2 min read

Using notebooks to take notes

How come Jeff Williams uses a paper notebook?

Mark Gurman wrote a great piece on Apple's Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams.

Williams also has often relied in meetings on a pocket-size notebook, and colleagues say they make sure to follow up on any part of the conversation they see him write down.

This tidbit is fascinating to me. How come Williams uses a paper notebook? This is the Chief Operating Officer at Apple, a company whose iPhone is, frankly, the most ubiquitous pocket-size notebook around.

Admittedly, I, too, prefer a paper notebook to write down thoughts, even though I really want to just use my phone for notes. Phones make more sense. It's always with me, my writing is in the cloud and not stuck in one spot, and software makes note taking more organized. There's no readily apparent downside. Yet I still carry a notebook and pen with me where ever I go.

I find Williams's habit much more interesting when transposed against Scott Forstall's note taking habits (paywall):

Forstall takes detailed notes without pen, paper, or laptop. “He listens to you and he starts typing on his iPhone,” says Matt Murphy, a partner at Kleiner Perkins and the manager of a fund at the firm that invests in iOS developers. “You’re thinking he’s not listening and sending a text message, then you realize he’s taking notes.”

Perhaps that's part of why I eschew using my phone to take notes. I feel people think, actively or subconsciously, I'm ignoring them. Their immediate perception is a bias I have to overcome. When I take notes using a notebook, people seem to immediately think I'm actively listening to them, taking notes

There's also the pleasant, tactile, and near instantaneous feel of using a notebook. You pull it out of your pocket and start scribbling away. For some reason, taking notes on a phone feels less accessible in comparison. Truly, I don't believe this feeling is quantifiably objective. It might be easier and more efficient to use my phone. But yet, given the choice, I nearly always opt to use a paper notebook.

Based on my personal interactions, it seems Forstall's phone preference is the minority. Here's hoping using phones to take notes eventually becomes more prevalent and socially acceptable. I'll do my part to keep using Cultured Code's fantastic Things 3 more often as part of my workflow. Maybe I'll preface pulling out my phone with a "Let me write this down."