7 Reasons to Try Field Notes

May 25, 2017

Field Notes is a company that specializes in making small, American-made pocket notebooks. My first impression was that they were too small and not worth my attention. That has changed.

Researchers say our brain is more engaged when we write longhand. Even if you don’t revisit your notes, the act of writing with a pen or pencil can improve your memory retention and reduce stress.

My first love: The Moleskine

I’ve always been a pen-and-paper kind of person, and thought my Moleskine was “it.” I bought a ton and loved writing in them. But then I learned there was a superior category to Moleskines.

So when I saw Brad Dowdy switch from Moleskines to Doane Paper and Rhodia, I knew I had a lot to learn.

Addicted to pens

Brad is the founder of PenAddict.com and the host of The Pen Addict Podcast. I still remember when the first episode posted and I’ve been following his blog since before he switched to Squarespace.

When I heard Brad talk about Field Notes on the Pen Addict Podcast, and dedicated entire episodes to talking about different editions—I immediately thought to myself, they’re too small to write anything in and not for me.

I placed my first order when the Ambition Edition was just released. I remember walking down to the mailbox, opening the package and enjoying the whole unpacking process. I thought to myself—I’d love to experience this again. I wonder what the other editions are like. (You can experience me reenacting this in the video above.)

Then I started really USING them. In the Field Nuts community (yes, a real thing), there are some that collect and resell at crazy prices. Others, like me, are real users.

How I became a user

I kept one in my pocket to jot down ideas. I sketched “characters” I saw at the supermarket. I outlined input lists when doing sound and needed to check the snake was wired correctly. I had never owned a pocket notebook “this nice”—and once I had one, I was excited to find ways to use it for real.

Quickly, I discovered I couldn’t live without Field Notes. That’s when the obsession kicked in. I became a monthly subscriber—and bought extra packs to ensure I “had enough.” Now I have so many that I give them away when I meet with people.

Enough of my story. I really want YOU to consider trying them and see for yourself what all the hype is about. What follows is a list of 7 reasons you might want to try Field Notes.

1. They’re made in the USA

That’s hard to find these days! Although, since Field Notes has been in existence, more USA-based companies are popping up.

Both the cover and the “innards” of Field Notes are sourced from paper companies in the United States. On the back, inside cover, you can learn the exact kind of paper and where it was milled.

2. They’re an insanely useful size

If you love to sketch HUGE pictures and mind maps, Field Notes aren’t going to work. (Try using the flip-charts by Post-It.) But that doesn’t mean they’re not useful.

Sitting down at a desk and write in a Field Notes memo book. You’ll quickly find they’re the right size for writing down most things you need to remember or figure out.

School taught us that an 8.5″x 10″ spiral or composition notebook is the right size. Printer paper is 8.5″ x 11″ so anything smaller than that is too small, right? Not so much.

All I can say is…they’re big enough to keep lists, sketches, quotes, stickers, and action items. It’s not a TINY notebook. It’s a small notebook, with enough space to get your ideas out.

Some people try to cram too much on one page. If you grab a pack of Field Notes, I recommend keeping it simple and using one page to write one idea. While that might seem like wasting paper, it’s really not. You’ll soon be reaping the benefits of writing things by hand. It’s what it was made for!

3. They have the right amount of pages

I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time actually filling up an entire spiral notebook when I was in school.

Field Notes are 48 pages, which means it’s entirely possible to fill a book up. Getting to the end of a book feels like a small victory. It’s an immensely satisfying feeling when you get to the last page and have the JOY and excitement of beginning a new book.

4. For the price, you won’t experience better paper

At only $9.95 for 3 books, you get to experience Finch opaque paper—which has an excellence opacity and thickness. When you write on one page, you’re focused on that page. It holds up well, even if it gets bent up in your back pocket.

5. You’ll remember things longer

If the research on this isn’t convincing, all I can say is that what I write in my Field Notes “stays with me” even if I don’t look back at it.

You don’t need Field Notes to try this…but if you get Field Notes, you’ll be more likely to try it because you will have a convenient place to put things you know you need to remember.

6. The graph and lines are the right brightness/thickness

During my Moleskine phase, I’d occasionally get a notebook with the perfect hairline thin, grey line. But other times, I’d end up with stronger, black lines. It wasn’t a huge difference, but enough to make the page feel constricted and my writing secondary. And it was left to chance. I had no idea what I was really getting.

The designers of Field Notes take the printing on the note paper very seriously. Every book is consistent. If you need the lines or graph, it’s there—but is in the background if you don’t need it.

Personally, I like the grid. It helps with spacing horizontally and vertically.

7. There’s more than just pocket notebooks

If the size of a pocket notebook turns you off, try their reporter’s notebook, larger notebook, or steno pad. It’s the same great paper and design in a different package. Yes, I own both of these.

Question: Do you enjoy writing in notebooks? Why?

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