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Jan 14 2008

How I Solved the Problem of Collecting Tasks!

Hope you are all having a productive day!

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One of the major improvements in my life since starting following the Getting Things Done Methodology, is the reduction of Open Loops. As we all know, Open Loops are those tasks floating around in the ether, that we should be doing, but we do not actively record.

An Open Loop is anything pulling at your attention that doesn’t belong where it is, the way it is.

Anybody who has read the Getting Things Done methodology will understand what I am talking about and if you haven’t, you don’t know what you are missing to get this area of your life under control.

You could say I am a busy guy. I am actively involved with 5 of my own companies. I have four children, a wife, and an active social life. Now, I have a LOT to get done! I also had a lot of Open Loops before I made the decision to get my life my organized. If you are anything like me. Numerous times in the day, you would remember that you had some task to do. This could be related to your business, home life, or other. It could be any random task that either just comes to you, or something you are doing jogs your memory and bang, there it is. You are at that moment presented with a task, and one that needs collecting.

Now, I have a pretty good memory and I used to try to remember these tasks in my head. Big mistake, and the start of an Open Loop. Then, the next day, or whenever, something would again jog my memory and I would be left with the same task entering my mind that needs completing. Some of these were important tasks that really did need to be collected and I, as I am sure you all, sometimes forgot things that were important.

Removing these Open Loops from your life is one major step towards getting organized and it is no surprise that a lot of the first chapter of the Getting Things Done book covers the importance of closing these Open Loops.

Now, one of the most important aspects of removing these Open Loops is to record the action/task as soon as it comes into your mind, without exception. It is the procrastination of not writing these down that make them into Open Loops. I much prefer Closed Loops!, Tasks and Actions that are recorded into a system that I trust. This is all part of the very simple GTD methodology.

The very simple way that I have embraced this, is to very simply write things down as they come to me. Now, you need some tools to do this, a pen and paper.

I had read about the Moleskine Notebooks on various sites such as and thought they looked pretty cool so I went ahead and bought one from eBay. Well, I wrote a post about my thoughts on Moleskines, and must admit that I love them to bits. There is something about the quality that makes you take pride in writing, and collecting your notes into them.

I own the small pocket Moleskine notebook, as well as the large Moleskine notebook. Both of these are hardback books. Now these books are fantastic for taking into business meetings and I must admit the larger one has had a lot of use. The small notebook normally goes away on trips with me, both personal and pleasure. The problem I find with these Moleskine’s is that I cannot easily take them everywhere with me.

So, there were still times when an action came to me that needed recording and left me scrambling for a pen and paper to write it down. I have played with PagePacker, which is a pretty Cool Mac Application that allows you to print mini books full of Calendars, Lists, and also the GTD Flowchart. Luckily, I noticed that Moleskine did a range of products called “Cahier”. The Moleskine Cahier is small pocket sized book with a softback. It is slim enough, with only 64 pages, to fit into the back pocket of your trousers.

The new Moleskine Cahier [kaa yáy] Notebook Series are each offered as a set of 3 notebooks, featuring a flexible soft cover, acid-free paper and visible side stitching on the spine. The last 16 sheets of each notebook are detachable, by means of a micro-perforated edge, perfect for exchanging loose notes. Inside the back page there is a spacious pocket for notes or clippings.

Now, since buying a pack of three of these for a very reasonable £5 from eBay, I have tried to carry one with me everywhere to enable me to record my thoughts as and when they spring into my head, to remove all Open Loops from my life.

So, now I have the paper sorted out, next is the pen!

I have quite a few nice pens. Some I have bought myself and some bought for me as presents. I really like and own a few Mont Blanc pens, but the idea of carrying a £200 pen around with me doesn’t fill me with warm feelings, especially when I tell you about my Space Pen experiences!

