Lately I’m thinking about note taking. I’ve gotten really into Evernote, which I have installed as a Chrome browser extension + app on my iPhone.

I love it.

I also learned recently about this analog method of taking notes.

I’m interested in learning about how you keep track of notes and to do lists.


I use Moleskine notebooks religiously. I do not like electronic planners. I use Outlook for work, but tend to keep it bare minimum and work-only. Those few things are transcribed into my Moleskine notebook, and then all my other appointments and to-do items, thoughts, and a work log, an exercise log and an eating log are ALL encoded in my own style within that Moleskine.

I use a specific notebook, with pages that look like this:

It is one of their “weekly planners - large.”

The days of the week are on the left and there is a page of notespace on the right side. I keep extensive notes, and sometimes they spill over onto the next page. Because of this overflow tendency, I keep a separate moleskine just for miscellaneous thoughts, mock-ups, drawings, musings. The main planner is supposed to be for important factual stuff and weekly planning, work planning, etc., and random stuff should go in the other notebook, but of course that doesn’t always happen.

The bulletjournal concept is cool, but I couldn’t live that way. :slightly_smiling:


I use Wunderlist at home.

At work, I keep meaning to use OneNote and/or Outlook Tasks, but generally just write stuff down in a note book.


I use the Out Of Milk app for small lists with no details (think shopping and to-do lists) and Google Keep for more detailed notes, both of them shared among the family’s devices. I’ve given up handwritten notes completely.


That’s awesome. I like my notebook because I don’t need to be at a screen to use it. It usually sits on the coffee table in my office, next to the stuff I need to read.


I frequently carry a cheap 8x5 spiral notebook for my to-do lists and general notes, which has replaced my previous 8x5 yellow pads, because it’s less likely to lose leaves as it’s being carried around and manhandled. I usually have the main things I’m trying to focus on, from those lists, jotted on a 3x5 card. I also carry a bound Strathmore blank sketchbook, for drawing, the occasional poetry, longer term thoughts.

As to what I put in it, when I was in my teens, I learned the “Statement-PIE” method for taking notes in class and studying them, which has turned into a life-long way of organizing my thoughts and especially to-dos.

It’s a simple way of breaking down complex presentations or topics into a hierarchical structure of bullet points; PIE is an acronym for Proof, Information, or Example. If the next statement (or item) you need to put down is a “proof” or justification for the previous item, additional information about it, or an example of it, then it goes in one level of indent. If not, then you go up one level and check if it’s at a parallel level with the current item, and proof/information/example for the one above; repeat until you either find where it fits or decide that it’s an altogether new topic.

I would think there would be more on the web about it, but haven’t found much. In various places online you can find a used copy of “The Study Game: How to Play and Win”, which seems to be the latest incarnation of the author’s book on the system. (It’s a very '70s style book, pre-desktop-publishing, so with a lot of hand-drawn cartoon sketches manually pasted-up with the text. That might put some people off, and it’s pitched to high-school students or college freshmen, but the system is gold.)

Rendering all of this into that format would be something like:

  • Physical notebooks
    • Clifton carries 8 x 5 spiral notebook, containing
      • To-do lists (multiple)
        • Also keeps current focus to-do items on 3x5 card
      • General notes on projects, etc.
      • This replaced 8 x 5 yellow pads with similar notes
        • Works better because pages don’t come loose and fall off
    • Often carries Strathmore bound sketchbook for
      • drawings,
      • poetry,
      • longer-term thoughts
  • Keeps notes using Statement-PIE method
    • Clifton learned it as a note-taking system
      • During teens (Q: how long ago was that?)
    • Clifton also uses it for organizing thoughts
      • Especially to-do lists
    • Simple way to break down complex topics into hierarchical bullet points
    • Each new statement or topic is considered as either a new statement or PIE
    • PIE stands for Proof-Information-Example
      • If new statement or topic is “proof”, “information”, or “example” for immediate previous one, it’s PIE
      • PIE statements should be indented one level deeper than statement they expand on
    • If new statement or topic is not PIE for immediate preceding statement, go up one level
      • Check if it is parallel to previous statement at that level, and PIE for its parent; if so it belongs there.
      • If not, go up one more level
      • If it’s not parallel to anything else or PIE to anything else, it’s a new main topic.
    • Not much info about it available on the web
      • Book about system is The Study Game: How to Play and Win by Laia Hanau
      • “'70s style book”, pre-desktop-publishing
        • hand-drawn cartoon sketches manually pasted-up with the text
      • Now long out of print
        • Cheap copies can be found online
      • Aimed at high-school students or college freshmen
      • Clifton claims “system is gold”

(Note that as I converted that into this format it naturally pushed me to note an unanswered question, and fill in a few missing pieces of information like a link to the book and the author of the system.)


At work, I keep a mini clipboard with 8.5x11 sheets of paper, scavenged from the recycle bin and torn in half. Notes on a particular topic, or from a particular meeting fit on a sheet, and the sheets are disposable and small enough that I never feel the need to re-use a sheet for multiple meetings/projects. I highlight the to-dos that come out of these, then transcribe them into trello when/if I get a chance.

Grocery lists my wife and I share through “Out of milk.” She also created this pretty sick meal planner/task organizer a while back that keeps our kitchen game on point.

I keep lists of book, movies, TV shows and music I want to explore someday in Google Keep lists

I doodle in Autodesk sketchbook pro on my phone (note 5, damn the stylus on this one is good), or scrap half-sheets mentioned above

I have a legal-width filing cabinet drawer where I drop sketches and ideas for various story, videogame and animation projects into folders. Digital docs for these (outlines, dialogue, notes) in google drive.

I don’t actually get much done, so grains of salt and all that.


