I’ve done it. I’ve finally got my Traveller’s Notebook right where I want it.
For those of you that don’t know about the Midori Traveller’s Notebook, think of it as a super DIY Filofax, except cheaper, nicer, and with a better philosophy (at least in my opinion).
I’ll get on to those points later, but first a reason for this post.
My lovely girlfriend, Charlotte, gave it to me a couple of years ago for my Birthday (I don’t remember exactly when). I said I had to have one, and she agreed. I never really loved it, although I always liked it, because it didn’t quite encapsulate my whole life until about two weeks ago. Previous to that I had tried putting all manner of different things inside it without really liking the result, and so it became just another random notebook in my (fairly vast) collection. However, I did nickname it “Travers” (pronounced “Travis”), which created a little bit more of a bond with it.
This post is me convincing you of why it’s very rewarding having something personal and unique to write your thoughts, ideas, and tasks in. If you organise yourself in a more effective, private, and personal way, you feel more connected with your work. Once your notebook is filled with your ideas, you feel like they’re truly “yours”, be it a Filofax, Moleskine, a Midori, or others.
The reason I love this notebook (although I hesitate to call it that) is it’s the same as everyone else’s when you buy it, but becomes more and more unique as you use it.
The basic design of the notebook involves a 100% real leather cover and removable notebook inserts, and all manner of different pockets and storage spaces that you can also rearrange as you want. The cover is made of very high quality leather, and is available in black, brown (as mine is), and special edition Camel brown, in either passport (small) or large (my size).
Looking at somebody’s MTN is like when you see someone’s desk that seems horrifically messy at first, but then they tell you that it’s perfectly organised in their own way. Then the mess begins to make perfect sense. The MTN can be organised however you wish, and you can make it as messy or neat as you wish. Only you know how your MTN works, and it works well for you.
The philosophy of the whole system is that every nick and scratch on the leather, every rough patch and each sticker, bead, and little decoration has a story and adds to the beauty of the notebook. That’s the “travel” part of the MTN; as you take the notebook with you it transforms from a regular MTN that everyone has, to “your journal” that only you know the story of. Compare this to the FIlofax “keep it clean or it won’t look as good” philosophy and you’ll get why I prefer the MTN. A Filofax is meant to be perfectly neat and organised with colours and indexes bound in a cover of fixed proportions (which many people prefer!); the MTN is meant to be beaten up, thrown around, made as fat or as thin as you want and organised in as messy a way as you want, and only looks and feels better as a result.
For example: I didn’t like how the elastic that closes the notebook was attached to the rear cover, creating a lump under your notebooks where the knot in the elastic is. No worries. I pulled it out, bored a hole in the spine and attached it there instead. Who cares if there’s a random hole left on the back cover? The notebook sure doesn’t, and neither do I!
Developing “Your” MTN
This process is how I made my MTN the way it is now:
- Write out a list of everything you need to track, be it work/uni/personal to-dos; calendar dates; workout schedule; whatever you want.
- Attempt to group together similar categories (to dos can be grouped together into the one notebook, and workout schedule can be added to your calendar).
- For each thing you want to track, write down what you can track it in. For example, I decided to track a few things like my Uni timetable in Calendar on my Mac/iPhone, so I didn’t need to add that to the MTN.
- Grab some notebooks that fit inside the MTN. Remember the MTN is as tall as an A5 notebook, but not as wide. This means you could cut your favourite A5 notebook to fit, and then use the clippings to make your own notepads (Charlotte will talk about DIY notepads in another post)
- You can also DIY other inserts, like the folder insert I made from a larger file folder. Make a list of things you want to store as well, like money or tools or pens, so you know what pockets you need
- Put it all together in your MTN cover. Add more elastics to keep the notebooks in place and arrange however you like!
- Remember that one notebook can be split in the middle with a pocket insert or a smaller notebook. For example I have a grid notebook that is to-do’s in the first half, and ideas in the second half. This has the folder insert in the middle to clearly separate each section.
- Add stickers, beads, medallions, trinkets and whatever else you like to make your MTN truly yours.
The official Midori inserts are great quality and fit perfectly, but are quite expensive and relatively difficult to source. If you find a good, cheap notebook, you can cut it to size and have a very cheap source of refills! DIY as much as you can, it really adds a personal touch to your MTN.
