On Writing

Why Composition Books Are Bringing Back My Sanity

Notebooks. I have a sea of notebooks I’ve tried out. Not with any particular rhyme or reason. Some I bought because I didn’t have one right before a meeting, or because it was cute, or professional, European, it was part of a system… You get it. And as useful that they were at the time, I didn’t have a plan.

*Reader asks* Why you need a plan for a notebook?

Good question. The notes that I take… are not meant to collect dust after the fact. I want to get more out of what I write if I’m going to take the time to record it.

*Begin to speak to the notebooks on one side of the coffee table* “I’ve been thinking… I want to make this work…” *slow close up on the notebooks and violin music, ever so lightly, commences*

If you already have a system for your handwritten notes, come back for the nest post instead and congrats because you’re on a great track. For the rest, read on.

Numerous of studies have shown that they mere act to writing helps us recall the information.
Well what if I had a filing system to recall it that information?
Wait, let’s go back one step. What if I went back to those notes consistently?
Wait let’s back up one more step. What if I was able to designate a solid home for all of my handwritten notes in general?

I encourage you to find a notebook that you want to try out and stick with it for at least a month.

Not too long ago, I didn’t have a designated notebook to capture everything. I would have a notebook at the desk, in the car, at the job, three note taking apps on the phone, and post it’s at the bottom of the purse. Worse, I would go somewhere like a restaurant and write on the back of a napkin. Seriously.

Resolution? I’m currently only using “two” type of “books”. The first is Evernote for the all the digital notes and the second is composition books for all the handwritten ones. I will write about Evernote in a later blog post and how it’s helped me eliminate useful, but not used apps on my phone and focus more on just content. If you want to sign up for one and try it out before though, feel free to do so.


Why “comp” notebooks, especially it goes completely against what the Manager Tools podcast promotes? (If you haven’t already subscribed to the podcast, you should. Hosts Mark Horstman and Mike Azunne were recently featured in the Wall Street Journal.) First, this notebook is for me, not for meeting with a client.

Second, I just need to gather thoughts in a central location. It’s helpful to go back to basics before proceeding full force. I always have a pen nearby, but I get analysis paralysis on what “professional” notebook to use. So while I’m still deciding, a simple notebook will do. Comp books are thin, they don’t have a spiral to get stuck on anything, the cover is thick, and you can buy them almost anywhere. My favorite part was that is that they stack up nice on a bookcase. I first saw this on Aaron Marino’s Alpha M YouTube video (minute 3:14 to 3:36). Genius.

Yes, any notebook can stack, but honestly, unless it’s you intentional, a notebook collection doesn’t normally look like this.

Aaron Marino's Notebooks
Aaron Marino’s Notebooks

Currently, I have two comp notebooks. One at my desk for more introspective thoughts and goal writing and the other in my purse (my purse is big) for on the go. I use post its only when necessary. I’m considering reducing to one notebook. I’ll report back in two months on how it went.

My biggest relief, is not having to so many options to capture a simple thought. That notebook or that legal pad or that app. It’s either in Evernote or in a comp book. Done.

Question for you: How many places do currently store or use for your notes? What are you using? Is it working?

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Writer and creator of a character called Subbie. I'm host of the Move Up Podcast, dedicated to all things that help improve your life, one step at a time. I enjoy reviewing blog tools and apps. I send a weekly newsletter with updates and tips.

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