Moleskine Studio Notebook (or Cult Pens Paper Box Part 1)

Cult Pens offered a paper box about a month ago. For £25 you got 3 notebooks, 2 sketchbooks, 1 fineliner, 1 marker, 4 pencils, 4 pens and a handful of Smile Clips. I don’t usually buy boxes of stationery (I especially avoid mystery boxes), but as I was interested in trying out the Moleskine Studio that was already part of the box, and as I was interested in most of the rest of the box’s contents, I decided to give it a try.

The box is no longer being offered, but if it was I’d suggest that Cult Pens would do better to pack the notebooks in an actual well-fitted box and not in a zip-lock bag that bumps around in a large box. The result is that the corner of the Moleskine Studio box was crushed, and one of the pads that came in the box was also damaged.

Now for the Moleskine Studio: this is a new offering from Moleskine, made in collaboration with six artists. Each artist’s artwork is featured on the front cover, on the end papers, on a sheet of themed stickers, and on the box the notebook comes in. The box serves as a frame for the artwork, allowing you to hang it if you wish. The notebooks are available in Plain or Ruled layouts, and, here’s the really interesting bit, contain 100 gsm ivory coloured paper.

Here’s the box as I received it:

Crushed corner, weird cling film wrapping – there’s a lot going on here

So the notebook’s box/frame came with a crushed top right corner, which is unfortunate. The notebook itself was covered with cling film, a form of packaging I’ve never seen come from Moleskine before, and a plastic cover that was attached to the box/frame. While the frame is designed to be reusable, I’ve purchased another Moleskine Studio that came completely without it, and I have a feeling that there’s very little chance for the frame to survive shipping without being mangled. As it is, I feel that there’s way too much packaging here.

Box frame, notebook, and plastic cover.

The frame with the artwork inside:

Yukai Du’s “I Dreamed In A Dream”

The flip side of the frame. You can see that there are holes for hanging the frame, as well as information about the paper in the notebook (gasp!). I wish Moleskine would print this info on every notebook they sell.

The back of the frame box.

Here’s the notebook, and here’s where I start having more serious reservations about Moleskine’s manufacturing choices regarding this lineup. The artwork isn’t printed on the notebook cover, it’s glued onto it. I have a feeling that the glue isn’t going to last long, and in general it just cheapens an otherwise premium notebook experience.

Front cover (with paper wrap still on)

The back cover is a bit weird in that the paper wrap doesn’t reach all the way around and is just stuck to the cover with two stickers. The stickers are easy to remove and don’t leave any residue, but it’s the only Moleskine I’ve seen with this setup and I can’t help but wonder why.

Back cover.

Here’s a closeup to the glued artwork on the cover. I’m also a little disappointed that the artwork hasn’t been signed by the artist, Yukai Du.

Closeup on the glued corner of the artwork.

Inside the front covers is more of Yukai Du’s work, and it’s wonderful. This is where Moleskine shines, and I wish these artists could have had their work properly printed or even embossed on the covers of a Moleskine. They deserve it.

Inside the front cover, with “In case of loss”.

The paper is very good (not your standard Moleskine affair, which has its particularities). Ivory coloured, 100 gsm, not glass smooth but not textured, and it lays flat. There’s some writing samples ahead, but spoiler alert, yes it’s fountain pen friendly. There’s also the famous ribbon bookmark, which I wish was pink but in this case is black.

Paper and bookmark.

The back cover end papers feature more of Yukai Du’s artwork, perfectly aligned on the back pocket.

Inside the back cover.

On the last page in the notebook, usually left blank, Moleskine has featured more information about the Moleskine Studio edition. In their marketing they’re calling this a new platform for collaboration with artists, and this page makes me think that this is going to be an ongoing project for them. I hope that they do continue with these, as the overall result is very good.

The last page.

Here’s the sticker page that comes with this edition. Again, very well made:

Sticker page.

