All of the Notebooks

Every notebook has a purpose.

Anna Burgess Yang
4 min readMar 3, 2019
Image created via Midjourney

My husband wanted to know why I have so many notebooks. I had been writing in several on Saturday morning and they were strewn around the kitchen.

“They all have a purpose,” I said, indignantly. “Would you like to know what they are?”

“Not really.” He shrugged and walked away.

I admit to being a bit disappointed because I was fully prepared to offer explanations for ALL of my notebooks.

I do a lot of things. I am an executive at a software company and have a million things to keep track of. Running a house with three kids is akin to being the CEO of a small business. Plus, I have my own things that I want to do.

Much as I’m a firm believer in automation, streamlining, and making things as easy as possible, I have also learned not to “force” things into roles or tasks for which they are not intended.

Notebooks are such a thing for me. I cannot have one giant notebook for all of my content because, for me, that doesn’t work. They each have a unique function in my world, and I need to dedicate them to their purpose.

I have a Moleskine Daily Planner, and at the end of each day, I jot down what I did that day. Who I saw. What I did. No commentary, hardly more than a sentence of detail. This is as close to a daily journal as I get.

I have a Simple Elephant weekly planner, with no prescribed weeks (the dates are blank — I fill them in as I go). This is my writing planner, where I put thought and commitment into what I am going to write. A blog post? Submit an article to an online publication? Some weeks just suck and the wheels fall off the wagon and I plan nothing, writing only as I am able to squeeze it in. And that’s fine. Having no prescribed dates in this planner makes me guilt-free if I miss a particular week.

I have a small spiral notebook that I keep in my purse for when I am out and about. If I feel the need, I can write something down.

I have a daily planner where I outline my “home time” and, more specifically, my goals for myself. First I write down all of the commitments for the week — like last week had the school science fair in the evening. Around that, I detail out the evenings, including exercise, laundry, watching an episode of Sherlock with my husband on Fridays (our “date night in”) and bath night. It gives me a realistic perspective of the time I have to myself and how I want to use it.

I’m still working on using that time productively and not just flopping onto my bed with Netflix, but it has helped me at least recognize when I have pockets of time in the day that I can use. (Note to self: need to write in this notebook in PENCIL instead of PEN)

A similar daily planner breaks my workday into 30-minute chunks. I have found that this has helped me tremendously, even down to 15-minute increments. If I know I need to spend an hour on a project, I block it off. Shut the email and focus, crossing off as I go. It has served me much better than a giant to-do list for the day. (I also use OneNote and Outlook Tasks for work.)

A spiral decomposition notebook holds more long-form writing. Essays? I have prompts from various sources and try to write in this notebook once per week. There is a huge distinction between writing by hand and typing, as writing by hand is slowed by the physical limitations of my fingers. I am forced to slow down. Think more.

Then there are days like today that did not go as planned.

I had blocked off in my notebook that I would be taking my 9-year-old and 6-year-old ice skating from 3:15–5:45, including travel time. But the 6-year-old announced after nap time that he no longer wanted to go ice skating. “Maybe next weekend,” was what he said. I had suddenly found free time in the afternoon.

Though it was only 21 degrees outside, I bundled the two kids up and sent them outside to run around. “Oh good,” said the 9-year-old, “I was looking for a way to get my energy out.”

I called my husband down and informed him that he and I were both going to use this time to run on the new treadmill we just bought a few weeks ago. We both have joined a running challenge, hosted by a friend of ours, where we need to run 20 days in March. This could be one of the days. My husband went first and I followed, plugging along at a steady 12–minute mile.

As I was wrapping up, the kids wanted to come back inside. The door from the sunroom to the backyard has issues and needs to be opened by an adult, so I motioned for my husband to come and let them in while I continued to run.

He walked past me and opened the door and as he passed a small table in our sunroom, he said, “ANOTHER notebook???”

Why, yes. This notebook was labeled “Quotes.” For when I am reading outside or in the sunroom and trip across a quote I like, I write it down.

He shook his head.

And I kept running.



Anna Burgess Yang

Freelance Writer. Practical Tips for Solopreneurs. Career pivots are fun. 🎉