Making Paper Notebooks Useful: Tracking Your Topics Over Non-consecutive Pages and Over Multiple Notebooks

Let’s say you have a notebook, with numbered pages, where you jot down your thoughts about various things.

Lately, your thoughts have been turning to vacation ideas.

And let’s say your thoughts regularly turn to vacation ideas; especially when the TPS report is due. But most of your notebook records non-vacation thoughts.

Here is an easy way to find all your thoughts about vacation ideas, even when they are scattered throughout your notebook.

Jump Lines and Threading

If you read a literal paper newspaper, you can’t just keep scrolling down to the end of every article. Sometimes the paper runs out!

Sometimes you have to jump to another page, to finish the article.

In that case, at the bottom of the first part of the article, you’ll find a line of text that tells you where to find the rest of the story: “continued on page 4, column 1.”

This is called a jump line.

Since your notebook is presumably just for your personal use, you do not have to follow formal publishing conventions and write out proper jump lines like: “continued on page x.”

Ryder Carroll, in his book about bullet journaling, demonstrates a shorthand version of jump lines, which he calls threading, after a software engineering term*.

It’s an elegant solution.

Track Topics Through a Single Notebook

Say you’ve written down your vacation ideas on pages 12, 48-49, and 119.

And let’s further assume, as you open your notebook, that your even-numbered pages are on the left side, and your odd-numbered pages are on the right. So you open your notebook to pages 48 and 49; and page 48 is the page on the left.

On page 48, write a slash mark and then write 12, like this: 48/12

This tells you that you can jump back to page 12, to read your previous notes about vacation ideas.

On page 49, which is your right-hand page, you can remind yourself to jump forward to the rest of your vacation ideas, by making a slash mark in front of the number 49, to page 119, like this: 119/49

And on page 119, you would note page 49, so you could jump back to your previous vacation ideas, which would look like this: 49/119

This way, you can access all the pages where you wrote down vacation ideas.

(Or… if you’re like me… and only artificially organized… you can just put a slash mark and note the other page number wherever you want; left, right, above, below, whatever. It’s your notebook! If you can tell which page to jump to, that is good enough!)

Track Topics through Multiple Notebooks

Carroll points out that if you have multiple notebooks, you can also reference those, assuming you number your old notebooks (e.g. “Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3…”), and assuming those notebooks also have page numbers in them.

Let’s say you’re idly thumbing through your old notebooks, and discover a list of interesting vacation ideas in notebook #3, on page 28.

Somewhere in your current notebook, with the other vacation ideas, you can jump to another notebook by writing a jump line for yourself: “Also see Vol 3, p 28.”

But Carroll has a way to shorten that, as well!

He suggests using a convention of referencing a notebook volume number and a specific page number by separating the volume number from the page number with a dot, and then putting them in parentheses, like this: (3.28)

If you keep an index in your notebook, you can jump to all of your vacation ideas with a notation like this:

“Vacation ideas - (3.28), 12”

And there you have it.


NOTES

* Since I don’t write code, I don’t dare try to explain what threading is, especially since I found varying explanations. Apparently threading conditionally makes one thingie do another thingie; and threads related to code are short. But IRL, actual physical thread is pretty useless when it is short. Have you ever tried to tie a knot in a thread that is too short, or thread a needle with a thread that is too short…?


REFERENCES

Office Space: TPS Reports (all scenes) (no date). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sy5c9tJYyQI (Accessed: 13 July 2022).

Carroll, R. (2018) The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future. Illustrated edition. New York, New York: Portfolio. See pp 104-106 for threading discussion.

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