I am going to be brutally honest here and I know it's my fault for not taking notes during the notepad and pen podcast.  I listened to this podcast several weeks ago and forgot what I should have as a notebook.  I did just the opposite of the podcast and purchased a flimsy notpad at the supermarket.  I re-listened to the podcast today and had some specific questions about the notebook.  I work for Federal Law Enforcement agency and am making around $60,000 in DC.  What are some suggestions as to a good notepad and pen?  I currently have a notepad from my university (I am a new proffesional just graduated two years ago) my notepad is black that has a zipper on three sides.  The It is a leed's notepad, pretty standard.  The inside has a notepad on the right and the left has business card slots and i.d.  Should I just keep this notepad with me.  I really do not like the notepad because when I want a new page I have to flip the page up and it looks sloppy.  What are your suggestions?

jhack's picture

 This is a great notebook.  You can definitely get it for under $20.

And I'm still looking for the perfect pen. 

John Hack

rthibode's picture

The recommendations in that podcast were:

- take notes with pen & paper as opposed to electronically

- have a consistent system for notetaking (Cornell is recommended) that makes it easy to glance at a page and see actions (deliverables)

- use a decent pen, preferably metal, that you wouldn't chew on. Don't use a pencil or highlighter if you want to look like an executive.

- use a decent notebook, not a school book or spiral bound (Moleskine was mentioned)

- decide what pen and notebook you'll use and stick with it so it's not a new decision every time

- keep your notebook and pen in the same place all the time

- if you lose your notebook, it's not the end of the world

I have been testing different notebooks. I know Moleskine is very popular, so I went and looked at them in the store. I couldn't really see what made them different from other notebooks.

Right now I have an A5 notebook inside a sort of leather folder with a pen loop. It is okay, but the pen loop is too large to hold even a fat pen properly. I also would like a notebook with perforated pages so I could tear out what I no longer need.

I was thinking of a padfolio like TEAMHORN described, because when I go to meetings I'll have somewhere to put any handouts. (No one uses a briefcase where I work). However, padfolios are too big for my purse as well as looking messy when the page is flipped up.

Any Moleskine fans want to convert me? Any other recommendations?



dad2jnk's picture


If you are handy at all, you can take a woodworking class at a local Woodworkers Supply or similar store (not a big box store like Lowe's or Home Depot) that will make wooden pens on a mini-lathe.  When you present your Moleskine pad with a unique pen and get the inevitable question, you can say "I made it". 

Serious cool points.  I have two that I have made.  One that uses a Monte Blanc refill and another that uses a Cross refill.

Once you have held a wooden pen, a cold metal pen just doesn't come close.  Good luck!


wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge

Teamhorn: this is what Mark posted elsewhere, which I think will apply equally to you;

Moleskines are well regarded among the technical set, and they are inexpensive, and sturdy. Get black, probably. I prefer the graph paper type, but lined or unlined is fine too. Bosses in the tech space look askance sometimes at notes that are a little florid or flowery, so lines are probably best.

Cross pens are sturdy, professional, well-regarded, widely available, and a notch above some off-brand. There are thousands of styles - pick a simple professional-looking one. The Cross Classic Century BLACK and Tech 3, both available at Amazon, are great choices. I used to use their classic century in Chrome, but I found that it and the gold one slipped frequently in my hand.

Prices are pretty sweet at Amazon, too... if you ever want something nicer, a good step up can be found at


And now, a couple of other comments:

Any pad/paper which requires you to flip the paper over on the top edge comes across as less sophisticated than one that flips on the left edge. There's something subservient about taking notes on what equates to a shorthand notebook - especially if you're meeting with more senior people who remember shorthand notebooks.

@Rachelle, the Moleskine notebooks are nice - I have a bunch in different colours which helps me separate different subjects. Equally, there are other nice notebooks out there. The benefit of the Moleskine is that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to get, look neat and tidy, and hold their looks when used a lot and are a step up from the kind of notebooks you get in supermarkets. That said, if you find something that gives the same effect and isn't Moleskine, there's nothing wrong with making that choice.


afmoffa's picture

Miquelrius makes nice notebooks in both lined and graph-paper. The cover art ranges from dead-dull black to psychedelic patterns, and everything in-between. I had a navy-blue pinstripe cover that went strikingly well with my navy-pinstripe suit, but that may be a bit too cute for some industries.

