About the author: Oskar Faarkrog is my business partner and we live together in Bangkok. He’s the founder of SkinnyFatTransformation.com with 100,000 monthly readers and you can learn more about his Body-Transformation Coaching program by Clicking Here.
When I first met Oskar he was living in Copenhagen and I was living nearby in the Swedish student city Lund. At the time we were both business students with websites that were just becoming popular.
Some time after we got to know each other, I taught Oskar the fundamentals of how to use OneNote for commonplacing (it took maybe 30 minutes).
And then, the second time we met, Oskar had made a commonplace section for every major part of his life, and said the system was making him a lot more organized and productive.
Since then, Oskar has changed his commonplace system several times over.
In this guest post, he’ll give you a rough outline of what he uses his commonplace for, and he’ll also give a number of tips (not specifically tied to commonplacing) that you can use to scale what you’re doing and save time.
His advice will be especially useful if you’re a free agent, you work with marketing, or if you do most of your work online or on your computer.
Now then, I’ll let Oskar get on with what he has to say. . .
Since meeting Ludvig 2 years ago, I’ve concluded that in contrast to most people I’ve across (online and IRL), he spends all his peak working hours on bettering himself for the long-term.
That’s also why he publishes just a few articles a month, but when he does publish, you know it’s going to be unique, high quality content with a lot of actionable steps.
And as many of you know, one of Ludvig’s top actionable advice is to start your own Commonplace system.
A commonplace (in some form) should be used by everyone who is looking to become a better version of themselves, because it lets you store a massive amount of important information and quickly find it when you need it.
Having such a system is partially what enabled Ludvig to start one of the most successful business podcasts in Sweden at age 25 and thereby make a good living by building his own brand rather than working a normal corporate job in IKEA, and stalling his personal development. . .
Because of Ludvig’s fast success at most of the things I’ve seen him try his hand at (including various projects before the podcast), I’ve taken note and started taking my own commonplacing more seriously. I started thinking about how I can make it more scalable, and how I can include it for more areas of my life. . .
And it has paid off big time.
Since I first began commonplacing, on the advice of Ludvig, I’ve been able to quit one of the best master degrees in Denmark, build the biggest website in my niche, and become the #1 body-transformation coach for skinny-fat men.
In this article, I will show you parts of my own Commonplace system that I use to save a massive amount of time managing my business, and thereby being able to allocate more time into my own personal development.
It’s nice to make money on your own terms when you’re still young, but not at the expense of your self-development. Ludvig said it well:
If you’re under 30, it’s not about making quick money. It’s about building yourself up to be in a position to benefit from opportunities.
— LudvigSunstrom (@LudvigSGM) May 22, 2016
And don’t worry, my way of Commonplacing is not a copy/paste of the advice you will find in the Ultimate Commonplacing System.
Even though I started out based on Ludvig’s fundamentals, I have now come up with a completely different approach that works for my personality.
Let’s get started:
Commonplacing Is Not An Option. It’s A Must
About 1 year ago, Ludvig and I were walking down a street in Stockholm in a highly intoxicated state and I mentioned that we should start an online marketing consultancy.
At the time, I didn’t have a commonplace system on my phone, but Ludvig did so he wrote down the idea.
The day after, we discussed the idea in-depth and Ludvig came up with a long-term strategy to create a marketing agency.
Fast forward one year later and:
- We’re both making our living online from our own brands and living together in Bangkok.
- Our marketing agency is registered in Sweden, and we have more client opportunities lined up for it than we have time to work on.
This is a great position to be in: We have our solid online small businesses that require a minimal amount of time, thereby giving us plenty of time to work on our marketing agency and self-development, both which will pay off big time by the time we’re both 30.
All of this is largely the result of commonplacing.
It’s crazy to think about, but if Ludvig didn’t write down that marketing agency idea, it would never have happened.
And that’s why commonplacing is a must rather than an option.
Noting down ideas is essential because your best ideas often come throughout the day when you least expect it, like when you’re walking and talking, and not when you’re studying a book. (At least that’s how it is for me.)
