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Be present in the moment: How to keep a pocket notebook

By Fara Bedrich, April 20 2024—

Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at you every day? The semester’s established routines can make it so easy to sleepwalk through the days, and add to it the clutter of information bouncing around your head, you might be missing a lot when each day blends together. A good remedy may be small enough to fit in your pocket — and no it’s not your phone.

Keeping a pocket notebook can be for everyone, writers and non-writers alike. Many renowned historical figures, like Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton, have kept notebooks devoted to their reflections of the day. A pocket notebook can help you slow down in a hyper-world as an outlet for stray thoughts, ideas and observations.

A pocket notebook doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Small enough to squish into jacket crevices, a few pages and a designated pen are enough.

Take “stop and smell the roses” literally. Anytime something catches your eye, like an interesting word, idea, lyric or a funny-looking bird you saw outside, scribble it down. Consider everything noteworthy. Add in to-do lists, plans, and doodles. Even casual sentences like “ate a disgusting sour orange before class” or “big snowflakes melting on the bus windows” can mean something. The point is to be present and allow yourself a physical space to collect your thoughts and shove them away for later. 

Take it with you everywhere. Make it a habit to have it ready and available for anything the day throws at you. Becoming accustomed to collecting your thoughts on paper can get the cogs in your brain to process the world more minutely. You slow down for a second, conscious of the present time. Mentally, you’re taking a break from the momentum of the day and allowing yourself a breather. Small details of passing moments can make all the difference in a busy week. Recording them as being significant can make the mundane special.

A notebook won’t yell at you about other tasks, like going for the Notes app on your phone and getting distracted in between. The act of physically writing down your thoughts grounds the moment. Finishing a pocket notebook is an accomplishment in being mindful. 

In the end, you’ll have a bent, maybe water-stained, lived-in record of all sorts of tiny snippets from days you’ve forgotten. You can flick through it and recall the day-to-day odds and ends that pulled you from auto-pilot. Maybe there seems to be little point in recording a funny line from a passing conversation or the weather, but for just a moment writing it down, you were present.

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