I used the bullet journal format for a while- but eventually fell behind with it. It felt a little slow to manage for me.
I’ve used Patrick Rhone’s Dash/Plus method for a while, too. That was faster and lighter weight, and is at least related to what I use now.
These days, I use a Field Notes book (or the home-made equivalent). Every day gets a page, and each page gets a list- that list is both a to-do for the day, but also a list of things to look up or research, or things I need to otherwise remember.
Those books get marked with the start/end dates on the cover, and filed in order when full. I keep some larger Leuchtturm and Moleskine notebooks around, but those tend to be for sketching/working out larger projects and problems.
I keep a Hobonichi Techno as well (and have for the last several years), and that usually is a place to journal or schedule or whatever. I don’t use it as much as I should, but it’s such a lovely object…
I made a huge push a few years ago with Evernote, but it’s also fallen by the wayside for me- it wasn’t fast enough to capture the things I needed to log. I’d still like to use it to scan/sort/archive papers with (what with the tagging and all that), but that’s a project for the future.


never heard of that; gonna check out the book

They have Evernote Capture app now so you can just snap pics of things on screen, copy articles, etc. Really loving that. Plus you can take a picture of a post-it note and it reads it as a post-it note.


I write things down in a paper notebook or on my hand (and if it’s important make sure not to go to the bathroom and accidentally wash it off), and keep a notes on the computer in plain text files scattered around the computer wherever it wants to save them. I’m disorganized and should be used as an excellent example of what not to do.


This is super interesting. My high school US Government teacher taught me the note-taking system that I have used ever since: all through college and grad school and in my career. She forbade us to take notes!

Instead, we had to pay attention, eyes front, listen and remember the important stuff. She said, if you don’t remember something, just read the Constitution again. It’s in there.

So, of course through college I took a few notes. But only for stuff like how equations work with little annotations, or other things like due dates or assignment guidelines that were not in the assignment. Or stuff the prof said was “going to be on the exam but were not in the readings” so that I would remember. Otherwise, never took notes.

Wrote down plenty of doodles and gibberish!!! Not saying I sat there and never lifted my pen!!! LOL


I often send scans/photos of my hand when somebody asks if I have done “X” yet – it’s on my priority list…
Most of my text notes are in a certain directory – unless they are not.
Meeting notes/etc for work are in a 8"x5" moleskine. Personal notes/etc are in a 3"x5"ish notebook that I keep in my back pocket (currently a nifty art nouveau owl design - usually a plain thin one).

I do try to use Google Keep to manage shopping lists and todo lists.
I have only used Evernote to collect (and somewhat organize) reference material.

One of these days, I will compile a list of all the organization-system books that I have in a pile somewhere…


All through high school and college, I used the T-notes system (which this site is calling Cornell notes)–super easy, use ordinary pen and paper.

except in my art history classes, I would just make thumbnail sketches of the sculptures, paintings and buildings from the slide lecture and write the artist and date next to them. forced me to really sketch fast! loved that method, really helped with retention. I no longer have those notebooks, I don’t think. too bad, they came out pretty well.

Before the pizzeria went out of business, I had a really rigorous set of notes for doing the orders. Whiteboard by the cooler, clipboard with printout checklists of every single inventory item, and a whiteboard by the office for front-of-the-house items. Different color pens, all that. I alone was doing all the ordering twice a week (different distros) for a while so it was sink or swim. I made that system my bitch.

I carry a little pad in my back pocket for shopping lists mainly, I don’t really use it too much but if I don’t note something right away, it vanishes from my memory, so always having it in the pocket means I can always take the note and then always have the notes when I find myself at the store–I don’t have to remember to get my shopping list before i go.

for digital, I don’t use any devices, i just have a laptop (jacked into my flatscreen so really like a desktop ATM) All I have is a couple .txt files I use and they’re so few that they’re always in the “recent” menu on TextEdit, so they’re easy to find. One for the URLs of files I upped to, one for the weird japanese emoticons and some ASCII art you’ve maybe seen me use. One spec list for each of my two bicycles: stock and current componentry, headset and bottom bracket diameters, stem clamp diameters, gear ratios, serial #s; just as much data as I can get. facilitates use of online forums and figuring out compatibility when shopping. Maybe a few other notes, but really that’s all i need atm.



LOLZ, exactly! I was in a math test and couldn’t remember something and my government teacher’s voice popped up in my head: “Just remember the Constitution, padawan.”


I love those! But now I get these awesome Korean school books where you write in the date, because out of ever 5 weeks I only use 4, so I hated having wasted pages, these let me track, and project if I want to, but I don’t go more than a couple weeks into the future because I know I’ll stop using it for a week. Thanks rando stationary store in China Town!


Yeah- the post-it thing is neat because you can code different color post-its to different tags and whatnot.
I’d love to get one of those mean Fuji scanners with a hopper and Evernote integration and have every scrap of paper that comes into my house scanned and shredded.
But the scanners are like $450 and it’s just not that high up my priority list.
I do use Genius Scan on my phone to dump stuff into Evernote, too. Which is fine for occasional stuff, but gets old quickly when the pile to scan gets larger than a few sheets…


For those of us who are kinesthetic (about 10% of the population), it’s the physical act of writing that fixes the info in our brains. While a student, I would seldom-to-never refer back to my notes when studying for a test, because the mere fact that I took them in the first place is what mattered. In fact, the same holds true now during large meetings (not one-on-ones though).


I don’t use moleskins, but I do prefer books over devices. I generally get the small ones (4x6 maybe?) with graph paper. It just feels… Right.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years though is my handwriting has turned to crap. Interesting crap, but still bad. It’s ledgible almost to a fault. Kind of a half breed version of Consolas and Papyrus. I am not proud of this.

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