Finally, the paper. I was hoping that this is going to be a fountain pen friendly Moleskine and it is. There’s no feathering, no spreading, no bleed through and very little show through with this paper (there’s more show through with the rollerballs than with the fountain pens). Your milage may vary, but I am very happy with this paper, and a Moleskine Studio is going to be my next journalling notebook.

Ink test.

The reverse side of the page:

The reverse side of the page.

Overall, the Moleskine Studio is a strong new offering from Moleskine, one that really plays to their design strengths. It’s not perfect, but I hope to see them iterate and improve on it with time, and I hope that many artists get to have their artwork featured on an iconic notebook.

Moleskine Winter 2021 Catalog: A Tale of Discontinued Notebooks

A few days ago I found Moleskine’s Winter 2021 Catalog, and was dismayed to discover that many of my favourite notebooks are discontinued (“while supplies last”). So this is going to be mostly a “stock up on these if you like them” review of the catalog, not so much a “look at these cool new things from Moleskine,” mainly because most of the cool new things were published earlier in the year.

So here are the main discontinued notebooks, in order of their (dis)appearance in the catalog:

  • The Classic Reporter notebook, already available only in Pocket is now going to be available only in the Ruled option, both in hard cover and soft cover options. The Squared ruling is long gone and now the Plain option is disappearing from most dealers. This is your last chance to get it if you use it. As I used to use a Plain Pocket Reporter as a PigPog PDA and every few years I return to it, I’ve stocked up on a few for future use. I really wish that they wouldn’t have discontinued these, as they were some of my favourite notebooks from their lineup.
  • Dotted and Squared rulings are being discontinued in the Scarlet Red and Sapphire Blue Pocket and X-Large notebooks in both hard cover and soft cover. For some reason they’ll still be available in Myrtle Green in these sizes. Earth Brown and Reef Blue look like they are also being gradually phased out, likely to make room for next year’s spring colours. If you like these colours, especially in Plain ruling and in Pocket or X-Large sizes, now is the time to get them. I’ll wager that these colours are going to be completely phased out by the Spring 2022 catalog.
  • Moleskine Two-Go notebooks, which were my favourite new addition to their lineup are being completely phased out by the look of things. I’ve stocked up on as many as I can justify, as I use them as my reading journals. The size, the paper and the blank/lined ruling were perfect for this use, and I am going to sorely miss them. Moleskine seem to be replacing them with the Classic Notebooks Double Layout (more on that below), but the paper is 70gsm and not the 100gsm of the Two-Go notebooks.
  • Most of the Moleskine Blend notebook collection is being gutted, which is also a sore loss. Nobody makes fabric covers as well as Moleskine does (sorry Baron Fig), and some of my favourites were in this collection. The Denim collection, especially those with the writing on the covers (Hand Wash, This is Yours, etc) were fabulous, and in general this collection was well designed and executed. Only the new black and white checked and patterned 2021 notebooks that are new to the catalog remain. I guess that at leas we have hope that not all the Blend line is being discontinued.
  • Cahier notebooks are also seeing less options in the Squared and Dotted rulings. I have no idea why they seem to be less popular than other ruling options. Tender Yellow seems to be making its way out of the lineup, so if that’s a colour that you like you probably need to stock up.
  • Pearl Grey is being discontinued from the Pro Notebook lineup, and if you like the XXL notebooks not in Black now is the time to stock up on the Forest Green.
  • The Address Book is no longer going to be offered in X-Large. I can understand why – my guess is that the Pocket and the Large ones sell much better.
  • The Sketchbook in A3 is going to be offered only in Black from now on. Scarlet Red and Sapphire Blue are being discontinued in that size.
  • The Sketch Album in XXL is being discontinued.
  • As usual, I’m not going to delve into the wild and woolly world of Moleskine Smart and Moleskine accessories. It’s just too much, even for me.

