Why I finally ditched digital note taking

I’ve spent nearly fifteen years working on the web, and have used computers nearly all my life. With that in mind, I recently stopped taking notes on my computer.

This is something I’ve struggled with, increasingly, over the last several years. As the technical lead / architect on projects, I am frequently the person leading technical discussions and driving meetings. This makes note taking awkward. Not only does it expose my notes (when I’m on a single screen) it means I am constantly typing as people are talking. Yes I’m a fast typist and I can keep up, but something about this process means that I tend to take spotty notes, and they don’t stick with me mentally as much as hand written notes.

I was leery about handwritten notes however. I have tried, and failed, to take handwritten notes for a decade (or more) professionally and as a way of generating notes for writing. Then! I came across bullet journaling.

I will be the first to admit, I am not nearly artistic (or patient) enough to really create a full blown bullet journal. But, there are a few tools that really make sense to me, and I wanted to share them here, even for a technology focused notebook.'

By FAR the biggest thing that has helped me, is an index. I can now extend and expand on previous ideas elsewhere in the notebook and then find them again. I know, right? What a revolutionary concept. Seriously though, this was a major blocker for me in previous notebooks.

Next, I use calendars and future logs to help track events and specific happenings. I color code everything (and these color codes align with the color codes in Todoist). So, I can transition tasks / activities out of the notebook if I don’t complete them daily into Todoist, so they can sync between my devices and I won’t lost track of them.

Finally, I just write. I keep a daily log broken out by meetings and times, so that I can easily scroll back through pages and find what I need.

It’s not searchable (unfortunately) but I have kept better notes since December than I have a in a LONG time. Plus, I remember things better writing and I find there to be something very satisfying about the action of flipping through pages that I have personally handwritten.


I use:

  • Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Medium A5 Dotted Notebook

  • Pilot G2 Pens (I bought the 20 multi-color pack)

  • The cheapest ruler I could find

The pen ink does a pretty good job on the paper, I don’t have any bleed through (ever). I do get smearing a bit if I’m not careful.

I already have my next notebook (a blue one!) lined up for when this one is done. Well worth the effort!

“They say no plan survives first contact with implementation.”
― Andy Weir, The Martian

As for the future? We’ll see. Right now I’m really enjoying this. The new tools (which I still find ironic, because and index is NOT A NOVEL CONCEPT) are really helping me keep up and find things. I’m doing due diligence in tracking important things in the future log and on my calendars so I can more easily find them. The color coding for events is seriously a life saver, as I can quickly flip back through the pages and find specific topics rapidly.

I’m all in on this handwritten note taking style (even if I hesitate to truly call it “bullet journaling.”