Photography,  Writing

How To Take Essential Notes On Life


Recently I was thinking about my life; how far I have come, and more importantly, where I wish to go next in my journey of life.  I thought about my habitual note-taking obsession, and how I always take notes on just about everything, regardless of how mundane or ordinary it may seem to others; if it catches my interest, it will be detailed through extensive, yet very personal and private documentation.  In an effort to document the process, I was at a total loss for words as to how to best describe and formally document the process, so after some research, I came across this page which details one persons attempt at taking life-based notes taking process, with a focus on travel.

This post is going to cover all the things you need to know about how to take essential notes on life; this is a skill that is of beneficial to writers, creative people, or anyone else who has even the slightest interest in the topic.

When I was younger, I started taking notes on my life directly in my notebook, but as time went on, the windows of opportunity to sit down and write in my notebook slowly dwindled.  Days went by without any notebook entries, so there became a need to create a portable, almost temporary notebook.

My first attempt at having a temporary, portable, and disposable notebook was to simply take a folded piece of plain white paper and jot notes on it on an irregular, haphazard manner.  In due time, I discovered Moleskine Cahier Journals (I am a huge fan of the entire line of Moleskine products).

While the advent of the digital era has arrived, I am still completely devoted to paper-based logs simply because they are almost completely secure and do not require electricity.  I use the Moleskine Cahier Journals for temporary day-to-day notes, and the larger Moleskine Notebooks for long-term narratives, of which I will keep for a lifetime.

The details I attempt to document include, but are hardly limited to things such as the date and time, GPS coordinates, and specifics in regards to any photographs or other related observations.  Thankfully, due to advances in modern technology, I am able to cross-reference any of these at any time within my self-hosted WordPress instillation.

Cross-referencing with paper-based notes is also possible if one paginates and creates a table of contents using a Moleskine notebook.

The only notes I will keep long-term are those which I have compiled into my Moleskine notebooks; the Cahier Journals are generally destroyed once their useful life has been achieved.  I happen to be very busy with my day-to-day travels, which expose these notebooks to a variety of environments as well as writing surfaces, and the occasional exposure to wind and rain, so all of these factors will take their toll on the life expectancy of Cahier Journals.  Ideally, I would probably be better off with Rite In The Rain notebooks, but their increased cost and fact that they are likely to be destroyed once the pages are all filled is not enough to justify the expense.


  • Oyeyipo Oladele

    Nice and good piece of your life story and progress in it. Documentation matters a lot for record purpose.

  • Maury Cheskes

    That’s good that your note taking has evolved in the digital era. It’s great that you use so many details like time and place to really bring you back to your mindset when writing. It’s also amazing that weather, lack of writing surfaces or any other factor can’t deter you from your passion.

  • Danielle M

    Thanks for sharing Tom, I don’t know very much people who use notebooks these days, but I´m glad you do. I do it as well…

  • Brenda

    I’m also very fond of joting down notes on literally everything. A plain piece of paper does it well for me because it’s portable.

  • Roy

    It’s inspiring to see that you have maintained your note-taking habit even after all these years. It’s a skill that i really wish I had.

  • Alex

    Make a digital journal. It is pretty easy these days. A blog works too. Since it last longer than any physical note. As long as you do not delete it, it will be there for a long time.

  • Wilson Jake

    It’s always good to have everything written down on a less important book or paper and then finally transfer important once to a journal as you’ve done. Nice one Thomas, this is a great piece

  • Prince

    There are so many things you do with ease that I still just cant start. I haven’t been keeping journals but I think I am gonna start. Thanks for this great piece

  • Janine Bocateja

    This photo reminds me of my daily journal. I really love writing all the important events and what happened. Love reading all the memories I wrote.

  • Mark Janeo

    There are such huge numbers of things you do easily that I still can’t begin. I haven’t been keeping diaries however I think I am going to begin. A debt of gratitude for this incredible piece.

  • Patricia

    It’s good to always take notes of what you find inspiring. It is also a good way to document your experiences.

  • Daphne

    I usually document my experiences using a voice note feature on my phone. Smartphones can seemingly do anything nowadays.

  • Teddy

    I can relate to your decision to stick with the traditional pen and paper notebook despite the existence of smartphones. There’s a level of satisfaction that comes with writing that can’t be replicated by a digital device.

  • Storm

    I usually have a personal journal that I keep all my experiences in. I guess that is also some form of note taking.

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