Here are the new additions to the lineup, in order of their appearance in the catalog:

  • Moleskine Studio notebooks, which feature both 100gsm paper and an interesting design concept are my favourite new additions to the lineup. I already purchased one, which for some reason arrived sans box and and artwork, but oh well.
  • Classic Notebook Double Layout seem to there to in part replace the Two-Go, although they are offered in 70gsm paper and with regular and not fabric lined covers. Time will tell how popular they will be.
  • Moleskine Blend gets two additions to the lineup (everything else is being discontinued). They are both black and white patterns, which is classic but also a little boring. I wish they’d kept more innovation going in this part of their lineup.
  • Planners – everything is new here so I won’t go over them. There’s probably a planner option for everyone in this lineup, if planners are your thing.
  • Limited Editions – everything here is marked new, but apart from the Sakura everything has appeared in a previous catalog (if memory serves). The Sakura is gorgeous as usual, the rest of the lineup (Le Petit Prince and Hello Kitty in particular) are going to be very popular (the Pinnochio ones being the exception).
  • Logbooks are getting two new colour options – Coral Pink and Lavender Violet. You’ll often find them sold as “Bullet Journals” and the new colours appear to be flying off the shelves.
  • Moleskine National Geographic Taveller’s Notebook isn’t marked as new but I don’t recall seeing it before. It’s intriguing enough for me to purchase one, even though I wish they would have put thicker paper and less pages in this notebook. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to travelling after my treatment and put this notebook into good use.

The Field Notes Sketchbook: Field Notes Maggie Rogers

I am a big fan of Field Notes, so when I saw that they came out with a sketchbook in collaboration with musician Maggie Rogers, I had to give it spin. The Maggie Rogers Field Notes are in the “Dime Novel” size, and are bound with and contain Strathmore paper. That is a promising start: an uncommon sketchbook size, with artist quality paper inside.

The Maggie x Field Notes edition comes with two sketchbooks in each pack, one with a red tinted spine and one with a blue tinted spine. On the cover of each is a Joshua Meier photo that was featured on Maggie Rogers’s first two albums: Blood Ballet is on the red tinted one on the left, and The Echo is on the blue tinted one on the right.

Blood Ballet is on the red tinted one on the left, and The Echo is on the blue tinted one on the right.

Beyond the normal “Pertinent Coordinates” design on the front cover, there is a vellum fly-sheet in each sketchbook featuring Maggie Rogers’s original hand-written lyrics. It’s a nice touch that really adds to this edition’s design.

Hand written fly-sheet in the blue The Echo sketchbook.

I also like the decision to print these on vellum and not on Strathmore paper that is in the rest of the sketchbook. It gives the words an airy feeling that doesn’t weigh too heavily on the user. You don’t feel the need to compete with them, so to speak.

Reverse side of the vellum fly-sheet in the blue The Echo sketchbook.

The inside of the back cover features Field Notes’ usual spiel and some information about Maggie Rogers and this collaboration. As usual, it also lists all of the technical details of this sketchbook, which I love. It would have been nice to get the Strathmore paper weight in a more standard gsm notation.

The inside of the back cover of the The Echo edition of the sketchbook.

The red, Blood Ballet edition of the notebook is the same as the blue one, just with a red brown tint to it.

Front page of the Blood Ballet edition. Vellum fly-sheet and pertinent coordinates.
Reverse side of the vellum fly-sheet with hand-written lyrics.
The back page of the Blood Ballet edition.

So, to business. How does the Maggie Rogers Field Notes perform as a sketchbook? For that I tested it with some Uni Pin fineliners and brush pen, a Fixpencil with 2B lead, and finally with light watercolour use. Unsurprisingly, considering the paper inside is light weighted Strathmore, it’s a good sketchbook to have in your bag or coat pocket. It’s versatile and not too precious to make you feel bad about “ruining” pages.

The first sketch that I made was done with a grey Uni-Pin 0.5 fineliner. The paper isn’t entirely smooth, but I no problem using the fineliner on it. The ink doesn’t spread or feather, but it does show through and even bleed through to the other side. I won’t be using both sides of the paper here.

