What do you do when an idea strikes?
Somewhere in the midst of sipping your mint-chocalate-spiced-mocha latte at Starbucks inspiration has arrived. You have 15 seconds before you lose the idea. What do you do?
If this were the 19th century the answer would be obvious. You’d pull out your personal quill, take out your own notebook, and you would write it down.
Easy. Effective. Back to your 1818 blend.
Two centuries later, the answer also appears to be quite easy. You take out your cell phone, click open your notes app, and simply type in the thought.
Easy. Effective. Back to your double macchiato.
Using your phone seems so obvious, that many of us are confused when people still use old fashioned notebooks. We don’t use quills, and we don’t frequent the pony express, and yet a substantial minority still write with small leather books.
So what makes these people use a notebook? And, more importantly, why should you? Though it’s counterintuitive that a notebook is better than a palm-sized version of all human knowledge. Adding this simple tool can make you more productive, happier, and extremely more intelligent.
Duly Noted: 9 reasons YOU should carry a pocket notebook
1. You can use it while talking to other people
Have you ever had a brilliant idea while talking with another person? If so, you might understand the painful decision you have to make: do I take out my phone and look like I’m texting? Or do I simply try to remember the idea?
Cellphones are incredible because they have so many uses. They connect us to others, help us search information, and let us play games in our free time. Yet, because cellphones are multi-featured, we often confuse what other people are doing on them. When you see someone on his/her phone, you might think they are texting, on Facebook, or playing a game. However, if you see someone pull out a small notebook, you’ll probably think one thing: they are writing down a thought.
Notebooks are incredible because they have one feature: recording information. As a result, you can use them at any time: coffee chat, club meeting, or when speaking to your boss. In its simplicity, a notebook is often more versatile than a cell phone..
2. You will never be distracted when using your notebook.
Have you ever turned on your cellphone to do something and seen a notification? What did you do afterwards? Did you continue with your original intention or did you deal with the new alert?
Wait, what was the intention of that paragraph?
Dammit. There I go again.
Using your cellphone to record ideas is dangerous because there are so many opportunities to be distracted. Even if you don’t have any notifications, the presence of different applications bears a toll on your self-control.
A notebook, in its simplicity, almost never causes distractions. So, when writing an idea you have the mental space to develop it. The opportunity to focus on one task is increasingly rare. If you use a notebook, you can preserve mental focus while recording your ideas.
3. Writing with pen and paper improves your retention
A study by researchers at UCLA showed that taking notes electronically is detrimental for long-term learning. Even when the researchers removed distractions (such as Facebook, online games, etc.), the students who took notes on pen and paper retained information for longer. The reason, as the researchers explained, is that students use fewer words to describe what they’ve learned. The act of summarizing thoughts is a more complex mental process than writing something verbatim. Using a notebook to record ideas forces you to simplify and consolidate complicated thoughts. In doing so, you begin the process of remembering them longer. For an overview of the research, please click here.
4. It is the best medium for reflection
A cellphone is a bustling city: fast, fun, and filled with connections. A notebook, on the other hand, is a private meadow: quiet, alone, and simply yours. When we need to do deep thinking, we often leave our places of busyness to find a location of solidarity. Some climb trees, some walk trails, and others lose themselves in a swim. Think of your notebook as a portable version of that solidarity. There are no distractions and no way for others to intrude. It is simply you, a piece of paper, and a pen.
5. You Can Ditch The Wallet
Want to replace your wallet? Use a pocket-sized notebook. Though this does depend on the specific brand, any notebook with a small pouch can hold cards, money, or random loose leaf paper. Even better, your wallet will now have a couple hundred pages to write on. If you’re concerned a notebook will make your pants bulky, this is a great way to keep your pockets slim.
6. You can easily make your physical notes digital
This past year, a number of companies have come out with applications that scan in and organize written notes. Evernote, for example, has an app that allows you to scan in notes into a digital format (currently available for iphone). With the application, you can search for words, share your work, or do anything you could with electronic notes. However, since you are using a written notebook, you can maintain the benefits of longer retention and minimal distractions.
7. Provides scratch paper for instant drawing
One of the benefits of carrying a small notebook is simply having paper. . If you want to doodle, sketch something out, or write something down, you always have opportunity. For those who are more visual learners, this is great. Because we mostly take notes on our laptops, many of us lack physical paper to use. If you enjoy visualizing your work, having a small notebook is a great help.
8. You can pimp it out
Is this the main reason you should use a pocket notebook? Probably not. But is it fun? Definitely. Some of the best notebooks I’ve seen have included an old atlas, original artwork,or a notebook you can write in the rain.
When telling your girlfriend “I’M A WOLF” just isn’t enough.
(photocredits: Steel Bison Artwork)
9. Anything you write appears vastly more intellectual
You’ve seen us. Penning away at our leather-bound notebooks. We’re not trying to be excessively thoughtful. But we are. We’re also all freemasons.
We’re all freemasons.
In conclusion, there are downsides to using a notebook. It is significantly more expensive than using your cellphone. As well, it is not as easy to share your ideas or save them long-term. But, before you can save or share any idea, you need to create it. A small notebook gives you the mental and social space to do just that.
So here’s my promise: if you want to take a risk and try using a pocket-sized notebook. Tweet me at @stephenturban and I’ll buy you your first.