If I Could Be Like Mike

cluttered dark academia desk

There are things that I use every day to make my life easier or help me get things done more efficiently. Or maybe just things that make me happy. I’m a digital guy and a fan of great paper and pens. And I use many digital tools daily to help me stay sane and productive.

Everything listed here is actually used by me just about every day. I love them, and if you think my opinion is worth anything, you might love them, too. Or you might be inspired to find the right tools for you, which can bring you unending joy and greater productivity.

Many of the links you see here are affiliate links, so if you click through and buy something, I do get a small referral fee.

Writing Tools

Pen grip. I have bear paws for hands. Seriously. My hands are large and in charge. I do not have dainty fingers. How I ever played the piano at all is a mystery. Most pens and pencils are too thin for me to use comfortably. So, I use a pen grip . The grip makes it easier for me to hold on to my pens and also helps my hand from cramping up, an issue that arises during long writing tasks.

Pens. For many years, my go-to pens were the Pilot G-2 gel pens in an ultra-fine 0.38 mm point . They’re cheap, they work really well, and the super-small point makes a satisfying scratch on the page. I mention that scratch because it’s exactly why I moved on to a different pen. I’m looking for the scratch sound of my grandfather writing while he worked, something he did every day, all day long. He used a particular pen, the PILOT Better Retractable Ballpoint Pen, Black Fine Point, 10-COUNT (30000) . I finally found them in a retractable model, and by adding the pen grip, I have that sound of my childhood back.

I also have a beautiful Cross ballpoint my wife got me as a gift that I treasure. It’s wider than the standard Cross ballpoint, so it sees a fair amount of use at my desk. I’m also recently a fountain pen user, specifically a Lamy Safari . I love the feel of the fountain pen gliding across the page. I use it to journal and to write on my favorite notepads daily. One day, I’ll have a larger collection of fountain pens. The Safari is a good start.

Pencils. I hate pencils. Hate them. I avoid them as much as possible. When I do use one, it’s this model from Pentel with a 0.5mm lead . Great pencil, and a great eraser. However, I also have a Click-erase  if I’m using a pencil. It works so much better than a standard pink eraser.

Notecards. I learned about notecards as a productivity tool from Ryan Holiday. I use these for all sorts of tasks. I write my daily to-do lists on them, so I get the pleasure of ripping them up at the end of the day. They are the first part of my second brain system. I use them for notes to people, notes to myself, whatever. Post-its aren’t big enough, and they’re too expensive. 4x6-inch notecards are the sweet spot for me. They are one of my most invaluable tools.

Card box. At one point, I saved all my notecards. That was the first version of my second brain system. Now, the vast majority of my cards are digitized. For those I want to keep, I use this box. It’s quite sturdy and useful.

Notepads. I’m a paper snob. Mostly because I have a severe sensory issue with rough textures. The feeling of rough paper or rough wood gives me the jibblies. There are no wooden spoons in our house. I wrap the popsicle stick with the wrapper so I can eat the popsicle. I don’t use cheap paper in my printer. My notepad can’t be rough since it’s the writing tool I use more than everything else combined. After many trials, I fell in love with Rhodia's premium stapled notepads. They are my primary thought-processing tool. I use them for writing all sorts of things, from first drafts of articles to meeting notes to brainstorming activities. These beauties are smooth, work really well with any pen, and have a sturdy backboard. Win, win, win.

Journals. For years, I was a Moleskine man. I filled my fair share of those great notebooks. Until I started using a fountain pen. I needed a thicker paper with a better coating for soaking up that fountain pen ink. Enter the Leuchtturm1917 120G Special Edition. Smooth paper. Excellent with any ink. Little to no bleed-through. And each page has a date area. Why is that important? Because stamping.

Date stamp. I stole this idea from Austin Kleon. There is something satisfying about stamping the date on something. A sense of permanence, of finality. Like, I’m recording something for posterity. I’m likely not, but I get that feeling. Trodat 5030 Professional 4.0 Date Only Stamp, Self Inking, Impression Size 1-5/8” x 3/8” (Black).

Flags. These are right there with me whenever I read a physical book, paper, etc. I mark things I want to remember as I’m reading, but don’t stop to take notes. That part comes later. These sticky flags help me know where I found good stuff so I can return to it after I finish reading. It helps me process what I read and starts the second brain system.

Pencil sharpener. Yes, I hate pencils. But sometimes you have to use them. If I have to sharpen one – or more likely, my kid has to sharpen one – I have this electric sharpener. Nothing else will do.

Digital Tools













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Last update on 2024-04-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API