Notebook System Update

While there are a few consistencies in my paper notebook practice, the notebooks I use and the ways in which I use them are always evolving.

One consistency I’ve found over years of experimentation is that ring-bound and disc-bound systems just aren’t for me. The ability to move pages around, or in and out of a notebook, is a useful feature, but it is one that doesn’t work for me.

Two B5 notebook covers site on top of each other slightly out of alignment. The top cover is a green/gray paper material closed with a thin black elastic horizontal across the center of the cover. The bottom cover is a dark blue leather.

I have discovered, however, that traveler’s style notebooks are more to my liking: I can use bound notebooks but still move them around as needed.

The theme of my most recent changes is consolidation. I’ve combined my pocket notebook and wallet into one item. My journal and commonplace notebook have likewise been consolidated.

The prelude to this consolidation, as is often the case, was an expansion. I purchased a B5 size fauxdori cover to contain a variety of slim notebooks, including a monthly calendar, a reading notes notebooks, some subject-specific notebooks, and a folder for loose items.

I also expanded my notetaking practices back into a digital format, discovering Obsidian through posts on Mastodon. Many years prior I had been an avid OneNote user but ultimately switched to using a simple folder and document file system. Obsidian offered a place to put all that material together along with some organizing features that I might explore in a future post.

As I spun up my Obsidian vault file, named Commonplace, my paper commonplace notebook saw less use.

And even when I was using consistently it was in conjunction with a digital index kept in a spreadsheet, which proved to be more trouble than it was worth. I’ve enjoyed mnmlscholar’s discussions of balancing the ease of search/index in digital with the virtues of note-taking by hand. And I’m still searching for the balance myself.

Now both journal and commonplace occupy a B5 Profolio Oasis notebook in a separate B5 notebook cover.

Since the fauxdori in B5 size was working so well, I also reconsidered the original Midori Traveler’s notebook in passport size, which I had always been reluctant to try as I feared my distaste for ring-bound notebooks would carry over to the Traveler’s setup as well.

But it has proved to also offer a chance for consolidation. For well over a decade, I’ve carried a small notebook in my shirt breast pocket along with a pen and pencil. The notebook recorded to-do lists and on-the-go thoughts. While handy, I’m not always wearing a shirt with a pocket and can find myself running low on pocket space.

I’ve also carried a bi-fold wallet chock full of cards that I don’t need to be carrying on a daily basis, so I decided to take the essentials from the wallet and place them in a card holder/zipper pocket insert in the passport size Midori along with one notebook and a craft paper folder/card holder. The excess cards and wallet miscellany now reside in the B5 fauxdori.

I’m not sure how long this particular system will last, but what’s important is that it is working for me for now.

About Todd Battistelli

Rhetorician and writing teacher. Keeping an eye on the state of civic discourse.
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