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One Notebook or Many? Part 1: The Case For One Notebook

One notebook, many notebooks, or something else? This is something that has had me thinking in circles for a long time. Should I have one notebook, and record everything in that, or different notebooks for different subjects, or something else? To give others something to chew on as they make choices for themselves, I’ve written a multi-part series on the virtues of different systems from my point of view.

Whether it’s more of a diary filled with thoughts an feelings, or a log with only dates and facts or something in between, the idea of everything in one book is attractive for several reasons:

One book is cooler. A volume covering all of ones life, being read by descendants long after my death, like the journals of Leonardo da Vinci, makes a nice day dream.

It’s fun to read through a diverse journal with sketches and notes on all kinds of things. Paging through an old journal and coming across doodles my daughter made is a treat. Sketches of things I was planning to build or of other things reminds me of the diversity of my life, which is often handy when I’ve become too focused on one narrow aspect.


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One book is convenient. It’s convenient to have a single book, and just dump everything in it. Just write it down, you will know where to find it. No worrying if I have the right book with me, or whether something should go in this book or that.

One book makes for better reflection. I often reread old journals to remind myself of how I’ve grown and changed, of ideas or things I’d once been interested in, or of the places I’ve been and things I’ve done. It gives me perspective, and also it’s often a great reference. I learn more when lots of aspects of my life are being put in front of me. It’s lot more convenient if I don’t have to keep going to the shelf to get a different book.


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One book can be a great reminder. When I first got the idea for NumberQuotes.com, I wrote it in my journal. I had no idea how to make the site work at the time, but I recorded the thought anyway. Many months later I ran across it by accident while I was paging through the book looking for something else. As I was reading about the idea, I suddenly thought of how to implement the site. If I’d written that idea in a separate book I might never have come across it. That wasn’t the first time that I was looking through an old book and ran across a valuable idea I’d forgotten about, and I don’t think it will be the last.

All posts in the series:
One Notebook or Many? Part 1: The case for one notebook
One Notebook or Many? Part 2: The case for many notebooks
One Notebook or Many? Part 3: The case for loose sheets
One Notebook or Many? Part 4: What’s been working for me

5 comments… add one
  • Katherine December 9, 2011, 10:38 am

    What is your absolute favorite journal and size journal you use for your all things journal

    • Steve December 9, 2011, 10:46 am

      Hi Katherine! Currently I prefer the 5×8 size books, but I used the pocket size Moleskines before that. The 5×8 is small enough to carry in many pockets, but is big enough to hold decent history.

  • Kim February 7, 2012, 4:51 am

    I have the same problem. But this year I’m planning on writing my thoughts on my planner and on my moleskine (which i’m using since 2010!) So two notebooks for me this year. 😛

    • Steve February 7, 2012, 8:48 am

      Hi Kim, thanks for the comment!
      When you say you’ve been using it since 2010, is that a single notebook, or that you’ve been using the Moleskine brand since 2010?

  • Kim February 9, 2012, 3:59 am

    That’s only a single notebook, the last time i checked my moleskine it only has 20 pages left i think 🙂

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