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.
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
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
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
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.
- The Case for Using a Paper Planner (by Kristin Wong, NY Times)
- In A Digital Chapter, Paper Notebooks Are As Relevant As Ever (by Eric Weiner, NPR Morning Edition)
- Why the Humble Paper Notebook is Still The Greatest Productivity Tool (by Cal Newport)
Looking for a new notebook?
Note: This is a 2024 revision of a post first published in 2018.