Organized my desk today and started going through my various pens and notebooks and how/why I use them. A paper bullet journal has worked wonders for me (vs many failed attempts at using Google Keep, gmail tasks, and some custom digital organization tools). I’ve been tempted to spend money on a Surface book or iPad with the Apple Pencil mainly because sometimes I draw diagrams I’d like to avoid re-drawing to insert into design documents or other digital forms.

But good old pen & paper is still a wonderful way to be creative and organized.

Here are some of my recommended physical products. Purchase links for convenience (not referrer links).


Miquelrius Wirebound 6-Subject Grid Notebook ($15)

Role: Finished Ideas.

I wish I discovered this in college. The paper in this notebook is nice and thick, and as per my preference I get the grid version (although college ruled exists as well).

I put a bullet-journal style learning journal in this notebook. I’ll ideate in my other notebooks then put fully formed ideas into this one, making it a catalogue of ideas & designs.

It’s a heavy notebook so I keep it at home – I only bring it out on occassion.

Purchase Link

Moleskine Softcover Squared 8.5x5 (~$17)

Role: Bullet Journal (Monthly / Daily Log).

I use this for my daily log (see bullet journal) as well as my monthly log. This is my most-used notebook and I travel with it constantly. If I bring a single journal, it’s this one.

Moleskine is a brand name which means you can find cheaper things that do the same thing, but I’ve been using it for a long time and haven’t found anything I like better yet. For me $17 every 8 months or so is sustainable. I think I also purchased these on sale because I have a whole bunch of them in the cabinet; I tend to do that whenever prices fall for things I use frequently.

Squared, because my preference is for grids. Soft cover because soft covers for this style of notebook holds up much longer than hardcover. I prefer soft covers for everything now, provided a choice is possible.

Purchase Link

Moleskine Cahier Squared 8.5x5 (~$4.10)

Role: Learning Notes.

Another Moleskine. Same size as my softcover one but cheaper and with fewer pages per book. I use this for notes that are more important and organized than scratch, but not complete enough for me to re-write into the finished notes journal.

I like that since this is the same size as my other moleskine they stack nicely and I can carry them around in roughly the same amount of space.

Purchase Link

Muji Double Spiral A6 ($4)

Role: My portable scratchpad.

4x6 form factor and dot paper makes this great for portable ideation & scratch. I generally prefer grid / dot notebooks because I find myself drawing vertical lines frequently and it helps me be a little more organized.

Spiral bound is great because it usually sits on my desk flipped open to the latest ideation page. I got mine from a friend whose startup had some branded. Because it’s small I can bring it to/from work easily in one of my backpack’s smaller pockets (vs competing with my other junk in larger pockets).

To be honest if I didn’t get it as a gift I’d probably have not purchased this notebook, but it’s notable for the fact that it’s fairly cheap and the paper quality is quite good. Also the built-in bookmark is a nice touch.

I’ll note that if you buy multi-packs of moleskine cahiers they’re about the same price – the main difference is that this sits open to a certain page more easily since it’s spiral-bound.

Purchase Link


OHTO Horizon Needle Point Pen (Between $6-10 depending on color, median price ~$8.50)

My favorite pen hands down. This has all-metal construction with a unique clicker that makes it super aesthetically pleasing, and from a functional perspective it writes more fluidly than the famous hi-tec-c (particularly if you write with a lot of slant / angle). I still like the hi-tec-c but find myself gravitating to just restocking this pen vs getting hi-tec-c cartridges.

Purchase Link

PHX Pen ($29)

My second favorite pen; I was an early kickstarter backer for this pen. It has a really nice heft and the round shape is kind of nice too. My main gripes are that the cap takes a bit of time to open (vs just clicking my OHTO Horizon) and that if you lose one it’ll cost $29 to replace. As someone who loses pens with some frequency this makes me paranoid to bring my PHX around (I’ve already lost one). I mostly have it in a cup at home as a result and use it when I’m writing at length.

Purchase Link

Uni-ball Deluxe Fine 0.7mm (~$1.30)

My go-to cheap pen. Ink dries fast (I’m a lefty and this matters), it writes smoothly, and if I lose one I’m not super sad because they come in boxes of twelve and also work has a supply closet full of them.

Purchase Link