You can see through the relatively thin paper to the drawing on the next page. Not ideal, but that’s part of what makes this sketchbook not precious.

You can see the show through and even a spot or two of bleed through here. I really don’t recommend drawing on both sides of the page here.

Show-through and bleed-through even with a 0.5 fineliner.

The next drawing was done with a Uni Pin brush pen. The paper isn’t glass smooth, and that actually makes it more fun to draw on. There was no spread and less bleed-through than with the fineliner somehow. I still wouldn’t use the other side of the page, because it will show through.

Brush pen drawing.

The paper shines with pencil, and I had a lot of fun sketching this palm using a Fixpencil with a 2B lead. If pencil is your medium of choice, you are going to love this little sketchbook.

This paper made even a relatively pedestrian subject like a palm tree really fun to sketch.

As for watercolour, you can use the Maggie Rogers Field Notes sketchbook for light washes in a pinch, but it’s clearly not made for this. Washes come out patchy and grainy, and while the paper holds and doesn’t buckle too much if you are vey careful and only use a small amount of water on it, I really wouldn’t use it for watercolour.

Watercolour sketch featuring the work of local graffiti artist Erezoo.

The reverse side of the paper shows just how much it buckled under the strain of even a small amount of water (pun intended).

Buckling on the left is the reverse side of the drawing in the previous picture.

I think that the Maggie Rogers Field Notes is a nice sketchbook to try out quick ideas and vignettes in. It’s a nice sketchbook that’s not too nice, the vellum fly-sheet actually reduces the pressure of the first blank page, and so long as you don’t insist on using watercolour with it, it’s versatile and will do as your main pocket sketchbook in a pinch. Its main weaknesses (the thinness of its paper and the binding that doesn’t allow the pages to open flat so you can’t use a whole spread) actually work together to make this a sketchbook that encourages you to burn through it. It’s not precious. It’s not too nice. It’s a workman-like sketchbook, which works perfectly with the Field Notes brand.

How I Use My Notebooks: Three Good Things

I’ve been going through a rough time lately, and as many people have been so kind to say, staying optimistic despite all the bad things that I’ve had to deal with lately is key to getting through this terrible time. That is, of course, easier said than done. My mind tends to latch on to the painful and scary parts of the day, to the bad feelings, anxiety and doubt. It doesn’t help that we are all living through difficult times, and it’s hard to see and end in sight.

So I’ve started a new habit during the past month, and it’s helping me end the day on a positive note, with an added bonus of helping me use up some of my many notebooks.

I end each day by writing at least three good things that happened that day. I dedicate a page for each day, in my Dingbats notebook, with “Three Good Things” as the title, the date and day, and then the list of good things. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to find that day’s three good things, and for most days so far I’ve managed to find more than three good things to reflect on. They are usually conversations that I had with friends, or moments where I felt like my old self, or things that I enjoyed reading or watching.

Writing these down has been so helpful in getting me to see the good in each day, and in trying to stay positive when life is pretty tough.

Dingbats Notebook Review

During my trip to London this year I managed to buy a few Dingbats Wildlife notebooks (the elephant, tiger, hippo and deer). They appealed to me because they present a vegan friendly, fountain pen friendly journaling option, with a unique take on the classic “Moleskinesque” notebook.

Purple front cover with hippo debossing.
Front cover

So while the Dingbats A5+ Wildlife notebook has rounded corners, an elastic closure, a back pocket and a ribbon bookmark, the textured vegan faux leather cover is here to make a statement. There’s a different animal debossing and different cover colour for each animal. Currently there’s a Cream Wolf (new), Grey Elephant, Green Deer, Orange Tiger, Purple Hippo, Blue Whale, Brown Bear, Black Duck and Red Kangaroo. Once again, I got a little carried away and bought the Elephant, Deer, Tiger and Hippo – all the Dingbat notebooks that I saw in WH Smith in Heathrow Terminal 5. If I had to choose just one I would go for the hippo or the tiger, depending on how much attention I felt like drawing to myself carrying the notebook around.