As I am absent-minded AND a frequent traveller, I avoid nondescript notebooks (and wallets). Mine may be slightly garish, but I'm less likely to overlook them as I dash out of a hotel room or taxi cab.

Write your name, phone, and E-mail address across the TOP of your notebooks. As in, hold the notebook firmly shut and write along the half-inch top edge. A business card glued/taped inside the front cover is good, but the top-edge branding is like a cattle-brand.

Cross pens are awesome.

GlennR's picture

I've used several styles of Moleskine journals. I briefly left them and tried my iPad 2 with the noteshelf app, but until my handwriting improves and Apple will allow a stylus with a fine point, I'm going back to a journal. I started out using a lined black journal. I now use a red softcover unlined probably A5 or magazine size. It boots up quickly, has an eternal battery life and is thin enough to fit into another folder, brief case or computer case. I found that I like the larger unlined size because I can brainstorm on one page and take linear notes on another. Something I found hard to do in the smaller journal.

I'd used the smaller 8x5? journal for years. I'd gone through four of them. I found that when I wanted to do some plane old-fashioned brainstorming that the journal was too small ( and my first several were too "lined" as well.) If you like to mindmap or just draw circles and arrows around your ideas when brainstorming, consider the larger unlined size.

And yes, I'm aware that the wisdom here is that I shouldn't have selected red. I thought about it, then decided the heck with it. My actions speak louder than my journal:-)

I've used the Cornell method for several years thanks to MT. I like it a lot.

I also like to use pens like Cross, Parker, etc. I like the black matte finish the best. (Cross used to call it 'Classic Black" back in the 80's.) Have your name engraved on it/them.

 Update: after looking at the link JHACK supplied, I think I use the extra large soft-cover here:

tomdoepker's picture

I'll add another vote for Moleskine, but I've also found some really nice notebooks at Barnes and Noble. I totally agree with Wendii about the left to right flipping pages (instead of over the top) but have found those notebooks go over best in the meetings I attend.

Pen recommendation: The Fisher Space Pen. ( I have an older one from Staples that still works incredibly well and it writes smoothly on just about anything from a notebook to a waxy receipt. Plus, there was a "Seinfeld" episode that included a reference to the pen, so it can be a conversation piece.

Peter.westley's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I am trying the Livescribe Echopen solution that records audio and your pen strokes and makes them available as "live" PDFs after the fact. Others have commented on the same in other parts of the forums and blog. (Search "Livescribe" on this site and you'll see them all) The system uses special notepaper but the paper is available in A5 notebooks (leather-bound) that are very similar to Moleskine. One down side is that the pen is nothing special though the more expensive versions are slightly "prettier".

More info at and if you select the "Pencasts" section you can see examples of audio + notes in action.

The nice thing is that with the technology switched on or not, it's still a pen and notebook. The technology can fail but you still have the notebook AND the notebook can be lost and you still have the electronic copy ...

I'd be interested to know other's experience with these ...

-- Peter

DISC: 2564

jhack's picture


Handcrafted wood pens sound cool, but that's not an option for me.  I'm going to try some of the other suggestions here.  Using a Parker silver pen now.  It's OK. 

Great suggestion, and I hope someone follows up on it.  Thanks. 

John Hack

therobinson's picture

I've been using a LiveScribe pen for a bit. I agree with your comments about it. It's a good tool.

I want to add that even when you don't want to "capture" your written notes, having a decent quality audio recorder in your pen is handy. That does bring up a "privacy" question.

I have wondered whether there is an ethical issue, using it in meetings. Is it necessary to ask before recording the audio (discussions) of a meeting? I have tended to err on the conservative side and have asked -- most times.


JPMasters's picture

 I use LiveScribe Pens for many of my meetings, and they are very useful.  In Australia we have various forms of a Surveillance Devices Act, which the LIveScribe pen would fall under.  Many meetings I do not record, but use the pen for the ability to have electronic versions of my notes.

In other situations (consulting assignments) I often like to record the meeting.  However under the Surveillance Devices Acts (differ from state to state but all have the same principles), you need to obtain the permission from the attendees in doing so.  So I have  a number of approaches, which I will give examples below.

I believe however, even if your legal jurisdiction does not have such a requirements, professional manners would indicate that you advise and seek permission before recording any meeting (the only exception in my mind - which is generically covered in most of these acts - seek legal advice first- relates to threats to your person or corrupt conduct).

