Everything Notebook

One notebook to rule them all. Keeping EVERYTHING in one notebook.

It’s worth nothing that he, like me, is working as an individual academic and has relatively straightforward task management requirements. However, while his system is (mostly) analogue (which I think has much merit), it does give me pause for reflection about digital too. How many apps do we need?


With this I agree. I have taken a minimalist approach to the number of apps I use. But, I would not want to rely on an analog system. I have many reasons but one is all I need–if I misplaced my notebook or it was somehow destroyed, all of my research and project notes, todo’s and more would be lost and I’d have to start over. That is not something I’d want to risk. Not withstanding some of the downsides, a significant advantage of digital is that if one is backing up the data and using cloud services, it is extremely unlikely that one could lose important data.


I wouldn’t keep my notes on paper for 2 reasons:

  1. secrecy - Many notes I make are not for public consumption
  2. availability / redundancy - I don’t want to lose my notes.
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I don’t keep notes on paper for the above reasons and

  1. My handwriting is atrocious.

A valid concern, and one reason I’m still primarily digital. I do know, however, that many analogue system users scan their notebook at the end of each day so there is a permanent backup.

This is certainly a valid concern, and I’m not sure I can think of a way around that…

Except that my handwriting is so bad it can be hard for me to decipher, never mind anyone else :slight_smile:

It could be that there is a digital equivalent - using a single note taking app for everything, rather than information being dotted over several apps. There’s then no decisions where to put things or where to find them. Rather than stapling in notes taken elsewhere, just scan them.

Maybe it’s OneNote/Evernote again!

They are both still perfectly valid for that.


Interesting idea. I’m heavily analog these days. Just like apps like OmniFocus, the deeper you go, the more complex your system can become. I have separate notebooks for various needs, such as a diary, art reflection notebook (I create art and like to reflect on why I made the decisions I made) memory keeping notebook, bullet journal, work reflections, and commonplace book.

I needed a break from digital systems, though I still heavily rely on them for my day-to-day activities. Maybe it’s the way I’m wired…I need pen and paper to slow down and recognize what I need to do. But life would be hell without Google Calendar, Fantastical, and Day One.

When I complete an entry, I scan it into Day One and then create an Obsidian entry to find connections between one diary entry and another. I guess you could call it my own personal zettlekasten.

I like the minimalist approach but this wouldn’t fit my needs.


I bought a Rocket book which sort of overlaps analog and digital. I am not sure how it works though. I scanned some notes and cannot find them. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to select an icon. At any rate, I have a page I scanned that went into my Photos app but how do I go about searching?

It’s a perfectly acceptable solution. When I was working for a Fortune 50 company in the 90’s we used Franklin Planners. A leather binder that held forms for your contacts, calendars, task list, and notes, etc. And at the end of each day I would copy relevant info from today’s pages to tomorrows.

They are still around which says something about their usefulness. I still use mine on those occasions when a laptop or iPad would be inappropriate, but now it contains plain paper.

Franklin Planner | Day Planners > Planner Refill > Calendar > Notebook > Bag > Pen


Really interesting to hear about your system - thanks for sharing. I’ve worked with IT systems for 30 years, and feel a break is in order as I transition to a new role. Slowing down and using pen and paper reduces raw efficiency, but seems to make me more thoughtful and puts me in a completely different, more reflective mindset.

I tried iPad as a substitute this morning but I’m not convinced it’s as good an experience as analogue notebooks. Overall, I’m keen to detox and simplify my digital life. But, like you, I don’t think I could imagine life without, in my case, Apple Calendar and Reminders. I’m not sure I have any need to manage my to do list or calendar on paper, although apps like Task Paper seem delightfully minimalist. I use Ulysses for longer writing and EagleFiler as my all purpose store. That’s unlikely to change.

It would be nice if EF (or DevonThink) gave each item an easy to reproduce reference number which was searchable as it would allow me to reference the digital item in analogue. Unfortunately bHqggXgySUCgpEPil0SOiQ is not the easiest ID to write out in a hurry! My analogue system has built in references - e.g. NB1/5 is Notebook 1, page 5.


