Using Analog Tools in a Digital Life

In a recent episode of the Pen Addict podcast, Myke lamented that his use of analog tools, all those beautiful pens and notebooks that he possesses, has greatly reduced.  This is because ever since he left his 'jobby job', there hasn't been a need for him to write as much.  This got me thinking about what have I done to make using fountain pens a part of my life?

Here is the short version:

  • meeting notes
  • action items
  • diagramming
  • daily run-down
  • 'art'
  • Tic-Tac-Toe and other pen & paper games
  • language learning
  • gratitude journal
  • running log
  • Shawn Blanc's Focus Course
  • longform journaling
  • brainstorming
  • journal to a loved one
  • notes of praise or encouragement
  • cards for special occasions and just because
  • bedside notebook to jot down not from readings

When I fell into the 'pendamoninum', I was at the paperless extreme of the spectrum of digital/analog.  Quite a few colleagues and vendors would praise me for being at the forefront of the technology adaption curve when I showed up at meetings with nothing but my iPad and a stylus.  They thought it was pretty awesome I could handwrite my meeting notes into the iPad.  Quite a few people asked me about the apps that I used and the styli.  I converted quite a few people into the digital way of life. 

When people asked me for advice on digital notetaking, I was never able to wholeheartedly endorse any one app or one stylus.  I always sent them a list of a few of the 'better' ones to try.  This was back in the days when iPad Pro was still a few years away from existing in the wild and Apple Pencil did not exist.  (Not that I have either...although I do pine for them a bit when I hear Myke praising them on yet another show.)

After I took up the fountain pen, I went whole hog looking for ways to use it.  Now I take all my meeting notes using fountain pen and a Leuchtturm 1917+Whitelines notebook.  I also use Evernote to record audio from meetings and keep the agenda which I usually forward from my email or from meeting invitations.  After meetings, I scan my handwritten notes into Evernote using Scanbot.  Sometimes, I use the scanning function within Evernote as it has improved quite significantly.  

Leuchhturm 1917 + Whitelines notebook along with TWSBI 580 ready for work duties

But, I think that taking meeting notes by hand will not help Myke with his problem because he simply doesn't have as many meetings ever since he left his corporate job.  What else do I use analog tools for that I could share?

Apart from my work notebook, I keep a Rhodia N. 18 bloc pad by my desk.  The large form factor is particularly conducive for visualizing complex structures laid out in one picture.

In my everyday carry is a Midori's Travelers Passport notebook.  In it I keep 3 inserts.  The first is for me to jot down things that happen during my day.  These notes help remind me to complete my Day One reflections.  I scan a copy of each page to add to the Day One entry.

MTN meets MTN

I use my second insert for doing 'art'.  I'm using quotes I don't have an artistic bone in my body.    I try to practice hand lettering.  Some quotes go in here at the start of the day to give me motivation.  Lately I've taken to keeping track of my fountain pen load out in this notebook.  My son has drawn in here. There's more than a few games of Tic-Tac-Toe in here.  When we go to restaurants I don't keep him busy with iGadgets.  He brings books, hockey cards, notebook and pen to write or draw.  But inevitably, he neglects to bring his own notebook so I let him use mine.  I was hesitant at first to let him use my Midori 'art' notebook, but I have come to enjoy the little surprises of seeing these little memories made when we are out together.

Left:  Request from my little guy for a game of Tic-Tac-Toe.  Right:  Recent fountain pen load out.

I use the third insert to practice writing Chinese characters.  I try to focus on a "word of the day" and write it out a few times then use it in a few sentences.  I liven it up with a little 'sketch' and then finish off with writing out the word again using a Platinum brush pen (I would not say it's calligraphy but that's the look I'm going for.)  I try to change up the colours in the brush pen but one filling tends to last a long time.  Everything else is done with a fountain pen from my current load out.  However, I've found that I tended to go with the finer nibs since the fine lines work better with some of the more complex characters.  Myke has said that he wants to learn Romanian.  I think writing words out really helps reinforce language learning.

This year I've also started to use a Hobonichi planner, in no small part due to Brad saying on the podcast that he would try it again for 2016 and my favourite local Toronto pen shop, Wonder Pens started to carry them.  I had originally planned to use it as a full-on planner. In my work notebook I do use a page each day to list my action items but I don't do anything similar in my personal life.  I thought the Hobonichi would be good to combine both.  After taking it to a beach vacation, I decided that I would use it as a gratitude journal instead.  So each day I jot down a few items that I'm grateful for.  I try to make it more fun by doing some sketch noting but I have long way go practicing sketchnoting.  I'm also using the 2 months per page views to track my runs since I've jumped back onto the marathon training wagon.  I use Runkeeper app as my log but it's nice to have a quick view and see all those miles at a glance.

I've been going through Shawn Blanc's Focus Course (again for the second time, better than ever).  And each time I've used a Baron Fig Confidant notebook to do the exercises and jot down my thoughts.  I do scan these into Day One as I want a way to refer back digitally. 

Sketchnotes I took for the Focus Course

I try to do some long form writing on weekends and I've been using my Midori Travelers Regular size notebook.  I've started to use this to brainstorm blog ideas. There's a second notebook in here that I use for sketching and drawing.  (In my case, that's learning to draw.)

Creative ideation

I've been keeping a journal for my son.  My entries are like letters to him about special events, his accomplishments, and my aspirations for him.  He doesn't know about this journal and I plan to give it to him when he turns 18.  My journal of choice for this is an orange Rhodia webbie.  

Messages of love

Each night I also write note to my son using a Nock Co. DotDash note card.  I try to use it to praise or encourage him.  He has come to expect these notes from me as part of his bed time routine.  

I've also got a stash of these lovely Gotamo cards from my favourite pen shop in Toronto, Wonder Pens.  They are made by a local artist.  The paper stock is excellent and takes fountain pen ink very well.  I've got a good assortment that I've used for birthdays, thank yous, encouragement and just for no particular reason except for the pleasure of opening up a card to write in it.

Gotamo cards

I keep a Field Notes in my bedside table to write short notes on my reading.  I still don't do it that often to make a habit of it, but I did find it helpful when I'm actively doing it.

Field Notes for bedside thoughts

Wow, this turned out to be a much longer post than I expected.  I hope it's provided some analog inspiration.  Do you do any of these things?  Any other ideas to add to the dialogue and help Myke find his analog happy place?!?

Note:  I have included some links in the post for reference purpose only.  None of them are affiliate links.