3 Tips to Organize Your Notebook

The blank page of a notebook can be daunting. Consistently organized information can be found more easily, that’s the point of SEO and useful for a handwritten page too. However, I feel that the prevalence of curated notebook pages on social media can cause us to focus more on a perfect ideal instead of a useful document. Here are three tips I use in my notebooks to keep them organized without falling prey to perfectionism.

Tip 1 – Use a Page Template

Did your elementary school teacher ask you to write your homework assignments in a certain way with your name, the date, and the assignment? It made grading much easier! That simple lesson in consistency can apply to your notebook too.

handwritten notebook page with some details blurred. it is an A5 dot notebook and there is a margin drawn in and entries are in a mix of blue and black ink. there is a marker and a blue ball point pen next to the page.

For example, I prefer to track my time manually. Over the years I’ve used many different digital time tracking tools. This really does work the best for me!

On my time tracking page, I use a highlighter or marker to draw a line 5 boxes from the right-hand side. This is where I put billable time. On the other side, I write the date in a consistent format, preferring a simple string with a letter-based day, for example 20210401R. It’s faster. My single letter day of week thoughts can be found at a rainbow of highlighters. Then each line is a time entry and if I need more room to write I keep going. The hard margin line helps to make sure I don’t write over and muddle what is most important for me.

Tip 2 – Consistency with a Caveat

The bullet journal culture infected me and for a few years I wrote only with black or dark grey ink. It made the page easy to read and if something was highlighted in a different color it stood out. However, it caused perfectionism issues if I didn’t have a black pen available.

When my partner organized his desk, he found a box of 24 ball point pens in the bottom of a drawer and gave to me. I’m not one to turn down free stationary supplies! The problem? They were blue. It took me a few months but now my notes are written in several inks and the difference doesn’t cause me to pause. I’m writing more notes because I grab any pen and write! I still try to keep the brighter colors for highlighting important things.

As you can see above, my handwriting is not always the neatest. I don’t mind scribbles or smears. I always received poor marks for my penmanship in grade school.

Tip 3 – Labels

These are my secret weapon. I love the tiny return address labels the best, but often use other sizes and cut them in half. I most often use these within my logbooks to bring consistency.
Here are a selection of labels I’ve printed over the years, some of these are very old!

selection of printed labels on a desk with a teal Rhodia notebook next to it.
  • The label that looks like a shirt (it’s a croquis torso) is from when I spent time at an office twice a week and wanted to try to prevent wearing the same clothing each week … and practice my sketching skills.
  • I’ve since moved to a dedicated notebook for my meal planning lists but shipping labels were a great size for this.
  • Return address labels are great for routine tasks even though I’ve switched to using a digital todo list for these.

Last week for little acorn creations, I wrote about how I use labels in my notes.

I hope these three tips provide ideas on how you can use your notebooks!