One notebook to rule them all

Maybe you’re like me and you keep a paper planner, a writing notebook, a nature journal, scraps of shopping lists, index cards with quotes on them, and so on. I’ve tried to go paperless using Google calendar and Evernote, but the truth of the matter is that I love paper, fancy pens, and all that. Material book culture pleases me.


You know what else pleases me? Meeting the carpool on time. Meeting my copy-editing deadlines. Removing apostrophes from plural nouns. Watching the ants circling peony buds. Enjoying a meal cooked by my teenage son. Doing all the things.

You may be able to relate to the long list of scattered tasks. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur. Chris Guillebeau writes articles that resonate, in particular this one from February: “How to Run a Business and Still Care for Your Family.”

Priorities are not just a question of time, in other words, they are also a question of focus and intention. I think it’s important for each of us to be able to say:

This is what I am living for.

This is what matters.

I will select these values and allow them to be my compass.

The way this is lived out may be different than how other people live, or it may even be totally unique.

So what are you living for? What matters? How do you translate these things into a life?


My friends, here’s an idea: Focus your scattered paper energy. Ditch the dozens of notebooks, planners, journals, scraps, and rubber-banded index cards.

Two words: Bullet Journal.

I started one in March and fell in love immediately. One notebook to rule them all. It’s indexed, so I can find my quotes, my reading list, my nature drawings, my lecture notes, my essay starts and story maps, and my daily schedule. I use a Leuchtturm1917 medium-sized book with dotted pages.


Granted, it’s not as neatly written now as when I started, but it’s highly functional, and functional is what I’m after.

naturejournalpageGo find a notebook and try a bullet journal. Like all systems, it’s tweakable. Make up collections as you go. Make it do what you need it to do. Make a mess.

Just don’t lose it!

“I reel them off with one brain tied behind me”

Robert Frost gave away most of his notebooks during his lifetime, but what are left are now available for us to read. Here’s an article to read about Robert Frost and his notebooks and thought process. They’re full of poems and ideas about life, and they’ve been published in a book form that you can order here from Amazon. 700 pages of Robert Frost genius, complete with cross outs and everything, I can’t wait to get my copy.

“I reel them off with one brain tied behind me . . . .  Hegel taught the doctrine of opposites but said nothing about everything’s having more than one opposite.”  ~Robert Frost

I carry a notebook with me most places. I use it to write down book titles, story ideas, bits of dialogue or description as I think of it, lists of weird names, whatever comes to mind. It is messy, full of drawings and scribbling and I have a horrible habit of skipping around. I haven’t moved straight through the notebook from beginning to end. Instead, I am usually in a hurry so I open it up to wherever and start writing. Sounds crazy, but I know exactly where everything is. Nonfiction tends towards the back of the book and fiction towards the front is the only order that I might have. No dates on any of it, I usually date the beginning and end dates of my notebooks, then toss them in a box or drawer when I fill them up. They get mined when I need ideas or remember something to go looking for, but mostly I’m just glad to have unloaded all the thoughts in my head. It gets cluttered and I think clearing out is a good idea. Makes room for more.

Anyone else out there carry a notebook? What kind? How do you use it?