Moleskine for Evernote: The satisfaction of a well-made notebook

I mentioned previously that I recently picked up one of Moleskine’s Evernote notebooks – long after they were first introduced, so I’m not blazing any trails in this area! Essentially, these notebooks are created with the note-taking app in mind, allowing you to scan them into the app with your iPhone’s camera.

After a week of pretty intensive usage, I’m smitten. I’ve spent the last year using a variety of cheap and cheerful A5 and A4 pads of varying quality to take meeting notes and get thoughts and ideas out of my head. Being somewhat of a controlling completist, the ‘quality’ notes were then scanned into Evernote using my desktop scanner at home.

imageThis way of working meant that I frequently had to carry a lot of loose paper around, until I had the chance to preserve it electronically in Evernote. Especially when traveling for work.

So, one way the Moleskine is superior to these pads is that the notes stay in one place, reducing the volume of paper I carry, while they can instantly be scanned into Evernote while I’m on the move, using my iPhone.

The ensuing weight reduction in my work backpack is tangible. And very, very welcome. I also have less of the ‘where is that piece of paper’ mental anguish, as I know any notes scribbled this week are in the Moleskine. And that’s how I’d like it to be going forward.

On another, more subjective note, the act of writing on quality paper in a nicely-made notebook has had an impact on my note-taking. I’ve noticed it’s less about the scribbles and more about well-chosen words and making links between by thoughts on paper. It’s almost as if I know it’ll be committed to Evernote and I want the notes to make as much sense as possible.

To be clear: they’re not ‘pretty’, they’re just more useful.

Plus, for the last year, I’ve been using a set of erasable pens I bought in Japan. These are perfect for use in notebooks where you can’t rip out pages and don’t want to scribble out. You can simple rub out your errors and keep going. On reflection, I think this is why Moleskine notebooks didn’t really work for me in the past – a sort of fear associated with not getting it right first time and then ‘messing up’ the beautiful page – with no way back!

Similarly, the Moleskine’s cover is well-made, protecting the notes while in my bag. It feels like it’ll last long than a random legal pad and is a lot more presentable when placed on the table in front of a client.

The Moleskine came with a set of Evernote-related stickers, the logic being that placing these stickers in some pre-defined context means that Evernote will automatically turn them into actions, reminders etc. Nope – I haven’t figured out how to use these yet. It’s been one of those weeks where my feet have barely touched the ground, so I’ll look at those another time.

I’m keen to keep this notebook for work-related content only. This means it’s going to be for meeting notes, workshop notes, sketching out training courses and making notes for blog posts. It makes sense (to me) to have a dedicated work notebook, allowing me to keep personal notes separate. In my experience, I prefer to flick through personal notes without the risk of stumbling across a work note that intrudes on my thinking or reminds me of something slightly stressful.

I’m in two minds as to where to keep personal notes now. I have a small shop’s worth of Traveler’s Notebooks I brought home from my various trips to Japan. These are beautiful and sit within a lovely leather cover. But they don’t have the hardcover of a Moleskine and are a lot more expensive to replace here in the UK.

That said, I’ve been to Japan every year for a few years, so maybe it’s sustainable to just pick up a dozen or so each time I visit!

Using the Moleskine has made me realise that my Traveler’s Notebook is a little bulky and unwieldy in comparison. So I’m going to strip out some of the ‘accessories’ I’ve stuck in there and get back to basics. Otherwise, it’ll end up like one of my long-lost Filofax binders: too heavy to reasonably carry from place to place.

Bottom line: would I recommend the Evernote Moleskine?

If you can stomach paying over £20 for a single notebook and you’re also a heavy Evernote user, then this could be for you. If you frequently lose loose pieces of paper, then it might also be helpful. But it doesn’t have to be a Moleskine – you can easily scan things into Evernote using most kinds of paper in my experience, as long as it’s white or off-white.

But I like them and will continue to use it until it’s full. I’ll then make a decision as to whether I’ll get another one, so I’m not stuck with a small stockpile of unused and unwanted notebooks in my study.

Yes, I know – stationery-related self-control. The new me!

My battered Midori Traveller’s Notebook

My lovely black Midori Traveler’s Notebook, part of the massive haul of stationery I picked up on our last trip to Japan, has been in the wars. After a few months of daily use (and I mean daily) it was carelessly thrown into a bag alongside an iPad charger and came off second-best against the plug’s metal prongs.

