One constant throughout my past decade has been the presence of a work and personal project journal on my desk. I journal for a number of different reasons: to capture contemporaneous notes and details about meetings and life to reference later, to organize and document the different bits of projects and to make them legible into plans, and to leave myself instructions on how to repeat tasks in the future so that I’m allowed to forget. I also journal to capture my thoughts and ideas, to reflect on my day and to help me navigate challenging feelings when I’m having some (it’s amazing how the task of simply writing them down can cause you to solidify and understand them all the better). I have tried a number of different software tools over the years (and still use one for keeping technical notes at work), but I always come back to pen and paper journal as my primary tool for capturing my thoughts and ideas.
On the paper side of things I’m a big fan of the Moleskine 192 page “large” 5x8.25 inch notebooks (especially in soft cover) for a few reasons: they’re available in a bunch of different colours so it’s easy to have a number of them on the go at once and visually distinguish them; they last for just under a year at work where I use about a page a day to capture notes in bullet-point form; and the paper weight is sufficient to prevent bleed when using different felt pens which I sometimes do to colour in diagrams. These notebooks are also available with either dotted or plain paper both of which I use: the former for all of my hobby and professional projects and the latter for writing long form thoughts. My handwriting is quite compact so I can fit just short of 40 lines on a page for a day’s reflection. Future me might have difficulty reading such small print but that’s his problem not mine. The header for this post shows all of the journals that I used throughout the last year. The observant reader will also notice I like to decorate the front of my journals with stickers that I’ve gathered from various trips and friends. The most special and sentimentally valuable of these are reserved for my personal journal.
The biggest consideration in my choice of pen is the fact that I am left handed. This often results in me smudging ink across the page when I’m writing with any pen with a wet ink that takes long to dry. I used Pilot Precise V7 RT rolling ball pens for a while but found that the ink would sometimes bleed through the pages which was irksome. On the recommendation of my wonderful wire Ariane I tried MUJI’s 0.5mm gel ink ballpoint pens and have not looked back since.
Like the journals they’re available in a number of different ink colours, though I use just navy and red at work e.g. to keep diagrams and accompanying labels distinct. I’m a sucker for all things blue and I particularly like the shade of navy that they produce. MUJI helpfully sells these pens in boxes of ten making it easy to buy enough to leave a few in computer bags, desks, jackets, etc… as backups. Like most ballpoint pens they also last a considerable time. If anything this makes the process of finishing one all the more satisfying.
Starting a journal can be a rewarding and enriching activity. It gives you a place to capture and organize your thoughts, reflect on your day, and navigate different life scenarios. Digital or analog, do whatever works for you; just give it a shot. I hope you find it half as helpful as I have.