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Should you bring your Everything Notebook to conferences with you?

The short answer: NO, you shouldn’t.

Well, let me adjust that answer – no, you shouldn’t if you are planning on buying more books and adding weight to your backpack. I did, and it was PAINFUL. But I’ve also taken my Everything Notebook everywhere without any problems (I just need to control my desire to acquire books all the time).

Those of you who have adopted my “only use one single notebook for everything associated with research, students, fieldwork, To-Do lists, weekly plans, yearly plans” approach (aka The Everything Notebook) know that I carry it EVERYWHERE. As in, everywhere. I’ve taken it to conferences, workshops, to the beach (during my holidays). But this week, after travelling to Bloomington and Indiana for a full week, I have decided that I will no longer be recommending that my fellow academics bring their Everything Notebooks everywhere. I’ll explain why in the paragraphs below.

I’ve been thoroughly impressed that many fellow academics (students, professors, practitioners, folks who are adjacent to academia) have taken to adopt my Everything Notebook approach.

I am both grateful and excited that my method works for them. As a result, I have taken to analyzing my own behaviour with respect to how I use it and what changes need to be made to make it more efficient. I wrote this post in response to my own assessment of how I felt about bringing a rather heavy Everything Notebook everywhere. I noted on Twitter recently that I travel everywhere with my Everything Notebook and my writing kit (a set of 10 colours’ Staedtler 0.3mm fine liners and a set of plastic hard tabs).

Everything Notebook and travel kit

But this week, I got five books, and I brought along my stainless steel travel mug and water bottle. Obviously, as you add more weight to your laptop bag, it starts creating a strain in your back. I am EXHAUSTED. It’s Saturday (I flew into Indianapolis on Monday, was in Bloomington Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday and went to Indianapolis on Wednesday night, where I presented at a workshop Thursday and Friday, until I flew back today).


I wondered why this would be the case, and then I realized as I removed my travel mug, water bottle AND Everything Notebook, that my laptop bag all of a sudden felt MUCH lighter. This is one of the reasons why people seem to be unable to take up the Everything Notebook. If, like me, they chose a very thick notebook to assemble their Everything Notebook, with hard covers and all, it will become VERY cumbersome when bringing it along EVERYWHERE. And their back may suffer, as mine has, all this week.

I figured out something that might help.

As I suggested in this post, on the rare occasions when I have taken notes at conferences and I did not bring my Everything Notebook, I take the following approach: I staple the pages to a blank page within the section of my Everything Notebook where I have filed ideas about a specific project.

For example, as noted in the tweet above, last year I took notes when I was presenting at the Public Management Research Conference, and what I ended up doing was bringing those notes along with me and stapling them to my Bottled Water section in the 2016 Everything Notebook. I explained this idea in more detail in this post.

I still will try to carry my Everything Notebook everywhere if the travel doesn’t become too cumbersome. But right now I’m carrying 5 heavy books in my laptop bag, plus stainless steel water bottle and coffee travel mug, so my back is in pain. Thus, I’ll leave my Everything Notebook at home when I travel to conferences and workshops (where it’s likely that I will buy books) and then just staple the pages to the specific section where they go.

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