I use little black notebooks for managing pretty much everything in my life besides phone numbers and email. For those I use my mobile and pine respectively. Unlike many people, phone numbers and email addresses are not the most significant part of my personal information management. I started using dedicated notepads in late 1999 and was up to #15 by the beginning of 2003. I'm shockingly disorganised by nature, and have an even worse memory. I forget everything. So each morning I write out a list of the things I'm doing for the day next to unchecked boxes that I grow and fill in as the day goes on. I've also got a paper date-diary for event scheduling and helping me to trigger my morning routine. These aids lurk throughout the day and make me feel guilty the next day when I realise I've failed to reference them. Sometimes.

I tried using a Palm Vx for a while, but find the entry is too slow and unreliable, and plain text sucks for representing unpolished thoughts. I had great ideas for improving the interface for being more notepad-like but the palm 'development experience' sucks.

Even if I'd coded my ideas I suspect I'd have given up on the palm tho. There's something very dependable and personal about a note book - you can 'jot', which is altogether different to just 'writing'. When you write you do it to produce a stream of polished text. But when you jot, you do it as much to develop an idea as you do to keep a record of it. Jotting is messy and constructive.

The act of using a pen and the way you use it incites thoughts more effectively than typing as well (for me at least). You can represent things in pen much more effectively than in plain text - the resolution of what you can fit into a spot you can view and comprehend in one hit is many times higher than plain text on a computer can offer.

You can also flip through a little black notebook. Back and forwards. Getting to where you want to quickly, and using fingers to save your place and crease corners into markings. And quick navigation like that is important. When you're brainstorming (and that sort of thing) you tend to spend more time navigating than you do writing - something for which a pen and paper is much faster than even gvim (which I'm pretty rapid in) or the mouse in a web browser.

Plain text does have a benefit for when you're getting things *right* - but for brainstorming and tracking your life, pen and paper are best. It's more portable and durable than most PIMs too.

I like to think of myself as a bit of a novelist a month a year. When I write I map out my ideas on paper and then hammer them out in vim and cvs. I find the notepads are also great for building up plot ideas with messy notes and lines all over. Between festivals, I write down ideas that come to me in the other eleven months a year. That way when I get stuck for words I can flip through old notepads until I find something that will mould into what I'm writing about.

My little black notebooks are special. They cost a little bit more than your standard notebook, but it's worth it. 300 pages. Sturdy metal spiral binding and a strong plastic cover. They flip over the top and are apparently Australian owned but made in China by a company called 'Quill'. I've deviated from them a couple of times - my first notebook had a paper front, and for #14 I've experimented with a side-bound plastic covered notepad with slightly bigger (A5) pages. But trying that was just a phase - I'll returning back to my old favourites and their slim pages once I'm through this book.

Update: I first wrote this in 2002. It's now 2009 and I discovered the new release of Moleskines two years ago. I've switched!

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