7 reasons why I absolutely love my ‘catch-all notebook’

Everybody who knows me knows how much I love my planner, but what you may not know is that I have a notebook I consider just as essential to my productivity as my planner. I call this my ‘catch-all notebook’ and this post is all about how and why I use this notebook as an absolutely essential supplement to my planner.

I’ve had some form of catch-all notebook for almost as long as I’ve used a planner, but I think I’ve finally settled on an iteration that I’m totally satisfied with. As the name would suggest, the point of this kind of notebook is to have a place where I can put just about anything I need that doesn’t have a place of its own. That means it’s a notebook full of lists, notes from meetings, long term plans, notes to self, big ideas, and more. I used to keep this all in just a regular spiral bound notebook, as I discussed in this post, but my latest format is a little bit different.

I love using my planner, but my catch-all notebook is an essential supplement and productivity game changer I use to keep my life organized. | 7 REASONS WHY I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MY 'CATCH-ALL NOTEBOOK' | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

The catch-all notebook format I use now is inspired by the bullet journals that are all the rage on Tumblr and Instagram these days. I use a Moleskine journal with gridded pages because the book itself is high quality and the grid helps me make nice looking layouts when I’m feeling fancy. When I first got the journal, I took some time to go through and number all the pages and create a table of contents where I can keep track of what’s on each page. This is definitely not necessary (and I never did it with previous notebooks) but I have found it really helps me find what I need much faster and is worth the extra time.

Besides the page numbers, this notebook requires no set-up. Whenever I need to make a list, take notes, or sketch something out, I simply open to the next available page and write down whatever I need, log it in the table of contents, and move on. Before we get into the reasons why I love this planning supplement, I’ve included some photos of pages so you can get an idea for what I like to include in my catch-all notebook.

I love using my planner, but my catch-all notebook is an essential supplement and productivity game changer I use to keep my life organized. | 7 REASONS WHY I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MY 'CATCH-ALL NOTEBOOK' | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

The spread above is very clearly inspired by the aesthetic bullet journal trend you can find all over the internet these days. I was between planners for a couple of weeks this summer so sketching out my own in this notebook was really helpful!

I love using my planner, but my catch-all notebook is an essential supplement and productivity game changer I use to keep my life organized. | 7 REASONS WHY I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MY 'CATCH-ALL NOTEBOOK' | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

These pages show the versatility of this kind of notebook. I used the page on the left to track my substitute teaching assignments. The page on the right is a list of active and passive RA programming ideas for each month that I’m going to keep adding on to throughout the year.

I love using my planner, but my catch-all notebook is an essential supplement and productivity game changer I use to keep my life organized. | 7 REASONS WHY I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MY 'CATCH-ALL NOTEBOOK' | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

The above spread is an example of how I use this notebook to brainstorm for blog posts. The notes on these two pages became last week’s blog post on how to step back so you can stop spreading yourself too thin, which you can read here!

Now that you have some examples for how I use my catch-all notebook, here are 7 reasons why I absolutely love this system, consider it a crucial supplement to my planner, and think you should add it to your list of productivity essentials.

1. I don’t have to worry about saving the notes pages of my planner for just the right list.

I don’t know if this is just a me problem, but I almost never end up using the notes pages of my planners. It’s the same neuroses that ensure I always leave the first page of a new journal blank. I’m always weirdly worried about whether a list or set of notes is “worthy” of going in the precious few pages at the back of my planner so I usually just end up ignoring them altogether.

Having a whole notebook just for the random lists I would have otherwise put in the back of my planner takes away the totally unnecessary stress I’d be feeling about where to put those lists. It may seem like a problem that’s not worth worrying about, but when you can take away the stress of those little, unnecessary worries, you can focus on worrying about the things that actually matter.

2. It’s way more practical to carry a small notebook than a whole clunky planner.

I write everything in my planner. But that means I like a full-size planner that ends up being the opposite of compact. I keep it in my backpack when I go to class of course, but sometimes if I’m going to a club meeting or to interview a source for a newspaper article, I’d rather just bring something small and not lug my whole planner around with me. That’s when my little catch-all notebook comes in handy.

I can write anything I need to down in the little journal and then transfer things to my planner later. It’s so much easier to throw a little notebook into a bag in a hurry than it is to bring a bag big enough to fit my whole planner.

3. It’s the most convenient way to take notes in a meeting.

Along the same lines as the point above, using my catch-all notebook is by far the easiest and most practical way to take notes in club meetings, staff meetings, or in class if I forgot the right notebook that day.

I keep it with me at all times so that I am guaranteed to have it if I ever need it and that makes whipping it out in a meeting to jot down an important deadline or email address super easy.

4. I don’t have to look through a million notebooks to find one specific list.

I used to just take notes at Flat Hat staff meetings in random notebooks, using a back page of whatever I had on hand, but then I’d never be able to find those notes again! Now, if I want to take meeting notes by hand, I’ll use my catch-all notebook and log the meeting in the table of contents. Then, I’ll always know exactly where to look when I need to check on what was said in that meeting.

I also don’t have to worry about losing the little scrap of paper where I wrote down all the errands I need to run as I thought of them because I’ll always write it down in the notebook. It’s way less stressful to know that I only have one place to look for any given list.

5. I’m able to “test drive” new handwriting styles, planning ideas, and bulletin board sketches.

If I ever feel like practicing my calligraphy, want to give bullet journaling a whirl, or have a great idea for a bulletin board to put up for my residents, having my catch-all notebook in my bag gives me a guaranteed perfect place to try it out.

The notebook is just for me, which means that nobody ever has to see my failed sketches and I can write my name over and over again until my lettering is perfect if that’s what I want to do!

6. It gives me the freedom to exist in organized chaos.

I have always been an organized chaos kind of person. My room turns into a disaster zone way more often than I’d like to admit, but even when drawers are stuffed full and there are piles of things all over the floor, I can always find whatever I need right away. If I had to send somebody into my dorm room to grab something for me I forgot, they’d probably never be able to find it on their own, but I could give detailed instructions on exactly what pile to dig through and exactly how far down to dig so they could find it right away. (I promise I’m going to actually work on this because I recognize that no matter how organized my chaos is to me, it’s still not inviting and I’m sure keeping it cleaner would help alleviate some stress, but that’s a problem for another post.)

All that is to say that organized chaos comes naturally to me and my catch-all notebook is how those habits translate into planning. It’s actually really freeing for me to be able to have a notebook where one page is questions to ask at a job interview, the next is notes from a gymnastics meet I covered, and the next is a spread from when I was between planners, even though might seem like a little bit of a mess. I’m constantly working on letting go of perfectionism and having the organized chaos of my catch-all notebook is an important step in that effort.

7. The only rule is that there are no rules!

This is the best part of my catch-all notebook is that I can put anything in it! This is awesome because it really gives me a kind of freedom that doesn’t exist in a regular planner. I definitely need the structure that my planner provides, but having a supplemental planning system where I can have a bit more freedom makes it so that structure is beneficial rather than suffocating.

I hope I’ve convinced you to start throwing a catch-all notebook in your backpack. If you want to know more about my other productivity essentials, check out this post. If you want to learn about the other part of my planning system, read about how I use my planner here.

{What are your productivity essentials? Comment below and tell me all about them!}