Exploring the Pocket Notebook

So, I’ve got a pocket notebook and I love it. I use it to write out a quick grocery list (often actually copied out of the shared list in Todoist). I use it to jot down quick thoughts that will end up in Evernote, Todoist, or — nowhere. I use it for a trip journal when I go hiking or on a canoe trip.

I use it daily so let’s talk about why.

Why not go with Evernote or Todoist or…?

The first question lots of people ask me is why don’t I use some electronic solution like Evernote or Todoist or…well anything that didn’t kill trees? My reason is pretty simple — all the electronic solutions just added more friction than the paper solution. I wrote a bit about this when I talked about my essential analogue tools.

Let’s review my steps for adding notes electronically:

  1. Pull iPhone out of pocket
  2. Unlock iPhone
  3. Open Evernote
  4. Wait a few seconds for Evernote
  5. Click the quick note widget/icon/thing
  6. Wait a few seconds for Evernote
  7. Tack out the note on a thumb keyboard

Compare that to the steps for a pocket notebook

  1. Get out pocket notebook
  2. Open pocket notebook
  3. Get out pen
  4. Write in pocket notebook

Now of course, the paper solution isn’t friction-free. The biggest drawback is that adding a paper notebook adds another ‘inbox’ to process every few days. However, I find that issue is easily offset by the benefits of just always having it with me.

Another big issue with digital options is entry of content in wet environments or even if you’ve got wet hands. Ever tried to unlock your iPhone after washing dishes? Not only does the Touch ID barely work, but the screen always seems to think I’m pressing some button other than the one I actually want it to register.

That increases my frustration as I try to get a thought down before a kid bugs me and I lose the thought.

Where will you be writing?

When choosing your notebook it’s important to think about where you will be writing. Are you regularly writing in a damp environment? If so, then a conventional paper notebook just won’t hold up to the abuse you’re going to put on it.

I regularly write with damp hands, or on canoe trips (where the whole notebook could end up in the water) so I need to choose a notebook from Rite in the Rain to ensure my notebook is always around for me. No switching notebooks when switching environments. Just a single type that’s right for my application.

Secondly, how are you going to carry it? I’ve found that many of the ‘pocket’ notebooks just barely fit in your pocket. I’ve even lost one or two riding my bike when they’ve slipped out of my back pocket.

Most standard ‘pocket’ notebooks are 3.5“ x 5.5”. My choice from Rite in the Rain comes in at 3 1/4“ X 4 5/8” which means it’s just a bit better fit in my pockets with sacrificing much in the way of size.

Bindings

The binding of your pocket notebook matters. While spiral bound books allow you to truly lay them flat, or fold the cover over to the back of the book, they also present the problem of the spirals folding/breaking.

The issue with spiral bindings was brought home to me this summer when my wife used a spiral-bound Rite in the Rain notebook and by the end of a five-day canoe trip, the spiral binding was damaged. I used my stapled notebook (already two weeks old) just as much as she did and mine suffered no further deterioration during the trip.

For that reason alone I don’t recommend a spiral notebook. I recommend you go with a stapled or stitched binding. In all the options I’ve tried I haven’t found that either of those two choices makes much of a difference.

What will you write with?

Finally, what are you going to write with? Yes, you can just use a standard pen/pencil all the time, though I always found that finding a spot to put a pen where I wasn’t worried about breaking it was problematic.

I ended up going with a Fisher Space Pen (Amazon.ca) which packs small and is tough enough that I’m not worried about it in my pockets at all. It also writes perfectly in water, dirt, upside down, and even in space if your travels take you there.

Now they aren’t particularly cheap, but there are other options with similar features and cost less, like the Tombow Airpress (Amazon.ca) or the Uniball Power Tank (Amazon.ca).

Whichever way you go, you need to find something that writes all the time and can be safely carried. There is no point in having a pocket notebook if you have nothing to write with when you need it.

Are you using a pocket notebook? If so what are you using it for? If not, why don’t you use it?

photo credit: pasukaru76 cc

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