Organizing Your Life: The Notebook Hunt

woman on bench with notebook

The search for the perfect notebook plagues every writer, artist, and creative. It’s been my personal struggle for years, and each summer and winter I wander through the aisles of notebooks and paper supplies and look for a new solution to the notebook conundrum.

This summer I’ve been working on a few projects that require a variety of notebook sections, but I don’t want to carry around a dozen notebooks to work on projects as I see fit. My standard go-to solution would be a Filofax planner, but a series of complications has me unable to use my Filofax. I wanted something that would be sturdy, versatile, and flexible enough for a variety of uses, but also look good.

Inside-Out Circa by Levenger

I first thought I would try the Circa by Levenger. I’ve used the Circa notebooks previously, but I had only used the Starter Kit. If I was going to use this system, I wanted something attractive AND funcional. Being cost-conscious and also vegetarian, I also didn’t want something leather. I was happy to find the Inside-Out Notebook, a vegan-friendly notebook with reversible covers. In the largest size (9″x12″), it came in a beautiful packaging with a labelled box and a chamois case to protect the material.

The only major downside to this notebook is its size in relation to carrying it around with me. So I thought I would try a second option, for easy travel in my bicycling bag. I wanted the same versatility as the Circa, but something a little more cost-effective.

Arc Notebook from Staples

Significantly more affordable, but with less diversity in the paper and accessories available, the M by Staples Arc Notebook Series is an alternative to the Circa series. I chose to get a smaller notebook with a poly cover so that I could carry it in my bike bag without it being cumbersome. Inside I’ve got a monthly calendar, pages for notes on my various projects, and some zipped pockets for carrying ephemera.

The benefit to these notebook systems is their versatility: either can be arranged and combined in a variety of ways to meet the needs and demands of my changing workload. Even better, the two systems use a nearly-identical ring and hole-punch system, so components from one will fit into the other, allowing for a greater diversity of combinations.

Unfortunately, neither one is perfect. In fact, I find myself wishing for some other, hybrid version of the two with a ring system (like the Filofax) for my project needs. The benefit of these two systems is that I can re-arrange the pages, tabs, and dividers in any fashion. Project notes from one section can easily be removed for copying or scanning, and added back into the notebook with ease. I can purchase filler paper for my Circa notebook from the Arc line, and vice-versa.

How do you create the perfect notebook?

I’m still working on finding a workflow that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. I’ve got my projects in various places, and right now I know where everything is, but I’m still discovering what my business and personal needs for a notebook system are. I’d love to hear what you use, and how you discovered the best system for you.

10 thoughts on “Organizing Your Life: The Notebook Hunt

  1. I was cracking up as I was reading this because I too am a notebook junkie! I’ve been obsessed with Circa for 10+ years and was thrilled when staples introduced their version, and even more stoked when Martha introduced hers! The queen of organizing + my favorite product – YOU”VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! It was great! Thanks for sharing your love for the notebooks! I now feel like I’m part of a special group instead of off on a distant island! :)

    1. Nice. I’m currently battling a love affair with Field Notes. I won’t allow myself to buy them, but between those and Moleskines (in conjunction with all my interchangeable notebooks) I am never without a notebook (or ten) in my purse. The Red Horseshoe ones look great — I love the Palmistry one!

  2. Oh it’s good to hear from someone else who’s always looking for the right system. I’m a notebook person, too. I like to document everything, or as much as I can. I usually go to WalMart to get my books. Don’t spend a lot of money on them. I always have one on me for household things, grocery lists, doctor reminders, gas, pick up this and that, whatever I need to do for a particular day. It’s kind of like a diary, not detailed by any means but more of a highlight of the day’s activities and events. For my business, I keep a notebook at my computer to keep track of sales and details of a transaction, websites or blogs I want to follow, things I see that I want to buy for the business such as fabric, events to attend, anything that interests me. I have other business notebooks with vendor info, standard verbage I use for my shop, prices, places I purchase things from, etc. I have a medical notebook whenever my husband enters the hospital and I write down everything that occurs while he is there, conversations with doctors, nurses, medication, progress, again whatever will help me remember what takes place. It’s difficult to remember what happens and writing events down helps. I have more notebooks but I’m going to stop here. Hope this helps. My suggestion is to keep a small one in your purse.

    1. We have so MANY notebooks in our house, one for each of the important things. I normally take notes from medical appointments on my phone, but it might be time to dedicate a notebook to those adventures too. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. I’m a notebook junkie too!! And I love the Arc series from Staples. I’ve tried Filofax but it doesn’t work for me in the same way as the Arcs.

    I have a whole range of notebooks. A4 for my annual planning. A couple of A5s for client work, meeting notes and, most recently, the new A6 that I have as a handbag notebook for my ad hoc notes, to do list, things to remember.

    I’ve just got a leather A5 notebook as well with the new week planner pages that I’m using more as a diary and work planner. It has all my to do lists as well and ideas for projects, blog posts etc.

    I have the hole punch as well so I print lots of documents in A5 size or use my own blank paper.

    I love being able to pull out the pages and rearrange things which I’ve done several times as my planning strategy has evolved. I’ve converted several of my clients to the Arc series as well.

    I didn’t know there was a Martha Stewart range. Will check that out!

    1. I love all the different sizes you have. I wish in the States we had the “A” system of sizes more available. It would be SO MUCH EASIER to have a standard! Sometimes I think we don’t just because we’re America, because we keep fighting standardization. But perhaps in notebooks it wouldn’t be so bad… :)

  4. Oh my…I am inspired by this article & comments! I have always had a Planner System (Covey is my fav.) but didn’t even consider there was such a thing as a Notebook System! My “notebook system” has simply been to buy them (& lots of them!) in fabulous colors, sizes and bindings & fill them up.
    FUN to know ~ Thanks!

  5. Great post! I have a huge notebook/journal/planner/pen obsession! I have 4 notebooks in use at the moment. The first is my carry everywhere/can’t live without planner and notebook combo. It’s a Graphic Image Saffiano refillable spiral notebook with a cheap monthly planner from Target tucked inside the pocket of the front cover. I keep lists, notes, ideas in this notebook. Every day I date the top of a blank page and use the page as a planner/schedule/to do list for the day. I keep the monthly planner in there for reference and future planning. My second notebook is a journal I found at Home Goods that I use for sermon and Bible study notes. The third and fourth notebooks are both Staples Arc/Levenger Circa hybrids that I use for writing. One is a letter sized that stays on my desk at home and one is junior sized that is easier to carry with me when needed. See? Obsessed!

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