Paper notebooks rule

11 Jun 2021

I’m a big fan of storing data in plain text. For that reason I keep a small notebook in my pocket for taking notes during phone calls or sketching out ideas while thinking through problems. Writing notes by hand is better than typing them because you aren’t fast enough to write word-for-word. You have to summarize before writing and the summarizing leads to better understanding.

I use the Clairefontaine Life Unplugged Notebook: fits in my pocket and works as a calendar, todo list, journal, and sketchbook. The left page contains the date, today’s todo list, and appointments. The right page is a scratch pad and journal: not much room for stream-of-consciousness writing so I have to be brief instead of rambling.

For entries I use these symbols:

Symbol Meaning
- todo item
+ done item
!- important todo item

A single notebook can hold about a month of entries and by coincidence that’s how long the cover can survive in my pocket before disintegrating.

Clairefontaine notebooks have plain and unpretentious covers with a price per sheet about half of Doane notebooks and Field Notes. Clairefontaine makes its own paper which it sells to other notebook producers. If you use a high-end notebook you’re already writing on Clairfontaine paper.

Paper mills are notoriously dirty yet the water exiting the Clairefontaine paper mill is cleaner than the water entering the plant. A company in one of the dirtiest industries on the planet manages to protect the environment, produce an excellent product, and generate a profit in one of the most heavily-taxed countries in Europe.

So even though I have an iPhone I still carry a paper notebook: amongst other advantages it gives me a chance to practice my handwriting.