Example #1:

If I am running a procurement/tender meeting with vendors (say I am the Probity Auditor), I will have two sign on sheets, one for the buying organisation and the other for the vendor attending.  On those sheets I will have writing something like:

"The Probity Advisor and [Client] advise participants to this workshop that it is the intention to record the Workshop for Probity and other purposes as deemed appropriate.  Your consent is explicitly obtained (in accordance with SURVEILLANCE DEVICES ACT 2007, Section 7 (3) (a)) through this notice and your signature on this page."

In my introductory remarks, I welcome people, remind them to sign on, remind them of the recording statement on the sheet and by signing on and remaining they are acknowledging the recording and to assist us with working out who is who on the recording we will go around the room and state our name, company and role in this meeting / process.

Example #2

If I am doing a consultancy exercise interviewing people either 1:1 or 1:2 I will state something like the following comment:

Thanks for your time today, as you would expect I will be taking notes from our discussions.  I have found that my notes cover the high level but sometimes some one makes a gem of a statement or the contexts of my notes don't do justices to your comments.  My tools allow my to record the conversation and they are connected to what I write (- point to the LIveScribe pen and paper).  It would be most helpful for me, and only for the purposes of helping me with my analysis and the report. if I may record this meeting, and I need to formally seek your consent under the Surveillance Devices Act, would that be ok with you?"

Assuming they say yes, then I start the recording and commence something like:

"This is a meeting on xxx at yyy between me and zzz.  I have discussed the recording of the meeting with yyy, yyy would you please provide your name, company and role and confirm that you are happy with our meeting being recorded."

Finally O3 meetings - I am not sure it would be wise to record O3 meetings as these are about relationships leading to increased performance and I think brief notes are all that is necessary.

Hope this helps


duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

I'll be the luddite here - I just think this whole idea of recording meetings is usually a horrible idea.  

Meetings aren't just about gathering data, they are also about building a relationship.  Aren't the foundations of relationships openness and trust?   Meetings aren't just about what you want to get accomplished, there are other dynamics at work.

Using a voice recorder means one of two things:

1) Either you try to do the right thing and disclose you are recording the meeting.  Even if you don't go to the lengths of asking them to sign a legal release, the idea is put into your colleagues heads that they are pretty much doing so.   Starting a relationship this way is not helpful - it makes them feel guarded and defensive.  Also - I'd argue most people are too polite to refuse your request, they'd rather sit there and feel various degrees of uncomfortable - towards you!

2) You don't disclose you are recording.  Someday, somewhere, someone will notice that you're recording them without telling them.  And that person will probably make sure everyone else knows you do that.  You come off looking dishonest with questionable intentions.  Again, not condusive to relationship building.

I know there are situations where recording the meeting is the best way to go, but usually that involves situations with large groups of people who come prepared with unambigous data to share, and who know in advance that the meeting has a strict agenda and is being recorded. (For example, data gathering at the kick off to a large project).

Other times, I seriously doubt the recording is necessary.   If you want on the record clarification, send an email after the fact.  

Recording may make your life easier, but it has negative impacts that you may not intend.

My 2cents anyway.



terrih's picture

Moleskine paper is extra-nice to write on. has a lot of good options--including Cornell-style paper in some of them.

dmiddleb's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge


Notebook: Moleskine! Large quad ruled soft cover to be exact.

Pen: HELP!

I have been using the Zebra F-301 for about a year now with no complaints.  I think I need to upgrade based on salary and position.  The part that intrigued me about the cast was the comment about fountain pens. I haven't used this type of pen since art class in high school. I did some digging and found that fountain pens trend at a higher price point than roller-ball counterparts. I have also seen that regardless of price, most brands and styles have people that love them as well as people that hate them. I am posting here to get some comments from like-minded folks that may be able to help.

I picked up a couple of the Pilot Varsity Pens at the store the other day while getting my daughter some pencils for art class.  I know these don't fit the guidance as they are plastic.  I have enjoyed the difference in how they feel compared to the Zebra.  In general the pen is working fine for me considering I paid only $3.49 for it.  I would like a pen that has more weight to it, a thinner nib, and ink flow that is more consistent.   Given the price I could pay, I don’t want to swing and miss too many times before I settle on the one that works best for me. Any suggestions are welcome.





flexiblefine's picture

I enjoy fountain pens -- I've been collecting for years, and have 100 or so. Everything from cheapie "school" pens to fancy expensive limited editions.