Back cover with a sticker explaining everything there is to know about the notebook.
Back cover with a sticker explaining everything there is to know about the notebook

The faux leather cover has a nice texture to it, and the debossing makes it stand out from more generic faux leather notebooks that you might find in stationary shops. It’s clearly there to call attention to itself.

Hippo debossing on a purple faux leather, textured cover.
Hippo on a purple faux leather, textured cover.

The front endpaper has hippo footprints on it (they differ by animal), a “This Dingbats notebook belongs to” box to write your details in (always to that. Here’s why), the Dingbats logo and two notices: one that 2% of its UK revenue is donated to the WWF, and another that the notebook is made with FSC certified paper and vegan materials only.

Front endpaper, with notices on the bottom left, logo on the bottom right, a "this notebook belongs to" box in the middle right and a background of hippo footprints, all printed in warm grey.
Front endpaper.

The back endpaper also comes with the hippo footprint, and it has a back pocket. The Dingbats Wildlife notebook also comes with a pen holder which can hold standard pens just fine but is too small to hold most fountain pens.For a notebook that caters specifically to fountain pen users that’s a strange oversight.

The notebook has 100 gsm very smooth acid free fountain pen friendly paper. There are 96 sheets (192 pages) in the notebook and all of them are micro-perforated. The pages can have either 7mm lines, a 5mm grid, a 5mm dot grid, or be blank, but in the WH Smith that I was in the only option was lined. The lines are printed in a neutral grey that isn’t too obtrusive but is also clearly visible.

Close up of the micro-perforated paper and the grey lines on a page.
Close up of the micro-perforated paper and the grey lines.

This is an expensive notebook (around £16 per notebook), and so I wouldn’t bother using gel ink pens, rollerballs, ballpoints or pencils in it (if you want to see a test page of that, you can find it here). There are cheaper alternatives for that. The Dingbats Wildlife notebook is built for fountain pens, and it handles them very well. The paper isn’t as glossy as Rhodia paper, but it’s still silky smooth and ink takes several seconds to dry on the page. I don’t have a lot of pens inked up at the moment, and I spread the ink tests on multiple notebooks, but I can assure you that there is no feathering or bleed through with this paper, and there’ very little show through. It’s a fountain pen friendly notebook, as advertised. Here’s a small sample written with a TWSBI Eco fine nib and Diamine Inkvent Solstice, which is a very saturated ink.

Page with alphabet handwritten in black ink once in uppercase and once in lowecase with an ink smudge on the top left.
I spilled some ink at the top of the page, and that made a mess but also assured me that there really is no bleed through with fountain pen ink.

If you are looking for a fountain pen friendly, eco friendly, fun notebook, or if you want a notebook full of perforated pages, then I highly recommend the Dingbats Wildlife notebook. It’s not a cheap notebook, so if pencils are your thing, maybe look into a cheaper alternative with toothier paper.

Moleskine: I am New York Limited Edition Notebook

I haven’t posted a Moleskine limited edition review in a while, mostly because I stopped journaling when my mother was diagnosed with a new kind of cancer in the beginning of the year. Once I realized that I had cancer I chose the nicest Moleskine limited edition that I could see, grabbed a Kara’s Kustoms Render K and started writing.

This is the notebook I chose:

Photo of the cover of the "I am New York" limited edition Moleskine notebook.
Moleskine I am New York

The Moleskine “I am New York” is the second of the “I am” series that I’ve tried out (the first being “I am London” which I bought in the Moleskine Covent Garden store). There’s another notebook which I haven’t been able to purchase, the “I am Milan” one. In any case the cover design on these notebooks is stunning, with a vibrant illustration of an iconic architectural aspect of the city they represent. In the case of New York, it’s Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge illustration on the front cover of the notebook, with yellow band on.
Front Cover Illustration.

The covers are made of fabric, which Moleskine has excelled at in recent years. This one is no different – the cover is very well made.

The spine. Can you guess where these photos were taken?

