Finding the Perfect Pocket Notebook for Everyday Use

Why a Pocket Notebook?

There are a few things that I always carry in my pocket, such as my wallet, keys, assorted pens (usually two Kaweco Sport Fountain Pens), and a pocket notebook.

I find that while I carry a few larger notebooks in my bag, I like to have something close by to scrabble notes or ideas on the go. For me, my phone and its associated apps are not enough. This is most likely from the fact that I can process my ideas quicker when writing, and that I just do not type faster than I write on my phone. In any event, I use pocket notebooks for multiple uses, such as quick notes (obviously), passwords, contact information, questions for later reference, and as a peripheral brain (see below examples).

My Pocket Notebooks.

However, finding the right 'pocket' notebook has been an endeavor in itself, and there have been several that I have tried out over time. Ideally, for me, a good pocket notebook should fulfill the following criteria:

  • Sturdiness: I don't know about you, but I am not kind to my belongings. As such, I want a notebook that can put up with the abuse of being lugged around my pockets all day.
  • Size: It needs to fit in the pockets of my pants. I do not want a notebook that I can only wear certain days a week, or only fit in a jackets pocket.
  • Thickness: I want some pages, but not an overabundance that just makes it to thick and noticeable through my pockets.
  • Quality: Lastly, I want a notebook with good paper and binding that not only will not fall apart, but be a easy to write in and record my notes.

Pocket Notebooks Tried So Far

Field Notes

 Field Notes Memo Notebook

Field Notes Memo Notebook

A notebook that seems to be making a big presence, Field Notes are quickly gaining a following in certain circles. Manufactured in the United States, these notebooks are ubiquitous with their heavy paper stock cover and flexible binding. I have used the 48-page memo book, which fits nicely in my pocket, and has just the right amount of pages that makes it easy to transport. It stands up well to different ink, though heavy ink seems to bleed easily through. For me, I like the ability to jot down ideas in these notebooks and then file them away, and I feel that is their greatest strength. They really are meant to be used on the go and then filed after completion. However, while they are sturdy, I have torn them up a bit (catching on my car keys) and the cover has gotten bent up with time, but the paper within is well protected, and staple binding has not fallen apart. Lastly, for those that are planning to travel to the Antarctic, Field Notes produces a line of notebooks called "Expedition Edition" that is practically resistant to everything (e.g. water, weather) due to their use of synthetic paper material.

METAPHYS Stationery "blanc" Notebook 

 METAPHYS Notebook


A Japanese notebook, the design seems to have been the spawn of a minimalist looking for a quick but nice looking notebook to carry around. The notebook is quite small (4x2.5'') and contains 78-pages. While not to thick, it is quite flexible. The notebook comes available in Black/White/Orange with a cloth cover. That is probably my biggest complaint, is that I only ever carried it briefly in my pockets before I could tell it was getting beaten up pretty quickly, and looked like it would fall apart with continued use. This is a shame, as it really is a nice notebook, and was useful for storing passwords and contact information on the go. Outside that, I never really found it easy to write in and store long thoughts. It is now relegated to the one of the pockets of my work bag, and retrieved when I cannot remember the password for a certain website these days.

Lihit Lab AquaDrops Twist Ring Pocket Notebook

 Lihit Labs Aquadrop Notebook

Lihit Labs Aquadrop Notebook

I swear, the Japanese make some of the most interesting stationary on the market, and I love them for that. This pocket notebook is sheathed in a plastic covering, with a plastic spring-based ring binding to contain the paper within. That is the key amazing part of this notebook, it was made to be taken apart and put back together again. I found this notebook a great way to create task lists on paper to accomplish on the go. Other fun things I did with it was write notes or things to accomplish on different pieces of paper, and then re-organize them afterwards in order of importance when I went back to reference it. I could then place stuff I finished at the end of the notebook to refer back to when needed. The only issue I had with the notebook was the plastic rings got bent up and I was worried they would break and the whole thing would fall apart. I keep it these days in a suit jacket for meetings and conferences as a quick way to jot down presentations and CE credit codes. If the rings were metal, I probably would use it more often. Great idea, just needs to be constructed a bit differently for me.