Dax, how much writing will you do with your pen? If you do a lot of writing, you may discover that heavier pens are more work to use. I prefer lighter pens myself, but I have some heavy ones I do use -- sometimes I just want that "substantial" feel.

Do you have a pen store near you? (Yes, there are pen stores.) They should let you try some pens to help you find what you like. If not, you might consider looking at posts at to get some more ideas. Buy a pen that you like -- something that looks good to you, feels good in your hand, and feels good on paper too.

Before jumping into using fountain pens as daily tools, you may want to think about whether you prefer cartridges or bottled ink. Cartridges are often not compatible with other pens, so you may end up with either a collection of mix-and-match cartridges -- or converters, so you can use the same bottled ink in any pen you like. 

You don't have to spend tons of money to get a good experience from your fountain pens. You can spend hundreds if you like, but don't start there. Plenty of good pens are available for less than $50. I think has been doing reviews of pens in that price range lately.

Houston, Texas, USA
DiSC: 1476

kddonath's picture


I recently bought my college age kids a nice notebook and pen.  I went to the local art store - one with a lot of supplies - and they had a big sketch book selection.  I was surprised by the number of very inexpensive and elegant options, some cheaper than Moleskin and look better.

Smacquarrie's picture

 I use a Sheaffer fountain pen. I have been using them for years. It may help to start with one of these, they start out at <$10 for a starter set. Refill cartridges are less than $5 for a pack of 5. Use to see if you like the concept. As for the notebook, I have several that I use depending in the situation. 

dmiddleb's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge



Thanks for the detailed reply.

I found Paradise Pens in The Galleria. I will check it out soon.

I am always writing, so I need a durable pen that is easy to use.  Based on your comment, I will likely try to stick with something lighter for everyday use.   

The sites you suggested were great.  Now I have a better idea of  how to get started.  


Take care,


Houston, TX

DIsc: 7611



kddonath's picture

I've been using fountain pens for years and love the way the write.  Every now and then a pen needs repair, I recommend:  I personally know the guy who run this and he's contracted by some of the major pen suppliers to do their warenty work. 

Gareth's picture

I have to hold up my hands here as the very person Mark & Mike mention during this podcast. I was the person using those cheap ring bound A4 notepads that I used back in college with a cheap pen (often with the lid broken also).

After this podcast I spent time looking around the meeting rooms being attended by senior management, suppliers and customers... they all got high marks in this area!

I've updated to a moleskin simple small black notepad and bought a 'work pen' on my last vacation. I could probably get a better pen but maybe at a later date.



DRRobinson's picture
Training Badge

I recently saw the Smith and Wesson Tactical Pen and couldn't help mentioning it here. It's metal, and you won't want to chew on it.

David Robinson



cynaus's picture
Training Badge

I've just seen another post about Levenger Circa Notebooks.... am thinking I might invest in one of these as I love my tech and totally need my notebook also.  

We've been making a big deal at work about buying the cheap A4 cardboard bound notebooks to save costs, but these are mostly purchased for all staff across the board.  

I much prefer using folios etc.  Sadly the costs of the Levenger and shipping to Australia is pretty high, so while I take some time to weigh up the costs, this post has reminded me to go dig out one of many leather folios I have lying around the house and throw a notepad in there for the time being - who knows, I may even find some super strong velcro to fit my iPad in it too ;)



GlennR's picture

@David Robinson,

After seeing the reference to the tactical pen, I ordered two as gifts for a nephew in the army and a friend who shoots as a hobby. Those things ought to survive a nuclear blast. If anyone would like to see one, search on YouTube for them.

wanna_beco's picture

Browsing another site I found these pens.

I wondered if anyone has heard of them and used them. They look like a nice treat to yourself. I am a fan of the checker board and I am sure it would get noticed. They are made by a company called Charles Hubert if you do not want to click the link.

jdbrown1998's picture

 Another place that has a comprehensive list of notebooks that all look professional and work well is  They make pen quivers that connect to your notebook so you don't lose your pen.  Their list of nice notebooks is  Moleskine, Moleskine Folio Watercolor, ecosystems,, Rhodia, Piccadilly, Black n' Red, Leuchtturm1917, Letts of London, teNeues CoolNotes, Mnemosyne, Arwey Hardcover Notebooks.  I am currently using a Leuchtturm 1917 and it is nice but I think I will be switching back to Moleskine.  


