Anyone using an analogue daybook?

Over the years I’ve used an A5 daybook, a bullet journal and a reporters notebook to make daily notes. Having said that it’s never stuck long term.

I’m wanting to use a B6 moleskine as my everything book, apart from calendar and possibly tasks. But I’d like one place to make all notes.

Has anyone made this work long term?

Why would I want to do this? I simply enjoy pen and paper and the freeform format. I also think better away from a screen. I’m concerned about the overwhelm of data over a long period and finding stuff.

What do you think or want to be different to make it “stick” long term?

Because the amount of information increases.

Maybe not exactly what you mean but I have been using a filofax clipbook for almost a year now and it has become indispensable to me.

I use a daily journal section where I write my plans for the day, my appointments and track all new incomings ala bullet journal and use as a ‘tickler’.

I have a project section where I make notes on my open projects, the outstanding tasks and any updates, phone calls etc and a separate notes section for meetings, phone calls, training session notes etc.

If I need to make a note-to-self, look up the last update to a project, see what I’m doing next thursday or remind myself who has been assigned a task at last weeks meeting leafing through this is lightning fast compared to my organisations IT systems. If I worked on my own laptop maybe things would be different, but I often wait 30-60 seconds for an app to open on my work laptop.

A core difference perhaps from what you are aiming for is that I view the filofax as a ‘live’ book. I have 3 months worth of journal (previous/current/next) Only current projects are kept inside and notes are kept for 1 month or until their relevance has expired. I see it as always in a state of flow.

For archive I scan a month at a time to an OCR’d PDF and my Projects section and notes get scanned and stored in my work onedrive.

Ultimately I know I can’t archive easily in paper, but I see this as a good compromise; I organise my work life and thoughts in the filofax, and anything for other people or future reference lives on the work IT system.


I use analog all the time; a Write Pads Planner, third year for this, A5 notebooks for bullet journals when I’m working full time, and project management, Composition notebooks for drafts and notes.

The thing to be aware of with Moleskine is that the paper is not reliable with respect to quality. It’s usually fine for pencil or ball point, iffy for gel pens, terrible for fountain pens.

What do you use it terms of notebooks?

Do you have a method or do you follow Bullet Journal?

A variant of bullet journaling; daily planing of tasks, calendar scheduling, notes about what to do next, data and scheduling information, tracking reading and writing, due dates for deliverables.

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But does the value to you increase as volume increases? how to you expect to interact with the historical stuff? ad hoc? routinely? as required?

I learned that the old stuff in my “analogue” was in time not worth much even though I could not part with it. The half life of value was short. The only remembrance of the old stuff being valuable was looking at foreign travel dates needed for a tax return.

Think through how valuable your stuff is and what the “half-life” is. Whether analog or digital is a smaller issue.

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You make a good point. Ryder Carroll seems to make a similar point in the 8 min video below.

I think the thing I like which the video highlights is a single place for stuff to go where they can then be thought about and migrated elsewhere should they have value. It does mean you need a robust system for evaluating your data regularly. I think part of my frustration is having data in too many apps and logging things in different places. It’s easy to lose where you noted down a snippet of information you now need. Having one place where everything gets noted should at least allow you to find it again.

I’ve also been thinking about your comment on longevity of information and it’s half life. I suppose creating and maintaining a good index in a notebook, should mean you really only need to scan those index pages for reference in finding things, rather than the whole notebook.

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I wouldn’t bother making a “good index”, just me. But then again, by doing so it refreshes the mind on what seems important at the time the index made. That brain exercise could affect thinking/actions then and there, and that good. Clearly up to you. But for the same reason I don’t have a complex folder/group structure for filing stuff by this and that as I rely on the computer to search for stuff. Saves time filing and looking for stuff. And avoids messing with making a structure that does not fit the long term. A good process I discovered in the last century.

And why not scan everything? Disk space cheap now in the new century, I think.

PS: Information longevity is, I think, an important concept. Sort of along the lines of

Noise → First Draft (of History) → Knowledge in The Book (then recycle back to Noise

Scanning bound notebooks is not a trivial matter.