My Approach to Commonplacing
My main software for commonplacing is now SimpleNote.
Inside SimpleNote, I have the following sections:
- Bangkok (my favorite things to do in Bangkok, events in Bangkok, important addresses such as hospitals, VISA information).
- Daily Routine (notes on optimizing my daily routine).
- Daily Lessons (notes about lessons I come across throughout the day).
- Diet (notes about how my diet makes me feel).
- Lesson Summaries (summaries of my daily lessons, diet and workout).
- Money (money I owe and money people owe me. I use this to ensure I stay out of debt).
- Momentus Transformation (the marketing agency I have with Ludvig).
- Private Cook (I keep track of our private cook here. The money we give her for groceries, the hours she works and so on).
- Personal Training Client Files (client files for my personal training clients).
- Personal Training Copy/paste (separate copy/paste folder for my clients).
- Personal Training Sales (notes on how to optimize my sales funnel for online coaching).
- Skinny-Fat Transformation Biz (long-term ideas, strategies and notes for my Skinny-Fat Transformation website).
- Skinny-Fat Transformation Content (content ideas for Skinny-Fat Transformation).
- Study (notes from books I study).
- To-Do (my daily to do lists that I write out every Sunday for the coming week, list of errands to do and shopping list).
- Travel Destinations.
- Workout (when I come across something new in the gym or learn something new about working out, it goes here).
- Writing (when I learn something new about writing it goes here).
Here’s how my SimpleNote system looks:
And then I use EverNote for the following things:
- Yearly health checkups.
- Shared folders with Ludvig where we share different study material for work (copy, study, steal as Ludvig calls it).
Finally, I use Google Sheets for the following:
- Tracking my coaching clients’ weekly training progression and body-composition changes. Using Google Sheets gives me a much better overview compared to using expensive personal training software that costs over 500 USD per year.
- Tracking my weekly blood pressure, blood sugar and waist measurement. This is a great way to prevent obesity or bad health on creeping up on you.
The key takeaways
The takeaway is that you want to think about your commonplace system as a way to create “shortcuts” in your brain, so that you will have more thoughts and ideas about the important areas of your life.
The key is to come up with a system that works best for you.
Hopefully this gives you inspiration to start experimenting.
Pros and Cons of EverNote and SimpleNote
Ludvig uses EverNote and I use SimpleNote.
These two software are the exact opposites of each other and I will list the pros and cons of each below so you can get an idea of which one might fit you better:
Pros of SimpleNote:
- Simplicity: There are no “functions” inside it to change the fonts, add images, add voice recordings, make presentations or any of that fancy stuff. It’s just a white back ground and text.
- Speed: It opens faster than any other notes app I tried.
- Sync: It synchronizes faster than any other notes app I tried.
- Structure of thoughts: the lack of formatting forces you to write your ideas and lessons with structure and organize your sections in a very clear and concise way. Doing this has the indirect benefit of helping you to memorize a lot of your commonplace system (even if you have bad memory like I do).
Cons of SimpleNote:
- Lack of formatting.
- Can’t insert images or videos.
- Can’t clip content.
- Can’t automate your accounting.
Basically, SimpleNote is not super scalable, but if you have many ideas every day, then it helps you capture them fast and easy. I don’t do a lot of searching in my system(s), but when I write things down I usually remember them, so that’s the 80/20 of commonplacing for me.
And that’s why I like SimpleNote.
Pros of EverNote:
- You can change formatting.
- You can send things directly to evernote from your email.
- You can create both tags and notebooks.
- You can insert images, photos and audio.
Cons of EverNote
- It doesn’t sync as fast.
- The formatting doesn’t look great when you scan handwritten notes (very big).
- If you have ADD there might be too many functions distracting you.
I personally use both SimpleNote and EverNote, but I only use EverNote for the functions that I can’t find inside SimpleNote.
