For years I used Evernote to scribe meeting notes, capture ideas, and itemize my to-do items. Several years ago I started keeping a bullet journal to give myself a break from the glare of a computer monitor, and I've not looked back.
Evernote, notes forever
Evernote was a great program for me for a really long time, and I still have a lot of notes from ages past stored in it. I loved having my notes on all of my devices, and I loved that you can search your notes to find some obscure thought from the kickoff meeting for building the Ark. It's an easy program to use for anyone looking for a good note taking platform.
So why did I stop using it?
Simple really, and it has nothing to do with Evernote; I needed a break from computers.
I've been working professionally with a computer in front of me 1996, and personally since 1985. That's a long time and a lot of bright light blasting me in the face; code, documents, games, videos, and entertainment. Even as dedicated as I am to the computer arts, I needed a break.
Enter the bullet journal
I had never used a journal before. I had never wanted to use a journal before. In my mind, a "journal" was a fancy word for a diary, and that wasn't something I was terribly interested in. But, one of my colleagues had been doing this bullet journal thing and talked me into watching a video or three that peaked my interest. He walked me through making an index and the legend of symbols to help keep me organized; he introduced me to the concept of collections, and I was hooked.
So I dove in. I dug up a notebook that I got at a Sitecore conference and my favorite comodity roller ball pen, a Uniball Signo 207. I created my index, numbered my pages, and created a legend so I wouldn't forget the symbols for things. I made the index for my first month and started journaling away in meetings, taking notes and capturing my to-do's. My journal was organized, I knew where everything was and just like Evernote, I had my journal everywhere I went. I enjoyed the peace of it; no clicking of keys, no bright monitor screaming into my face, no instant messages or email notifications or the 20 other sources of toast that distracted me in meetings. I was focused more than ever before, and while my penmanship was terrible and my hand would cramp due to my non-existent since high school handwriting experience, I loved it.
I'd walk into a meeting with my little notebook and my pen and everyone looked at me like I was insane. I was in a meeting without a computer; the technologist taking notes with grandpa level tech. I got a lot of snarky comments, and a good deal of ribbing, but there was a an upside that wasn't obvious to anyone but me.
After a short while something unexpected started happening; the thoughts I captured in the journal "stuck". I found that when I wrote something out, something worth writing anyway, that I'd remember it much more clearly than if I were to type things into Evernote. Coupled with my newfound ability to focus on the meeting without the distraction of a laptop, my engaged productivity went up. I attribute this to the simple fact that unlike typing, which is autonomous for me, writing requires a couple more brain cycles.
I genuinely believe that journaling has made me a better person, or at least made a portion of my life more enjoyable. And to top it off I now have a new thing to obsess over; fountain pens, nice pencils, and quality stationary.
Fellow nerds, put away your machines in meetings; They are heavy and distracting. Pick up something that makes marks and scratch your thoughts into something that won't get you in trouble. Better yet, get yourself a Leuchtturm 1917 or a Rhodia Webnotebook and a good quality rollerball pen. You can thank me later.
Also, please... PLEASE, brush up on your penmanship. I'm embarrassed on your behalf and we don't even know each other.