Digital Notebook Experiment: The Update

If you’re not sure what the heck the Digital Notebook Experiment is, it’s essentially using a tablet as a notebook/bullet journal for 8 weeks to see how it measures up as a viable alternative. If you’re interested in learning a little more, here’s the blog post where I describe the whole experiment.

It’s been a couple weeks now, and though I’ll be using my digital notebook for another couple of weeks, I thought this half-way mark might be a good time to share some spreads as well as some thoughts about the whole thing.

First, some spreads:

As I mentioned a few times here and on Instagram, I’m really enjoying the planning part of it, and I’m considering permanently switching over to some sort of digital format for that. I really like how easy it is to move things around to suit my needs. It’s also really easy to make it look pretty as well as be functional. In the first spread, you can see a list of my planned posts so far for the month of November, as well as ideas for Instagram pictures. I’m doing the #nanoornot19 challenge over there if you want to check it out!

I’m also tracking my followers, how often I post on my blog and social media, certain milestones and their associated rewards. None of these spreads are finished of course, but they were fun to make and I’m always going back to them either as a reference or to make changes and improvements.

What I’m Enjoying

I like being able to easily move and adjust things or erase things when I need to correct a mistake or make changes to my schedule. I always use a pen with my bullet journal and it was always frustrating to have to tarnish my ivory pages with white corrective tape or waste the precious paper space by crossing it all out and rewriting it elsewhere. Pencil has the nasty side effect of smudging, so to be able to move and correct things with no wasted space or smudging has been a wonderful experience.

It took some time to fully adjust to notetaking in my digital notebook the way I would in a regular one, but I’m enjoying it and the difference between the two is so slim it’s practically negligible. I purchased the Staedtler Noris Digital pen which uses Wacom technology and feels like a real pencil and that really helps. Aside from the surface feeling unnaturally smooth, writing in it hasn’t been as different as I would have thought, and my writing and my notes look as they would if I was writing in a traditional notebook.

What I’m not Enjoying

You’d think a digital notebook would be way more portable, and in some ways, it is – I’m able to pull it up on my phone when necessary, but to carry around the actual tablet? It’s bulky, and more than that, it’s heavy. I have a really lightweight case on it at the moment, but the tablet itself still weights 1.2 lbs. I haven’t been carrying it around as much as I’d like, and I still find there are times where it would be easier to just carry a regular notebook.

In fact, it weighs about the same as my netbook, and I often find myself bringing only that, as I usually have it with me anyway to do any drafting. Rather than brainstorm in a notebook like I might have on paper, I just end up using my netbook instead. And carrying the two of them together? That ends up being way too heavy for my poor back.

I’ve had back problems for a long time because of too many years carrying heavy backpacks, and sometimes carrying too much weight only aggravates those problems. The lighter I can keep my bag, the better it is for my overall health. Of course, a large notebook wouldn’t be much lighter either, but it wouldn’t come close to the weight of this tablet. There might be lighter tablets in the market, so I’m not going to count that as a strike against all digital notebooks – only against my tablet in particular.

Thoughts so far

I love using my tablet for drawing and sketching – it’s easy to pick up and I have every possible colour and a multitude of tools at my disposal with a single pen. However, I’m not sure how much I enjoy it as an actual notebook.

Even though I’m able to organize my notes with the handy tabs in the PDF I purchased, I’m not using them as much as I thought I would. In my old bullet journal, I used to just start pages wherever – if I needed something, that was what an index was for. It didn’t matter where. I think its why I gravitate towards a journal in the first place over a binder or something more adaptable. I just want to open it up and start writing. I don’t like the fuss of flipping to a specific section or moving pages around before I get to work.

I also thought I would enjoy decorating my pages a little bit more because it would be that much more convenient. Turns out, I still don’t do it much. I’ve never been big on decorating my notebooks. A little touch here and there to make it visually appealing, but it serves as a catch-all for my thoughts and ideas. It doesn’t have to be pretty.

So far, the actual writing experience I am enjoying, which is nice, but there are a lot of other technology-related issues that are souring the experience a little. And it may be because I’m using a Samsung tablet running Android. For one, my digital stickers don’t display correctly in the gallery, which makes them very hard to see. And the app itself can’t connect the same files across devices, which is why I’m forced to use Dropbox to open and resave my notebook each time. An iPad seems a far more intuitive approach, but I’m not an Apple user, and I’m not going to spend all that money just to carry around a digital notebook.

It’s been a fun experience so far, but it’s hasn’t converted me. I didn’t think it would, but it has shown me some interesting insights into my own writing habits. I’m also incredibly eager to move back into a notebook. Still, I’m going to keep up with the writing challenge for the rest of November, just like I planned. I’m interested to see now that I’ve grown a little more used to the whole thing, if my experience changes, and what else I can learn about my writing preferences.

Would You Ever Go Digital?

There are definitely some pros and some cons whether you go digital or use paper and pen. Which one do you use, and would you ever consider trying the other? Let me know in the comments!

One response to “Digital Notebook Experiment: The Update”

  1. […] actually pulled this one from my digital notebook experiment. Clearly I like my vertical layouts. It makes everything easy to see and I can divide both sides […]


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