Paper Journal for Reflection and Habit Change

Only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue, and abiding love.
George Bernard Shaw

One of my research topics is the intersection of reflection, meaning, habits, etc. Looking at different methods, I was wondering whether a paper journal might not have some advantages over a purely digital solution.

As my handwriting is atrocious, I does not have to be a purely handwritten one. DTP apps like Affinity Publisher exist for a reason. But some pages are handwritten, and there is also something to writing them.

So, trying it out … it does look promising.

I am still in the early stages, but the journal has a physical presence an eInk reader or tablet does not have. The eInk reader or tablet can be anything — tool to read, to write, there are different kinds of content, even music or video. But the journal is always just that — a journal. There is not power saving, no need to recharge — the most important page is always visible. And giving it’s a ring binder, it’s easy to remove or add pages.

Not sure how it will fare long-term, but so far, the weekly planning page does have some advantages (incl. a weekly reflection template on the back). After planning though, all the appointments are added to iCal, incl. blockers for when I want to focus on deep work. The task manager (Things) takes care of the smaller tasks. This way, the journal is used for high-level planning, but I do not need to carry it with me all day (which would likely make it fade into the background).

Only downside so far is the special paper it needs. Not actually DIN A5, a bit smaller. Normally that would not be a problem, a cutter and a metal(!) ruler solves that problem. But it also has six holes. As the tool to punch these holes is still in the mail, I used a leather hole puncher instead.

Works surprisingly well, even if the holes are a bit tight (it’s smaller than it should be). It also struggles with single pages, but can easily punch a hole through ten to twenty pages at the same time. Counterintuitive, but given that it was made for leather it makes sense. And yup, it might damage the tool as paper has a different consistency, but so far, so good.

Very interesting to use paper again … and sure, it might sound like being back where I started, like turning in circles. I think it’s more like moving up a spiral. Using technology I used before, but in a different, perhaps more fitting way, integrating both paper and digital, both for their strengths and compensating their weaknesses. And as for backups, today it’s pretty easy to take quick smartphone photos of the handwritten pages. If I want to invest more time, given that’s a ring binder and I can remove the pages, the document scanner can easily scan them.

So, promising beginnings.