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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new hpda template: gas mileage tracker

Summer’s over — and that means campus commutes, after-school activities, and last-minute runs to the office supply store. If you’re about to start college, become a taxi driver for your kids, or take a cross-country business trip, my newest Hipster PDA template, the gas mileage tracker, was made for you.

Based on a design that’s been extensively tested in the field, the gas mileage tracker is a handy form to keep in your back-pocket or briefcase hPDA. Plus, the template’s intuitive design is easy to understand and use in the field.

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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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get ’em while they’re hot

Regular reader Andrea has just alerted me to the fact that Ultimate Office is currently offering its Jotz Spiral Notebooks at a deep discount of $5 each! That includes five PocketFile folders and 60 pages of ruled 80# paper.

While the Spiral is not the same as the late, lamented, and legendary Jotz Refillable Notebook, it has many of the same features that endeared the Refillable to its die-hard fans — extra-thick poly covers, bungee closure, and of course those color-coded finger rings.

Last time I talked with Ultimate Office about the availability of new Refillables, they had given up all hope that their supplier would be able to overcome its manufacturing problems, and were referring people to Levenger’s Circa products. As undeniably great as Circa is, and as grateful as I am that Rollabind is finally bringing a slew of new business products to market, the Jotz Refillable was, IMNSHO, the quintessentially perfect disc notebook.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t grab some Spirals while they last. Thanks for the heads-up, Andrea! And feel free to post a review in the Comments section once you’ve put them through their paces.

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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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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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…

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