Good point. End of day so have a few pages? Use iPhone with a good scanning app (not photographs)? Or … just not bother (which is probably the best idea).

PS. For a while my “analogue” system was bound in a ring binder (A5 size). Easy to scan the pages, then pitch. The Time Mgmt “best practices” of the day was to use a ring binder so that other printed stuff could be inserted in place. Didn’t have the fancy branded bound notebooks we now have, but a ring binder provided a lot of flexibility.

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Are you trying to do a page per day, or as many as you need? That was a turning point for me - I stopped caring about how many pages it was, and I start a new day on a new page. It wastes some space, but it helps - with page a day, I’d be evaluating if something was worth writing down. I mainly find that it was the act of writing that helped put in memory, and I’ll pull out tasks at the end of the day. Having the day on a new page helps me flip back to my last meeting about a topic. I do a single collection in the back for 1:1s, because I like to have what we talked about last week right there in the meeting.

If you’re going from A5 to B6, I think single pages may be tough.

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Thanks for that. I’m not sure yet about how many pages, I’m currently ignoring pages and just writing what needs to be written, one entry after anther. I’m using my old A5 at the moment as I’m not fully convinced about the B6. I’m less likely to carry a B6 around.

Gotcha. When I saw datebook, I thought you might be thinking of the ones with the pre-printed date, like a Smythson diary

I use these Mnemosyne A5’s for note taking in meetings and daybooks. It is a simple thing to scan multiple pages with a scanner app on the iPhone then AirDrop the resulting image to a desktop computer, or into a Notability notebook on my iPad.



I rarely scan notes. I do scan drawings/mock-ups. I can keyboard what I need to keep very quickly, and it means I am able to edit and format/link notes.

I have never been able to make a notebook in any form work as a repository, and I say this as someone who 1) did graduate work when it was primarily an analog endeavor and 2) adores notebooks.

To indulge my notebook craving I always have one on my desk to use for capture and subsequent transfer to the appropriate repository. I use it as a tool in conjunction with my Daily Note, which is always up and open in Notebooks. Once it’s full and everything has been crossed off, either because it’s been moved to the right place or because it’s done, it goes into the recycling bin.

I use about six U.S. “Composition” notebooks a year; these are not items I keep. These are very affordable and hence disposable. I don’t feel bad about making a mess. I also use other notebooks for various purposes, though with COVID and spending most of my time taking care of mom, I don’t need them as much for daily log/bullet journaling, or project tracking.

I’m using one composition book for rough (very rough) translation notes; these are transcribed to a notebook I will keep as they become less rough, and then I put them in a digital document, with glosses and footnotes.

I think better in some ways with paper. And I like using it. I enjoy really good pencils, and I use fountain pens because I enjoy them, and because I can copy Medieval hands more easily (though I used to use special pencils).

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The best bit of business advice I was given circa 35 years ago was ‘get a day book. Put everything in it. Only have the one book’

99 percent of the time I don’t look at the notes more than once. However Having the contemporaneous notes of a meeting has saved my bacon on numerous occasions over the years.

I now use an A5 leuchteurm lined book. The paper takes real fountain pen ink well without bleeding. It is small enough to go into whatever bag I have my laptop in and big enough to last a few months.

At the start of each month I create a month index (a bit bullet journal like) one sheet takes one month with one line per day. I use a ruler and highlight 1/4 inch of the very edge of the page. Makes it easy to find the index page. Adjacent months are never the same colour.

I use as many pages as are necessary for a meeting.

Actions by others are markets with wf in a circle (waiting for) actions for me are an a in a circle. (Action)

Facing the index page i now have ‘tasks of the month’ - key things that I want to have front and centre visible when I update the index. Previous iterations have had Mileage and expenses

Each day I put the starting page number (the pages are printed with numbers) on the index, with a brief summary of where and what - just enough info to find the right day if I am looking for something.

Actions and waiting for items normally get tracked on other systems.

Occasionally I will write a list of tasks that he to be done that day in the book to get the dopamine hit when i cross them off.

Whatever systems you use today they will be slightly different this time next year. Iterate. Good enough is good enough.