Your Commonplace Book—Digital, Analog, or Both?

notebook-660565_1920This is tricky. Plan to experiment and eventually discover what works for you. Your basic options are:

Analog (paper and pen)

Digital (software for your computer, tablet, or smartphone)

Both of the above

Analog media

This is the classic medium for a commonplace book—anything from a cheap spiral-bound notebook to a fancy hardcover journal.

Moleskine notebooks have a solid reputation in this space. So do Field Notes. If you have an office supplies fetish (like me), then check out the beautiful products from Levenger.

Some people prefer a three-ring notebook, which allows you to add, delete, and rearrange pages.

Ryan Holiday, on the other hand, uses index cards. And Twyla Tharp—dancer and author of The Creative Habit—grabs a big empty box when she starts to choreograph a piece. She fills the box with handwritten notes, CDs, books, article clippings, and other physical objects that are relevant to her project.

Digital media

Digital tools offer a dizzying number of options. Some examples are:

Analog plus digital

This is what Ben Casnocha does. He has a three-step workflow:

  1. I take notes in meetings in paper moleskine notebooks.
  2. I go back through the notes with a different color pen and circle the key sentences and in effect annotate my own annotations.
  3. I transfer the highlighted notes to Evernote files on my computer (if they’re private) or directly onto my blog or twitter feed (if they’re public). Probably 5% of what I write down with pen and paper ever makes it into an electronic system, but the act of writing and then re-typing and publishing those 5% of thoughts really solidifies them into my memory.

Bottom line: Plan to experiment until you create a system that you’ll actually use.


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