Midori Grain Pocket Note Pad

 Midori Grain Notebook

Midori Grain Notebook

This was a random buy for me, but I have grown to like the quality of notebooks MIdori creates. Currently I am eyeing their Traveller Notebooks, and will most likely make the buy one day. But in any event, their Grain Pocket Notebook is another excellent notebook crafted with care. It has a nice band that keeps it close, a leather front cover, and thick cardboard backing, and strong metal twist rings. A really nice feature is that half of the pages are lined, and the other half blank. It has stood up well in my pocket and can take a beating. It is also bigger than the notebooks mentioned before, but slightly smaller than a Field Note memo book. I find it great for making lists, writing  and drawing notes and ideas in it. The paper is great as well, and puts up with a lot of the ink I use. The biggest drawback, is that it is so thick. It has over 100-sheets of thick paper, which makes it bulge noticeably in my pockets sadly, and can then be cumbersome. If it was slightly smaller I think I would love it more. 

Moleskine Pocket Notebooks and Mini Notebook

So, of course, I will mention the classic (or sometimes lauded/hated) Moleskine brand of notebooks. I have used these for several years, and make up most of the notebooks I keep around my office and on the go. I love the paper, the sturdiness of the paper, and the binding. In terms of which ones I have used for pocket use, these include their pocket notebooks (both classic book layout and reporter design), and their mini volant style notebooks. The volant style notebooks are really interesting, as they are the smallest notebook (2.5x4'') I own. However, being smaller is not always best. I find it the hardest things to write in, and in all honesty I try to give the things away at this point, as I find for myself very little applicability. However, I do recall seeing a medical resident using it to keep stickers with certain information in it, to document his interventions. 


The pocket sized notebooks have been better suited for my use over the mini notebooks, and I use them more frequently. They are a good thickness, fits snuggly in my pockets, and the cover keeps it protected. The biggest complaint is the size, as I feel it could be slightly smaller. It fits in most pockets in my wardrobe at least. I have beaten them up on certain events, and one has fallen apart on me the past sadly, though that hasn't prevented my complete use of them.

Lasting Thoughts

Of all the above notebooks I listed, I am caught between Field Notes and Moleskine for everyday use. I love the other ones in select situations, but they are either to large, small, or destructible for my personal utilization. I would love to hear from you what you like or use, and any recommendations you may have! For those wondering where I got most of these notebooks, I recommend either Amazon, or JetPens.

What I am Reading - "The Accidental Medical Writer" and "Thinking with Design/Type"

"The Accidental Medical Writer" (Cynthia Kryder & Brian Bass)


I enjoy writing. Recently, I have become interested in writing for some monetary reward, based on my limited experiences as a freelance writer and working with

Looking into it further, I can across several organizations dedicated towards this cause, including the Association for Health Care Journalist and the American Medical Writers Association. One book that I kept hearing about was "The Accidental Medical Writer." I bought it off EBay and have been reading it bit-by-bit.

It's not a long book by any means, rather it's only about 120 pages in length with rather big font. The book is written by two medical writers sharing how they got into the medical writing field. Based on their accounts and experiences, it truly was an accidental endeavor that they have stuck with. To be honest, it's unique to see people stumble into a job they knew little about, and thats the feeling I get from this book.

Taking that into consideration, the authors give advice about how they have succeeded as medical writers, and where they have screwed up. Some of the information is quite useful. However, I would caution it's not a 'How-To' book, rather, it's a food-for-thought book before you consider getting into this field. Based on their experiences, I would say I want to pursue medical writing further, and will look into this topic further, starting with joining the AMWA.

"Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming" & "Thinking with Type" (Ellen Lupton)


While wondering around Cambridge, MA, with my wife, we stopped in at MITs bookstore for a look around. I came across their design section, and purchased Ellen Lupton's books on graphic thinking and typography.

I personally have found these books rather interesting. They are not necessarily a 'Reading' book, but feel to me like experience pieces put into print. There is alot of history and cases in these books, and I have learned new ideas from them that I feel I have been able to use in my writing, poster design, and visual presentations. I would recommend looking into them if you want to get a different side of things (especially outside of the medical sphere).

Why I Still Keep a Journal and Write with a Fountain Pen

Perhaps many will find it ironic that in this day and age, I would dedicate a significant amount of resources into stationary and personal writing instruments. Coupled with this fact, that my online presence and academic writing is usually focused upon mobile devices, apps, and social media, many may find this personal habit obtuse. 

The mess of my writing.

Generally, I enjoy writing online (as seen in this blog) and the means to share my thoughts whether through online outlets or social media is a great means to reach a large audience. But perhaps that is the thing: Some things I do not really want to share at times. It's ironic. In this day and age where privacy is a prime concern, and yet many share every single thought or idea online, we turn back to old mannerisms to record our private moments and musings. 


