Back to Basics: Notebook vs. PDA

NotebookLifehacker (one of my favorite blogs) has a post up on “going old school” by using a notebook (inspired by a post on DIY Planner). This inspired me to dig through my office drawer full of miscellaneous journals, notepads, and notebooks; and find my Moleskine, which has been woefully underused. I started carrying it with me everywhere and jotting down ideas in it as I think of things, as well as taking notes when I do research (the kinds of things that I once would have saved in miscellaneous text files and emailed to myself, like lists of pediatricians to call now that our insurance has changed).

The notebook has some advantages. Like a PDA, it fits in my purse and is lightweight enough to carry just about anywhere. It also doesn’t require batteries, can be carried into a SCIF no problem, and can be used not only to write notes but to draw diagrams (or doodles). I also find the act of writing in it kind of soothing. I do have pretty nice handwriting and have always enjoyed practicing my penmanship – it’s kind of a relaxing exercise, like cracking my knuckles (without the grossness and annoying other people).

The Moleskine is, of course, a geek fetish object, but I can totally understand why. The quality of the writing surface is second to none, the stiff covers mean you can write easily almost anywhere, and the notebook has both a built-in bookmark and an attached elastic band to keep it closed when you’re not using it. I have the type that also has a little pocket in the back cover, large enough to store some stamps, stickers, or a few photos. You can read all about the Moleskine at their website.

I used to carry a PDA, I used one for years in fact. I went from a first-generation Palm Pilot to a Palm to a Visor to a Treo. (I’m sure I had more in there but I can’t remember them all.) At some point I decided that I really didn’t want a PDA anymore. When I had a job that required me to travel a lot, it was helpful, but for just tracking my personal life I found it was too much overhead, so I moved into using a cell phone that’s just a phone (mostly) and left the PDA behind. Even when I had a job that required me to attend a lot of meetings and take a lot of notes, I found it easier to take my laptop and use a program like Microsoft OneNote (or even good old text files) to stay organized.

Of course, if I had an iPhone I’d be thrilled to try using that as my PDA. I just can’t justify spending $600 on a phone or a PDA right now! It’s OK though, because I am really enjoying my Moleskine again. It has as much geek cred as an iPhone, at a much lower price point. 😉


One Response to Back to Basics: Notebook vs. PDA

  1. G. Chai says:

    Having myself used as many PDAs as you seemed to have, if I had to choose between an iPhone and a notebook, I’d pick notebook. Besides, most regular (read: inexpensive) cell phones do most of the tasks that were once done by PDAs.

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