An overly detailed guide to the notebook I use for basically everything

The other week, my art class groupchat was sending around Bestiefy quizzes (AKA #238 on the list of things to do when you’re bored), and I was like, there’s a website where I can make a quiz that I can then make my friends take? Awesome.

I didn’t really like their automatic questions, so I came up with my own. One of the questions I wrote was, which of these am I most likely to have with me? The choices were: book, notebook, waterbottle, and I don’t remember the fourth option. The right answer was notebook (which some of my friends disagreed with) because I take my notebook with me almost everywhere. It’s like part of my brain and heart and soul condensed into a single object.

I’ve always been slightly obsessed with notebooks, but I’ve also had a pretty long track record of not finishing notebooks. I would start using a notebook for one thing, but then it would become unnecessary. Or I would try a system I saw somebody else talk about (bullet journaling, carrying a tiny notebook everywhere and then transferring that stuff into another notebook), but it would be too complicated.

I was looking for an elusive combination of to-do list + space for random thoughts + things I want to keep track of + organized + maintainable. Finally, after quite a bit of trial and error (nearly as much as Edison), I’ve found a system that works for me.

In the past year, I’ve completely finished four notebooks and used them all in the same way with just a few tweaks here and there. (APPLAUSE, ENTHUSIASTIC APPLAUSE.) This post is overly detailed (emphasis needed) because this is the guide I wish I could send through some internet wormhole to my younger self.

The Notebook

I’ve always loved notebooks, but then I found out about Leuchtturms and kind of fell in love. Actually, really fell in love. Look at how many colors there are!

After I ordered the purple one I’m using right now, I sent three friends pictures of my past four notebooks and asked them to guess which color I chose next–and all three of them got it right!! I was utterly shocked, but apparently it was (and I quote) “kinda obvious.” Because I sort of did rainbow order? That observation never crossed my mind because first of all, it was completley accidental, and second of all, yellow goes before green, hello.

The Leuchtturm style I specifically use is the hardcover A5 with ruled paper. There’s four different types of paper: ruled, grid (they call it squared), dotted, and blank (plain).

The Pen

One Christmas, my sister got me a pack of Muji pens, and every since then, literally the only pens I use are all Muji. Since then I’ve managed to get some other people hooked on them too.

There’s only a few Muji stores in the US, so I normally get them on their website or on Amazon. The Muji website is sometimes stocked and sometimes less stocked, but unlike Amazon, you can buy individual colors on it. Amazon is good for packs and pen refills.

For my notebook, I almost only use black (in either .5 or .38, .7 is too thick for me and .25 is too skinny, but preferences). The exception is physics. When it comes to physics, sometimes you just need some colorful ink to make things better.

The Pen Loop

So I had the notebook and the pen, but therein hod a problem: every time I reached to write in my notebook, I also had to find a pen, and sometimes that meant having to upend my entire backpack–outrageous, right? It was unacceptable. I needed a magical tool that would connect the two together.

This was the first candidate I tried, and unfortunately, it was a fail. In the picture above, the one I had was like the one on the right. Because the direction of the loop was in the same direction as the clip, I had to put it at the top edge of my notebook.

I think this type of clip was made for notebooks with thinner covers, which is not among the Leuchtturm’s various qualities. Just pushing the pen through the elastic band made it slide partway off.

Finally, the pen loop decided it had endured enough jostling and decided to escape. It was successful in this endeavor, and I was sad. But it’s okay because you know what they say: there’s a lot of other pen loops in the seationary. So my quest to find the magical tool continued.

Then it was brought to my attention (probably as I was surfing the Leuchtturm website) that they sell pen loops of their own! And look, they have the same color options for the loops as they do for the notebooks. Waaaait, that means I could color coordinate the two. I could match, and I could also mix and match. The possibilities.

And then I realized each of them was five dollars. Sorry dreams of complementary color schemes, maybe another day. It’s not you, it’s me. Bad news: the search continued. Good news: I was so close to finding the one.

And this is it! My magical tool. If you have prime, each one comes down to around seventy cents. What I don’t understand is why I’ve never seen somebody else use one of these. They’re amazing. They should be commonplace. (I know some of my friends are going to read that sentence and be like, um sure.)

