Full Circle on Notebooks

It’s no secret that I like notebooks/office supply stuff. Like really like it. I have a knee high stack of notebooks/journals I haven’t used yet and even more than that which I have. I also have every notebook I used in college and over the last 20 years of professional IT work. And pens. My God the pens.

I’ve given time to everything from Midori Traveler notebooks to Black n Red to Moleskine to Paperblanks to sketch books to composition books to reporters notebooks to rite in the rain journals to big thick several hundred page grid books to 9x12 engineering journals to disc-bound paper plus a bunch more I’m not thinking of. I even got froggy before a trip to Japan and bought an awesome Oberon Design notebook cover and a few refills that is absolutely beautiful.

After all of these and a dozen methods of using them I find myself back at almost square one using a similar set of tools to those I started with years ago.

I always have a pocket notebook on me for general stuff and because I used to get fairly frequent calls where I may need to take a quick note of something wrong before I could get to a computer. I started this way back in high school and used little staple bound notebooks that mom brought home from the bank. Nowadays I carry a green Kokuyo sketch book in my pocket because it fits perfectly behind my cell phone and the cover is just hard enough to make it durable. I use them a lot so have a stack of them ready to go and at only a couple of bucks a piece I’ve been known to give them to anyone who thinks they are cool.

For personal work and work-work I used to use a 9x12 spiral bound engineering notebook and if I was still doing tons of physical hardware/cabling design and work I’d still be using it. They were the perfect size to paste full sized printouts in and there was tons of space on the page for work. These days I still use and prefer a spiral bound grid notebook but I’ve downsized to Clairefontaine A5 notebooks. These things are absolutely the perfect size for daily use and have great paper. They are also a little bit more office friendly than the giant engineering notebooks since they take up less space on a conference room table.

There are a billion cover options for them but I recently have been preferring the BattleBoard field folder which holds the notebook plus a few pen loops and on the inside of the front cover is a clear polycarbonate panel that will hold a folded 8.5x11 sheet and can be written on with map markers or grease pencil. Great for checklists or ephemeral notes. As an aside BattleBoard also makes zip-up notebook covers with the clear poly on the outside so you can use them for land nav and other stuff. They are targeted at military and LEO/rescue operations but I think anybody who wants a sturdy organizer would be served well by them.

Those A5 Clairefontaine books are also what I use for personal research notes on my topics of interest. I have a bunch of other unused notebooks I feel bad about not using, but TBH I like these things so well I will probably just find someone to give a bunch of them too and stick with the winners.

The last two categories are a bit out there and probably mark me as still being kinda obsessed with pens and paper. The first one is my outdoors/travel book and journal(s). In this case it is another BattleBoard cover (the Scout) with a Rite-in-the-Rain field book insert. I have a bunch of those RITR notebooks and have used them for years and years in every kind of weather. In my experience nothing holds up better. I got started using them really heavily a few years ago when we were building warehouses in Texas and I needed something I could stash a notebook, a few pens and pencils, and a Sharpie and lumber crayon in that would survive heat, humidity, and rain. I also have and use some 4x6 top-spiral RITR notebooks for measurements, coords, sketches, and general crap when I’m working outside or on a project.

The last case is “The Journal”. And this is some place where I really fall flat. I always mean to make entries but I rarely do and then get discouraged and stop for a long time. I am trying to force myself to use the Oberon cover and refills I mentioned earlier and just Get Stuff In It. The problem I run into is that it is such a NICE piece of work that I feel like a super jackass putting in things like, “Today was a pretty calm day at work, time to work on some TF code and other stuff. Ended up stepping out for lunch and made shredded chicken in chile verde sauce for dinner.” I like the thought of a smaller format so picked up a couple of A6 Stalogy “Editors Series” books but then I stuck one in a really nice leather cover I’d bought for a Hobonichi Techo and it’s the same deal. It looks too nice for my bullshit. They are much more comfortable to write in than the Oberon refills though and its not a giant red dragon-embossed thing to haul around. I may just pop the Stalogy out of its cover and throw it in my bag for a week or two to get nice and mauled and then see if I’m less anxious about putting stuff in it. Then again, I really should just man up and realize that I spent the $$ on this stuff to enjoy it and proceed to beat the crap out of it and use it until it falls apart. I don’t think twice about spending $300 on a Benchmade knife and cutting nylon strapping with it yet I get all squirrely about a $5 piece of paper in a $20 case. (Well, actually quite a bit more in the case of the Oberon cover but ITS SO PRETTY.)