Paper & Pen

Since I started working, I’ve always taken notes in a hardcopy notebook. Real paper! It’s generally inefficient. My writing is hard to read. Once a notebook is full, I throw it in the recycling and so the content is gone forever. I’m usually jotting down short form notes or simple reminders, so interpreting what I wrote even a few months ago can be challenging or impossible. A notebook is one more thing to carry when I travel.

And despite all of this, I love it. I have tried digital notetaking at various times, most recently on the Microsoft Surface, and I find the experience is a poor substitute. The pleasure of physically writing is real.

While most of my note taking revolves around to-do lists, the single most powerful thing about physically writing is distilling my thoughts. Often, that feeling of “I have a million things I need to get done” will translate into only a few important to-do’s once it’s down in writing, making it much more approachable. If I’m trying to think my way through a complicated topic, writing all the thoughts going through my mind down on paper will have a hugely calming and clarifying effect.

A few years ago, I started keeping a notebook on my nightstand. If there are times I can’t sleep and it feels like there’s too much on my mind while in bed, jotting down a few quick notes is an easy way to download those thoughts and leave them on the page. It’s been a great aid and tool for me.