Keeping Tabs

As the year winds down, I find myself really chomping at the bit to move into my new system for 2012.

If you’ve been reading along, you know that I’ve been narrowing down my insert options.  Well, I’m happy to report that after much thought (and mock-up fondling) my format of choice is going to be Franklin Covey 7 Habits 2Page per Day in Compact size.

I can fit a startling 6-month supply of these diary pages into my Filofax Personal Malden  (Ochre or Black, that vote is still out).

All that stood in the way of setting up my new inserts with the remainder of this year was sorting out my subject tab situation.  You see, I’m not wild about the FC blank set of 12 and their tiny, unreadable tabby bits, nor the fact that, in order to satisfy my OCD and achieve the look of a full complement of tabs, I end up with some wicked redundancy.

Right now, I’m using FC 1Day per Page in Monticello and I can fit 6-months of diary pages and a ridiculous assortment of 12 tabs just fine.  Thing is, I don’t need them all, I just have all 12 in there because I can’t stand the way haphazard tabs look.   It’s crazy, I admit it.  That being said, I don’t want to just carry a broken tab system forward into the new year.

My current tab situation goes a little something like this:

FC Tabs - full compliment of 12

Shopping Lists
Sharpen the Saw

Phew! That’s a lotta tabs.  Seems wasteful of space in my planner as well as synaptic firings in my noggin keeping track of a bunch of inserts I don’t really even need.

First I thought about creating my own tabs the DIY way. You know, getting some pretty card stock, cutting them out so I only have as many as I need, hole punching them, yada, yada, yada.

Problem is, I’m not creative AT ALL. On top of that, doing stuff of this nature is not appealing to me. I like to go out and buy planner stuff, but the thought of making my own? Yeah, not my idea of fun.

I tried hacking around using Avery NoteTabs stuck over the wee FC tabs…but that ended up looking horrid. They are 2″ long as opposed to the 1/2″ FC tab so having tiny FC month tabs mixed in with ginormous 2″ Note Tabs looked downright annoying.  OCD fail.

The only thing I could come up with, since I don’t need all 12 tabs yet still require a semblance of symmetry and order, was to divide the set of 12 by 3 and only use the middle four so that they would be centered in my book.

But how, you ask, can I go from 12 tabs to only four? Three little words:

Getting.   Things.   Done.

Don’t put your hands over your ears and run away screaming, I’m not going rogue and joining a cult.

What I did was take some basic principles from my old GTD days and incorporate them into my tab needs. Now, I’m not going to get into the whole GTD system (partly because I am lazy, partly because it’s already been done far better than I ever could a zillion times over, and mostly because I find the entire system far too cumbersome. For me. Personally).

But what I do like about it, I can break down for you quick & dirty, and without sounding too much like a nut. I hope.

GTD deals with our human brain and how it works to process information. Again, not going to delve into the science of all that here (you’re welcome).

The gist of it is that your brain can get overwhelmed if you try and cram too much minutia into it in a given day and that’s why you leave the house without turning off the iron, forget to pick up your dry cleaning for weeks at a time or take your multivitamin at each and every meal because you can’t remember whether or not you took the damn thing until you pee neon green for a week.

And by “you” in that sentence I of course mean me.

Too many little things careening around in your brain is what ties it up and causes us to forget the big things. So the first step in GTD is to empty it.

Thus, the ubiquitous capture tool. In your capture tool, you write down anything and everything that has your attention. And that’s all you do. Get it out of your head and onto the paper. We’ll get to what you do with it after that in a sec, but for now the focus is purging your mind. This part isn’t organized or neat or pretty, and it’s not about anything other than brain dumping.

Thus my first tab would be “capture”. But…and there always must be a but mustn’t there? That’s a long word for a 1/2″ tab and my label maker font only goes so small.  So I went with “UCT” (for ubiquitous capture tool).

Now that you have your mind-vomit down on paper and out of your headspace, comes the bit about what to do with it.

Is it actionable?  In other words, do I need to do something to make it go away? Yeah? Okay, then can I do it right now, or in the next few minutes? If so,  do it.  If it’s not a right now kind of thing, it’ll go in my calendar, to Siri for a reminder, or on my daily Task List (my fave aspect of the FC inserts by the way).

But there always seems to be stuff that requires action but that have too many steps to just jot down on a Task List or Calendar.  GTD calls these things projects and then proceeds to make them uber-complicated. I won’t be doing that, thank you very much. I’ll just be noting them in their own section, along with pertinent information, until they’re completed.

So Tab #2 will therefore be “ACT”; stubby tab code for Action.

For items in the UCT that are not actionable, like reference material, the name of a new wine someone told me was worth trying, things I want to research (and conversely, things I already have researched that I don’t want to have to look up again because I’m a ninny), or important facts like the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow, my third tab will be “INFO”.  Mercifully, that did fit on the 1/2″ FC tab. Though, it was pretty tight.

And that’s it for my relationship with GTD.  Do it, or know it –  then when it becomes irrelevant, toss it.  Pretty simple. In theory.

Remember, I’m trying this tab hack out for the first time in an attempt to streamline & avoid tab over kill. It may be genius…or it may fail on an epic level. I’ll let you know.

By the way, my fourth tab will be for quotes (“QUO”), because I’m always coming across a good quote I want to remember, or that helps me on a given day. When my Quotes section gets too full, I transfer them to my Commonplace Book to avoid clutter and start fresh.

FC Tabs - the middle 4 of a set of 12. I can fit 3-4 letters on each w/the smallest font my label maker can manage














What do you think? Will this simplified tab system work or is it too minimalistic? How do you handle tabs when you can’t quite find the ones you want? Or, do you always just use the ones that come with your planner?