It’s been a while since we’ve corralled a list of tips and hacks for notebook users (Moleskine and other brands). Here are both new and old ideas on using your notebook for organizing, productivity, and just drawing and writing. We include links to other bloggers’ ideas and our own new list of tips below.
For Telling Tales Around the Campfire
If you think writing and notebooking is a bit sissified, you need to be introduced to Linda Maye Adams who, on account of her 12 years in the Army and service in Desert Storm, refers to herself as a “soldier storyteller.” And she loves Moleskines, too. See her Moleskine Hacks for Fiction Writers where she discusses using her notebooks for ideas, research notes, critique groups and writing workshops – a very specialized perspective.
Your Notebook – Your UTD
Fans of TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms), should enjoy Emanuele Faja’s piece where he calls his Moleskine a UTD or “Ubiquitous Tracking Device.” In his article My Top Productivity Hacks and Tips (Part 1] he talks about Moleskines, but also about productivity and lifestyle.
Keeping Your Notebook Portable
Whether you are a writer, a creator, or a just working cowboy, ideas can come at any time in any place. It helps to have one very portable place to keep all your notes (and pens or pencils). For women, any notebook that fits into a purse, pocketbook, or tote will do. Men will likely prefer something that fits into a pocket, unless they also have a portable tote, portfolio, backpack or attaché – but fiddling with an attaché case or digging into a backpack can be too time consuming for quick ideas. Pockets work well, and a pocketed notebook can be quicker to access than a phone app, too.
I keep a pocket notebook (currently, it actually is a Moleskine, but any cheaper pocket notebook works) in my left pocket (if you need that level of specificity). I can grab the notebook with my left hand and a pen with my right, simultaneously if necessary. Lefties can adjust easily – even writing in their notebook back-to-front if that’s more comfortable.
Frugal Guidance 2 has featured the history of Moleskine notebooks and why it’s spelled funny. But the Bachelors Degree Online website Increased my Moleskine Trivia Quotient in 14 Fun Facts You Never Knew About Your Moleskine.
New calendar treatment:
Frugal Guidance 2 presented several types of calendar formats you can personalize in your pocket Moleskine in Taming the Wild Moleskine, Part 1 – Breaking the Bronco Notebook. Kyla Roma shows another way to create a personalized calendar / notebook hybrid using a Classic Extra Large Moleskine in her Moleskine Notebook Transformation – A No Binding Required Weekly Planner Tutorial.
Kyla’s notebook uses the grid format which makes it easier to space and draw the lines (even with a ruler, which you will need).
Since you are drawing it, you can customize it the way you like. Kyla’s technique is to add a little space above the days of the week, and a lot more below for notes, lists and paste-ins (if you like scrapbooking into your calendar). Post-Its and 3×5 cards also make their appearance.
Branding Sections of Your Book
Just as a cowboy sorts a confused herd into different corrals, many notebook users sort information into different parts of their notebook. If you use different sections of your book for different tasks, the single bookmark in these books simply will not do! There are several ways to divide your notebook (i.e., for lists, tasks, notes, meetings, calendar, index, etc.). Your choice may depend simply on what you have laying around your desk — tabs, Post-Its, knives, ribbons or markers:
- You can add paste-in tabs to mark sections of your notebook if you don’t mind things sticking out beyond the edge of the cover. Any business supply store will have them in the notebook section.
- Post-Its can also work for this, and you can fold them in and move them.
- People who enjoy using X-Acto knives can cut thumb tabs into the side of their notebooks. MyMoleskine and GlobalVirtualSupport show different techniques.
- If you don’t like adding tabs or cut-outs to your Moleskine, you can instead add different colored ribbons as bookmarks for your different sections. It’s easy and you just need some ribbon and masking tape. See Porco Rosso’s instructions here
- Finally, you may want to simply color the page edges to mark the sections. Journaling Arts has detailed step by step (no muss, no fuss) directions.
If you write with fountain pens, you may find it handy to have a piece of blotter paper stored in the back of your notebook.
If, instead, you write or draw with pencils, keep a piece of coarse sandpaper in the back cover to sharpen your tip if a regular sharpener isn’t handy.
If you use non-permanent media (watercolors, some art pens), store your notebook into a waterproof sleeve or in a small freezer bag to protect your work from spilled coffee, tea, drinks, or from rain.
If you glue things into your notebook, a glue stick works better than paste or liquid glue. Or use transparent tape
If you have a blank notebook, print out a grid pattern on a piece of blank paper. Cut it to your notebook’s size, and use that behind the page as a writing guide, or for drawing squared off designs and other artwork. You can keep several guides with different spacing, if you like. For permanence, paste them on a thin piece of cardboard. The Incompetech website will help you create personalized guides for this and for organizers and larger notebooks, too.
Small Post-Its and Notebooks go together as a cowboy and his horse. Never separate them. Stick a few on the inside cover.
If you are more comfortable writing or drawing on the right (or left) pages of a notebook, start at the beginning and use only the right pages. When you get to the back, flip the notebook upside down and start again. Be sure to number the pages and index appropriately.
With smaller, blank, dotted or squared notebooks, you may feel less cramped if you write in your book sideways. (Looks sloppier, though, with traditionally lined books.) Go ahead and write sideways, at an angle, in circles and columns if you like. It’s your notebook!
If you like other alternatives, such as different papers, leather slip covers, drawing books, and maybe something even more highfalutin’ than a Moleskine, check out our list of Moleskine alternatives – one of our most popular posts.
For many more tips on creating calendar pages, and otherwise taming your wild Moleskine, see our earlier notebook posts:
Do you have other tips for your notebooks? Please share them in the comments, below.
“Cowboys” (title photo: detail of photo of charging cowboys) photographed by George W. Stiffler, taken between 1884 and 1892. Source is the Western History / Genealogy Department of the digital collection of the Denver Public Library. Photo cropped and adjusted for web display.
“Cowboys and Chuck Wagon” (detail) photograph by Otis A. Aultman (1874-1943), taken between 1890 and 1910. Source is from a glass negative from History Colorado. Courtesy of the digital collection of the Denver Public Library. Photo cropped and adjusted for web display.
“Angus McPhee, Lee Martin, Gus Uhl,” three cowboy performers from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Photographer unlisted. From the Salsbury collection, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, courtesy of the online collection of the Denver Public Library. Photo cropped and adjusted for web display.
“Bucking Horse – Confederate Reunion” (of Rodeo performer, Hank Mills on the horse, Wagonwheel) by Pat Coffey. Dated 1939, taken at Trinidad Roundup and Rodeo, Trinidad, Colorado. Image available from the Western History / Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library. Photo cropped and adjusted for web display.
“Buck Taylor” portrait of William Levi “Buck” Taylor, known as the “King of the Cowboys” in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Photographer unlisted, from a vintage print. From the Salsbury collection, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Courtesy of the digital collection of the Denver Public Library. Photo adjusted for web display.
“Cow Boys of the Dolores” (detail) by William Henry Jackson (1843-1943), taken between 1880 and 1900 near the Dolores River of Colorado. Courtesy of the digital collection of the Denver Public Library. Photo cropped and adjusted for web display.