How To Use Notebooks

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If you’re a note­book lover like me, you prob­a­bly have stacks of blank note­books, but no idea what to do with them. Fear not. Here are some ideas that may help.

First, understand the basics.

  1. While they might look pret­ty NEW, they look bet­ter used and filled. There might not be a bet­ter smell, feel­ing, or sight than a fresh, unused notebook—but they are def­i­nite­ly more attrac­tive with ideas and sketch­es inside. Don’t let the lure of a new note­book keep you from fill­ing it up with good stuff.
  2. Note­books are to be car­ried around. If they sit on the shelf, they won’t be used. Thus, they must go wher­ev­er you go. Keep one in your pock­et . . . Your bag . . . Your car . . . Always have one. Always be using one.

  3. Note­books are to be eas­i­ly reach­able at all times. If note­books are out of sight, they will be out of mind, which means they won’t be used and won’t be car­ried around. Keep your note­books VISIBLE so they aren’t lost in the busi­ness of dai­ly life.

6 Practical Ways to Use Notebooks

The fol­low­ing list is not com­pre­hen­sive, but is how I am cur­rent­ly using note­book in my dai­ly rou­tine. Feel free to add your addi­tion­al thoughts and uses in the com­ments.

1. Capture tool

I fol­low David Allen’s Get­ting Things Done sys­tem. This means when­ev­er some­thing pops into my head, I quick­ly “cap­ture” it in an “inbox.” One of my inbox­es is a Field Notes memo book. When I don’t have my phone or lap­top handy, I’ll jot a task on to one page of the Field Notes. I’ll then tear it out and throw it in my in-tray or in-fold­er to be processed lat­er.

2. Jumpstart tool

I write pret­ty fast on the com­put­er. I’m able to get things “pub­lish ready” by doing most of the writ­ing using a key­board. How­ev­er, some­times I need more time to think about what I want to say and how to say it. This is where a note­book can come in handy. I’ll jot down my main points, cross things out, and draw arrows to get my mind flow­ing. Even though it’s slow, the process helps the ideas steep before I go to type. I may not get the hand­writ­ten doc­u­ment “fin­ished,” but it often jump­starts my writ­ing.

3. Get unstuck tool

Do you ever get stuck when try­ing to fig­ure some­thing out? I do all the time. And that’s when a note­book helps. I’ll use one page to explore a sin­gle idea—and repeat until I get clar­i­ty. This is an excel­lent process to try if you are over­whelmed or stressed out.

4. To test pens, pencils, and markers

I am a pena­holic. I like dif­fer­ent col­ors, sizes, and inks. But I don’t let them all go to waste. Some­times I’ll use the pages of a note­book to remind myself how each pen or pen­cil writes. It’s fun.

5. To collect stickers

Some­times I receive ran­dom stick­ers. (From Field Notes, Dis­ney, and ran­dom prod­ucts). I hate to throw these away, so putting them on their own ded­i­cat­ed page inside a note­book is a way to pre­serve them and redis­cov­er them in the future.

6. Meeting notes

When meet­ing one-on-one with some­one, a note­book can be less obtru­sive than a dig­i­tal screen. Because the note­book is hor­i­zon­tal, the oth­er par­ty can see what’s being writ­ten and know it’s “on top­ic” to the con­ver­sa­tion. Research also shows that you retain infor­ma­tion longer when it is writ­ten by hand.

My favorite notebooks

  1. Muji. (Ama­zon) These are by far my favorite note­books ever and I’ll be sad if they go out of pro­duc­tion. Paper is smooth. They’re slim. Look pro­fes­sion­al. Fit into a fold­er flap. The lines are not too bold, which makes the writ­ing “pop.” Sim­ply awe­some & high­ly rec­om­mend­ed.
  2. Field Notes. (Ama­zon) Kind of a cult, but I don’t mind. Yes, I’m a Field Nut. I like to col­lect these and car­ry them every­where. They’re small and come in dif­fer­ent col­ors, that is, if you’re lucky enough to snag a lim­it­ed edi­tion!

  3. Mole­sk­ine. (Ama­zon) I don’t love these as much as I used to, but I have a bunch to fin­ish using and a bunch already used. Durable, pro­fes­sion­al, time­less.

  4. Baron Fig. ( These guys are cool. The cov­er is made from a linen mate­r­i­al and the paper is top-notch. You can tell a lot of thought went into mak­ing these.

  5. Tops Legal Pad, (Ama­zon) I wrote a post about these here. The back­ing is nice and thick, which makes it easy to write near­ly any­where.

  6. Doane Paper. ( Brad Dowdy turned me on to these years ago. I have a nice sup­ply of legal pads, as well as the idea pads. Real­ly nice quality—especially if you like the lines and grid.

  7. Cam­bridge. (Ama­zon) Cheap­est one on this list and always great qual­i­ty. Nice stiff back­ing and very nice paper qual­i­ty.

What notebooks do you use?

[reminder]Are you a note­book lover? Let me know in the com­ments what kind of note­book you like to use and how you use it.[/reminder]

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