February 10, 2018

How I Try to Organize My Life with Notebooks

Here at Preen, we’re fully aware that adult life doesn’t always go as smoothly (and look as beautiful) as curated Instagram feeds. We all face challenges amidst all the good things. Meet Mikka Wee, a former food editor-turned-working gal in Singapore, who’s about to share all the ups and downs that come with adulting and living. Welcome to Bless This Mess!

As I was going through some of the saved articles I had from Facebook, I clicked one from the The New York Times about “The Case for Using a Paper Planner,” and it felt good reading it, knowing that I’m not the only one who’s still planning her day the analog way.

I say this because I rarely see anyone use a planner nowadays, especially here in Singapore where technology abounds, and everyone’s lives are encapsulated within the four corners of a mobile device—whether it is a smartphone, a laptop, or a tablet.

There are days when I feel left behind, as I just couldn’t seem to put everything online. Sure, I have apps on my phone to track my budget and spending, and Evernote is quite nifty when it comes to important notes. However, when it comes to planning my day and writing my thoughts in a journal, I still prefer the “old-school” way—through pen and paper. And while I strongly agree that the science about remembering things better by writing them down is true, putting all my writing online does have its perks (it’s super convenient); however, there’s still something special and nostalgic that lingers within the written word.

My husband always asks why I have a notebook for several things—and then rolls his eyes. He’d always ask me why not just download this app or that app, and I always tell him it’s just not the same (!!!). Being able to feel the paper, feel the strokes of your words flow from the ink in your pen—if anyone knows the word that describes this feeling, please let me know. I always joke that my future child will not hold a tablet until he or she has written the alphabet by hand (and has managed to fill up several journals, just like his or her momma), but now, it might just be mandatory now for the little thing. Writing on paper is definitely something I hope people will still patronize even several years from now, because it’s really special. So today, let me share with you some of the notebooks I use on a regular basis and how I use each one.

1. Field Notes

What I Use It For: Random notes, travel notes, and tracking my expenses when traveling overseas

Whenever I travel, I always carry a Field Notes notebook with me simply because it’s compact, it has good paper quality, and I can jot down random notes in it. And the design is great! I recently ran out of Field Notes, but I’m glad I found a little store in Tokyo that sells lots of it.

There are a lot of Field Notes notebooks, and my favorite one has to be the Original Kraft Set. I like lined paper because I can be quite anal with the direction of my handwriting, so those suit me best. Make sure to also read up on the paper quality before you make a purchase—I made the mistake of getting a pack of Field Notes Expedition Set that came with glossy (but waterproof!) sheets (I use a lot of gel pens, so given the quality of the paper, the ink doesn’t stay put).

When I was in Tokyo, I bought a Sweet Tooth Set that comes with perforated pages, so they’re easily detachable, especially if I just need to take a piece of paper with me and fold it inside my pocket. I’m excited to try them out, especially after years of using the Original Kraft Notebooks. I also own a Night Sky Set, which I really love because of the constellation design and the star detail on its pages.

So yes, you can say that apart from its compact size, I love Field Notes because of the “aesthetic.”

2. Classic Moleskine Journal (Hardcover and Lined)

What I Use It For: Journaling, scrapbooking, and morning pages

I received my first diary as a present from my parents when I was in Kinder 2. It was red, had a bear on the hard cover, and had a lock that could easily be opened. Inside it, I wrote about my day, how I felt about school, and about our dog, Murphy. And then I watched Harriet the Spy and started using notebooks as journals ever since.

My Moleskine Journal comes in Willow Green, and I never let anyone read what’s inside. My husband asked me if I would want to pass it down to our offspring, and I said no. I just can’t bear the thought of having someone read my journal! I had a very traumatic experience when I was a kid, and my mom read my journal: it was a funny account of me wondering why Philippine mail took so long to reach the United States because my letter hadn’t reached my pen pal, Michiko, and it was already a week since I sent it. I felt infuriated when I found out that my mom read my journal, my tiny fists curled into balls, and I told her that I would sue her for invading my privacy.

I also do Morning Pages inside my Moleskine journal whenever I can because the feeling I get after free writing and emptying my thoughts on paper is quite meditative and relaxing. It helps prepare me for the day ahead, and it clears my mind. Try it!

3. Rhodia Notepad

What I Use It For: Ideas, ideas, and ideas

I use my Rhodia Notepad as my Brainstorm Notebook where I mostly jot down writing topics and ideas. Whenever something pops into my mind also—maybe a potential business idea—I write it down, too, no matter how silly it may seem. I also use it to jot down recipes when I put together a weird dish that works. I keep it separate from my other notebooks, because I often go back to it when I need to focus on generating ideas, and it’s nice to look back on my previous thoughts because there usually is something I can “salvage” and use as a starting point for a brand new idea.

4. Midori Traveler’s Notebook

What I Use It For: Conferences and taking down notes

I love leather, which is why I can never go vegan. I have both sizes of the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, and while I think they look very pretty, I find it quite challenging to work with. I like them because they have such a vintage feel, and I use them everyone once in a while, especially when going to conferences or important talks. I like it because it provides some sort of privacy when I take down notes. (I get awkward and nervous when someone looks at what I write.)

Also, I love the smell of the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. The refills also come in handy, so I recommend you get this if you’re the type who likes multi-purpose notebooks as well having the freedom of customizing it.

5. Hobonichi

What I Use It For: My everyday life notebook

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t supposed to get a Hobonichi, but I bit the bullet when I went to the Loft in Shibuya, Tokyo, and saw how pretty this notebook really is. The Hobonichi I own is in Japanese, and it came with the planner jacket. I’m still unsure if this is the Techo or the Cousin, but what I know for sure is that this is probably the best planner I’ve ever owned.

Despite it being in Japanese (there’s an English version, though, which I plan to get in 2019), I really like its size, design, and paper quality. However, too much ink could cause it to bleed, so I recommend using a ballpoint pen for this. There’s also enough space for stickers, washi tapes, and the journal jacket itself has a lot of compartments. The planner is designed in such a way that each day has its own full page where you can write anything down, apart from your day’s to-do list—plus, you can add stamps or stickers, too! It was particularly helpful, especially during my recent to Japan, as I wrote down the places we visited and a bit of introspective notes about my day.

The downside is that it’s quite pricey for a journal but trust me, it’s worth the investment.

At the end of the day, what matters is what works best for you. Despite my affinity to paper products, different strokes apply for different folks. For example, I know many of my friends are also into the Bullet Journal format; however, while I see how it makes things more efficient, I just couldn’t grasp and memorize the many different symbols so I stick to the checkbox and a star for events.

Now that we’re easing our way into 2018 and getting the hang of it, let me know if you have any favorite tools or tricks when it comes to writing about your day or organizing your life. I’d like to hear from you. Send me a message at mikkawee@gmail.com!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.


Art by Lara Intong

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Filed Under:

Bless This Mess, culture, Field Notes, Hobonichi, Midori Traveler's Notebook, Moleskine, Notebooks, organizing, planners, planning, Rhodia Notepad

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