If the native-internal reference does not work, why not giving the containing folder or the file itself a mnemotecnic code a la Johnny Decimal?

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When I went to college, I actually didn’t have a computer, I used computers in the computer lab, so almost all of my note taking was analog. Now all of those notes are gone. I wish I still had some of them, but as several people have pointed out, analog is really tough to preserve over time. This is a big reason I’m using Markdown and plain text files, they should withstand the march of time and be readable by whatever computing device I’m using 20 years from now.

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This digital vs analog frontier could have become blurred with the years. I happen to have quite a few boxes of floppy disks. Content was digital, the media is probably useless these days. I took the effort to preserve my CD-ROMs but these floppies are a lost cause just like my college notes from the same era (in this case the paper media is still there).

So the TLDR here is: digital is convenient, but preserving it can become an analog matter beyond the concern whether you have software to read the file formats: are those old spinning 40 GB disks still working? do you have an interface for them in your shiny new computer?. The answer for me is using iCloud Drive but again I could easily lose access to that stuff, and what happens if I die and then I say to myself that I am overthinking about storing stuff that I will probably not need for the rest of my life.


You make a good point, although - if you’re willing to spend the time - scanning analogue notes as a backup to PDF is now very easy using just a phone in a way that was impossible when I went to university first time around. Like @pantulis I do still have (some of) my paper notes from 30 years ago also a few floppy disks for an operating system that no longer exists.

Your note on selection of app a good reminder, and Markdown seems like a good choice. I stored (recently) all my undergrad notes in OneNote. It’s a perfectly capable system… but it’s not easy to (easily) save them into my professional Office365 account due to a combination of organisational restrictions on sharing and my use of a Mac. I may have to find a Windows machine, and even then I don’t know if it will be possible!

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I loved my Franklin Planner back in the day! And then I got a Handspring Visor PDA and loved that, too.


You should change that if to when. I figure when I die, no one will care about my stuff and it can go in the trash.

Uhm, yes, I do not intend to be immortal. But then I feel I do not want to derail this thread more towards backup concerns :stuck_out_tongue:

Back on track to Notebooks and tools, my boss swears by his reMarkable and he’s an all-in Apple guy, saying that he likes that it does not really integrate much with anything. So it’s basically analog in an e-ink device.


Paper is actually pretty hardy and my notebooks have outlasted every form of media I have used so far. I also think my notebook is more secure than anything that is in the cloud. In an interesting article Partick Maclean makes the following statement:

Sure paper is perishable. But it is predictably perishable. Data turns to noise in all kinds of unpredictable ways. Like hard drive crashes. And if an IT person tells you that there is a way to archive a digital file, not touch it for 500 years, and guarantee that it will remain usable—that person is lying to you. If you think I’m wrong, I’ll email you some WordStar and AppleWorks documents just as soon as I can figure out how to get them off my five and a quarter inch floppies.

But I can go the National Archives right now and read a copy of the Magna Carta that was handwritten 793 years ago. No format or version issues here. (It’s fitting for this essay that Magna Carta literally means “Great Paper”.)

I like digital and analogue. It’s important to strike a good balance which this article does.


That’s a great article - thanks for sharing. The emphasis on reviewing notes is helpful. We all have to come up with a system that works for us, rather than the current greatest thing, but I think I’ll take a lot from that article.

The linked Tim Ferris article was interesting too… Not least that he’s a keen analogue note taker, but also his idiosyncratic, and therefore individual, note taking style. I’m stealing his page numbering idea. Clever!

I don’t use digital notetaking tools. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve noticed that some of the most innovative techies in Silicon Valley do the same, whether with day-planner calendars, memo pads, or just simple notecards with a binder clip. It’s a personal choice, and I like paper. It can be lost, but it can’t be deleted, and I find it faster.


Many thanks for the link. I really liked the idea of different notebooks for different things. I’ve always tried to have just one notebook. Now that he’s said it, it seems obvious!