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The Straight Dope About Moleskine Notebooks


When first starting out with GTD – reading the blogs and articles, investigating possible tools, etc. – one is bound to come across the Moleskine brand name. To this day, I don’t really understand why it’s such a big hit with the GTD community, but that’s clearly the case. You can read just about any GTD-themed blog and you’ll no doubt read about how the author uses his Moleskine for any number of purposes. After awhile, the pervasiveness of this particular line of products begs the question – What’s the deal with Moleskine?

Well, having gone through the GTD indoctrination only a short time ago, I think I may have some insight as to why these things are so damn popular. So if you’re just starting out and wondering “do I really need to buy a $20 notebook just to write things in?” – look no further…

Before we begin, I must make one confession – I use a Moleskine notebook and calendar as part of my GTD system, so I’m somewhat biased. This fact also puts me in the terribly vanilla position of being able to speak intelligently as an owner and user of these products. But please know that I’m not in a financial situation to make such purchases off the cuff. Truthfully, I considered it more a matter of research than anything else :)

So, since we’re neat, organized people – here’s a list of what Moleskine’s really are:

  1. Paper Notebooks – This is first and foremost. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, these things are just pads of paper. You write things in them just like you would a $.59 spiral-bound notebook from the drugstore or on the back of a cocktail napkin.
  2. Expensive – A single large (5.5″ x 8.5″) Moleskine notebook will set you back anywhere from $15-$20, depending on where you buy it. If you were to tell me 5 years ago that one day I would drop that kind of cheddar on a book of blank pages, I would’ve laughed in your face. But, i did it (and I’ll tell you why a bit later on).

I hate to burst everybody’s bubble, but that’s the plain fact of the matter – they’re just books of empty pages in which you write things. If you’re not a snob about the type of glorified bark you choose to write on, then don’t bother with these products.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “But sir, these are the notebooks of Hemingway! Picasso! Possibly St. Peter himself! How could you reduce them to the level of College-Ruled Mead Notebooks from Rite-Aid!?”. Frankly, I’m just trying to lay it out plainly for those who are wondering what’s so special about these books.

To be completely clear, Moleskine’s are not sources of super-human productivity powers – Again, they’re just books.

Having said all of that, you might be surprised to hear my next statement. Ready?

I love my Moleskines. Here’s why:

  1. They’re dead sexy – Seriously. There’s something about a black, shiny notebook that commands respect and a certain modicum of admiration on the part of the owner.
  2. They make you appreciate the contents – I’ve pitched a great deal of notebooks in my life. Dayplanners, too. If a paper product wasn’t cutting the mustard, it got a one-way ticket to the round file, no questions asked. These are different – you look at it and almost long to write in it. You want the contents to matter and you feel foolish adding anything but your best work.
  3. They get you in the “productive mood” – You know how when you get a new piece of equipment (a pen, briefcase or the like), you’re fully of fanciful thoughts of how you’re going to use this new tool to really get your crap in order? It’s the same type of idea – when you have an inexplicable affinity for something, it’s only natural that you want to do it justice by utilizing it to it’s full potential

Before you start in about how this is all a bunch of horse pucky – I know it is. I can give abstract reasons for why I love my notebooks, but when it comes down to it, the fabled “back of the envelope” will do just as well.

I think everybody should try out a Moleskine at least once – they’re truly a pleasure to use and to own. They won’t make you more productive, but they might just get you more excited about productivity than the 4-subject hunk of crap you’re using now.

(And for clarity’s sake – I don’t work for anybody who sells these products, I swear)

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