The only note I have to make about these loops is that for the Muji pens, it’s difficult to slide them through while they’re capped, so I put the pen in first and then cap it. If anyone wants to challenge me to an inserting-pen-into-pen-loop speed competition, I’m up for it.

The Inside Cover

This part is an anything goes world. Sometimes I write a lot of words on the inside cover, and sometimes I don’t write any. Sometimes I fill out the “Please Return To” section (not visible above, but it’s on the right side), and sometimes I don’t. For the purple notebook I’m currently using, I’ve done the second but not the first.

The Calendar

For each month, I print out these floral calendars made by the website A Piece of Rainbow. A warning: this website uses a lot of bandwidth. Okay, I don’t 99% know if “bandwidth” is the right word for what I’m thinking of because my only idea of its definition is from context clues, but basically, if I keep the website open for too long, I get a notification on my computer saying it’s “using significant energy” and I should close it. In other words, it takes a while for me to actually get to the PDF because it’s slow.

Sometimes I write things on the calendar, and sometimes I don’t. It’s another anything goes world. For April, I wrote down birthdays and a day when I was expecting news.

The Monthly and Weekly Pages

This is the most bullet-journal-esque part.

After the calendar, I have a page for the month. For this April, I have nothing except for the backlist movie I’m watching this month, but usually I have written down other plans for the month.

(Detour: I also scribbed down some things for May I want to remember–like how the NFL schedule for next season comes out on May 9! Don’t know how games are going to work now, but I’m really hoping the 49ers still come to Dallas for a pre-season game. Actually, if they don’t allow spectators, I think I would rather them not come at all. So close yet so far.)

After the monthly page, I have weekly pages. That’s where I write my to-do lists.

The Notebook Notebook Part

On the right is a beautiful template of what I do: date, skip a line, the subject or topic of whatever the page is for, skip a line, and then words. On the left is an example of this: it’s thoughts I scribbled down for this post. (Does this count as being meta? I think this is my first time being meta in a blog post.)

I use a new page for every new subject, so sometimes (as shown above), I don’t even use half the page. This by far is not the most economical way to use a notebook, but what it lacks in thriftyness is made up for me in organization.

The Bookmarks

The Leuchtturms come with two bookmarks: one striped, one solid. I put the striped one at my weekly page and the solid one at wherever I actually am in the notebook.

The Lists in the Back

These lists are things I want to keep together in one place instead of scattered throughout the notebook, so I just put them all in the back. Right now I have ten categories, which sounds like more than it feels like in my head. Some of these might make zero sense from the names I’ve given them, so I’ll try to explain.

Memories: Your typical diary except I just do phrases.
Ideas: As in ideas that can be executed in tangible ways, not as in the Enlightenment.
Doorknobs: I don’t really know how to explain this, so I’ll give an imaginary example. If I ran for president, I would put “announced candidacy” (or however it works) as my first point, and then as things progress, I would add “first debate” or “ended candidacy” or whatever.
Wrinkles: Kind of like a repeat Memories list, but for things that made me impatient, angry, sad, annoyed, frustrated.
Connections/Throughlines: For example, I remember we read this famous poem called Rime of the Ancient Mariner in English class, and then I kept seeing the metaphor or the “albatross” being referenced in different things I read.
Learned (About Everything Else): Random, interesting facts. For example, NASA’s PDF of its acronym dictionary is 260 pages.
Learned (About Myself): Things I learned about myself.
Good (Encouragement): Nice words that people say to me.
Good (Funny, Happy): Another repeat Memories list, but specifically for things that made me laugh or really happy.
Praying & See God: I do bullet points for prayers and stars for (the usually very mundane) ways in which I see God’s everywhereness.

For this notebook, I allotted half pages for all of them except Praying & Seeing God and Memories. I did one page for Praying & See God and fifteen pages for Memories. Usually I’m terrible at consistently making entries for all of them except Memories, but with the lesiureness that Social Distancing has created, it’s been easier.

The Index

Wait, oh my goodness, I completely forgot to mention this very important fact: these pages of these notebooks are numbered. I know right?? The combination of the numbered pages + the index at the front is probably the main reason I love Leuctturms.

