Why a Paper Notebook Is the Best Gadget You Can Buy

Infinite battery life, and no annoying notifications

  • Pen and paper are still better than computer apps for many tasks.
  • No distraction and no limits on your doodles or battery life mean calmer note-taking.
  • You can buy a lot of fancy stationery for the price of an Apple Pencil.
Someone holding a freshly sharpened pencil over a notebook with the pencil shavings on the page.

Thought Catalog / Unsplash

Tired of distractions, never finding your notes, and general fatigue from always using a phone, computer, or tablet? Try paper.

Paper books seem absurdly old-fashioned, and yet almost all of our 'productivity' apps mimic aspects of paper and paper notebooks. The iPad and Apple Pencil try to make a literal recreation in silicon, glass, aluminum, and plastic, and still don’t come close. And that’s because they’re missing the point. Paper is perfect because it is so open. You can do anything, it’s always ready, the batteries never die, and you’ll never lose a note thanks to a dead battery, crash, or ransomware attack. Let’s see just why paper is still worth using. 

"The iPad is more than simply a pen and paper replacement in many respects, but it isn't always a preferable one. Paper is simple to fold and may be cut to any format to meet any size," handwriting and speech trainer Amanda Green told Lifewire via email. "Paper and pens may be found almost anywhere, and they are relatively inexpensive. Off the grid, pen-and-paper work can be done [in any condition]. Although the iPad is a little gadget, it takes up more room than a pen and paper option. [And] to charge it, you'll need power."

Which Is Greener?

Let’s get the obvious problem out of the way. If you use paper, you’re killing trees, right? Sure, and even if you use recycled paper, recycling uses a lot of resources. But every time you use a paper notepad instead of lighting up the screen of your iPhone, you’re saving power. And compared to the amount of paper and card that packages your food and comes through your mailbox as junk mail, a paper notebook won’t make much difference. 

"Paper and pens may be found almost anywhere, and they are relatively inexpensive."

Introducing Calmness to the Thought Process

Paper’s biggest advantage is that it is all yours. With an app, you are limited by the developer’s decisions. Can you write over the top of the text, or does it exist in a separate silo? What colors are available? How easy is it to write anywhere on the paper?

With a notebook, you can embellish words, add doodles and drawings to clarify meaning, or make the layout easier to read later. You can use any pen or pencil, and so on. 

You might also find that using paper is calmer. When you sit in front of a paper page, pen poised and prepared, there’s no stress that the screen will fall asleep or that you’re wasting battery power. There are no notifications to distract your attention—nothing but your thoughts and a place to collect them.

This might seem like a pointless distinction, but try it. The mind can wander in a much more abstract way. When was the last time you doodled on your phone? When your hands get fidgety, you probably open Instagram. With paper, you keep pondering whatever you were thinking about when you grabbed the notebook. 

Paper Is Better for You

Writing on paper is also better for you, compared to a keyboard at least. Your wrist is held in a more relaxed position compared to the typical pronated keyboard or mouse position, and—as you already know—when you pause in writing, you tend to twirl the pen, or similar, instead of just staying in that bad position. 

"The best way to avoid RSIs when using computers is through a combination of factors: the optimally ergonomically-adjusted computer workstation, the right equipment, and taking enough work and movement breaks throughout your day," certified professional ergonomist Darcie Jaremey told Lifewire via email.

Using pen and paper is a great way to take that break. 

Best of Both Worlds

Paper, pens, and pencils have their downsides, of course. Notes don’t sync between devices, and you can’t search through all your old notebooks to find that killer carrot cake recipe. 

A laptop computer on a desk with a notebook open in front of it and a cup of coffee off to the side.

Nick Morrison / Unbsplash

There are a few ways around this. One is to use the bullet journal method, where you use an index page to keep track of everything in a surprisingly easy and effective way. Or you can go hybrid. There are paper notebooks that are designed to be digitized, but the easiest way is to just scan your pages as you go. 

Apple’s Notes app lets you scan paper pages directly into a note, whereupon they become searchable, and you can highlight and copy text or even tap on a phone number to make a call. 

And let’s not forget the very best part of paper notebooks: The stationery. Compared to a $129 Apple Pencil, even a fancy fountain pen is affordable. And when it comes to paper, you can choose from thousands of beautiful notebooks. Why not try it right now?

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