Here’s a look at the cloth covers without the yellow paper band. You can see how well the elastic band’s colour and the ribbon bookmark fit with the design even though lavender may not have been the most obvious choice.

Moleskine I am New York front cover without the yellow band. Colours are mostly grey and orange.
Front cover.

Here’s the back cover and ribbon:

Moleskine I am New York back cover without the yellow bookmark, and with the lavender ribbon bookmark showing.
Back cover with ribbon bookmark.

Here’s the front endpaper. It features the New York Times, a take away coffee and a bagel on a brown paper bag. Remember the bagel, we’ll be returning to that later on.

Front endpaper which features the New York Times, a take away coffee and a bagel on a brown paper bag. Remember the bagel, we'll be returning to that later on.
Front endpaper.

The back endpaper features a very imaginative summer scene in a city park, with various denizens of the city enjoying a lounge on the park lawn.

The back endpaper features a very imaginative summer scene in a city park, with various denizens of the city enjoying a lounge on the park lawn.
Back endpaper.

The Moleskine “I am New York” comes with a lovely postcard in the notebook’s back pocket, with a drawing by Carlo Stanga(who also illustrated the front cover) titled: “Where Fifth Ave Starts”.

Postcard with a watercolour drawing of Fifth Avenue.
Where Fifth Ave Starts postcard.

It’s a functional postcard, but I’d just hang it as a small work of art in my cubicle or on my fridge.

Back of postcard.
Functional postcard if you need it.

The B-side of the paper band has a bagels recipe (remember the bagel from the front endpaper?). I haven’t tried it but it’s well drawn and a cute addition to this already great notebook.

I’m going to be using the Moleskine “I am New York” as my daily journal through these next few tough months, and I can’t think of a better notebook for the job. It’s a beautiful notebook that makes me smile whenever I pick it up.

Silvine Memo Book Review

I bought this notebook in 2019, when I was last in London. Silvine is a well known UK notebook brand, and ever since I read about them in Roald Dahl’s work I have been looking to try them out.

Front cover.

The Silvine Memo Book is a 159x95mm feint ruled staple bound notebook with zero frills. The cover is made of construction paper, thinner than the standard Field Notes one. The corners aren’t rounded, and there’s no printing on the inside of the cover. The front cover is a big believer in the “says what it does on the tin” school of thought: it’s a British made memo book by Silvine.

Back cover.

The back cover has an ugly barcode and ref printed on it, and it really would have looked better with that barcode printed on the inside. Then again, this notebook is not about looks.

Inside cover and ruling.

The grey ruling is 7mm wide, with margins left on the top and bottom of the page. It’s a bit wide for the format, but I’m guessing that they took their standard ruling and applied it indiscriminately to all their notebooks. The paper is where the Silvine Memo Book surprisingly shines.

Paper test.

The paper is smooth and coated, which means long drying times (though still shorter than Rhodia or Moleskine paper), but it’s also fountain pen friendly. The ink doesn’t feather or spread, and while there is some ghosting, unless you use stub nibs with dark inks the other side of the paper will still be usable. Very juicy nibs cause a small amount of bleed through, and the Sharpie, as usual is a mess, but otherwise Silvine have created a paper that can handle pretty well everything you throw at it.

Ghosting and bleed through test.

The format of this notebook means that its place is on a desk, where you can use it to jot down a quick note with whatever is lying around. It’s not built for pocket carry (in terms of size or construction), and I would have liked the ruling to be 6mm or even 5 mm at this size, but as it is I don’t regret buying the Silvine Memo Book, if only for nostalgic value. It reminds me of Dahl’s short stories, and I like that it’s doing its own thing and not trying to be a Field Notes clone. If you’re in the UK, I’d have one or two of these lying around, just for the paper inside.

Urban Sketchers Tel Aviv Sketchwalk: Park HaMesila

My first Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawl of the year (there was one earlier, in March, but my mom was hospitalized, so I couldn’t make it) to the brand new Park HaMesila in the beautiful Neve Zedek neighbourhood. A dump and parking lot have been transformed into a park that will lead all the way to the Tachana complex once it’s complete. At the moment it offers a very little shade and not much greenery, but you can see the potential, and you can definitely see how much people are loving it.

