How to Read a Book When You Can Barely Remember to Put on Pants in the Morning

I have a horrible memory. Truly terrible. I’d love to blame the fibromyalgia and the inevitable mind fog that comes with it. But if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit that it’s been terrible for decades.

As a result, I’ve taken my enjoyment of organization to an almost obsessive level. I adore planners, organized storage options, and other tools. Recently, I had to buy a new label maker because I wore out the old one.

In past posts, I’ve talked about my favorite organizing tools for writing and planning. I keep finding new things in Scrivener that make me increasingly excited to use it, for example. I’ve also mentioned keeping a bullet journal, which I have come to see as an absolute necessity. In fact, I just purchased a nifty art supply organizer and organized the supplies I use to create my favorite organizer, the bullet journal.

Yes, I have a problem.  But I’m okay with it.

Today I want to take a slightly different approach and tell you about my favorite organizing tool for reading: David Seah’s Fast Book Outliner.


I discovered Seah’s website several years ago when I was looking for a better planner that functioned as a time tracker for my many work projects.  I was fascinated by his Emergent Task Planner and immediately started digging through his site for more. I use some of these worksheets as background papers in my iPad notetaking app, and others became the basis for layouts in my bullet journal. I’ve gotten a lot of use out of them – so much so that when I saw his NaNoWriMo tracking sheet, I didn’t hesitate to pay for it. This man deserves some of my money.

One of the documents I use most frequently is the Fast Book Outliner.

There are several incarnations of the Fast Book Outliner, each containing a different number of pages. The 25-page per sheet layout, pictured here, is great for very dense reading. It offers plenty of room for notes. The 500-page per sheet layout, however, is more useful for books in which I only need to denote sections or make a few short notes.

The basic idea is that, as you read, you can simply add notes to the line showing the correct page number in the book. If you need to add more notes, you can write them in the larger space and use lines and your own markup to connect those notes to the page numbers. That’s it.

I know, I could use a blank sheet of paper. This sheet, though, gives me an organizational jumping off point, and I don’t have to write page numbers. I can just jot down my thoughts. This is especially important to me when taking notes in an electronic format because page size in notetaking apps can be quite limited. With both physical and electronic notes, can collect these sheets into binders or notebooks of some kind and basically create a reference library for all the books I’ve read. When I’m writing a paper or trying to remember something, I have easy access to everything I need.

It’s a little thing, but sometimes it’s the little things that help most.

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