By Christine Song

How to Find the Best Notebook for Your Life

A breakdown of the best notebooks to match your goals.

For most of us (especially people who love paper as much as we do), notebooks are essential to your work life, home life, and everywhere in between.

Different types of notebooks will better meet your needs in different settings, but if you’re looking for the ultimate notebook to carry with you every day, you’ll need to think about what is most important to you. Are you looking for a place to gather all the creative ideas you have each day, or are you looking for a streamlined book that’s part to-do list and part journal?

Grab the nearest notebook and start jotting down what you wish you were writing, tracking, saving each day — and then use the list below to find the best notebook for your everyday life. If you find one you love — tell us about it! We love notebooks and would love to hear what works for you.

Best notebooks for brainstorming and formulating ideas

If you are looking for a notebook that can better wrangle your ideas and evaluate their weight, you need more than a blank piece of paper.

Less structured than a planner, but with more guidance than a blank piece of paper, notebooks that help you brainstorm, formulate, and build ideas and goals have a lot to offer your big ideas. These are specific kinds of notebooks that will help you move an idea along from the brainstorming phase through to execution (or help you decide if it’s even worthy of pursuing at all). Get your best ideas to work in a notebook that allows for them to grow and helps you move along.

The Hatch Notebook is a great option in this category, with helpful prompts and questions to evaluate the merits of an idea, reminding you to consider the constraints of reality. The Hatch Idea Bank is smaller in scale and more travel-friendly, but similarly meant to help you “hatch” your next best idea. The Brilliant Ideas Launch Pad focuses more on brainstorming and the idea generating process through colors, diagrams, and mind maps.

Best notebooks for visual thinkers and learners

Some of us learn better through visuals. And that translates into how we think and document our thoughts.

If you want your words to flow or expand in a way that can’t be contained by traditional lined pages, then you’ll need a special kind of notebook to match your visual style.

Lines can be constraining and smaller notebooks limit the size of your visuals. You might instead want a blank book, and one that is closer to 7”x9” or even 8.5”x11” to give your ideas plenty of space to breathe.

Layflat binding best allows for continuous and seamless transitions from one side of the page to the other. You’ll want to avoid books with big rings or wire binding that will interrupt the flow from page to page.

To avoid horizontal lines, the Grids & Guides Notebook offers multiple grid layouts to accommodate information any way you want to present it, whether it’s graphs, sketches, or charts.

An alternative to grids and the scientific guides the Grids & Guides Notebook offers, are notebooks with dotted lines. Moleskine’s Cahier Journal is flexible with soft binding and comes in a variety of sizes, small to large; though not quite layflat binding, the thread binding does make laying open the pages easier than other options.

The Moleskine Classic Notebook is also available in lined, dotted, plain or grid format with soft and hardback options, with a pocket and extra large sizes.

Best notebooks for artists

Like the visual thinkers and learners among us, artists usually need a larger size, layflat binding, and more flexible layout options. Layflat binding is particularly helpful for left handed artists whose arms have a tendency to get hung up on ring- or wire-bound books. Wider pages and dimensions give you the space you need, but layflat binding can maximize the page space for smaller notebooks. Quality paper is the standout requirement compared to other categories of notebooks depending on what kind of medium you work in.

The Baron Fig Confidant Hardcover Notebook comes in three sizes, has a simple design, layflat binding, and lined, dotted, or blank acid-free paper (some with perforated edges). Moleskine’s Sketch Album comes in a unique size with perforated pages specific for sketching. And the Strathmore brand also makes a series of art journals depending on the medium.

Best notebooks for minimalists

Looking for fewer distractions, simplicity, and the space to be present and focused? Whether you consider yourself a minimalist or just like the concept, you can streamline the notebooks in your life to align with this practice.

A blank or dot-grid notebook that can function as a journal, note-taker, scheduler, and/or planner accomplishes this with ease. The Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal has layflat binding, three ribbon finders, and easy to use dot-grid pages, which brings efficiency and simplicity into your life. Or if you’re looking for something with minimalist inspiration, these Minimalist Notebooks from the School of Life might be right up your alley, in a three notebook pack with lined, grid, and plain paper.

Best notepads for daily focus

A daily notepad that helps you stay focused can be a life saver, especially if you’re easily distracted, face a lot of interruptions, or have busy days every day. Look for notebooks or notepads that help you prioritize and keep track of what is going on all day.

This Ledger Daily Schedule has fillable fields for the day/date, your mood, times, and cute little icons to help you keep track of those things we easily forget or put off like water, fruit and veggie intake, movement/stretch breaks. With space along the side for must-accomplish tasks and “Don’t Forget To…”, you can focus on the essentials of the day.

Alternatively, a simple lined notepad specifically for tasks is perfect for busy weekend days with errand, activities, and planning for the upcoming week, or if you need to remember what to pack your kids for school the next day. The beautiful gold lettering adds some elegance to even the most mundane of tasks.

Best notebooks/notepads for quick notes

Think thinner, sleeker, smaller for this category. Whether you need something for your nightstand or the glove box, size matters. But small doesn’t have to mean boring.

For quick notes and ideas on the go, the Kunisawa Find Slim Note is a lightweight and portable option.  

Just slightly smaller, the Small Rhodia Webnote comes with a ribbon finder, elastic band closure, inner expandable pocket, and lined or dotted pages. These features are great when you need to stick a small notebook in your purse or car and can’t risk the pages getting caught or loose.

Lastly, if you’re looking for something with an adhesive backing, look no further than the Kunisawa Find Sticky Memo Pad. Great next to the phone, in the kitchen or common areas, write a note and stick it using this beautiful notepad.

Best digital notebooks

If you don’t need a notebook that’s strictly pen and paper, and want a way to digitally store and search your old notes, consider a digital notebook like the Rocketbook. Using a special pen, you can write in the Everlast notebook, scan and send your notes through the Rocketbook app to your cloud services, then erase with a moist towel. Moleskine Smart Writing Set offers similar capabilities, but digitizes the text in real time. Pretty cool!

Lots of options out there…though you should care about function and find notebooks that match your needs, sometimes the prettiest things bring more joy and simple pleasure. Beautifully covered notebooks that make you want to write is a good thing too, whether its flowers, jungle scenery, or elegant birds. Enjoy your note taking!