The Perfect Journal

My ongoing quest to create the the ultimate project journal.

Version 1.0 – March 28, 2016

Todd Sattersten and I recently backed a Kickstarter project for another journal… even though we both knew it wasn’t going to work. No matter how many different journals we’ve tried, nothing seems to be the perfect fit. It’s like Goldilocks with 83 different beds to try, and none of them feel right.

The Quest for the Perfect Journal

What’s wrong with current journals?

Whether it’s your favorite Moleskine, a spiral bound, college-ruled notebook, or the latest hipster journal on Kickstarter, there are many fundamental problems with the way journals currently exist.

Here’s my list of grievances:

1. Can’t Expand or Contract

What if your project goes so long that you need more room in your journal? It’s impossible to add more pages to your current project. It’s the same for contraction. If you just want to do something small, you end up committing to an entire journal. I need something that will grow and shrink with my projects.

2. Poor Organization

Recently, I was making notes on my latest novel. I was one and a half pages in when I had to stop and record a podcast episode. So I flipped to the next page of my journal, and took notes during the recording (sidenote: This makes it way easier during the editing phase.). Then I had a phone call with a client, took notes on that, then went back to taking notes on my novel.

A few days later, I went searching for my notes on the novel and it was a such a pain to have them spread out over all of my other notes.

If you’ve ever tried to use a journal to keep notes on several different projects, you’ve run into this as well. I’ve tried page numbering, writing “continued” at the tops of pages, different colored highlighters and pens, and it all comes down to the same fundamental issue… it’s impossible to keep multiple things organized in a single journal, which means you end up using…

3. Multiple Journals

I knew I had a problem when I was carrying three different journals and was considering picking up a fourth.

To really keep track of multiple projects, you end up carrying multiple journals. It’s hard to keep track of them all. You forget which one is for which project. And, of course, if you’re anything like me, you end up leaving at least one of them somewhere on a constant basis.

(A couple months ago I actually left one on top of my car and drove off. Thankfully, someone found it and gave it back to me, but it had been run over by a good dozen cars at that point.)

But even carrying multiple journals doesn’t fix the problem of being…

4. Locked into 1 format

If you buy a moleskine, you have to pick ruled, blank, grid, etc. The same goes for any other journal. You’re locked into whatever modality you bought on day one. So if halfway through a project, you decide to start sketchnoting, you’re doing it on lined paper which is less than ideal. If you decide to write out a bunch of notes on your blank paper, and you’re anything like me, they’re running down the right side of the page.

So this begs the question…

What would make the perfect journal?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Modular and Expandable

I would be able to add to and take away from projects at any time. If I start a new project or a new batch of notes, it’s not buried in the middle of notes on other things. I want to be able to move stuff around, start a new project, throw one away, etc.

2. Pick the Format that Suits the Project

I can easily use lined, graph, or blank paper based on the needs of that particular project or section. I could also mix and match paper inside of a current project.

3. Small Enought to Fit in Your Bag

It can’t be an 8.5×11 notebook. That’s too big and bulky to fit in most bags. But I also don’t want a tiny three inch version either. The standard journal size seems to be around 8 inches high by 5 inches wide. That’s a good size for me.

4. 3rd Party Addons

This is where it would get really cool.

Let’s say another journal catches my eye. Maybe it’s a journal on creating habits or better calendar system. I want to be able to buy the PDF, print it off, and add it to my current journal.

Trying out a new journal system no longer requires buying and carrying around another new journal.

The Prototype

A month ago I created the very first prototype of my new Perfect Journal. I tried to create something that solves all of the problems above while hitting all of my ways to fix them.

I’ve been using it on a daily basis to manage everything in my life and it’s been working great. Here’s a look:

Some things I’m still working on:

  1. I don’t love my cover right now. I’ll be trying a hard back version soon to see how that works.
  2. Sometimes it’s a little wonky taking notes directly on the paper. Currently not a big deal as I can just pop open the binder and remove the paper, but I’d like to figure out a fix for this.

Two Things for You

1. I Need Your Feedback

Leave your thoughts, questions, and suggestions below. I can’t figure all of this out on my own, and would love your feedback on making it better. What am I missing? What could I add?

Let me know in the comments below.

2. Try It Out Yourself

I put together an Amazon list of everything you need to build your own Perfect Journal. I included the laser printer I use that prints on 5.5 x 8.5 paper. Obviously, you can use your own printer for this.

Click below to check on the Amazon list and buy what you need to build your own Perfect Journal.

Build your own Perfect Journal

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