My Little Black Books

I’ve gotten a lot of requests for information about my little black books, those two indispensable resources that are helping me to start to reclaim my former self. I thought I’d share them with you here.

First off, I’ve started with the Moleskine Squared Soft Notebook (Pocket). This is basically a notebook full of graph paper. Inside it, I’ve sectioned off the book into roughly two halves. In the first one, I keep my checklists.


Across the top are the dates. (In this example, you’ll notice that there are a few missing. Usually that indicates a bad day. You’ll also see the trend of improvement at a glance.) Down the side are the things that I regularly have to do with my day, in more or less chronological order. When I complete an item it gets checked off. If it’s not relevant (for instance, “Commute” is only applicable on those days I have the car, and never on the weekends, unless I’m out of town and traveling – more on the “Commute” selection later).

If you click on the picture above, you’ll note that there’s a single entry for “To-Do.” That’s where the second book comes in, but I’m skipping ahead.

At several points in the day, I have to measure my vital signs to some degree – in the morning, my blood glucose, my blood pressure, my pulse, and my weight; and two hours after every meal, my blood glucose. That’s what the second half of the squared notebook is for, and it looks like this.


This time, across the side of the page, turned to be the top, I mark which vital I’m tracking. Along the bottom, turned to be the side, I have the dates. Again, as you can see, improvement is progressive. If there’s a spot where there’s a double digit number in a triple digit space, I usually trade the leading zero out for a slash (/) and in places where recording a specific vital is impossible, I put dashes (-) in each space. You can invent your own system for what works for you.

Now for the second notebook. It’s a Moleskine Ruled Soft Notebook (Pocket) and it’s just like a standard lined journal.

What goes in here is straightforward. It’s a list of things that I need to do, written in brief language to jog my memory about the things that need to happen. If details are needed, they’re included. When something is either done or the decision is made not to do it, it gets crossed off. It’s a progressive to-do list in that there aren’t dates or deadlines involved. You decide what order things happen, and by when. When you’ve done things that need to be done by the end of the day, plus whatever else you want to do to work ahead, consider the To-Do item in the other notebook checked off.

This to-do list looks something like this.


So that’s basically it. It takes some getting used to in order to make sure things get done and then recorded, but I soon found the reward of checking things off on the list was a motivational tool. If I miss checking something off, I acknowledge that at the end of the day and tell myself that tomorrow is a fresh column with fresh opportunities. Some days, I just don’t want to worry with much of anything. On those days, I make sure that, if nothing else, I take my meds as indicated. Those are critical to maintaining an even keel and I can’t afford even a day’s lapse.

Oh, one other thing about the checklist. They’re fluid from page to page, so when I turn the page in a few days, I’m going to have made some minor changes to my checklist of things to track. New habits come in, obsolete ones go out. (For instance, when I turn the page, “Dance” will be added, and “Commute” will be removed.) If a new habit needs to start before the page gets turned, it goes temporarily into each day’s To-Do list until I can make a space for it. I still make the time to check things off if I’m still doing them, even if they’re fully integrated habits. The checklist also serves as a progress meter for my day. I know what needs to happen next and how I need to proceed with the rest of the time I have before the next item that’s timely comes due.

(If you’re wondering about appointments, those I track through Google Calendar and slip reminders into each day’s To-Do list in the ruled notebook. As for them being little black books, if you want to interject some color into your life and don’t mind switching to a hardbound cover, you can get the same two notebooks in red, white, oxide green, orange yellow, brilliant violet, and magenta.)

Hopefully this answers some of your questions, but if you have others, feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll respond as soon as I can.

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