5 Different Types of Analog Notes


Writing your thoughts out brings clarity. A clarity that can be quite therapeutic. Beyond personal euphoria, writing out your thoughts helps you engage with a book, sermon, or lecture in a way that cannot be overstated.

The issue then is to choose the right medium. I want to give you five options to show you their strengths and weaknesses so you can choose the right one for the right situation. Then I’ll tell you which one I use most of the time. Each option has limits. These limits can be a great thing. Writing your thoughts slows your mind down and causes you to focus; it limits to focus. So each of these options will to the same.

The main spectrum I see here is between friction and stability. A bound Notebook limits the order(stability) of your notes. You can’t swap notes after you write them, their bound together. But order brings frictions. What should I write on the first page? I should make this look good, right? Oh, I just messed up, I should throw the whole notebook out. Friction is hesitation. It’s why you don’t want to just right anything on your special notebook

On the other hand, Index Cards provide enormous flexibility. Throw away the doodles and mess ups. Rearrange to your hearts desire. They are not bound together. There’s no hesitation to write on a index card if you have 30 others handy.

While this is a helpful way to choose the type of paper to use, it’s not the only thing to look for. Aesthetics is one. Archivability is another. But let us look at several option to see if we can find an option that works best.

These mediums are only being considered for their use as engagement notes. I’m not referring to archive notes; notes to refer back to at a later time.

So, here are 5 different ways to use paper with notes

1. Bound Notebook

This is your run-of-the-mill composition notebook–Moleskine1 or Leuchtturm for those who like the fancy notebooks. It is a collections our signatures bound together in codex form. A wonderful invention. Great for notes. Or is it?

Pros

  • Hearty: The book will keeps it form when thrown in a bookbag or purse quite well. The book cover absorbs most of the damage.
  • Built-In Writing Surface: Most notebooks are hardcover so you can write with them doing anything. The car, elevator, or waiting room can become writing rooms easy enough.
  • Stable: You won’t have to worry about flying pages with a notebook. You’ll be able to put a completed notebook on the shelf with pride.

Cons

  • Friction: If you’re the type of person who likes uniformity and likes to tinker with the format of notes, a notebook may look like a long term commitment you’re not ready for yet. Every time you’re about to write something down you’ll wonder how it will look.
  • Non-Modular: You can’t rearrange pages. If you switch back and forth between topics, you’ll have to write directions in your notebook on where you picked up the topic.

2. Marginalia

Forget any type of notebook or slip of paper, just write inside you textbook, bible, or slides handout.

Pros

  • Lean: No need for a notebook to bring around, just have a pen handy.
  • Close Distance: If you have a work you study a lot, like the Bible or another classic work, it’s easier just to have your notes right there.

Cons

  • Small Space: Many times the book or handout doesn’t have enough room, you’re notes will have to be really tiny.
  • Ugly: If you suffer from bad handwriting you’ll have a bad looking book.
  • Resale:

3. Index Cards

Index cards supported the university, the library, and businesses till the computer took over. They still have their place.

Pros

  • Modular: Since they aren’t bound, you can rearrange them to any order.
  • Friction Free: It’s as easy to write on a scrap piece of paper.

Cons

  • Loseable: I’ve lost a few index cards I needed in my day. They can go missing pretty quickly
  • Perishable: It doesn’t take long for a note card to have it’s corners bent after it’s been in your bag. After a little longer you may find them crushed or bent in half.

4. Scan Text / Printed

This is when you just scan a page or print off digital text to mark up. It could be a page out of the textbook or slides. I’ve pasted a chapter of the bible into a text editor to increase the margins, color the verse numbers, and give some space between each verse.

Pros:

  • Best of Marginalia and Index Cards: Being able to mark up a piece of paper of the text or content you’re studying makes it easy to circle, highlight, or write on without worrying about the price.
  • Customizable: If you have your text digitally, you can change the margins, fonts, and color so you have a nice looking doc for your needs.

Cons:

  • Time Consuming: Anything with customization is going to take time. Like starting to play World of Warcraft vs. Mario. Choosing fonts, margins, or colors may take a bit to get right.
  • Requires Printer

5. Discbound

This sweet style of a notebook is the coolest thing I’ve seem in a while in the analog world of note-taking. It is hole punched system that allow you to move pages at will. I got a hole punch and I’ll print off my scanned page, punched them, and put them in a dicsbound notbook.

Pro:

  • Portable Modularity: Being able to rearrange pages without opening up the rings is a huge benefit it this type of binder.
  • Nice Accessories: This system can be complete with the many accessories that you can get with it.

Cons:

  • Set Up: The set up takes a bit to get right, while a notebook or index cards are easier to just grab and go when you purchase them.
  • Proprietary: The whole punch is expensive and it’s not a standard 3-hole punch you’d find laying around.

What I Use

When I’m out and about, I have a notebook wallet I’ll use if I have nothing else. Or I’ll just use my phone (which is not my favorite). Most of the time I’m using a dicsbound notebook. I have two sizes, the full letter page and half-letter size I picked up from Stables (Arc Notebook System). And I use this HP paper because it works with fountain pens.

My system for taking engagement notes is based on the discbound notebooks. I’ll have a post soon looking at my set up.

If you’re having trouble deciding, just grab some index cards and an carrier for them. They are the most flexible and they can be used for bookmarks and rulers.

To the Books

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