Reader Question 6: Help, I'm writing in five notebooks daily, how do I pare down?

“Over the course of this year I have somehow accumulated five notebooks I’m writing in daily. How did this happen? And how do I pare down?”

The idea that we need One Notebook (or at least Fewer Notebooks) to Rule It All is a tempting one.

This reader went on to elaborate that she’s got notebooks for:

  • a daily log of things she has done
  • a work planner
  • a pocket notebook she carries with her at all times – what I would call a capture notebook
  • a morning pages journaling notebook
  • a shorter format journaling notebook as a gratitude journal

This reader is organizing her thoughts around many different kinds of things!

There are reasons why people end up using multiple notebooks to organize themselves, and reflect on their lives.

These are the same reasons people end up using multiple apps to organize themselves and reflect on their lives.

Let’s say you’ve gone all digital, no paper.

Let’s use our imaginations ✨🌈✨and pretend this was a question about apps. How might somebody pare down the number of apps they were using?

Let’s say you still want to record, remind, reflect, and track the following kinds of information for yourself:

  • you want to log the work you’ve done during the day
  • you want to track your habits
  • you want to keep a calendar
  • you want to record and track your projects and tasks
  • you want to keep a journal that allows you to write a lot
  • you also want to keep a journal that is formatted for you to write brief entries on a focused theme

How many apps would you need to do all that?

And if you’re saying, “Just one,” and you’re talking about Notion or Obsidian, I want to push back a little.

Notion and Obsidian and their counterparts are not simple apps. They offer multiple layouts, multiple ways to organize information for yourself.

They combine the functionality of several apps bundled into one: tables, checklists, text editors, calendars, kanban boards, habit trackers… etc. etc.

It comes down to layouts, to different needs for organizing information.

This is why most people don’t do everything in plain text files.

I suppose you could keep a calendar or budget of some kind with plain text files; but for most of us it’s much simpler to keep a separate digital calendar, and use a spreadsheet or a budgeting app for the money stuff.

Here’s something else about apps: most people, certainly me and maybe you, want them to appeal to you aesthetically, and to be easy to use, and quick to access (is it on your phone, or a laptop? Does it sync between your devices?).

It’s the same thing with notebooks. All of these considerations are true for paper notebooks, as well as digital apps.

If you use paper to organize yourself, you might have several different notebooks.

People choose notebooks for their layouts, for their appealing aesthetic qualities that make them fun to write in, for portability, and for all kinds of other considerations. Just like choosing apps.

And notice how a classic bullet journal relies on the user creating multiple layouts. If you don’t want to handwrite or draw a calendar every month, you might end up with a separate paper planner notebook. Also, I don’t know anyone who keeps a bullet journal who also uses that same notebook for longform daily writing like morning pages.

You are sorting different kinds of thoughts out for yourself from all of these notebooks. You are making plans. You are making records of your activities. You are making sense of your life through writing down your reflections.

So you might be able to pare down; but you might also want to consider, if you were to convert all of this important and valuable thinking you’re currently doing for yourself on paper, to a digital environment, how many apps would you need?

How many apps would you need, to continue capturing your thoughts on the go, to continue keeping multiple (and very different) journals, to continue keeping a calendar and tracking your tasks and projects, to continue keeping a log of your work?

Probably more than one app to do all that, right?

I just now counted up the notebooks I write in daily: right now, it’s eight. EIGHT!!

And there is nothing wrong with that.

Copy and share – the link is here. Never miss a post from the Analog Office! Subscribe here to get blog posts via email.

Wondering how to manage your paper-based or hybrid paper-digital systems? Ask me a question.

Written on
© 2024 Anna Havron. All rights reserved. Website hosted by