Why I bought a fountain pen

Experiences of adding paper back into an almost paperless life

Since almost a year I use an iPad Pro 12’’ and with that I had pretty much perfected my paperless life. At the backbone I use Evernote, and then a whole bunch of tools: Todoist, Day One, Pocket, Liner, Paper by 53, Workflow on iOS, and last but definitely not least IFTTT and some Zapier. Except for some mind mapping, and roughly jotting down ideas I barely used my hand writing anymore, and had everything neatly stacked away in the cloud.

Then last December I was researching some stuff on the mighty internet and found the Travellers Notebook. For those who don’t know: it’s a very simple notebook system with a leather folder, and inserts that you can arrange to your needs. Back in high school I loved my paper planner. It was a highlight to choose the planner for the next year, and I took my time to decide on the layout, size, color, and setting things up. But I’m also a gadgeteer, and when my dad gave me a handed down Palm and later Psion I did my planning in there. And from then on with every technological affordable step I went more and more the digital path.

And then I came along that Travellers Notebook, and tons of posts of devoted journalists. I researched what people write in there apart from the obvious travel journaling. I was interested in the NOT so obvious stuff as one of my major interests is learning about techniques for sparking your productivity, creativity, and awareness.

Highlights I found were the Morning Pages, the Bullet Journal, and Regular Reviewing.

Morning Pages are a technique from the book “The Artists Way“ by Julia Cameron basically intended to get your thoughts on paper every morning. Sort of like a mental cleaning to spark your writing and thinking processes. It’s recommended to do it in long hand, as hand writing usually is slower than typing and leaves you more time to think. 750 words.

The Bullet Journal technique is a quite straightforward no fuss planning system created by Ryder Carol that you can tweak up to your specific needs, and that technically week by week. Fully agile so to speak. If you google this especially on Pinterest and Instagram you’ll find a whole galaxy of pictures of notebooks with neatly designed pages planning every aspect of their owners lives.

Regular Reviewing is not really a technique with a specific system. It’s more an idea that I read about in different contexts: instead of always planning ahead, and setting goals, you also need to look back, and review what you were working on, how that went, and what you want to change.

By all means I don’t intend to switch from digital back to analog. Hell no! But in a way I missed hand writing a bit and I wanted to see how it feels to bring it back. Does that make sense? Probably not.

So I ordered that notebook, got a Kaweco Liliput, started with Morning Pages, a 365 day creative journal, and bullet journaling for my private life. (Penwise the Tactile Turn Glider is also wonderful! … Yeah that stuff is pricey, but it’s also fun to have a little masterpiece in your hands every day that does a very simple job, but that job it does brilliantly.)

I started with this whole thing a month ago and so far my findings are:

Morning Pages: I manage to sit down to write almost every day, but mostly I don’t end up with the intended 750 words. The technique tells you to write down anything that comes to mind no matter what, and don’t be concerned about a red thread. Just put it there. What I find interesting is that I rethink lots of the little stuff that happens. This way I become generally more aware. For example little stuff that distressed me that I can either trash as not relevant or do something about it. Or little highlights that I forgot and remembering suddenly enhances my mood. It’s all pretty subtle. Finally I go to work already pretty ordered and focussed.

Bullet Journal: As I wrote before I started planning my private life in this system. First of all having a different system than my work life gives it more emphasis. I like to have lots of free time, love to be somewhat spontaneous to whatever I feel like doing (unfortunately I don’t have many friends anymore who can deal with that), but all of a sudden I’m able to pretty consistently work on my private projects. Like learning stuff I was always wondering about, painting, writing this blog post (I have blogging on my list of things I’d like to do for years and except of Instagram posts nothing happened). The system is pretty easy, straight forward, but I’m still tweaking it.

Regular Reviewing: The Regular Reviewing comes a bit with the Bullet Journal. At the end of the week you set up the page of your next week. So this gives an option to review the last week, and think about what — aside from your fixed plans — you want to work on the following week. Same happens at the end of the month. I do both. Can’t say much yet about the monthly one, but the weekly already improved my focus.

So. All in all this whole experience is pretty mind blowing for me. Don’t know how long I’ll stick to it, or how it will change over time.

But as Buddha said: the path is the goal.
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