In the New Yorker’s recent Why Startups Love Moleskines, David Sax describes the popularity of the spare notebook that many tech-savvy people find superior to digital task software. M.I.T. students, academics, artists and other high-achieving entrepreneurs prize Moleskine notebooks, which come in variety of shapes and sizes, for their simplicity and efficiency.

David Allen’s popular time-management method, Getting Things Done adopted the Moleskine as a preferred tool of productivity in which to capture charts, lists, and bullet points. Says Allen:

“The easiest and most ubiquitous way to get stuff out of your head is pen and paper.

We couldn’t agree more. At Improvised Life, we often write ideas down as one things lead to another and we see new connections. THEN we transfer actionable ideas to our task software (Asana).

Of course, your notebook doesn’t have to be a Moleskine. Whatever feels good and easily carry-able will do nicely. Our friend Tara Mann liked an AM/PM notebook for tracking her days

Sally Schneider
Sally Schneider

Artist John Wellington published part of his journal as an e-book which included this dandy page:

Angels and Demons
john wellington

Fashion designer Paul Smith envisioned a his ideal shed in a Moleskine:

Paul Smith
Paul Smith

Writes Sax:

A paper notebook, by contrast, is a walled garden, free from detours (except doodling), and requiring no learning curve. A growing body of research supports the idea that taking notes works better on paper than on laptops, in terms of comprehension, memorization, and other cognitive benefits.

Moleskines come in a variety of sizes, paper (lined, unlined or grid, of different stock) and jacket colors.

Filip Peraić/Behance
Filip Peraić/Behance

We think this red notebook  is pretty snazzy…

And we also love this set of 3 large Kraft Brown Journals.The last 16 sheets are detachable and there is a pocket for loose notes.


But our favorite of all is the 7 1/2″ square”Moleskine with heavy cotton paper perfect if you want to draw or scrapbook.

Let us know how YOU capture ideas: analog or digital or both?

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3 replies on “How Analog Notebooks can Enhance Productivity

  1. I am an MIT Alumna and I endorse the above post! Since I started a journal in the 6th grade, I have never been without some form of notebook/sketchbook to gather thoughts, sketches, dreams, ticket stubs, receipts from airline flights overseas, stickers from bands…. I agree that Moleskin notebooks are very lovely, but definitely not required. I’ve found some of my best notebooks at garage sales and discount stores. I keep saying that one day I am going to read them over again, but I haven’t really gone back to them yet. Maybe one day.

  2. What I wouldn’t give to wander through those notebooks, Kim.
    And yes, you’re SO right. Moleskines are not at all essential. I should have taken some pix of the little notebooks I used to buy in Chinatown, made for kids, with great odd graphics, and light enough to put in a pocket. I have tons of them, full of notes and drawings.

  3. Ahhh, the humble notepad. My preferred model: the $.75 3×5 spiral edition found in office supply, drugstores and everywhere else. I can’t bring myself to invest in fancy notepads; my inner voice saying “you’re going to ruin it”is just too loud. On the other hand, with the cheap edition I can get that “starting a fresh notebook” feeling pretty much anytime I want.

    I take my pocket contents quite seriously, and I’m always looking for ways to slim things down. But the notebook keeps earning it’s spot as a required item.

    Why? It never runs out of batteries, provides an easy sharing mechanism (“riiiiip, here you go”) and boots up immediately. Most importantly, when I’m on the phone and need to scribble something down, the notepad is ready for use.

    I’m with Kim – I’ve got a shoebox overflowing with past notepads that I never look back at. But, I’m glad to save them and who knows, one day they may provide for some interesting reading.

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