It’s no longer flawless, but instead looks like it’s had some bargain basement cosmetic surgery, performed by a surgeon after a heavy night’s drinking and general carousing. But you know what? I like it even more now that it’s not perfect. I was treating it with kid gloves when I should have used it as an object from day one. I think the scratches and general wear and tear make it look real and not something sitting in the shop window.

Since getting it, it’s hardly left my hand, serving as an outboard wallet, travel document holder, frequent flyer card repository, foreign currency pocket and notebook (of course!). It’s what I have in my hand when I make phone calls, when I walk through an airport or when I’m sitting on a train and I’m not looking into an iScreen. It’s so much lighter and more portable than any Filofax I’ve owned and a lot more flexible than any Moleskine notebook.

I only have single Filofax remaining – the gorgeous racing green A5 original. Am I’m holding on to that as a desk-bound notebook until I’ve used up the mountain of A5 inserts I’ve accumulated over the past few years. Then I think it’ll join all the others on eBay.

Don’t hate me, Filofax-lovers.

But I think I’ve moved on.

A brief Midori update

So, as I excitedly wrote last October, I picked up quite the collection of Midori Traveler’s Notebooks and accessories when I was in Japan. This required a trip to a branch of Tokyu Hands in each of the cities we visited! But it was definitely worth it, as Tokyu Hands stores are treasure troves of things you never knew you needed…until you see them.

So has my Midori been used?

Oh yes. It’s barely left my hand and has been used more and more as time went on. It’s definitely a personal notebook. Work-related content goes elsewhere – either a large A4 pad or straight into Evernote, depending on where I am and what I’m doing. Everything related to travel, hobbies, list-making and the rest of my personal life now goes straight into my Midori.

I recently “upgraded” it to my main wallet, actually. Every card I use for ID or travel now lives in a model 007 card-holder inside the Midori. A couple of photos above illustrate how they fit in (with post its to cover the crucial details!).

That leaves me with the slimmest of slim Jack Spade wallets in my back pocket, containing just my American Express card, my bank debit card and my passport card.

As I sorted these cards that had been bulking out my wallet, I realised that many of them had been superseded by apps on my iPhone. For example, my Eurostar ‘frequent flyer’ card and a couple of hotel chain loyalty cards. Now shredded, leaving space for other things.

The card holder I bought in Hiroshima holds its contents very snugly too – when I previously did this in a personal-sized Filofax, the cards had a tendency to fly out in a very annoying way. The last thing you need when you’re trying to navigate airport security! The addition of these cards (twelve in total) has added virtually no weight or heft to the Midori – it’s still very portable.

My kraft paper file, contained in the centre of the notebook has become the place to keep paper tickets like printouts for the cinema and gallery exhibits. I tend to print them as soon as I get the email and put them in the Midori for later use. A mini bulldog clip keeps everything in place and I’ve had far, far fewer of those momentary panics of “where are the tickets?!”

The Midori is a superbly simple, flexible and overall usable little notebook system. I have to say, after less than three months of daily use, it’s the way forward for me. As someone who has spent countless hours lusting after various notebooks and organisers, a stupid amount of money buying them and a head-slapping amount of time abandoning them, the Midori system ticks all my boxes.

So… It means a fond farewell to my remaining Filofaxes. I stumbled across a drawer-full of unused Filofax inserts the other week and so gamely attempted to use my Green A5 Original for work again. It was nice, but insanely heavy compared to my Midori, even my Midori and a large A4 pad. I’m not going to get rid of this, as it’s handy for use at my desk and I’m not keen on wasting all the A5 paper I’ve accumulated.

But my brown Original in personal size is going to be disposed of, along with the unused inserts. It looks gorgeous, but really isn’t for me. The leather is top notch, its design is simple and timeless. But the thing that gets between me and consistent use of personal-sized Filofax is the rings.

I know this is Filofax heresy! But they get in the way of my writing and add weight and bulk I just don’t need. And the A5 models, no matter how hard I work to keep them slim and portable, just end up being a dead loss in my backpack.

So the A5 is going to remain on the shelf in my study, used just for work, while the Personal model is going to find a new home somewhere. Which might be an issue, as I performed some…’surgery’ on the elastic on the inside cover so it could accommodate my iPhone 6s Plus. I’m sure there’s a fellow ‘plusser’ out there who would appreciate this ‘upgrade’, right?

Finally, if you’re interested in learning more about these Traveler’s Notebooks (that’s how the manufacturer spells it), there’s a plethora of resources over at Traveller’s Notebook Times.