For me, the feel of a good journal (subjective, I know) under my hand with a great pen (again, subjective) between my fingers, is a supreme delight. I have kept personal notebooks, journals, sketchbooks since my teens, and it's always a reflective moment to look back at past writings and see what my thoughts were. Within the past decade, I have developed my handwriting, accumulated multiple theme notebooks, and dabbled in amateur art amongst the pages. 

However, my writing has changed, as I have moved on from my formal education to my so called professional life in academia, my notebooks have also taken a different tone. Now they are a way for me to lay out projects, jot down ideas, and flesh out new research ideas. Other notebooks layout meetings and group projects, and have turned more-so into documentation I would not want to upload to the cloud.

So why not just use my online areas to write? Well, some ideas I want to develop further prior to formally writing it up for the public to see. The other thing, and maybe you have this problem too, is that I tend to let the thoughts that develop in my mind drive my keyboard strokes more loosely than when I write by hand, which usually has a more pensive moment and allows me to consider what exactly goes into that word on paper. Perhaps its because I write with fountain pens, and that by putting such thoughts to paper, there is no backspace. What is written is finished, and must stand. Somedays, I think its a form of mindfulness meditation, and gives me time to reflect further than I would had I been blogging or tweeting. Doing so requires a bit more thought I feel. And for that reason, I will continue to write by hand and keep my journals, so that I can retain such experience and practice a bit of patience in my thoughts. 

Lastly, for those that are curious, here is a list of my favorite journals/notebooks and pens. Many of them I have purchased at book stores or at JetPens:

  • Moleskine - I am no hipster. Wait, maybe I am. I don't like PBR though... in any event, these journals have become ever so popular. I remember finding them in a Borders Book Store in 2002, and I have stuck with them ever since. I have a pretty diverse collection of pocket to desk size journals by this point. 
  • Maruman - These journals are manufactured in Japan, and are great quality in terms of production and paper. I generally use them for drawing or mind mapping. The paper is often perforated as well.
  • Kokuyo - Another Japanese notebook, I find them great to write in on the go and they come as refillable notebooks as well. 
  • In terms of pens, I do enjoy KawecoSport fountain pens, and Lami Safari for quick writing sessions.

Most of my journals and notebooks.

Recent Call for Papers Centering on Medicine and Mobile Technologies

I spent some time this weekend looking into whether any theme issues or call for papers were relevant to my topic areas (e.g. mHealth, mobile technology & Medicine, Geriatric Care, Transitions in Care), and noticed an upsurge of calls for technological pieces. I have shared them here for anyone looking to submit their research to any of these journals. I recognize that most of them are not big name journals, but, for the specific interest they offer, it may be beneficial for those that have been collecting data in this field looking for a  place to publish and share their knowledge with the general community. I hope to see a call for similar topics from top journals in a few years, or perhaps a bigger push for such data.

  • IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics (Link) "Big Data for Health" - Looks like they are running a theme piece on the use of 'Big-Data' in medicine and healthcare.
  • IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics (Link) "Sensor Informatics and Quantified Self" - Another call from the same journal, though this time centered on the collection of data for the quantified self movement. What is interesting is they are taking case studies and smaller sets of data. I wonder if patients could contribute their personal experiences?
  • Health Psychology (Link) "eHealth & mHealth" - Journal is looking for short reports and full research on ..."(1) feasibility, efficacy, and effectiveness studies of eHealth and mHealth interventions; (2) evaluation of technologies, particularly as it relates to user adherence, behavior change, and symptom improvement; (3) use of information and communication technology within the areas of assessment and measurement; and (4) theory and models within eHealth and mHealth research."
  • International Journal of Medical Engineering and Informatics (Link) "Health Informatics for Ageing and Independent Living" - This call seems to be for those investigating the utilization of mHealth and associated technological innovations into the ageing population. Seems like a more technical aspect journal, however.
  • International Journal of Telemedicine and Clinical Practice (Link) "Smart Devices and Collective Intelligence for the Telemedicine and Healthcare System" - There is a large breadth of topics under this call, I would just recommend opening the link and reading the numerous topics, I am sure if it has anything to do with mobile devices, mHealth, eHealth, they would be interested.
  • Health Technology Letters (Link) "Wearable Healthcare Technology" - Just as it says, theses guys are all about different wearable technologies and its potential impact on healthcare.

Designing a Medication Reminder Bracelet

The Idea

To set the record, I was inspired by the creation of a novel tool to help individuals create daily habits through ElectroShock Therapy. OK, it's not as bad as I make it out to be, PavLok has created a wristband device that will alert/remind/punish users into accomplishing a set activity. 