On another note has anyone had any expierence with saddleback leather?  They make moleskine covers and briefcases.  This is link to their website.

Thanks for any info anyone might have.

monabagot's picture

I have not used these pens before. Thanks for sharing the link. If they write 1/2 as good as they look, then they are a steal. I ordered a couple to try.


gehrhorn's picture

I have a Saddleback Leather briefcase and wallet. They meet the hype. They have incredibly solid construction. I'm going to pick up a Moleskine cover soon.

nickl's picture
Licensee Badge

Anyone try the Moleskine Evernote notebook?

I been transferring handwritten notes to Evernote for a while now - this seems like a great timesaver. I'm a little skeptical about it though...seem too good to be true.

nickl's picture
Licensee Badge

Anyone try the Moleskine Evernote notebook?

I've been transferring handwritten notes to Evernote for a while now - this seems like a great timesaver. I'm a little skeptical about it though...seem too good to be true.

flexiblefine's picture

You don't need the magic Moleskine -- the Evernote clients for iOS and Android are supposed to have a "page image" feature (or whatever they call it) that works with other paper too. The magic tricks on the branded Moleskine are a grid of micro-dots to help the software straighten out the page and a set of stickers that you can map to tags and/or motebooks.

Take pictures of your existing notebook and import them into Evernote. Assuming the Evernote OCR can read your writing, you should be able to search your notes once the OCR processing is done.

I'm an Evernote user, but I don't take pictures of my notebook -- I know my writing isn't clear enough.

Houston, Texas, USA
DiSC: 1476

ChrisBakerPM's picture

 Mark says moleskine like "moley-skinny" Before listening to this, I was saying "moleskin" (as if they were made from the skin of moles). I got distracted by whether there was an "official" pronunciation. Here's the definitive (lack of an) answer:;jsessionid=01502A37D80263204DF0EE71FA13697B

Seems like the manufacturers don't mind, provided you buy one....

tedtschopp's picture

I work with some very senior managers and directors in a fortune 500 company.  I don't see a lot of them using Moleskine books.  What I do see is a lot of folios with 8.5 x 11 notepads, 3x5 note cards in said folio.  Everyone at that level will take notes in a meeting, unless there has been an administrative assistant invited to take notes.  Then people will only use the 3 x 5 cards to take notes to record questions or points they want to bring up when they don't have the floor.  Pens, mostly quality ballpoints or fountain.  Legal staff will use legal pads.  

The folios I see cost around $100 - 200.  Then pens are generally under $200 as well.  

Now if I kick it up a notch to the executive level, the equipment just gets a bit more expensive, but not aggressively so.  

I have a Swiss Army Leather Folio that I use as I am Swiss and am fond of my heritage, and a Vanishing Point Fountain Pen (which I believe is the perfect pen).  Total cost was around $150.  The company provides the refills to the folio and to the 3 x 5 cards I carry.  Ink I pay for, but is cheap, ~$20 a year at most.  This makes me look better than almost everyone else in attendance who is a line employee, and puts me on par with the senior managers and directors. 

NOTE: I have used LifeScribe pens in the United States and have been singled out as inappropriate.  Granted it was legal, and the company has no policy against using said devices, but it wasn't effective as it put the person I was meeting with on edge.  I had to have it happen only once to never do it again.  

Ted Tschopp
เท็ด ชอปป์  - टेड चप - ثڍودور تشوب - Թէտ Չըփ - Ted Çeöp - தெட் த்சப்

gpeden's picture

 I like the red and black series:

And I use Palomino Blackwing pencils for notetaking:




DiSC 7511

mbirch's picture

I have an iPad that I do everything on including the notes I currently take.  I have a App that is called NoteTaker HD ($4.99) and uses a stylus to record your written words.  I prefer this option as the Book never runs out and I can email the pages to myself for putting in files if necessary.  You have the ability to create multi level folders and sort your notes anyway you want including resorting if necessary.

I find this the best of both worlds and the most versitile option if you really want to got high tech but not use a laptop (the reasons I totally agree with by the way).

Thought I'd share this with those who are interested.



garyslinger's picture
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Pretty sure Mark's got an iPad; I certainly do - but you won't see it in a meeting with my CEO; the recommendation for pen & paper is there for a reason.


