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10 Great Notebooks Productive People Love

10 Great Notebooks Productive People Love

Although I’m going on 10 years as a PDA/Smartphone user (Palm IIIe – Handspring Visor Neo – Treo 180g – Zire 72 – Treo 680 – Blackberry 8310), I love notebooks. A good pen on nice paper makes me much happier than the feel of a stylus on a plastic screen or the clickety-clack of a thumb-board. My personal notebook inventory consists mainly of three kinds of notebooks:

  • A pocket-sized Moleskine : I love the reporter’s notebook or standard lined notebook, though lately I’ve been using the tiny extra-small Volants, whose soft vinyl cover stands up to my back pocket better.
  • Tops Docket Gold letter-sized pads : These are my favorite pads for writing; they are the only letter-sized top-bound legal pads I’ve been able to find with both narrow rules (most legal pads are wide-ruled) and an extra-stiff cardboard backing, perfect for lap-top writing.
  • Hardbound Foray notebooks: Foray is an Office Depot house brand; they make several sizes and colors of hardbound notebooks. The front dozen or so pages are project planning templates, which makes them useful for, well, for planning projects. I keep one for each major project I’m involved with. (I couldn’t find a link to the particular one I use; they’re sold in the executive journals section of the store.)

But I’m always trying out new notebooks — at the end of the day, they do the same thing but some are just more of a pleasure than others. And I do a lot of writing and note-taking, so anything that makes that feel less like work and more like play is A-OK by me.

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Here are a few of the notebooks (and their note-y cousins) I’ve tried, owned, or just plain lusted after.

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  1. Moleskine : The classic. I’ve said more than enough about Moleskines already! (But for someone else’s perspective, check out the fan blog Moleskinerie .)
  2. Picadilly: A lower-priced knock-off of Moleskine’s notebooks that many claim are just as good as Moleskines. All the reasons you’d buy a Moleskine apply here, with some leeway for differences in paper or binding.
  3. Rhodia : Rhodia notebooks come in several styles (including a hard-cover Moleskine-like journal) but the classic is the soft-covered, stiff-backed pad bound with staples at the top. Known for their orange covers (though they also come in black) and loved for their high-quality paper, Rhodia notebooks are available in a variety of sizes andfor as low as a couple dollars each. (For a taste of why Rhodia notebooks have such a cult following, check out the blog Rhodia Drive .)
  4. Field Notes: Simple notebooks with a retro flair and a whiff of adventure about them, Field Notes are soft-covered, saddle-stitched notebooks with a straightforward, no-nonsense attitude. Field Notes are $10 for a pack of three pocket-size notebooks, and each shipment includes a fistful of goodies including matching pencils and click-pens.
  5. The cheapo spiral: The basic, no-nonsense cheapo notebook with spiral binding across the top or down the side. I hate them with a passion, but other people love them — they’re cheap, simple, unpretentious, and most importantly they get the job done. Plus, they’re available practically everywhere — supermarkets, drugstores, convenience stores, and of course office supply outlets.
  6. Levenger Pocket Briefcase: Not a notebook per se but an index card holder, Levenger’s pocket briefcases are made of quality leather which gives them a luxurious, almost decadent air. Most have a space for holding one “ready-to-use_ index card and a pocket to store used cards and spares. They’re not cheap, at about $30 and up, but everyone that owns one swears by it.
  7. The Hipster PDA: At the other end of thecontinuum from Levenger’s luxury is the bare-bones, stripped-down hipster PDA. A stack of index cards bound with a binder clip and *presto!* — you got yourself a handy, pocket-sized notebook. GTD’ers love it because they can record thoughs one per card and toss them in their inbox for later processing when they get into the office or home.
  8. Rite-in-the-Rain Tactical Notebook: Designed for military use, these perfect-bound, vinyl-covered notebooks literally go anywhere — the light green pages are waterproof! Add a Fisher Space Pen or other waterproof, write-anywhere pen and you’re good to go, and go, and go. I still have one from years ago (I managed a military supply store on the US Army base many, many years ago) and can vouch for the pages’ waterproofing. Though I don’t camp much, when I do, I take my Rite-in-the-Rain notebook.
  9. Scientific Notebook Company lab notebooks: Lab notebooks are more than just a place to take ntoes, they are a permanent record of scientific progress. SNC’s notebooks are designed to be used in support of patent claims, so each page includes headings for project info that are useful for anyone’s projects. (The footers include lines for signatures and witnesses, which are less useful, but take up little space.) The standard notebooks are hard-bound and letter-sized and run $12-20 US; vinyl-bound soft-cover student notebooks can be had for under $4 a pop.
  10. Livescribe Pulse SmartPen system: Not technically a notebook — and really, overkill of the worst kind, but: oh my! When used with the system’s specially-prepared paper, the SmartPen records every stroke of the pen plus audio of the class, lecture, meeting, or otehr event you’re taking notes on! You can later download your notes to the computer, effectively solving the “paper can’t be backed up” problem. For only a couple hundred bucks.

What are your favorite notebooks? Let us know in the comments!

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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