You can find productivity apps and tools for every imaginable productivity system and need out there, but it’s tough to beat the simple pocket notebook in terms of pure productivity-boosting power.
Over the years between my career (testing out apps, life hacks, and productivity boosters) and my personal life (being obsessed with apps, life hacks, and productivity boosters) I’ve tried out a lot of different tools and techniques. Hands down the single biggest productivity booster and all-around useful tool I’ve ever used, however, is the simple pocket notebook. Here’s why.
Most people get hung up on the actual doing-the-task part of being productive, but for many people (myself included) the bigger hang-up is remembering the task in the first place.
A pocket notebook lets you capture anything relevant to your personal or work goals and projects at the moment you think of it—preventing you from forgetting about it until sometime-later-to-never.
Just remembered you ran out of milk? Write it down. Just heard about a book on NPR you’d like to read? Write it down. Your boss just mentioned something important about a project? Write it down. Noticed grandma’s cutting board is looking pretty rough and a nice hardwood cutting board would make a good Christmas gift? Write it down.
Anything you want to remember for later for any reason can go in the notebook. Some people just write things right down the page and then process the notebook at the end of the day or week, other people work right out of the notebook with pages or sections for to-do lists, projects, gift ideas, and so on.
However you do it, though, you’ll capture everything important before it drifts away into the ether of forgetfulness. Developing a notebook habit means never forgetting anything again. Never forgetting anything again means never finding yourself failing to start an important task because you didn’t remember the important task long enough to start it.
Phone apps are pretty amazing, and between features like document scanning, location-based reminders, and more, it’s tempting to use an app for everything.
The beauty of scribbling stuff down in a simple pocket notebook is how distraction-free it is. You can’t open up a notebook and “accidentally” end up scrolling through your Instagram feed. Nor can you open it up and see that you have 17 unread emails. The notebook exists for you to write things down in it, and that’s it.
As a bonus, you look conscientious to other people. When you pull out your phone (even if you’re only recording an important thing) you look like you’re checking out of the conversation (and if you get distracted by notifications you just might be). A notebook is a different story. If pulling out your phone is the conversational equivalent of leaning out, pulling out a notebook is the conversational equivalent of leaning in—it looks like whatever the topic is, it’s important enough for you to write it down.
There’s no battery, no syncing, no connectivity requirements, or anything particularly complicated with a notebook. Short of the notebook ending up at the bottom of a river (hopefully without you in tow) or on fire, it just works.
Not only that, but there’s no risk of software errors or missing bits and pieces. While good apps are pretty dependable these days (and the best ones even have cloud-syncing), there’s no “well there goes my list” app crashes when you’re working with paper.
Maybe as you’ve been reading, you’ve been thinking “but hey, what about a big notebook?”. If you carry a bag with you all the time and you want the space. Sure. Use a big ol’ notebook with spacious pages.
The beauty of the pocket notebook is the size, though. You can shove it in your pocket or your purse. You don’t need a bag (with space to spare). Throw in a mini pen or even a keychain pen along with the notebook, and you’re ready to capture your thoughts anywhere—no daypack required.
If you’re sold on the idea of the pocket notebook, check out our favorite pocket notebooks over at our sister site Review Geek for some classy-looking and durable options.