View from the Shlush Bridge.

The park follows the old Turkish railroad (which went from Jaffa to Jerusalem and was notoriously slow), and though I didn’t draw them because things were starting to get too busy in my sketch, the path has old rail lines embedded into it, which is a lovely touch.

Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance

I then drew part of Suzanne Dellal’s Center of Dance (it’s the Batsheva’s Dance Company’s home, and in Hebew is generally pronounced Suzanne Dallal).

A spread summarizing my day and a bit more of the neighbourhood, created at home (unlike the first two) from pictures. I traced the map from a navigation map that I got from a local navigation race that happened to take place in the area, and had fun with some design elements that I learned in the Sketchbook Design course that I took.

I used my new palette and a brand new Stillman and Birn Alpha and I quite like the freedom that its lightweight paper encourages.

Analogue Planning and Task Management in Covid Times

When Covid-19 hit last year and I started working from home my old task management system completely disintegrated. It was a combination of trying to find a new work/life/health balance, coupled with starting a new job that really made me aware that my old running daily work checklist and home checklist were no longer going to work. I was also keenly aware that I could no longer do any long term planning, and yet that I had to find a way to plan ahead somehow, or I’d accomplish none of my long term goals. After trying several systems with little to no success, it took until January 2021 for me to find a system that worked for me. In the hopes that this may help someone build out their own system, here is a glimpse into mine.

The system is built into two separate Moleskine Large Hardcover Squared notebooks. This was my notebook of choice for my previous system, and it has served me well. I don’t use fountain pens for my planning, just fine gel pens, and I don’t mind the ghosting, as I find that it’s more pronounced in photos than it is when I actually use the page. One notebook is my weekly planner, and I reference it about once or twice a day. The other notebook is my daily task list, and I reference and update it all the time. Why two notebooks and not one notebook with both a weekly plan and daily pages? I tried that and the need to constantly flip between pages with no ability to see my weekly plan before me as I create my daily task lists was too much for me to deal with. I don’t have a dearth of notebooks and I do have dearth of time and attention, so two notebooks it is.

Here’s a weekly notebook spread:

Weekly notebook spread, before filling.

Each spread in my weekly notebook is divided between my weekly schedule/plan on the the left hand side of the spread, and a weekly goal list on the right hand side. This is a sample of the following week’s spread before I start really filling it. On the left hand side I fill in the days of the week and the dates. I put in appointments and things that I need to take into account while doing my planning, but this page isn’t a replacement for my Fantastical calendar. I still want and heavily use a digital calendar with reminders, but this notebook page is crucial for my ability to see and plan ahead. I plan and think better on paper, and so if I have a D&D game on a certain day, I know that I need to schedule time to prep for it. This is also where I plan my weekly training: when I run, when I go to the gym and when I rest. I also use it to plan ahead things that I need to be aware of for my mother’s various doctor’s appointments, from reminders, to various forms that need to be filled, blood tests scheduled etc.

The right side of the page is the most important part of each spread, as it is where I plan out what I want to get done each week. My yearly goals are broken down and mapped out week by week here. I break the goals down by title, and then write down 2-3 related goals under each one (except the fitness goal which gets more). Some goal groups are consistent – fitness, reading, writing, blog, cleaning. Other goal groups change depending on the week and my focus. The “Also” goal group is for miscellany, such as watching a weekly episode of a show that I don’t want spoiled, or renewing/cancelling subscriptions.

The daily notebook is much simpler, and is merely an evolution of my old task system, adapted to working from home:

Daily task list, in the afternoon of the day it was created.

On the left side of every work day there is a professional task list, with work related things that I want to do that day. On the right side of the page is the personal task list, with stuff that I want to do before and after work. On weekends the two sides of the page simply both list out personal tasks. This system is clear, simple to use, flexible and doesn’t require a lot of “meta” effort to set up or maintain.

