Everything in Its Place: My notebook system

Writing can be as intimate or as trivial as you need it to be. You can write poetry or grocery lists. Journal or plan your week. Create a story or take meeting notes. Over time, I’ve found that one notebook is simply not enough to keep various types of writing well organized. It’s a chore to locate checklists and specific phrases when you have to look through pages and pages of miscellaneous writing.

At the start of the year, I began a focused effort on perfecting my notebook system. It’s been a slow and steady process, but I believe I’ve finally settled into a good structure. I use four notebooks on the daily:

EDC Notebooks

EDC Notebooks

1. Moleskine Pocket Reporter Notebook

2. Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover

3. Kokuyo Color Palette Binder

4. Markings Bonded Leather Jumbo Journal

The first three make up my general “everyday” carry and the last just stays at home. Since this is just an overview, I’ll post more in depth reviews for the notebook cover and binder in the future.

First, the Moleskine Pocket Reporter. I prefer small purses, so this 3.5″ x 5″ notebook is perfect to take with me just about everywhere. It’s mostly used for to-do lists and grocery lists, so I can go about my errands without bringing one of the larger notebooks with me. But it’s also handy to write down random ideas while I’m casually out and about. Later on, I sort through the non-list texts and copy them into the appropriate larger notebook.

Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover

Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover

Next in the stack is the Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover. While it’s not technically a notebook on it’s own, it’s probably my favorite item on the list. It has an impressive list of features. There’s pockets all over this thing. One on the front, one on the back, and four inside. Also inside, are plastic pieces to store two individual notebooks and two separate ribbon bookmarks for each. A pen loop completes the package and an elastic band holds the whole thing snugly closed. I discovered that the A5 size is just small enough to be portable and just large enough to be comfortable to write in. I actually wasn’t a fan of the notebook that was included with the cover, so I replaced it with a cloth bound Clairefontaine that fits just fine.

I use this setup for various types creative writing. Or in more formal terms, anything thats unactionable and uncategorizable. This includes orphan phrases, plotless paragraphs, skeletons of stories, and other sketch writing. Everything in this notebook is purely subject to my creative inclinations. The only organization that exists in this notebook is chronological order.

Kokuyo Color Palette Binder

Kokuyo Color Palette Binder

For the more utilitarian stuff, I use the Kokuyo Color Palette Binder. Again, not exactly a notebook. I got this binder in the A5 size as well. So, it’s comfortable to carry alongside the notebook cover. The binder is pretty sturdy and I’m not worried that any of the 20 metal rings will bend out of shape anytime soon. It comes with five colored dividers and some samples of the brand’s regular lined loose leaf. I personally enjoy their dotted rule paper because it’s an unintrusive compromise between lined and graph ruling.

This notebook is organized using a slightly modified version of the Bullet Journal. The Bullet Journal method is a ridiculously easy way to get organized with tasks, lists, and notes. It’s sincerely changed how I go about my day. You can learn more on the Bullet Journal website. But here’s the entire explanation in less than three minutes:

Kokuyo Color Pallete Binder Open

Kokuyo Color Pallete Binder Open

I made one adjustment for this system to work with my binder. Instead of having a single index for the entire notebook, I have one index for each of five sections: Calendar, To-Do, Ideas, Collections, and Notes. Sorting information by type, then indexing makes everything incredibly easy to find. The Calendar section has an index of months, with the contents being the monthly and daily calendars. To-Do is a section purely for lists with check boxes, like Books to Read, Games to Buy, and Blogs to Write. The Ideas category is for thought-out concepts and lists of ideas that fall under single categories. For example, product ideas and their specifications or a list of names for nonexistent restaurants. Collections is an assorted group of reference lists, including subscription boxes to check out, websites to use often, and interesting phrases I’ve overheard. And lastly, the Notes section is made up of various subject notes like meeting minutes, blog talking points, and project brainstorming.

Markings Bonded Leather Jumbo Journal

Markings Bonded Leather Jumbo Journal

My final notebook in my daily rotation is my personal journal. I wanted a big notebook for this. Something I could be expressive in without being too bothered by margins. This notebook in particular is about 8″ x 10″, so each page is almost letter sized. It’s an impressive spread and I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like when it’s mostly full. The journal is exclusively used for accounting memorable events and general personal reflections. I typically write in this one before going to sleep or when I’m feeling curiously introspective on a quiet weekend, so it never leaves home.

I very much recommend that you to consider creating a notebook system of your own. It helps encourage writing on a daily basis, even if it’s not creative. Just getting in the habit of writing things down when you think of them frees up your mind to continue thinking of new goals and ideas. And once those thoughts are on paper, you can always go back and build on them or measure how far you’ve come. Maybe a single notebook is enough for you. Maybe you want a dozen, one for every topic you care about. Maybe you’re completely over the whole pen and paper business and Penzu or Evernote are more your thing. No matter what, keep exploring your thoughts, keep redefining your style, and keep surprising yourself with what you write.

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