After reading various blog posts about Fisher Space Pens, I decided to go ahead and buy one. It cost me around £20 for the Space Pen Bullet. This is a little pen that is the normal size when the cap is attached in writing mode and half size when the cap is closed. Quite cool. These use pressurized cartridges so they can write upside down, underwater, and in space, hence the name. Now I believe in GTD, but not enough to take my pen with me swimming or the next time I go on a Lunar Mission!, so that did not really bother me but one great side effect of this technology is the fact that due to the fact they are pressurized, it makes them so the ink does not leak out all over your trousers. I used to keep the Space Pen in the little coin pocket of my left jeans pocket. many a time I would reach into my pocket and pull out my shiny space pen, stand on my head and collect my thoughts into my nice Moleskine Cahier notebook!

Only problem was, after losing three pens, and having one washed in the washing machine (I blame my wife for not checking the pockets:) it became a rather expensive obsession!

So, loathed to spend another £20 on these pens, I was forced to look for an alternative, to strive to find the perfect solution for recording my thoughts, and keeping those pesky Open Loops, well and truly closed!

Do you know what?, I think I may have found the answer!

I am a golfer. I play, or try to play as much as I can. I have played since the ages of 8 and I am pretty good at it. What does Golf have to do with GTD I hear you ask?, well, I remember using some Golf Pencils when I was younger that used to clip to the golf scorecard. So, after 2 mins searching on good old eBay, I managed to find some using the search term of “golf pencil”.

Golf pencil

I bought 100 of these pencils for around £3.50, that is around $7. So, they work out at 7 cents per pencil. In other words, I can buy 571 of these pencils for the price of one Fisher Space Pen. These pencils come with a clip on them

Because the Moleskine Cahier has only 64 pages, the clip will either clip inside the front cover of the notebook or right up to the middle of the notebook to save your page. I clip the pencil to the notebook as you can see in the image below. This then goes in my back pocket and has been there for the past two weeks.

I have travelled over a thousand miles in the car with this in my pocket and the pencil holds up just fine. You can sit on it, twist it, throw it, bend it, shake it!, and at the end of the day if you do break or lose it, you are not going to lose sleep over 7 cents!

Moleskine Cahier This little bit of simple help has changed the way that I am able to record my tasks, as the enter my head. I am no longer scrambling around trying to find a pencil, as I always have one to hand, in my back pocket, nicely attached to my pocket notebook.

Closing my Open Loops has been the largest change that implementing GTD has brought to me. If I could say one thing to you about the Getting Things Done methodology, it would be to carry a notebook, write down the thoughts as they enter your head. It is simple, yet revolutionary. You have t get into the habit of carrying the notebook with you everywhere, pretty much as you have to wear shoes, you also have to carry your notebook,. I feel naked without mine now and it has just become a part of my daily life to carry it.

Phew, ranting over. Hope you have enhoyed this post, if you have, I would love to have a comment and please add anything you can and agree or totally disagree with my thoughts.

Keep having that productive day!

  • 21 Comments... What do you think?
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  1. Benjamin (WOWNDADI) said on January 23rd, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    That golf pencil tip is brilliant! I’d never heard of those before. Pens are big, ugly and messy, especially if you use the PocketMod method (ie no moleskin, just a folded sheet of paper). Nice.

  2. Tom Daube said on February 19th, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    I haven’t been able to locate the flap little pencils on eBay US or eBay UK. Do you have any source or suggestions?

    I appreciate your attention to the little matter.


  3. Tom Daube said on February 20th, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Here’s a link for 100 of the pencils:

  4. Alex said on March 4th, 2008 at 11:48 am

    thank you for a nice article, I found your blog after having read some information about Moleskin’s notebooks on Wikipedia.
    I think that those little things that help us to get more organized should be attractive! Like for example theses gorgeous yet simple Moleskin’s notebooks!
    Thanks once again!

  5. simo said on March 23rd, 2008 at 3:01 am

    Interesting idea. Anyone had luck locating these golf pencils at europe? Experiences about those GOGO pencils?

