Let’s face it. Our memories aren’t what they used to be. It’s true for all of us, though the old guys like me do feel the pinch a bit more acutely. Add to that that game systems are constantly changing, we’re always trying new games, genres, and systems, and that we’ve got our own games to plan and it’s plain that quite a bit is going get lost in the press. And that’s without even considering all the non-gaming related information with which we have to deal.
My tool of choice for jotting down quick notes is the pocket notebook. These tiny notebooks are great for saving ideas for later that you’d otherwise forget, and for taking notes when you want to remember details. They allow you to work almost anywhere (in fact, this entire post was outlined while waiting in the drive-through for my lunch). They can provide useful storage for other things. Mine holds a pen and all my receipts that I have to balance later.
However, due to the demands of use there are several criteria I’ve learned to look for when buying a new tiny notebook. First, they have to be durable enough to survive in your pockets. This means that the cardboard backed flimsy disposable varieties right out. It also means that avoiding the wire spiral variety in favor of a bound book or covered rings or spirals is preferable. In addition, size is an important issue. You ideally want the largest notebook you can comfortably fit in your pocket. Usually this is 3″ by 5″, but may vary depending on where you keep yours. There are other features that are definitely worth spending a bit more for as well. Extra storage such as pen holders, document pockets, etc… are always handy. Refillable notepads have two major benefits. First is price. A really fancy pocket notepad can set you back almost $15 as opposed to the 70¢ that an economy notepad will. Offsetting some of this cost via refills is nice. In addition, refills mean that you can leave existing notes in your pad when you refill.
There are a few problems to watch out for when making use of a notepad. First, is the general durability issue. Unless your notepad is exceptionally strong, it will sustain wear and tear from being carried around incessantly. Treat it accordingly. In addition, it’s not only one, but two things to carry around with you (the notepad plus a writing tool).
There are, of course electronic alternatives to tiny notepads. The big factors to consider when deciding whether to upgrade to an electronic solution are cost, learning curve and functionality. Electronic tools that can function as a notepad host a myriad of other useful functions but take a little longer to learn to use and a lot longer to pay for. If these functions look tempting enough to pay the extra money and time, then an electronic solution may be for you.
All in all, I’ve found that carrying a notebook with me has greatly aided my performance both as a GM and in other areas of life, but not just any equipment will do. Spend some time looking for the right piece of equipment, and you’ll fall in love with your tiny notebook too.