How I’m Workin’ The Circa -or- GTD, Baby, and Levenger Makes Three

As many a reader of this journal knows, I am a big fan of Levenger’s products. I love them. Covet may even be a more apt word. I recently noticed, while placing yet another order with them, that they are celebrating their 20th anniversary. It was then that I realized I have been a customer for almost 18 of those. My first order from them was a Lap Desk which I still own to this day. They happened to be running a promotion at the time that gave me a free pack of their Cornell ruled pads with my order. While I was more than happy with the Lap Desk, the Paper Pads were a revelation to me. I was a young man of 22 years old who had never even thought about the satisfaction that could come from writing on nice paper. Let’s just say, I never looked back and have been hooked ever since.
In addition, I have been on paternity leave from my main job since the birth of my daughter last Month. As anyone with children knows, at this stage, your to-do list mainly consists of “Feed baby”, “Change Baby” and, perhaps the hardest item “Baby is sleeping. Now what?”. It is that “Now What?” where the methods espoused in Getting Things Done really come into play. You see, you have about one hour, maybe two, before she wakes up. When she does, you will really be unable to pay attention to anything else. The house may be a wreck. There may be calls to return or errands to run or doctors appointments to be made. It is in these moments that having been capturing these items into a trusted system and organizing them by context gives you the best insight into how to use that “free” time.
How do these two things relate? Well, since I am not “working”, the number of things I have to track has become more simple. That being said, there are still many things I have to stay on top of, and some brainstorming for my consulting business I have been trying to take the time to do. Also, these days I often only have use of one hand (since the other has a baby in it). This makes using the computer for capture, notes and project tracking difficult. Paper on the other hand is faster, only requires one hand for writing and therefore is just plain better. One Levenger product has really helped me stay on top of my Org-fu in the last few weeks is my Junior Sized Circa Notebook. The Circa Notebook system is designed so that it is highly customizable and pages can be moved around and mixed and matched with a ton of add ons and such. I wont go into a long detail about that here. Levenger has plenty of that information on their site.  Here is how I have mine organized…
I have the notebook divided into three sections using some of the plain white dividers available from Levenger.
* Action: The front section is for Action Items and Capture. I keep things open to this page most of the time while on my desk and a pen at the ready.
* Notes: The notes section is for notes and where I flesh out projects. I also have a page marker for my Circa that gets used here. Active projects and notes go in front of the marker, non-active go behind. This way, I know that anything between the section divider and the page marker in the notes section is in play.
* Archive: When my Action items pages get mostly complete, I start a new one free of completes items. I move the old pages to the Archive.
* Back Section: In the rear of the book I have a clear pocket to hold loose items and ephemera such as stamps. I also have a 3×5 dock that I, in all honesty, have not really sussed a good use for yet. Finally, in the built in pockets of the leather cover, I keep a stencil and some extra 3×5 cards (will cover my use of these in a future post).
So, is there anyone else out there reading this using a Circa? I would love to hear in the comments about how you have yours set up and what you use it for. Share it people!
Click here for more pictures of my setup.

6 thoughts on “How I’m Workin’ The Circa -or- GTD, Baby, and Levenger Makes Three”

  1. I’m still saving up for fancy addons to my circa notebook, but necessity has certainly driven me to discover some interesting hacks in the mean time. Rather than dividers, I use a bunch of book darts to divide sections of my notebook, which is entirely comprised of annotation grid pages. The pages work perfectly for the Cornell note taking system.
    I still prefer to manage my tasks on my computer. (Which, I could talk about for hours, but I’ll refrain from that digression.) But, like Patrick said, paper is generally much more accessible. So, the first page of my notebook is an “@inbox”, where I dump any tasks that come to mind. When I get back to my computer, they are processed into ‘the system.’
    The next section is a running-stram-of-conciousness-nest-of-notes. A little order is brought to the mess by date (yyyy.mm.dd) changes, and #topics in sidebars and/or across the top of the page. (book dart on the current page, so it’s easy to flip to)
    After that, I have a page/section for each book I’m currently reading, to capture quotations.
    Next, several “reference pages” of lists and information I refer to regularly. (Prayers, liturgies, journaling topics).
    And in the very back, a list of people I’m praying for, and why.

  2. Patrick, another great post as usual! I too have been using the Circa Junior for a few months, after having been attached to my letter-sized Circa for over a year. While the larger was easier to maintain, I found myself wasting a lot of paper. Often, I just didn’t need the 8.5″ x 11″ size.
    My Circa (complete with a zip-folio) is organized as follows:
    1) Notes: Blank paper to serve as an inbox and note-taking area.
    2) Agenda: My calendar. I print blank weeks and months from Outlook and handwrite my appointments and commitments. It might seem like a bit of extra work, but I don’t want to be computer dependent, or hand over my personal data to the corporate Exchange server. I keep two to three prior weeks before archiving in a separate notebook.
    3) Lists: Everything from Actions, Waiting, Agendas, Someday/Maybes, Reading, etc. in this section. Each topic gets a separate page. I prefer handwritten lists, although lists for recurring tasks (ie. Weekly Review, morning/evening routines) are printouts.
    4) Reference: Anything related to my current projects or things I refer to regularly to here. As part of my Weekly Review, I archive those pages that are no longer relevant.
    When it’s time for a refill, I use 28-lb copier paper, cut into halves with a paper cutter. I find the 28-lb paper thick enough to absorb fountain pen ink without any bleeding and study enough for the Circa rings. I prefer blank, unruled pages as they allow me to be most creative.
    This system is working for me, but I’m always looking for ways to improve!

  3. Wow, two great systems. Thanks to both of you for your sharing and insight.
    One thing that I did not mention, as it was not needed for this post, was that I also have a Bomber Jacket Leather Letter Sized Circa as well. I use this mainly at work (and since I am on leave right now, not much at all) and in a completely different way.
    I have made a note (in my Circa, natch) to do another post covering how I have that one set up and the reasons why it is different.

  4. The Today Page Experiment
    In a post last week, I discussed my strategy for using a Today Card. That is, an index card with three tasks that I would like to accomplish with some room left for additional tasks, notes, and scratchpad items that…

  5. Thanks for sharing these systems. Always looking for possible improvements with mine! Circa ideas- endless?:) I’ve used compact and junior for a few years, but I am finding I need more space- so it will have to be letter!

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