(Another reason I love them is the pocket at the back. Sometimes I put money in it as a makeshift-wallet, and every time I feel cool at the register being like yeah, I bet you never would’ve guessed that this is where I keep my money, hm? Go ahead, be jealous.)

This is how I do my indexing. After I finish a notebook, I go back through. Some pages are scratch pages (like all the dozens of pages I’ve used for physics homework), and some pages are ones I want to keep track of.

For those in the second category, I highlight the SUBJECT line of the page in either purple or blue. Purple is more for personal journals/thoughts/feelings and blue is more for lists/notes. Hypothetically if I do this, I won’t have to flip through every page of several notebooks if I want to go back and find something.

The Sticker

It’s the finishing touch. The notebook comes with a page of different labels. I use the spine one. At the top I write which number notebook it is, the year, the months I used it for, and which school year it was during.

And now this guide is finally over.

Do you have a notebook that you use for basically everything
What brand of pens do you use?
What do you wish your younger self had an overly detailed guide to?

19 thoughts on “An overly detailed guide to the notebook I use for basically everything”

  1. This post is AMAZING. So comprehensive. You may have written it with the intent of offering advice to past Annie, but present Olivia was very inspired by it. :))
    I think I’ve discovered am I not someone who can keep an organized journal of sorts, no matter how much I try. I think I’m always going to be a sporadic journaler, with multiple attempts and half-completed journals- but it’s okay. However, I love reading about other people’s methods, so this was super interesting to me!
    I actually smiled so hard while I was reading the part about you finding the pen loop, it was so funny. The color coordination part- yes, I can relate so much. Not with pen loops and journals, necessarily, but just with the idea that color coordination can and should be a part of daily life, and the discovery of color coordination is cause for celebration. :)) It’s unfortunate that they were so expensive, but hey, THE 10 PACK. I agree that these pen loops should be commonplace. I’ve never even thought about using one before and that just proves their lack of commonplace-ness and the necessity for them to be commonplace.
    Haha, I loved the part where you demonstrated how you would set up a page and showed your handwriting slowly evolving based on your mood, because I can absolutely relate to that. Some of my notes are beautiful, some are nearing chicken scratch.
    The fact that you pull money out of your journal at registers is one of the best things I have ever heard. That is truly amazing, as is this whole post!
    As for pens, I have heard you talk about Muji pens enough that I feel like I should have ordered some by now. I mostly use flair pens or random pens from my dentist’s office, but I should invest in some pens that I know will get the job done. A quarantine activity, maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh THANK YOU.
      Ooh, sporadic journaling. There’s something nice about those two words next to each other. What do you journal about when you do?
      Bahaha, I think I was feeling kind of goofy when I was writing that part. Pen loops are so useful. They were actually in this recommendation email I’m subscribed to recently, and I was like, nicee. But I think theirs was a pack of five, and I was like nooo, you missed out on the pack of 10. Okay a color coordination story: my first notebook was the bright green one, and a friend at school got these green nails, and they were literally the SAME EXACT SHADE. I took a picture. It was exciting.
      My handwriting is usually so terrible in my notebook unless I’m trying to take notes for something. So actually most of it is stage three messiness. Sometimes I can’t even read my own handwriting easily.
      AHH thank you for appreciating the amazingness of it!!!! Hahaha, that feels so good.
      Ohh yes! One of my friends texting #mujigang when we were talking about it, and you should definitely join as well. Hahahah, random pens from the dentist, that is so funny. I actually have one blue bic pen that was given to me by an employee at a pizza-ish store while traveling. The crazy thing is I’ve had it for weeks and it’s been uncapped this entire time, but it still hasn’t run out of ink. Before getting this pen I was snobby towards bic pens, but I actually really like the color of the blue. What else would be on this hypothetical quarantine activity list?? If you’re interested in doing another summer bucket list this year, maybe we can do a slight spin on it…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, I quite agree, they just sound right together. When I do journal, I usually am journaling about what happened to me that day- the longest spurt of journaling I ever did was journaling almost every day from January to July of I believe 2017, and when I look back at that, I just wrote a page every day about what happened in life and how I was feeling about it. It’s pretty interesting to revisit what was going on for me at the time!
        That color coordination story is everything! I would most definitely also take a picture. A clear necessity for the situation.
        Haha, that’s so funny! Wow, I didn’t know the power of bic pens until this very moment. The fact that it still hasn’t run out of ink is beyond impressive?? Hmm, quarantine activity list could include a variety of things- reviving journaling, maybe? Rereading old favorites. Perhaps getting back to that goal of watching the Marvel movies. (Though I need Disney plus for this to occur.) Ohh, we should do another collab about bucket list/quarantine list! I’m in.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Whoaaa, that’s a long time. I think knowing that I’ll be able to look back on what I’ve journaled is one of the best parts about it. I know! Have you seen those one sentence a day journals?
          Yes, it’s still uncapped and still working. I don’t really understand. Seems like magic to me. Oohh, I love this list already. Black Widow is supposed to come out in May, but if they only release it on Disney plus, I might need to get it–or force a friend to share with me. Would the beginning of June work for you??