It's an interesting idea, and prompted me to wonder if such a device or method could be utilized in helping to increase medication adherence - Minus the Shock of course.

So, what I settled on was could it be possible to create a wrist mounted device that perhaps just either creates a chime or vibrates for the user, to remind them to take their medication? Perhaps it could be tapped (ala MisFit Shine) to snooze or accomplish other features as well. 

Going beyond that, to reconcile medication adherence, it could be possible to then use pill bottles to help with the process. Capitalizing on the idea of "the internet of things" and incorporating everything together, it may be possible to sync medications with adherence. Using RFID chips on the pill bottle, or even Bluetooth Trackers, could be incorporated into the pill bottle. Thus, the patient could tap the pill bottle against the medication reminder bracelet and then deactivate the alert. 

Lastly, all of this could be synced via an app that is accessible by the patient (or caregivers). This could allow the patient to document how they feel, especially with new medications, or track 'as needed' medications and whether the patient is well controlled (e.g. pain, asthma). Alerts could then be fed back via the app to the patient from providers or pharmacy, such as whether refills are available. This could also then be used to reinforce patient adherence by congratulations or reminders. Going further, it could have something similar to a feedback mechanism of the growing flower on the FitBit or a Happy face meter to demonstrate to the patient their adherence for the day and progress.

Putting It Together

I am a pharmacist and a huge proponent of interdisciplinary care, and as such I want to envision a day where pharmacy and providers really can work together for pharmacy care. One of the big ways is medication adherence. So, taking account of this design, I sought to identify ways in which each party can participate.

Proposed mechanism of a Medication Alert Bracelet for reminding patients to take medications.

Role of Provider

This aspect would incorporate the decision by the provider to determine the time that medication would be self-administered by the patient and communicate with the pharmacy what medications should be included in the overall program. Benefits of the idea would be that the provider would have the option to then see when patient is taking their medications (or missing) and allow them to delegate intervention through telemedicine or just a phone call.

Role of Pharmacy

The pharmacy would be instrumental in the preparation of the medications and pill bottles with associated alert tags on them for the patient to receive. In addition, the pharmacy would then be able to track adherence, and could also intervene if requested by the provider, prior to their own intervention. Or the pharmacist could identify issues first and decide if the provider should be informed. The data would also be beneficial to then identify when refills are needed, and the patient could then be alerted via their app.

Other Thoughts

Some areas are still rather grey that I am sure readers would easily pick out, and I welcome it, I think a social discourse of whether such technology is relevant or needed is always warranted, and may help others who may be lookigng into this.

"As Needed Medications"

I feel one benefit would be that patients could feedback into the program how they are using their medications for symptom control. One could be pain management, which could show the provider their use and whether they need further help with management.

What about medications that are not pills?

This is the biggest barrier, how do we tackle products such as insulin? May be easy to slap a tag on a Solostar, but most pharmacies may be angsty with that, as we usually put the label on the package and not individual items, as it makes a large logistical barrier.

Integration with other mHealth Tools

This would be interesting to me. For example, lets say patient has hypertension (HTN) and is using another device to track bloop pressure. A new medication is started and then the information generated by their adherence and BP could be fed together to a provider or pharmacist to determine whether the medication is having any effect.

This device could also be matched up with current other developments such as the bluetooth pill bottle AdhereTech.

Example Case:

64 Year Old Female with a past medical history of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and systolic heart failure. She has previously suffered a myocardial infarct and has several stents. She is being followed by the Heart Failure Clinic for her treatment, due to numerous readmissions concurrent to acute exacerbations of volume overload. It is noted that her numerous exacerbations are secondary to non-adherence to her diuretic and other all pharmacotherapy regimen.

The patient is placed on this program, and the pharmacy and providers office work together to identify where adherence issues are present. Diuretic use can be tracked, along with other core medications for the treatment of Heart Failure. The provider or pharmacy can contact the patient with any identified times of non-adherence, in the hope of by increasing adherence, further readmissions can be prevented. 

Other mHealth tools can be utilized, such as a bluetooth scale that tracks patients weight, and can be used to measure volume status. Patient can also report back via app her status with volume and whether she is experiencing any symptoms (e.g. peripheral edema, shortness of breath). This data can also be used with the medication feedback to determine if further therapy is needed or if patient should come in sooner for a follow-up.


I welcome thoughts, concerns, or recommendations on this idea.