The Most Valuable Productivity Tool Ever — And It’s Not An iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, MacBook, iPad Or Any Other Flimsy, Unreliable Electronic Device

My Paper Notebook During my recent vacation, while setting up my Evo smartphone’s WiFi hotspot so I could connect my MacBook to the Internet, I asked myself: “What is my most valuable workplace productivity tool?” It is not my smartphone or laptop. It’s my paper notebook.


  1. As I go through my day, it is my small paper notebook that I refer to more than anything. It’s easy to always have by my side.
  2. When I need to capture ideas, my notebook is always on and ready. It needs no batteries or charging — or even activation.
  3. When I need to review prior recorded thoughts, it never lets me down. The pages never crash and they are easy to thumb through and scan.
  4. My notebook enables me to record thoughts faster than can I type them on a keyboard.
  5. Unlike any digital device, my notebook enables me to easily complement my textual notes with quick drawings and intensified underlines.
  6. My notebook does just one thing — capture ink — and that focus results in great productivity.
  7. With my notebook, I can easily rip out a page and leave it behind, or give it to someone else. That tactile nature is more soulful and impacting.
  8. My notebook, by definition, requires handwriting. “Writing it down” is a conscious act that results in deeper cognition and memory (at least for me).
  9. My notebook archives are more likely to be read by me and made sense of than my own email archives, or other digital message archives. It’s even enjoyable to flip through old notes.
  10. Embracing a notebook in a meeting commands attention and suggests focus and importance, while the presence of a digital device suggests distraction and disrespect.
  11. I can spill a drink on my notebook and it will look ugly, but it will still dry out and work well. That’s why I often take my notebook to places like the beach or my boat — unlike my smartphone or laptop.
  12. A paper notebook model today work equally well 10 years from now — it won’t become outdated.
  13. If I want, I can scan my notes into digital archives pretty easily.

I love my notebook.

How about you? What’s your most valuable tool?

This essay also was my latest column in MediaPost. The black notebook pictured above is my own; blank pages are shown because all the hand-written pages contain lots of valuable, top-secret information.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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1 Comment

  1. Missing word? [ ]:

    12. A paper notebook model today [will] work equally well 10 years from now — it won’t become outdated.

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