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes! I actually have one of those and it’s been sitting on my bedside table for like two-three years. I think since I was a freshman because my mom got it for me so I could do it during high school, but sadly I didn’t. Maybe I should pick it up now??
            Oh, cool! I actually just got Disney plus because my parents caved due to quarantine. XD I think we are watching a Marvel movie tonight!
            Yes! Okay, I’m gonna email you about this. :))

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ahaha, I got my mom one for Christmas I think a few years back, and it’s been sitting in her room as well. Yes, that would be cool!
              Ahh, did you guys end up watching a Marvel movie?? Also, did you hear that Hamilton’s going to be released onto it? You must have!

              Liked by 1 person

              1. We didn’t, sadly! We couldn’t get Disney Plus to connect to our TV, haha. Hopefully we can figure that out soon.
                I SAW THAT. I’m so excited for that!! Before it was supposed to come out in October 2021 so this is a huge improvement.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh thanks for sharing how you use your notebook! I have a notebook which is basically a bullet journal and it’s a leuchtturm a5 hardcover dotted, I mostly write in it with sakura pigment liners of various sizes, but also use things like crayola super tips and brush pens for headers. I do monthly and weekly spreads plus some things at the front that are for the entire year. You have such an interesting range of things at the back of your notebooks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, you’re welcome! No way, what color is your Leuchtturm?? Okay, I’ve tried dotted paper at one point before but I just couldn’t get the feel for it. Are sakura pigment liners the same thing as Micron pens? For some reason, that’s what came up when I searched. Your headers must be so bright and pretty :)) Where do you get the most inspiration for your spreads? Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. my one is silver (anniversary edition) the other one I have which I used from 2018-2019 is copper 🙂 and that’s fair enough, dotted paper is really nice for bullet journals in that you can do a lot of dot counting and stuff for layouts which I really like but if my primary use for a notebook was to write then I wouldn’t want dotted paper, on another note grid paper seems pretty cool too. And yes they are, so I think it’s kinda similar to the Muji pens just a different brand? I’m actually not too bothered about making things super pretty in that I’m not that artsy but I just have fun with it, I mostly think about what I have on each month for a theme (like this year, Jan = green, leaves because fresh start, Feb = backpack/pens/etc, lavender because back to school,March = autumn leaves, orange because start of the season, April = houses, purple because of lockdown and stuff, May = [yet to decide theme] green because emerald and my birth month. But I do go on youtube and look at studyquill/amanda rach lee sometimes for inspo!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ohh, those sound so pretty. Do they come out with a different metallic sort of color each year? Also, I’ve seen on Amazon they have these super pretty pastel colors that I haven’t seen on the website anywhere. Okay, that makes sense. Yes, for me when I’m writing a lot on grid paper, I get slightly confused. Oh, that’s cool–haha, I literally was just reminded by the different season when responding on email, but here I am once again a little startled to remember that March is not spring all over the world. I love the colors you associate with different things–is there a reason for purple with lockdown? Oh, when’s your birthday?? I have two good friends with birthdays next month.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It was just for their 100th anniversary I believe, for 2017, so there’s gold copper silver. And ooh okay I haven’t seen pastel ones before! My birthday is May 1 🙂 and haha no reason for purple with lockdown, just felt like purple I guess!

            Liked by 1 person

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