Skip to content

Uses for Notebooks

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

I love notebooks, but I often have to justify getting so many while filling up so few. So, I’m keeping this ever-updating list of uses for notebooks to return to whenever I feel the need to put these works of office art to good use:

  1. Mind maps. I’m a mind mapping nut. Lately, whenever I have a nagging question in my life (which can be several times a day), I write out the question on a page and mind map the bejesus out of it until solutions appear. Solutions ALWAYS appear. The key is asking the right question. Which is probably also the key to life.
  2. Free writing. This goes by many names (AKA morning pages) but the idea is to set an alarm (for 20 minutes or so) and free write anything that pops into your head. The pen doesn’t stop moving until the alarm sounds. You’ll be amazed what was floating around in your head. I’ve harvested several useful ideas this way. Refer to The Accidental Genius for a deep dive into this technique.
  3. Pros/Cons. The age-old method of decision making still works. Draw a line down the center and debate yourself. Just be honest. If you’re not totally honest with yourself, this method can be a crutch for confirmation bias.
  4. Distraction-free writing. No minimalist app will save you from the distractions inherent in your devices. Paper does that well, as long as you can find a place to write that doesn’t have its own nagging distractions.
  5. The Foolscap Method. I’ve yet to try this method for conjuring an entire novel or movie outline on a single page, but if Steven Pressfield says it works, it probably does. He doesn’t mess around. He delivers.
  6. Sketchnoting. I’m horrible at drawing. I’ve always relied on words to paint pictures for readers. But I am trying to sketchnote. And I’m filling notebooks with my cringe-worthy practice sessions. I’m horrible at it, but it has enough disciples and enough science behind it to warrant an effort.
  7. Try out new pens and pencils. This is just fun. If you write as much as I do, having a great pen takes a huge amount of friction out of the process.
  8. Job interviews. I haven’t had a job interview in many years. If I ever have one again, I’ll bring a notebook to remind myself that I’m there to interview them as much as they’re interviewing me. I wish I’d thought of that in my 20s.

Help me add to the list!

Update: The Well-Appointed Desk: 13 Things to Do with All Those Blank Notebooks