  6. Michael Evans said on April 2nd, 2008 at 10:01 am

    The golf pencils are a brilliant tip; I am ordering. I have been using Moleskine Cahier notebooks for several years, but I have also been wedded to my PDA–at the moment a Windows 6 Mobile device. I’ve been inputting tasks and organising tasks while out and about on the PDA/phone rather than the Moleskine notebook. But… despite the exellent Missing Sync, there are inevitably sync problems between WinMob6 and Macs. I’m planning to go with iPhone when the 3G model arrives, but in the meantime I think I’ll take your tip and try the Moleskine route. Since buying a MacBook Air I haven’t been using the PDA as much. While you can’t sit on the Air as you can on the golf pencil, you can do almost anything else with it. Above all, you can carry it around and it is an instant-on device like the PDA. So Air + Cahier + golf pencil is as good a route as any.

  7. Andrew Mason said on April 2nd, 2008 at 10:05 am

    You lucky thing, I would love an Air but cannot really justify one right now. Do you like it?

  8. zil said on May 28th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    that’s an interesting way of using a notebook to make our lives easier. now i know how to implement GTD into my life too. thanks for the tip!

  9. Bela Molnar said on June 18th, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Would anyone know a place to purchase the GOGO Plastic Golf Pencils in the UK. I can’t find them anywhere

  10. Michael Evans said on June 23rd, 2008 at 5:52 pm


    The MacBook Air is brilliant as an ultra-portable device. On balance, I prefer the 13in but ultra-slim format to the smaller, thicker alternatives from PC manufacturers. It isn’t my only Mac, though, and the storage (80/64GB) could be a limitation for some.

    Incidentally, while I’m replying, my plastic golf pencils arrived and have been put to good use. They’re excellent and each one lasts a couple of weeks (I got 100 to be on the safe side).

  11. Ted said on September 1st, 2008 at 5:43 am

    The golf pencils also make a handy book mark! Thanks for the tip.

  12. Jonathan said on December 1st, 2008 at 3:34 am

    Great tip! I believe along with you that you absolutely must write EVERYTHING down as soon as it comes to mind. It is the best revelation of GTD!

  13. Beztar Johnson said on December 24th, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    The clip is brilliant. I have never seen a golf pencil with a clip.

  14. Phil b said on January 1st, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I had the same issues with the larger moleskines plus the expense. I moved to the cahiers. And now i use passport notebooks from muji. They are 92p each. And feel more premium than moleskine. I love these things!

  15. Peter Monbailleu said on January 17th, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    If you are into the GTD methodology and love the Moleskines (just like I do), you will love this Moleskine GTD hack:

  16. SourdoughJim said on January 29th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    On these golf pencils, is the lead just a short section that is glued in, or is the lead somehow able to be pulled out? In order words, is it sharpenable like a standard wood golf pencil?


  17. Marc said on June 28th, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Cool article!!! :)

    I checked yesterday several Moleskine notebooks and none of them had all the sheets detachable. I’ve just checked the official website and it does not seem to exist such a model. I can’t understand that… what’s the point of having 16 detachable sheets out of 200??

  18. Henrik said on January 4th, 2010 at 2:15 pm


    I would like to recommend MailMe Voice as a iPhone note taker. It records sound and with one tap send the recording to your e-mail inbox. This solved my collection problem as I’m sometimes to lazy to write somethings down. I’m primary using Things for the mac and iPhone to hold my lists.

    Disclaimer, I work at the company that developed MailMe Voice.


  19. [...] me, I carry a Moleskine wherever I go and now I am armed with my new shiny iPhone 3G. I have a post on OmniFocus for the 3G coming [...]

  20. [...] two years now and I always say that the biggest change and benefit brought to me is the ability to capture items as they enter my head so that I can collect these in my inbox and process them at a later [...]

  21. [...] How I Solved the Problem of Collecting Tasks! By Andrew Mason One of the major improvements in my life since starting following the Getting Things Done Methodology, is the reduction of Open Loops. As we all know, Open Loops are those tasks floating around in the ether, that we should be doing, … [...]

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