4 Rhodia notebooks on top of a grid page laid out as a calendar. An anise green goalbook is on top.

starting a new notebook or planner

It’s a new Monday, a new month, and a new year. Perhaps you are opening a new notebook or planner today and feel overwhelmed.

Personally, I prefer not to start a new book on January 1st to help combat this extra “newness” angst. I like beginning one when it’s an otherwise normal mundane day. However, sometimes the stars (and pages) align and it happens.

4 Rhodia notebooks on top of a grid page laid out as a calendar. An anise green goalbook is on top.

This feeling of being overwhelmed about a new notebook happened to me today. It took me several hours (and conversations with my cat) simply to remove the protective covering and open the cover of a new notebook.

Now that I have, this post will step through how I’m settling into this new book.

three ways to start a new notebook or planner

The blank page is intimidating. An entire blank new book for planning? That occupies a completely different level. I believe the only way a notebook or planner is ruined is when it’s never used.

Here are the three ways I started using a new book this afternoon.

step one: scribble

small scribble on a dot grid page

The first thing I write isn’t my name. I shut my eyes and flip to a random page. Then, now with my eyes open, I take a pen and doodle a small scribble toward the bottom of the page at an inner margin. There is a bonus if I don’t allow the ink to dry and it transfers to the facing page.

Today, that scribble happened on page 154.

In the future, when I get to this page and rediscover the scribble, I will smile.

step two: pen test

dot grid page with "pen test" handwritten as the title. three different pens/inks are next. 1. TWSBI XF Swipe (black ink, medium weight) 2. micron 005 (black ink, extra fine). 3. Stabio 68/94 (medium grey, bold line marker)

This is another favorite and an easy way to start using a new notebook without feeling as if I’m messing up. I’m experimenting and learning, not making a mistake.

On the final page, I write with various pens, markers, and highlighters to test the paper’s performance. I purposely do not use any pencil boards or blotting paper to prevent bleeding or feathering.

This test is less pertinent now that I tend to use the same notebooks, however the testing page is one I always feel free to doodle on.

Now that two pages have writing on them, I’m able to accept that my actions haven’t caused the earth to completely shatter.

step three: migrate

contents with pages 3-13 mostly filled out.

While a new book starts on a new date, there are ongoing projects and information that needs to be transferred so it doesn’t become lost and forgotten. By acknowledging that this new book is part of a continuum, my brain doesn’t get as stuck on the newness and gets back to working. I don’t transfer the entire history of the project, I’ll make a note of where to find the archive and focus on key details.

In a planner, the first events that go in are those well-known reoccurring dates such as holidays and birthdays. That’s followed by upcoming doctors’ appointments and deadlines.

This configuration process doesn’t need to be completed the first time I open a new book. I’ll leave several blank pages scattered in the early pages to allow migration of additional information.

I hope that these tips help you to get started today or whenever you begin a new notebook.

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Note: This is a 2024 revision of a post first published in 2018.