0”

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 . . .

Continue reading “tuesday hack: 3×5 docking station”

where does the writer fit?

Remember that famous Sidney Harris cartoon with the two mathematicians standing in front of a blackboard, working on a complex equation that features as a crucial step the words, “and then a miracle happens?” That’s often how managers view what writers do. Too often, the second-to-last step in the document development process reads, “and then the writer wordsmiths it.”

But that’s not when you want the writer to start getting involved. A successful collaboratively-written product — a user manual, a proposal, a textbook, an online help file, an annual report — needs to have the writer involved from the beginning, as an integral part of the team.

Continue reading “where does the writer fit?”

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…

Continue reading “tuesday hack: elastic pen loop”

one ring (in four sizes) to bind them

Jotz Refillable NotebooksSix months ago, I completed the transition of my work-related project and administrative paper files over to a system that uses Rollabind discs as its (literal) backbone. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. Rollabind and Circa products have notably improved my file storage, retrieval, and transfer processes, note-taking, and task management. They’ve even inspired some useful hacks that I will cover in detail in future entries.

Rollabind even wooed me away from legal pads, which had been my constant companions since college. Amazing.

However, for all the inherent strengths of the various products that I’ve tested and adopted for use, there are still some important gaps that need to be filled before the system can be considered a full-fledged paper management system.

I’ll detail my filing technique (which is unstoppable) and my observations on product strengths and weaknesses in future entries. Today, I review how I developed, implemented, and tweaked my Rollabind/Circa system. if you’re thinking about doing a similar implementation, my experience will be a useful case study…

Continue reading “one ring (in four sizes) to bind them”

hipster pda downloads for writers

hPDA calendar templateAV’s first writer-optimized downloads — templates for the Hipster PDA (hPDA) — are now available on the Downloads page. Using the same soothing, minimalist appearance as the new Active Voice website, these templates take maximum advantage of the limited real estate of the 3×5 card by favoring writing space over boundaries.

Because all great hardware needs equally great software. And when the hardware is paper, the software must be ink.

Continue reading “hipster pda downloads for writers”

announcing the active voice blog

Along with redesigning the look and feel of the Active Voice website (this is the fourth major iteration, for those keeping track), I’ve decided that it’s high time I launched a blog as a way to interact with clients and colleagues through the exchange of useful tools, tips, and techniques.

By way of an introduction: I launched Active Voice Writing & Editorial Services seven years ago after leaving a management position to become a full-time freelance writer. Since then, my clientele has grown steadily to include a variety of nonprofit and professional organizations, private companies, and the federal government. Along the way, I won a national award and in my spare time I wrote a novel that was published last year.

On the Active Voice blog, you’ll find articles on:

  • Writing and editing tips
  • Lifehacks for writers
  • Observations on issues that affect writers
  • Handy reference downloads
  • Tips for managing your paper and computer files
  • Links to useful and interesting resources
  • …and more!

I hope you’ll follow along as I gear up the blog over the next few weeks. Feel free to leave comments or e-mail me with suggestions for topics that you’d like to see covered — or to finally get an authoritative answer about when to use “that” vs. “which.”