If 2020 was the Year of Taking Notes, then 2021 is turning into the year of handwriting notes. And if you know me this is quite a change – I have been proudly typing things out for years, leaving writing things by hand proudly behind. A big part of it is my handwriting is deplorable and always have been. And really it's gotten worse. I also tend to lose the pieces of paper I written things on. The later is really organization problem and not a handwriting problem. And the organization problem really that is what I ended up solving, even if it was by accident.

But how did I start down this handwriting path? Simply because it's faster. But it turned out that I remember things better if I write them out as opposed to type it. And with some organization I can say "I know where that is!". And not only do I remember it better, I tend to be more thoughtful when I put it down. As long as I have my little notebook nearby, I can quickly jot things down, not worry about them again until I need them.

I was the Apple Pencil that started me on it. I bought it because I thought it was cool and then I got a copy of GoodNotes on my iPad.A bunch of things suddenly just clicked. I started drawing and filling out PDFs. This is very handy for print-and-play games like Bargain Basement Bathysphere and Utopia Engine: Beast Hunter. I can easily erase, don't have to worry about printing things out and keeping track of paper. I found that once I got used to the Pencil (which did not take long) I really liked this style. But I didn't want to keep everything in my iPad… gee, am I going to start writing things by hand?

Through a long series of looking at random things, I somehow stumbled into the concept of a Bullet Journal. This video is really the best overview and currently my journal looks a lot like that, as opposed to a work of art.2 I don't follow it fully, which is really on of the beautiful things about the system – you don't have to. Honestly my Bullet Journal is mainly headings and lists. I don't do the "rapid logging" part of a Bullet Journal, but instead instead I focus on The Collections to brainstorm and rapid collection of ideas into a collection and then turn those into tasks in my Todoist. While that seems like a lot of work, it actually works great.

Ironically I could do all of this in a Bullet Journal but, however, it's hard for me to leave Todoist simply because I always have it with me, via my phone. I could do all this list management into Todoist and have tried it before. The problem is that I tend not be able to find things again and entering a bunch of items in a brain dump is not very fast in Todoist. For example, my wife would come up with ideas for the new house and I couldn't keep up in putting them into Todoist. With my bullet journal, I just found that collection, grabbed the pen that I always have in it, and we record things as fast as we say them.

Basically, my workflow is like this:

  • my Bullet Journal is for ideas, lists, brainstorming, and facts (you know, like what address you're new house is at)
  • When I'm ready to put things into action, I open my journal and Todoist and start moving things over.
  • it's important that everything in Todoist has a due date… or I will never find it again.

This has started me on a strange path of being picky about notebooks and pens. What I ended up choosing is this notebook which is dotted, not lined (non-negotiable), has a bookmark ribbon, a sleeve for the pen and has a band to keep it closed. I've had this notebook in my living room table, in appliance stores, etc and it's held up well. I think the paper is a little thin so a dark pen will bleed through. I've settled on this Pentel pen which I had used before. I like it because it writes thin (so my handwriting is more legible) and doesn't bleed through. This arrangement is … OK. I think I would like better quality paper but do not want to sacrifice the closing band or the pen holder. Decisions, decisions…

It's strange about how I've fallen back into low-tech habits in the time of COVID and that I am keeping those habits around.

  1. And yes that is actually my journal index. Ugly, isn't it?

  2. When I first saw this video, I laughed my head off. Not only does my journal not look anything like that, I would never put that much work into how it looks. It's 100% function over form.