Being a technology website, we do a lot of writing about high-tech ways to keep track of things and manage your life. But sometimes a plain old notebook is the best thing you can use to jot notes, make lists, and think creatively. These three are expensive, but absolutely worth the price.
What qualifies as “expensive”? The notebooks in this list cost roughly $15–$20 each. You can certainly spend more than that (think Smythson’s $310 lambskin-covered, gilt-edged books), but most people have a tendency to grab the cheapest notebook that will do the job. Whether you’re getting a notebook for taking notes at meetings, starting a journal, or keeping to-do lists, you’ll appreciate the quality in any of these three.
Behance is a company dedicated to helping creative professionals get things done. And by teaming up with 99U, they’ve created a series of products that will help anyone get more organized, be more productive, and look cool doing it.
The Action Method is a productivity system for creatives, but the only part of it that’s currently available to the public is the Action Method series of paper products, one of which is the Action Journal.
The journal is 6 x 8 inches, making it a great size for stashing in a backpack or purse, or even just carrying it by hand. Where it really shines, though, is in the layout of every page in the book. The front of every page has two sections: a dot grid for writing and an action steps list. The back is more dot grid.
This allows you to take notes, jot ideas, or even sketch potential solutions to problems while making sure that any actions you need to take are recorded immediately. Writing action steps in the middle of a page of notes is a sure way to lose them, but by having a brightly colored section set to the side, you’ll always know exactly where to look to see what needs to get done.
Under the action steps boxes, there’s a section called Backburner, where you can record items that aren’t quite ready for action, but might be in the future. Each page is also perforated, so you can easily tear out pages to share, photocopy, or just get rid of so you can focus on the next set of things that need to be done.
At $17.50, the Action Journal will feel like a big spend for newcomers to nice notebooks, but the smartly sectioned paper and dot grid make it worth every penny. (If you’re looking for something a bit larger, you can get the same benefits in the Action Book, an 8.5″ x 10.5″.)
This French company makes their paper products by hand, and the handmade, 100% cotton pages of their notebooks will spoil you for all other paper. You’ve never written on anything this nice before, and you’ll never want to write on anything else again. The cover is made of a soft fabric, giving the notebook a luxurious feel, and the visible stitching down the side draws attention to the handmade construction.
When it comes down to it, this is just a simple notebook — it’s unlined, not particularly large at 8.25 x 10.6 inches, and doesn’t include folders or other organizational helpers. It doesn’t even have a very sturdy cover. But writing in one of these will make you feel like a novelist from the 19th century. There’s no better way to feel like a writer than to write on Le Thé de Écrivains paper.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit Le Thé de Écrivains in Paris, you’ll get to see the amazing variety of notebooks, photo albums, and paper pads that are available — there are dozens of cover patterns, sizes, and colors. (You can see in the photo above that I have a purple floral one, though it appears that you can only buy the solid colors online.)
€10.50 (about $14) might seem like a lot, but the paper quality in a cahier by Le Thé de Écrivains can’t be topped.
It’s almost cliché to mention it here, but no list of great notebooks is complete without Moleskine. Today’s Moleskine notebooks are descended from ones that were used by van Gogh, Picasso, and Hemingway [Broken Link Removed]. Could you ask for more proof?
The Folio Professional Notebook provides a lot of versatility—there are tear-out list, sectioned pages that allow you to enter your own headings in each section, and colored page markers to help you keep everything organized. There’s also a stash pocket in the back where you can store business cards, receipts, and other bits of paper. And at 5 x 8.25 inches, it’s a great size for travel.
If you’ve never had an expensive, high-quality notebook, Moleskine is a great place to start. They use nice paper, the covers are durable, they often include elastic straps and page markers, and you can get them in a number of formats, sizes, and themes. And if you know how to best use them for productivity, they can’t be beat.
The only notebook in this list that breaks the $20 barrier ($17.90 on Amazon), the Folio Professional Notebook might feel like quite an investment if you’re used to spending $1.50. But between the professional look and the many different sections, it’s $22 well spent.
Nice Notebooks Need Nice Pens
To make the most of your new notebook, you won’t want to use the free pen from your dentist. Spending just a little bit more than usual will make a noticeable difference.
My personal favorite, and the pen that served me well throughout my entire postgraduate career, the Sharpie fine point pen feels a bit like a gel pen, but is more smear-resistant. It works really well in all of these notebooks, and $5.49 for a 4-pack won’t break the bank. The Pilot G-2 is another very popular option, and lays down thick gel lines with ease.
Most people haven’t spent more than $5 on a notebook, but you’re missing out if you don’t move beyond the $1.50 Mead standard. It might feel strange shelling out up to $20 for a notebook, but if you write more than the occasional Post-It to yourself, you’ll find one of these three worth the expense!
Do you have a favorite notebook that you always go back to? Or do you hop between brands all the time? Share your thoughts below!