TL; DR – Use a reporter’s notepad on the go; for everything else, a Moleskine notebook and a legal pad.
Judging by the dearth of parchment and clay tablets at the local stationary store, I think we’re stuck with paper for the foreseeable future as a receptacle of our scribblings.
I’ve narrowed my choice of paper to three notebooks. Each of them is best suited for a specific function and together they cover most of my writing needs.
For jotting down notes in a meeting or brainstorming, a legal pad with perforated tear-off sheets works well – there is no commitment here, the stuff you don’t need or like, you can easily throw away, or if you need to scan the notes and share with a colleague, that’s easy to do as well.
The legal pad is a wide pasture to graze, but when you’re traveling, it’s too bulky and unruly. Because it lacks a cover, you have to take care not to dog-ear the pages when stuffing it into a bag – something I inadvertently do. The legal pad usually stays on my desk.
A better choice for travel is the “pocket knife” of paper pads, the spiral-bound reporter’s notebook. It fits well in the back pocket of pants, or the inside pocket of a sports coat.
The small size and stiff cover make it convenient to hold with one hand if you’re writing while standing up, and it’s easy to flip through quickly. I bring these with me when I am on the go, attending meetings or interviewing someone.
For notes and writing I intend to keep for a while, like these blog posts, I use a ruled 5”x8.25” Moleskine notebook. Size-wise it fits right between the legal pad and the reporter’s notepad, and it has a hard cover with a strap to keep the pages from fraying.
You can’t easily tear out the pages without damaging the binding, but with 240 pages, there’s plenty of room to cross things out and try again. I keep the Moleskine in my daily carry backpack.
So there you have it, for the time being this is a combination of notepads and notebooks that works for me.
These days, writing in a notebook may look a bit quaint but paper is still unrivaled in terms of portability and accessibility. You might find a notebook that does it all, or gather up a collection of various formats for specific tasks, whatever route you go, keep one handy when a bright idea strikes.