Just one or two bags…

A few weeks ago, @FrankDJS was reorganising the cupboard in our hallway. He kindly illustrated just how many of my bags were taking up valuable space by laying them out on the floor in front of me. 

I have to admit I felt a mixture of pride and shame. After all, there are some nice bags there. But just how much have I spent on them over the years?! Between Jack Spade and Knomo, I’ve probably spent the price of a nice holiday on these things. 

But I do use them. I change the bags I use regularly, depending on what I’m doing. I travel a lot and having a well-designed and comfortable bag can make all the difference. A combination of accessible backpack or day bag and carry on luggage (not pictured here!) is a must. 

Then again, thanks sounds like an excuse. I admit it: I just like bags. I like all kinds of organising goods, which explains my expenditure on Japanese stationery and Filofax personal organisers. I find it hard to pass a luggage store without going in and touching the merchandise. The same applies to iPhone and iPad cases. 

I can rationalise a new bag purchase faster than most men can justify another pint before home. 

Which isn’t great news for either my wallet or space in our apartment. But at least they get used, right?


Joining the Midori gang

I think it’s fair to say, I went a bit mad buying stationery while in Japan. I had one big item on my list: a Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Once I’d got that, courtesy of Tokyu Hands in Hiroshima, I spent far too much time picking up various inserts for the notebook, as well as stickers, stamps and pens.

I was, in short, in stationery heaven. If there’s one thing Japan does well (and believe me, they do many, many things well), it’s stationery. No matter what you’re looking for, they have it. Paper in all kinds of sizes, shapes and colour, diaries, folders, pens and other bits and bobs. And temptation lies on almost every street corner, with the two biggest offenders being Tokyu Hands and Loft.


Seriously. Upon entering either store (and I did, on frequent occasions in just a single week), I was like a child let loose in an enormous toy store. By day two of the trip, I was able to do a rough currency translation in my head, and spent most of my time in these stores going “oooh!” and “aaah!” at how “cheap” things were. I filled my shopping basket with glee and little thought for the impact on my credit card bill.

This baby got a *lot* of use!
This baby got a *lot* of use!

Top purchase of the entire trip was, indeed, my Midori notebook. And the many, many inserts I bought for it.


Now. If you were to google the above phrase, you would be inundated with links to the hundreds (thousands?) of blogs and YouTube videos all about these notebooks. It seems it’s a popular product. To put it mildly.

But what is it?

It’s insanely simple. Basically, these notebooks aren’t notebooks. They’re leather folders which can hold various inserts (notebooks, card holders etc.) via elastic straps. This gives you the simplicity of a notebook, with the flexibility of a loose-leaf organiser like a Filofax.

So what did I get?

I bought a black Midori in the regular size and a brown one in the ‘passport’ size.The regular size has the proportions of a boarding card (remember them?), while the passport size is (you’ve guessed it) approximately the same size as a modern passport.

I confess I did this in a moment of utter confusion, sprinkled with a light dusting of panic. In the outlet of Tokyu Hands where I got my Midoris, they were low on stock. So I had just one of each available to me. Doing the only sensible thing I could think of, I bought both. This wasn’t wanton luxury, as the binders are so much more reasonably priced in Japan. However, I definitely didn’t need both. But I hadn’t decided which size (and associated inserts) I as going to go with.

Over the last week, I’ve decided that the regular size is the one for me. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the passport model yet, but right now, it’s still in its box, safely nestled in a drawer in my study. My Midori is set up with the following inserts:

  • 001 Lined notebook
  • 002 Grid notebook
  • 008 Zipper pocket
  • 022 Sticky notes
  • 020 Kraft paper folder

I also bought a pen loop, which is a perfect fit for the Parker ballpoint I always keep with me. Together, this makes for an excellent and flexible set-up. No diary (this lives in iCloud and is accessible on all my various Apple devices) or contacts insert (ditto). The zipper pocket was excellent for collecting the various tickets and paper bits and bobs I picked up on our travels in Japan, while the paper folder kept my JR Rail Pass and passport as we travelled around.

Much lighter than any Filofax I’ve ever owned. (Sorry, Filofax aficionados!).

Just before we left Japan, I bought a superb passport holder, which fits into the Midori perfectly. A real contrast to the black leather, this insert is day-goo orange plastic and is designed for a boarding card, passport and frequent flyer membership cards.

One of the things I really like about the Midori design approach is that, if you want or need to, you can easily remove one of the inserts in seconds and use it in isolation. So any given notebook can be removed and slipped into a pocket for use elsewhere. And while the dimensions of inserts for the regular Midori aren’t exactly standard, there appears to be an entire cottage industry dedicated to creating and selling replicas on both Etsy and eBay.

