Notebook Tips: What to carry & “Don’ts” 2

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Look, don’t overthink it. I don’t say that in a condescending way. I speak from a place of conviction. I have an unhealthy complex surrounding productivity and the desire for the conditions to be perfect. Writing down ideas in the perfect notebook, with the perfect pen, and with the perfect playlist going on Spotify…just a nasty set of excuses that have become all too familiar. Naturally, this leads to countless missed opportunities. I’ve avoided writing blog posts, taking notes on a book I’ve been working on, or reading some good material just because I wasn’t “ready” to take notes.1)Even though a napkin would do…

Your notebook can be big and fit snug against your laptop in a backpack or it can be small enough to slide into your back pocket. If you want to shell out the cheddar for a nice anaconda skin notebook, do it. Just know the void can be filled with a old tattered composition notebook. You know, these ones.

What to carry

The Google is a pretty handy tool when it comes to finding a good notebook, but you know what else is great? The notebook section at Target. Crazy affordable and turns out, paper comes pretty standard. Amazon is great too, but the nice thing about a bring and mortar store is you can pick it up, feel it, and know it’s what you’re looking for. Here’s what I’m using:

Classic Moleskine (5 x 8.25in) – Nothing to see here. Just an overpriced but fantastic notebook…and a place to put stickers you get when you buy other “overpriced” stuff, like Yeti’s and Deathwish Coffee.

Evernote Moleskine Smart Notebook (Squared pages) – Pricey, but this comes with 3 months of free Evernote Premium ($18 value) and “smart” stickers that are great if you upload your notes to Evernote. I don’t use the digital capabilities as much as I’d like. After using the grid format, I don’t think I’ll go back to lines.

Dr. Grip Gravity Pen – I’ve owned 2 of these. One I had for the first 5 years of my Air Force career until my mother-in-law’s dog chewed it up. The second I’ve owned for since that day, about 6 years ago. Great ballpoint pen or greatest?

Sakura Pigma Macron Ink Pen – My wife stumbled across this little gem when she was getting accessories for her calendar and journaling Bible. It’s like a finepoint Sharpie, but doesn’t bleed. I love having it nearby during Bible-reading too. As you may or may not know, those pages aren’t friendly to most pens.

I sort of wish I was a fountain pen guy, but my calligraphy looks like I’m writing left-handed after a four shots of Woodford. I feel fortunate to have steered clear of the fountain pen game, though. That’s just what I need is another hobby that has me scrambling to find more things to sell on eBay so my Paypal account can offset the $200 pen I’d end up buying.2)There are tons of well made and affordable fountain pens on the market. Still glad I’m not in the game.

Mini Post-Its or colored Post-It tags – I throw in a Post-It or tag when I want to remember to refer back to something or if I create a section that will need more notes in the future.

Cheapie – Remember that Five and Dime called Target I told you about? That’s where I got the bad boy on the left…for $4! I use it for journaling…when I’m being disciplined enough to journal.

Lastly, although I don’t own a notebook cover, this right here is on my gift list:) Whenever I can justify the purchase, it will be a mistake I will be glad to make.

Some practical “Don’ts”

No way I can tell you what to do. Like I mentioned in my previous posted on the 10 reasons to start carrying a notebook, conveniently hyperlinked in this sentence, it doesn’t really matter. Just start carrying one! That said, I can give a few ideas on what NOT to do:

  • Don’t use gel pens. The G2 Pilot is a nice little pen, in the right context. Gel pens bleed through the page, smudge if you drag your hand across the page, and muck up the page across from it when you close the notebook.
  • Don’t fret over format. I admit, I have watched more than a couple Youtube videos on constructing a functional notebook. I’ve picked up a few nice tips, but I feel most comfortable and productive when I just go with the flow. “The flow” changes almost daily.
  • Don’t journal…at least not here. Journaling is something I wish I had a great discipline for and hope to start making it a habit. I’ve had flashes of consistent journaling and I’ve done it enough to know my everyday notebook needs to be different than the place I journal.
  • Don’t NOT write it down. If you think you should write it down, do it! Admittedly, I might neglect to take a note because I can’t determine if it’s worth it to starting on a new clean page. That’s a mistake. Not everything you write down is worthwhile and that’s okay.
  • Don’t forget to fill out the “In case of loss, please return to:” section at the beginning of the notebook. Moleskine’s even have a line to put a reward. If you find my notebook, I am offering a $12.84 reward. I’ve happily had to pay that twice.3)Neither person actually accepted, but the fact they saw that it was important to me, by offering a reward, made them intentional about tracking down the owner.

That’s it…

Once your equipped, which for most of you means walking to the junk drawer in your kitchen to find a notebook and Bic, you’re literally all set. No secrets. You’re now 17% more likely to be successful.

Let’s get weird and let the habit of carrying a notebook take shape.


Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Even though a napkin would do…
2. There are tons of well made and affordable fountain pens on the market. Still glad I’m not in the game.
3. Neither person actually accepted, but the fact they saw that it was important to me, by offering a reward, made them intentional about tracking down the owner.

About Brent Nichols

My blogging is, no doubt, all over the map, but hope you'll find something just right for you. Currently living in the D.C.-metro area in Northern Virginia. You know what? I think I kinda like it out here.

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