Three Examples of How Commonplacing Scales Over Time
Example 1: Saving Mentions
I got the email above as a result of one of my Skinny-Fat Transformation email newsletter autoresponders
I immediately saved the email because it might be useful for future marketing materials.
I do this with every testimonial and mention I get, and it scales big time.
As of writing this text, I’m working on marketing materials for my coaching and I needed to include some testimonials to prove that my clients actually get real results.
Because I’ve been saving testimonials for 3 years, I now have hundreds of testimonials from readers and clients and I can find one for almost any scenario I come across.
If you have a business, how about you start doing the same thing?
Example 2: Summarizing Daily Lessons
My daily lessons are all messy inside SimpleNote.
I combine daily lessons from my workouts, diet, online marketing, coaching sales process and much more. I typically have more ideas every day than I can act on…
However, when I feel I need to reflect (usually once every 30-60 days), I’ll go in and make different sections inside EverNote and manually copy each daily lesson into the right section (I don’t just copy it but actually write it out again for clarifying and forcing myself to process the lessons).
By doing so, I memorize the daily lessons long-term and this really scales because then I don’t make the same mistakes over and over!
Example 3: Committing to The Most Important Daily Lessons
Another thing I believe scales a lot over time is to play the losers game.
In my case, it’s to avoid making the top mistakes I make that drive me away from my goals.
To identify these mistakes, I take a deep look at my monthly lesson summaries, and hand-write the top 3-5 on a piece of paper.
I then take a photo of the hand-written paper and make the handwriting my background on my iPhone.
This serves 3 purposes:
- Memorize your lessons: The hand-writing makes me memorize my top 3-5 lessons even more than writing them on my laptop.
- Produce a powerful association: Seeing my hand-written lessons every single time I open my phone produces a powerful association. Especially in the morning before I start the day’s work.
- Commit to follow through with the lessons: By writing the lessons in hand and making them your background, you commit to follow through with the lessons and avoid making the mistakes you made in the past.
I find this to be one of those small things that do a lot of good over time.
4 Time-Saving Strategies
Besides storing life-changing ideas, you also want to use your commonplace to save time—because it’s your most important asset.
I can safely say that right now, I save at least 5 hours per week because of my commonplace, and as I take on more responsibility and expand my system I will save even more time.
(Although I will admit that this is not one of my strong sides, and I could probably save more time if I were a bit more systematic.)
1) Create a “Copy-Paste” Section to Have Important Information at Hand When Needed
The best strategy I use to save time is having a section I call “Copy/Paste”
In this section I put:
- Bank accounts.
- Important addresses.
- Important links for my landing pages.
- Links to my popular articles.
- Links to client forms, guides and documents.
- Affiliate links.
I find this section extremely useful because whenever I need a link, address or bank account—things I have to access on a daily basis in my work— I can find it within 5 seconds in my Commonplace.
This was the very first thing Ludvig suggested I use back in the day, and it remains one of my most-used commonplace sections.
For example, right now I’m working on a sales funnel and advertisements for one of my favorite supplements called Athletic Greens.
At the same time, I’m also working on 4-5 other funnels with 30-40 tabs open at the same time (yes, I multi-task for a living).
While working on these things I constantly need to use 4-5 links related to Athletic Greens alone, and 10-15 links for my other funnels too.
In the past, I used to just look for each link individually, and then I would end up going crazy. But now, I have all my important links stored in my commonplace system, so they’re very easy to find.
2) Optimize Your Browser Bookmarks
Another thing that saves me a lot of time is to have great bookmarks in my browser.
For example, I most often use my browser to access a software called ClickFunnels, which I use almost every day when I’m working on my business.
This software is very heavy and slow to load, so I would normally go to my ClickFunnels bookmark, and then I would have to click my way to the specific “funnel” (marketing workflow) I wanted to work with.
Then, one day I decided to make bookmarks for the most important funnels I’m working on so that I could access them from my browser in one click rather than finding them from the ClickFunnels main page and it made a huge difference.
Now I use this principle with every bookmark I make: The bookmark needs to take me to the exact page I will be working on.