If you’re struggling with time management lately, take some time to create a system that works for you and doesn’t overwhelm you. I highly recommend not using a planner but rather creating your own schedule, since it saves you from the disappointment and stress of empty planner pages. It also allows you to add specific pages to your setup as the need arises. For instance, as global shipping and our local post office have gone haywire since Covid, I dedicated a spread in my weekly notebook to tracking various shipments. When I need to go to the post office to collect a package I note it down in my schedule, and so it was easy for me to use a different page on the same notebook to track the status of each package.

Let me know if this was helpful, and if you’ve also been forced to revamp your planning over the past year.

New Reading Journal

Yesterday I finished my fifth reading journal, and so I thought that it would be a good opportunity to write a post about how I set up my reading journal.

I use my reading journal to keep track of what I read and to encourage me to read more. This is the journal that I’ve just finished, a Moleskine Two-Go:

Moleskine Two-Go. The perfect size and format for my needs.

I used to use a Field Notes Arts and Sciences notebook for my reading journal, but once I got back to reading more it made sense to move to a larger journal. For the past three years I’ve used the Moleskine Two-Go, and I fill one book journal a year (70 books are logged in each notebook).

Start and end date for this reading journal.

This is the setup in my old reading journal. Three pages of index:

First index page. Red checkmarks for books that I’ve read.

The Moleskine Two-Go comes with pages that are blank on one side and lined on another, which is perfect for my use case, except for the second index page, which I need to rule myself:

Ruled second index page.

I missed a line on the second index page, so the index numbering came out a little wonky. It’s only for me, so I don’t mind.

Off by one error in my index.

Here’s a sample of a complete page. I talked more about my thoughts behind the design in a previous post, but you can get the gist by looking at this sample. I like drawing something that captures the book for me on the opposite page, which is why I love the Moleskine Two-Go format.

I remember really not liking this book, and this is a reminder of why.

At the very last page of the journal I keep a log of how many books I read that month. It’s ten books so far for December, but the month isn’t done yet so that line isn’t filled.

Number of books per month tracker.

Here is my new reading journal, a Moleskine Two-Go, this time in green (my previous ones were in light grey, dark grey and navy):

Front cover.

I love the texture of the fabric colours on this, and the shade of green is interesting. The two contrasting bookmarks and the endpapers are grey.

Back cover

The first page, marking when I started the notebook and which journal number it is. This notebook doesn’t leave my desk yet I still write my name and email in case I misplace it somehow.

Front page

Next comes the index page. Since this is my third Two-Go reading journal I already know to number the pages until 139 (I number odd pages only, since my reviews are on odd pages), which comes out to 70 books.

Index page.

I rule the second page, because I tried just winging it on the first year and it didn’t come out great.

Spoke pen for the win.

On the last page I create my books per month tracker:

Zebra mildliner highligher smears gel ink, but I still like it.

I number all the pages of the index, but only the first 25 pages of the actual book journal. I will continue numbering pages in batches as I add books to the journal. The great advantage of using a completely unstructured book here is that I can do whatever I want with it, including starting the numbering after the index pages and not on the first notebook page.

These are the pen and pencils that I’ll be using in this journal. The Rotring 600 is a ballpoint, and the only ballpoint that I regularly use. The Caran d’Ache Bicolor has been my companion in these notebooks for several years. I use it to highlight things, and sometimes in my book scene sketches. I used the Blackwing 611 in my previous reading journal, and this time I’ll be using the Blackwing 4.

Caran d’Ache Bicolor, Blackwing 4, Rotring 600 ballpoint.

The first non fiction book in this journal:

The Good War

The first fiction book in this journal:

Cloud Atlas. ToB means Tournament of Books.

That’s my new reading journal all set up and ready to go. I hope that this inspires you to keep a reading journal of your own, one that will encourage you to read more and help evoke the memories of reading a specific book.