GlennR's picture

In my organization, an iPad would not be out of line at a meeting. They're rare, because they're not provided to us as laptops are and because the note taking function is limited via either the keyboards or the note taking apps. I tried the one one Maura mentioned, it was too slow and my handwriting was too illegible. So I returned to a Moleskine. A red moleskine, not a black one. I understand Mark's point about black, but sometimes setting yourself out from the pack is a good thing. More importantly, there's no downside to using a red journal in my organization.

I became a member in December of the year Mark and Mike started and I find myself referring people here multiple times a month. I wouldn't do that if I didn't agree with the philosophy and the tactical advice. However, I recommend you look at What MT recommends, then determine if it's applicable to your organization's culture. If it applies follow it. If not, determine how you can deviate without negative results. (I couldn't get away with a journal with a paisley cover or Hello Kitty picture on it:-)



raulcasta's picture

Glennr and Maura

I agree with your comments.  I must admit that when taking notes I've been a pen&paper advocate, and I'm constantly trying to effectively switch and use my iPad for my note-taking.  It actually helps me in the sense that I am more specific in what I write, which in turn helps me in the following up aspects post meeting.  So far, I've done this selectively, depending on the type of meeting and attendees- I do understand Garyslinger's remark regarding the CEO meeting.  Having said that, I increasingly see more and more people in my professional network taking notes on their iPads- particularly as younger managers and vps and directors are appearing on the scene.

Regarding the app selection, I use GoodNotes.  It has a free version and it works for me.


Raúl- El Salvador

svibanez's picture

I've thought about changing to something like the Moleskine, but I'm not sure how I can organize my thoughts in a way that it's relatively easy to go back and find them.  Has anyone done this, or can you share some ideas?  Thanks!

I currently use a Daytimer in the 2 pages/day format, with my task list and schedule on the left and a page for notes on the right.  I take a lot of notes so this format works well for me. The down side is that it's pretty bulky (the 5x8 size in a leather cover is about 1.5 inches thick) and it takes up  lot of space in my bag when I'm traveling.


DiSC 7114

GlennR's picture


I've used a Moleskine for probably five years now. I started out with the black lined journal, moved to the unlined version to assist in brainstorming, and now am trying what I call the "Magazine version. It's a soft cover approx 7"X10". It's unlined. Here's what I do:

  • Every morning, I draw a horizontal line below the prior day's notes and add today's dates. When I take notes from conversations with one individual, I write that person's name down and draw a box around it so that it's easier to find. Action items get a check box. Questions get a question mark. Something important I want to remember gets a star.
  • For meetings with more than one person, I use the Cornell method of note taking
  • For times when I want to brainstorm, I devote an entire page to the topic so that I have enough space to revisit it. Downside, sometimes I need more than one page, and if I return to that page several days later, I can't keep those thoughts adjacent to the first. When that happens I just put a small paper clip to mark the first page.
  • When I do a weekly review, I highlight that term so that it's easy to find where I left off.

This means my notes are  in chronological order but I can usually flip back and find what I'm looking for. I did that on Tuesday in a meeting looking for notes made in October and it worked fine.

I am undecided if I will purchase the same style again. I may choose to go back to the black journal just because it's smaller. I will stick with the unlined version, though.

My calendar is electronic.

One thing I haven't tried is to take pictures of my notes and tag them in Evernote so that they're grouped by topic. I hear many do that.


GlennR's picture

The only notes I don't use my Moleskine for are those I take in 03's, executive coaching, and mentoring. For those I use sheets from a legal pad which are torn out and placed in a folder with that person's name on it.

dschreiber's picture
Training Badge

I find myself still taking notes on paper. I like the form factor as it lowers the bar for getting thoughts down. I find that even with iPad and stylus or fast typing on a laptop it has logistics issues.

I hand write notes on a legal pad. I have in the past filed it in folders, and have more recently tried to scan them in with the copier/scanner at work that e-mails me and I can archive it without the heft of large manila folders. I've begun to put them in Evernote as PDFs and it does recognition on them to make them searchable automatically. I've been pushing to keep focused on my priorities and look critically at what notes I need to keep and what I can ditch or scan based on how likely I am to refer back to them (mainly are they a top three priority). It has drastically reduced the number of "maybe someday" folders.

I am still using the form Mark and Mike provided for my O3 meetings and I love them. They keep me structured and on-task, and avoid the distraction of anything between me and the person I'm meeting with. I put them in folders and refer to them before and after we meet. It works great although my folders get thick, and I need to thin them out over time.

svibanez's picture

I like your note-taking ideas and I think they'll work for me as well.  Electronic calendar makes sense, as I currently just write in my planner the things that are already on my Outlook calendar.