[Note from Ludvig: I do this as well, but not even nearly as much as Oskar does. One way I do this is that I have a direct link to the specific DropBox team-folder of our podcast, rather than the generic “DropBox.com” domain. This saves me at least 4 clicks each time.]
3) Automate Business Accounting With EverNote
One thing that can be very time-consuming (and boring) when you get into business, is accounting.
You’re out eating for business and then you get a receipt.
Then you have to store that receipt in a way that’s easy to find.
In the beginning, I would take photos of my receipt, then email the photo to myself, and then save the photo inside a folder once I got on my laptop.
This was a lot of manual hassle that made me dread accounting.
Then, Ludvig showed me how to use the EverNote (scannable) app to scan receipts directly into an EverNote folder/tag, so I created an accounting folder for my business and started scanning receipts into it as soon as I got them.
Now I can easily locate all receipts and organize them for when I need it.
I also found a way to automate my client invoices:
- I connected my Shopify webshop with Invoicify (which is a software that creates automatic invoices).
- Inside Invoicify I changed the email address that my own invoices are sent to, to my EverNote email address.
- I then made sure that every email that is sent to my EverNote email goes to my accounting folder as default.
By doing these two things, I have pretty much automated my accounting.
All my receipts and invoices are organized by month now, and can easily be found inside Evernote.
All I do now is put my numbers into a spreadsheet once every 2-3 months and then send my numbers to the Danish tax authorities at the end of the year.
4) Another Scalable Time-Saving Tip: Optimize the Basics
After studying the successful online marketer (and founder of Facebook ads), Noah Kagan, I learned that you can save a massive amount of time by optimizing your basics.
- Get the fastest internet connection you can.
- Speed up your laptop trackpad (or mouse) to the maximum.
- Upgrade your laptop to the fastest you can get.
- Get a plug-in like Alfred (for Mac) so you can quickly find files.
These things are really simple but they increase your productivity a lot if you work on your laptop most of the day.
For example, something I do a lot in my coaching program is to review my clients’ documents when emailing with them (their coaching questionnaire, training program and diet plan).
To do so, I have a system in place where I name all my client files “Name / Document Type”, so if my client’s name is Logan Rando and I want to review his training program, I will name the file “Logan Rando Training Program” and then use Alfred to quickly search for his training program.
Using Alfred is much faster than using Apple’s spotlight which is slower and has poor usability.
[Note from Ludvig: I dislike many things about Mac/Apple, and therefore have stuck to PC, but the program Alfred is so awesome that I might consider changing in the future. Whenever I see Oskar using it, I get jealous. If you have Mac, you absolutely must get it.]
Also, when I sit at a friend’s laptop and its hardware is slow and the trackpad is at a medium setting, I’m thinking: “that’s a lot of wasted hours each week!”
And these things will scale over time.
If I can save 5 hours per week by just having a simple system for copy/pasting stuff, just imagine how much time I will save after commonplacing for 2, 5, 10 years, when I’ve thought up more advanced systems…like when I have employees, and multiple assets to keep me occupied.
Find Your Own Way to Commonplace
Ludvig’s way of commonplacing differs a lot from mine and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Ludvig likes to take his time and put everything perfectly into place and he spends a lot more time than me on learning, studying and organizing information (for the long-term) than I do.
That’s because he’s a comprehensivist.
In contrast, I have massive ADD so I need a simple and quick system that enables me to quickly open it, note down my thoughts, ideas or lessons and then move on with experimenting, playing around with new software or doing new things.
Another thing to take into account is that Ludvig manages multiple assets/projects, while I’m currently focused mainly on my website and online business.
For Ludvig, the best software right now is EverNote since it lets him create systems to scale long-term and provide oversight into his different projects.
For me, the best software right now is SimpleNote since it limits my options and forces me to process my thoughts and ideas in a clear and concise way.
Therefore, the key takeaway from this article is not to copy Ludvig’s or my approach, it’s to take what you need and use it to create your own Commonplacing system.
I hope you will find many of these tips helpful and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.