I recommend getting the repair kit from Midori. It has a bunch of spare elastics that are essential. Keep a couple of spare elastics in a pocket inside the MTN as an emergency backup.
Midori also sells a bead kit that will let you decorate your elastics as you like. It’s all about decorating it however you like!
The layout of mine is unlike any MTN I’ve seen, as yours will be once you add your own personal touch.
- On the cover I have moved the elastic to the spine by using a needle-head screwdriver and pushing the elastic through. I have also put on some Pac-Man stickers from my Pac-Man Moleskine notebook. another decoration is a little loop made from bookmark string in the repair kit that has beads on, and beaded decorations on the closing elastic.
- Inside the front cover I have sticky business card slots and miniature storage slots, as well as a Leuchtturm pen loop for the Palomino Blackwing 602 that has permanent residence on this notebook. The back cover has a file insert stuck on, but thats about it. These are official Midori stick-in pockets.
- The first insert is a Midori lined notebook. It is 100% dedicated to any sort of scribblings and notes I need. It isn’t organised, but it’s great just having a blank space to write contact details, passwords, uni notes, and anything else, and be able to flip through and find little bits of information from way back when.
- In the middle of this notebook is a Paperways miniature notebook, which is my “Goals” book. I write down goals, big or small, and notes on how I can achieve them so I am always on track (for example, “Learn iOS programming” has a list of books I need to read and checkboxes for when I have read them). When i find myself with nothing immediate to do, these goals give me a never ending source of activities to think about doing.
- Next up is a card insert, with 12 slots for credit cards and small items. I put British Pounds from my last trip to London in there (for when Charlotte and I go to the UK in July), as well as spare MTN elastics, chewing gum, and business cards with appointments written on them. This insert blankets a mini Moleskine 2013 weekly diary, which I use as a general calendar.
- Next is a Midori grid notebook. The first half of this is my To-Do book, where each page is split 2/3 Uni, and 1/3 General. This gives me heaps of pages of space for to do lists, which will last a while. In the middle is a DIY folder insert, holding small notepads like the iPhone sticky notes (for designing Apps). The seconds half (the “Thoughts Book”) is dedicated to app ideas, designs for levels in games, projects, and anything else that comes under the category of “ideas”.
- The back has a ziplock pocket from Midori, where I keep spare cash just in case, as well as a file pocket stuck on the inside of the back cover.
I have had to use 3 spine elastics to keep all of these in place, which is totally fine. With all this stuff inside it’s a fairly fat notebook, but the fatter it gets, the nicer it feels! I also have 2 bookmarks from the repair kit as well, with beads on the ends to keep them in place.
Getting Used to Using the Journal
Whilst setting up a personal notebook is a great step towards organising yourself, if you don’t use it it will just be a fancy ornament on your desk.
I started out by getting excited about using it. Every single to-do I thought of went in Travers, and I began to bring it out on the train home from Uni to fill it with ideas for my dream App. I use the calendar every so often, but it doesn’t really bother me too much because I have all my dates in my iPhone calendar. I do put my workout schedule and important things in there though.
I put usernames and passwords to my online accounts, as well as contacts and even score sheets for card games in the notes section. Whenever you find yourself reaching for a scrap piece of paper, grab your journal instead!!
As well as making yourself put every little scribbling and detail inside, also put spare cash and chewing gum in as well. This means that you can intentionally forget a pack of gum as you leave the house, and whip out your MTN whenever you want a piece.
The trick here is to use it for almost everything. Use it as a wallet, notebook, calendar, whatever. As you begin to use it more, you get into the habit of using it, and it becomes second nature to pull out your journal to jot down that piece of information. Travers is now my go-to place for anything from to-do’s to seeing what’s the next step in achieving a certain goal. If you pass by a nice cafe, or see something in a store you like, write down a note so you can look back when you have completely forgotten it and go “Oh, that’s right, I wanted to visit that place!”
By making a conscious connection between your thoughts, ideas, tasks, and your journal, you centralise each of these things into the one place. It becomes like a backlog of everything that goes on in your head, which is necessary when we are all too busy and always thinking of multiple things at once to remember every detail.
- Charlotte bought me Travers from www.pencils.jp (worldwide shipping)
- DIY file folder insert inspired by this post
- Complete list of Midori brand refills and accessories
- The face on the front cover resulted from placing and then (after not really liking the look) removing face stickers. The marks will eventually go away over time!