That, plus the sheer volume of inserts I bought while in Japan (the top photo in the post only shows what I’d bought on day one!) means I’m not at risk of running out of these any time soon.  But as I’m planning a return visit to Japan next year anyway, it’s big deal to pick up another suitcase load of Midori goodness 🙂

So what is it for? I’ve been using it as a wallet, a travel journal and a place to keep scraps of paper (tickets, receipts and stamps) so far. My frequent travel means it’ll also be where my various airline and hotel frequent traveller cards will live, along with my passport. Work notes will continue to live elsewhere (Moleskine cahiers and / or Evernote), so this is a personal life only piece of kit. Which is fine by me.

So what about my Filofaxes? Now. I have quite the collection of Filofaxes. But it has recently been depleted via eBay, as my new iPad Air 2 doesn’t fit either of the organisers built of iPads (it’s too slim and just flops around inside). I can see the remaining Filofaxes going the same way as they’ve sat on a shelf in my study for months and months as I’ve found individual notebooks so much more flexible (and light!).

I may well explore transforming my A5 Original in green into a kind of “Fauxdori” to carry larger Moleskine notebooks and use this for work, but everything else is leaving the building. They’re unused and simply taking up space.

So. I’m a Midori guy now. Nice.

A developing Knomad addiction

I love my Knomad mini, as is apparent from this post. It’s incredibly handy for traveling, keeping my passport and iPad safe and looks good too. Too good, perhaps…

Since that last post, my Knomad collection has grown, worryingly. I now have a black leather Knomad built for an iPad Air, the same model in brown and yesterday, I got a Knomad Mini in brown. Before you think I’ve lost the plot, each was at a significant discount and the last one I got on eBay for a steal.

A couldn’t-leave-it-there-for-that-price kind of price.

I may soon have more of these little things than I have Filofaxes. Which are in fact looking pretty neglected right now.

Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. That’s possibly sacrilegious to some of you, I know.

But I got rid of my Filofax collection once before and regretted it not long after. These babies aren’t going anywhere soon. The Knomads are getting a regular airing though.

The thing is, with an iPad Mini, an A6 notebook, a battery, pen, charging cable and iPad keyboard (etc. etc.) inside the Knomad, I don’t really need a Filofax with me.

Well done, Knomo. Proving again that iPad cases don’t have to be ugly.

Review: Knomad Mini Portable Organiser

I’ve been using the very lovely Knomad Mini Portable Organiser from Knomo for the last week. It’s something I’ve had my eye on for some time and, after a good month on the work front, I decided to treat myself.

What is it?

It’s built to carry an iPad Mini, along with the carious other things you might stuff into your pockets. In the photos below, I’ve shown what I carried around last weekend: iPad Mini (behind which is a Moleskine notebook for work), business cards, USB memory stick, pen, smaller notebook (three for £2 from Hema!), passport and my iPhone 6 Plus (not shown, as I used it to take the photo).

It folds up into a kind of canvas envelope which you can either carry around by hand or pop into a bag. I’ve used it for the last week while working in Amsterdam and it was perfect for taking into various meetings and workshops.

I had my agenda and meeting prep notes on the iPad Mini and a pen and paper to jot down any thoughts as they occurred to me. Definitely lighter than toting a laptop around and avoids you stuffing your pockets and ruining your trousers.

Flying to and from Amsterdam, it was all I had in my hand on board. iPad Mini for reading, notebook for notes and passport for the last minute security check at Schiphol airport, which I always forget about until the last minute!

Would I recommend it? Well, it’s high quality and built to last. I’ve had a few Knomo bags over the years and they’ve all taken the daily commuter abuse very well.

It looks nicer than bulging trouser pockets and is a really handy way to carry around some commonly used items. I admit my iPhone 6 Plus is a definite squeeze into the mobile phone pocket, but it’s canvas, not plastic and so there’s some stretch in there.

It would comfortably take most “normal” sized mobile phones. There’s also a space for a mobile battery that Knomo sell. I’ve not bought one, but I may well invest, as I have a morbid fear of being without device power while away from home.

If you’re like me and can’t leave the house with a selection of “stuff”, then you might find it useful. The sides of the Knomad are open to the elements though, so I’m not sure how it would cope in London’s typical wet weather.