How do you handle task lists in your Moleskine?  I'm thinking of 3x5 cards, or something like that, so they can travel from day to day.  I am concerned about them falling out as I move around.


DiSC 7114

GlennR's picture

Ah, task lists. I use something separate for projects. It's a web site called I've used it several years now. It's okay, I'm not an evangelist for it. I'd be interested in finding something better.  But it's working for me. If you're just going to keep a "Next Actions," list, what about using Evernote and then having it available on both your computer and mobile devices?

Or, if you want to stick to paper, use post it notes instead of index cards.


ChrisBakerPM's picture

Having tried a lot of different things I've gone back to writing out task lists long hand in a notebook (I'm another moleskine user). Yes, this does mean that any tasks I didn't do yesterday need to be copied out. I used to think that was inefficient and boring, but now I think that it's actually time well spent. The time taken is trivial, and the advantage is that I review the task - do I still need to do it?  Is there more (or less) to it now? This leads to thinking about the tasks, which is pretty important for making effective use of your time. Also, I notice if I'm carrying forward the same task too many times.  So I now think that I was trying to optimize out the useful bit!

I only put in my lists things I actually think I'm going to do today (or tomorrow, when today has filled up and I'm making a new  list for tomorrow). If its something I need to do in the future at a specific time, I put it in my diary. No point in having some gigantinormous list to show how busy your life is, and then not be able to manage it effectively.

That said, writing by hand is nice and flexible - if I want to make a broad-brush list of things to do this week/month/quarter etc. I can do so (and transfer these into daily lists or calendar when that's useful).

If I have a long list, I use a Stephen Covey trick to prioritize: Anything I MUST do today is marked A (and then A1, A2, A3.... if there are several such items). Then B1, B2, B3... for important items, which could go over to tomorrow. Then C1, C2, C3 etc for anything "nice to get done if I can".

All these tricks are, of course very personal: I think its a matter of trying some different ways of doing things & finding out which suit you

Post-it notes: reminds me of doing a planning meeting and ending up with a lot of post-it notes stuck to a flipchart page showing how we would break the work down. Then I had to go across a windy site to get back to my desk, worried that some of my work blocks would literally blow away and that would be the last anyone remembered about some task....

svibanez's picture

I do like the idea of keeping a handwritten list.  I'll have to try out the post-it notes and 3x5 cards to see what works best for me.


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scm2423's picture
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I just use Post-It notes for the task list.  I use a large 4 X 6 size and keep about 20-30 on the inside of the front cover of my notebook.  At the end of the day, I pull off the task list for the day and put it into the inside back cover.  At the end of the week I am able to review this back page to see what I got done and am able to create my weekly status report quickly.



svibanez's picture

SCM2423, thank you for sharing how you use the Post-It Notes.  I can see how that would make it very easy to keep track of the week's events.


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GlennR's picture

This post seems to be a very good summary of the top notebooks and journals out there. Be sure to read the comments.

lar12's picture
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A handmade wooden pen...what an awesome idea!  Subtle and definitely unique.  Love it!

jazzbone1031's picture

I have gotten some great suggestions from Wendii (I hope that's how your name is spelled if you read this) on some specifics, but I wanted to join the conversation here and see what others had to say. I decided on a Pilot G2 Limited in the charcoal. It's a metal version of a pen I've always loved. Not quite an executive style pen, but then I'm not an executive...yet.

I have been in management for a few years, but have never really gotten any real training in what it means to be a manger. I've gotten training in how the companies I've worked wanted things. But what I've gotten here has changed things. I actually care how I'm presenting myself now.

I have just started a career in retail. Most of my experience has been in quick service restaurants. I am, essentially just a step above an entry level manager. So I think the pen choice I've made is appropriate.

I have a concern about a notebook though. Wendii made a couple of suggestions here as well, but I'm still a bit...I guess the word I'm looking for is perplexed. As I said, I work in retail. I am on a sales floor and rarely at a desk. I wear black dockers style pants and the uniform shirt is a read polo style with no pockets. I have, to this point, carried a pocket moleskine style notebook. It just sits in my pocket unused 90% of the time because I just didn't know what to do with it.

I like the cornell method suggestion. It makes sense. But it seems a bit impractical in a pocket size notebook. Conversely, anything bigger and I would just have to walk around holding it all day.

Any suggestions?