I also have the smallest of small wallets, so this is a great place to keep various loyalty cards and assorted scraps of paper that just don’t fit into my card case. I’ll definitely be carrying mine around this summer. And it allows me to carry so much more information that any of my A5 Filofaxes, at a fraction of the weight.

(And dare I suggest it looks slightly more socially acceptable than a “formal” leather A5 Filofax?)

The Knomad comes in multiples styles and sizes (including one for the iPad Air and one for the Microsoft Surface).

Here’s the promotional video from Knomo, illustrating how they think you could use it:

Reviewing the Filofax Pennybridge iPad case

I’m working away from home all this week and, in an effort to pack as light as possible, I stripped back on the tech and Filofaxes, simply taking an iPad mini, an A5 Moleskine notebook and the Filofax Pennybridge iPad Mini case.

The latter neatly holds the iPad in a flexible shell, while also holding an A5-ish sized pad. All contained behind a zip, so loose papers don’t get lost. All in all, I really like it. Much, much lighter than carrying around my iPad Air in the Fusion organiser with an A5 Filofax. Not as flexible, in terms of removable pages, but that wasn’t needed this week.

All the same, I think it could be improved. I’d like more space for card slots on the left hand side and Filofax could have made use of the space behind the iPad’s plastic holder. They could also have added an external pocket for a smartphone (though I doubt anything they’d have added would have accommodated my massive iPhone 6 plus!)

I’ll definitely add this to my ‘everyday carry’, making my backpack or briefcase significantly lighter. I fear the A5 Filofaxes might be staying in my home office from now on…

Review: Filofax Fusion iPad Air Organiser

The lovely chaps at Filofax sent me a new organiser to test drive. So, after using it for a couple of weeks, I’m sharing my thoughts on it. But in case you don’t make it to the end of the post, my ultimate verdict is: I like it a lot and would recommend it.

I got the Fusion iPad Air organiser in ‘stone’ from their eAccessories range. This zipped organiser fits paper inserts from the A5 range and accommodates an iPad Air in a lovely flip out section. The A5 organiser easily slips out so you can use it separately, while the iPad Air holder can rotate, allowing you to use the Fusion as both an iPad case, but also a stand to use your iPad in either landscape or portrait orientations. Very smart!

I’ve found it most useful to lay it on a desk, flip the iPad section in landscape orientation and keep the organiser section separate, allowing me to take notes while reading on screen. Or, as I did when on a long train journey on Thursday evening, set it up like my very own cinema and watch a film as I returned to London.

The interior also has space for a single pen and there are several slots for business or credit cards and (if you’d like) your mobile phone. There’s a slot to fit an A5 note pad in there as well. A couple of external slip pockets on the front and rear are useful for holding stray pieces of paper to which you need quick access.

All in all, it’s very versatile.

The Pros

  • It’s super light and yet the material is very sturdy. I’ve no worries it’ll get damaged by other things in my bag.
  • The iPad Air retainer is very useful and adds next to no weight to the overall organiser.
  • The fact you can remove the A5 organiser and use it separately is great.
  • The slightly smaller organiser rings prevent you from stuffing it too full and making the whole thing too heavy to carry around.
  • I personally like a zipped organiser, which reduces the chance of loose paper escaping while you’re on the move.

The Cons

  • The internal pocket intended for a mobile phone is just too small for many contemporary mobiles (e.g. larger Samsung models, iPhone 6 Plus). I rock a 6 Plus and there’s no way that’ll fit in there.
  • There’s no mechanism for keeping the iPad Air holder in place, so on more than one occasion I unzipped the organiser while standing, only for the iPad section to flop out alarmingly to one side. No risk of it falling out, but it’s a bit worrying all the same – considering the cost of replacing an iPad Air!
  • You can’t fit the iPad Air in while it’s wearing an existing case or protector.

Really, the pros outweigh any disadvantages here. If you like to mix paper and digital like I do, you’ll see the many advantages of this organiser. In the couple of weeks I’ve been using it, it’s been a really effective ‘mobile office’. I can access all my key documents via Dropbox and Evernote on the iPad Air, while using the organiser for adding or taking notes in meetings. For a few days, it was all I took with me when going to meet clients.

If I had any small design suggestions for Filofax, they would be:

  • Add a second pen slot somewhere in the organiser
  • Provide a mobile phone pocket (preferably on the outside) big enough for the ‘Phablet’ class of phones
  • Add some more colours to the range

Thanks again to Filofax for providing the organiser for review. Although I got it for free, these views (poor grammar and all) are entirely mine.

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MacPsych hard at work!