Notepads and how you use them

They’re almost always included in conference swag, and in every stationary cupboard at work. But who here uses notepads? If you do, how do you use them?

Do you have a specific layout, or do you scribble?
How do you make sure things aren’t lost in the pages of your notepad?
What do you note down?


Me, I have several notepads:

  • One on my desk at home
  • One on my desk at work
  • One in my rucksack.

The rucksack one gets the least use, but it’s there for when I go to meetups, or if I’m having a chat with somebody in a pub and need to note something down. It’s there just in case!
Pages usually get scanned into Evernote (or recorded elsewhere) and ripped out of this one. I try to keep on top of it and keep it full of blank pages.

My other two notepads get the most use. I use them for jotting down things I need to make sure don’t get forgotten. They might be test steps I’ve taken, version numbers, build numbers, test plans. Reminders of things I need to go back and look into. Reminders to speak to people tomorrow. Things I need to remember from a meeting. Things I need to remember to mention during a meeting.

Normally things have to be transferred elsewhere (either in a Jira ticket, in my computer based todo list, or elsewhere) otherwise they tend to be forgotten about and lost in the pages!

I tend not to have any kind of specific layout. I’m quite bad at that. I just make sure everything is dated, but other than that I just scribble away. I wish I had a good way to lay things out, separate things, and make sure things don’t get lost…


I still use a notepad everyday at work and never go anywhere in the office without it.

I find that if I don’t use my notepad to scribble out my thoughts around my current task I fall foul to jumping straight onto my laptop and inevitably wasting time trying to implement a solution off the top of my head.

In my notepad I primarily tend to use diagrams, flowcharts and bullet point lists of how I will approach a task. I often fill an entire page before taking a break, starting a fresh page and beginning again on my notepad with a hopefully more refined approach to my task.

I’ve started using post-it notes with my daily things to do lists stuck to my monitor as I find I respond well to physical representations of tasks.

I don’t lay things out or date things neatly. It’s simply a blank canvas for my current thought process. If I do feel that something I have scribbled or sketched down then I will make myself a task to capture it digitally somewhere more structured and permanent.

Long live the physical thought catcher! (notepad)


I do get notepads in conference, that’s right.
They are perfect gifts for my kids who are happy to use them as drawing pads.
Personally I jot down things directly in my phone or my laptop (evernote mostly).
I occasionally steal a page of paper from the printer when I need to draw something or if I need to go to a meeting where phones/laptop are not allowed, but then I realise I do not know how to use a pen anymore :wink: (well and in fact I don’t own a pen anymore!).

So, not a huge notepad user as you can see :slight_smile:

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I always have one with me and use it to capture thoughts and ideas mostly but also reminders to do things. I use that as a base to write things up more formally if needed. I’m not a great sleeper and many years ago it was suggested to me to have a notepad at the side of my bed so if I think of something in the night, writing it down ‘tricks’ the brain into letting it go as you have a reminder. Sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t but there has been times when I’ve been glad I captured things I’d simply forgotten by the time I woke.


I find taking notes incredibly helpful, and use notepads excessively. I use two types:

A notepad at work, which I divide into two sections:

  • the front section where each week gets a double page. I use it to record what I’ve done each day, things I need to do, things to discuss in my weekly 1:1, time I spent on different projects. This is all useful for keeping high level track of what I’m doing, where my time is spent, what things occupy me, where I’m blocked etc.
  • the back section for meeting notes, drawing diagrams, test ideas, exploratory testing notes, thinking, etc.

A notepad for my learning (meetups, exploring topics, conferences). I coulor code the entries here with markers after the fact:

  • blue marker: talks, workshops, conferences, meetups, lunch & learn (if not company related)
  • green marker: notes that I take while reading a book, an article, watching a video
  • orange marker: drafts, ideas, plans on talks, workshops, articles I’m doing, e.g. my thinking space

The division works really well for me as it keeps all the work/project and ergo somewhat confidential stuff in one place, and all the generic thinking/testing stuff in another place!


I’ve moved away from physical notes a few years ago, way back before I even started working as a tester. Whenever I need to write something down I use Evernote, and for photos and files I use Google Drive.

For temporary notes during testing session, I also use private Trello board. Since we use Trello as our task management tool on a company level, after I’m done testing I can easily reformat my notes as task cards and then copy them to related project boards.

Might not be the fastest or easiest way to take notes, but it works well for me. Another good thing is that everything is accessible from any computer or smart device that I have.

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The first page of any notepad I have is really tidy, well structured, has dates and projects and stuff. It gets slowly scruffier until the last page, where it’s mainly doodles with bits of important notes scribbled down the sides.


My notepad has three main usages:

  • New “Todos” things on the day (Mainly those small requests that you get when first reading the emails in the morning);
  • Things that I will later pass on to a digital notepad (Evernote and XMind nowadays);
  • Scratching ideas, mainly diagrams for some coding I am doing in the moment.

Now, I’m using two notepads one for my personal life a bit more artistic with drawings and colours, and another just for work totally minimalist and only black pen. I use Bullet Journal for the structure of my notepads and I recommend to all at least try.

Both help me a lot to be clear what I’m doing, what I did and collect new ideas. Another good point of the analogic way to write ideas or thoughts is that you will remember it easily.

I carry a notepad with me whenever I leave the office. Phones are frowned on in meetings as distractions, and most of us don’t have laptops. I find that as I’m doing my walkabouts, someone invariably asks me to do something, reminds me of something I want/need to care of, etc. - it’s much easier if I already have something to write it down on. I have a steady supply of test printouts from the printer (i.e., recycle paper) that I use for jotting down quick notes/ideas when I’m at my desk (I use Outlook tasks as well, but sometimes the satisfaction of manually crossing off a completed item on my to-do list is just so…satisfying!).

I very much frown on people coming to meetings and training sessions that I run without pen and paper. I feel that they are not prepared, not having enough respect for me to think that I might provide something that they would find of value.

So - notepads might be a bit outdated, but they work for me! :slight_smile:

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I keep notepads (sticky notes) in my desks at home and work for jotting down to-dos, phone numbers, etc. I use the notebooks I get at conferences to take conference notes, draw pictures, or I add it to my journal collection to use at a later date. I just pulled one of my old, barely-used journals off the shelf and gave it to my young son to use as a stamp book where he can stamp and put stickers to his heart’s content.


I still swear by the use of physical notepads. I’ve tried migrating to purely electronic but it just doesn’t work for me. There’s something about physically writing that helps me think. Maybe it’s just another form of “rubber ducking” but it’s surprising the number of times I have a revelation as I’m writing down my thoughts when I’m stuck on a problem.
I’ve actually got an “archive” of A4 hardback notebooks going back decades (that’s scary). The surprising thing is I do actually refer back to them and somehow know where to look despite the only index (as such) being date!
I tend to use the front of a notebook for day-to-day thoughts (notes in meeting, things to raise in meetings, blockers and such). The back I use to record reminders; things like certain CLI commands I often forget but know I’ll need again. Also I write down quotes e.g. “You cannot own both the requirements and the validation of the requirements” (James Pulley).
I also find myself copying certain reminders from the back of an old pad whenever I start a new one (as certain things stand out as being particularly pertinent for current work).
Going back to the physical aspect, there’s also something satisfying about using actual highlighter pens (though not too liberally as they loose their impact) :wink:


At work, I don’t go anywhere without my notebook. I use the same notebook for my personal todo’s. I kinda keep it in the form of a bullet journal; I plan out a month on a 2-page spread (including trackers for both running and keeping up with my journal), keep my daily todo’s (1 page per day) and also use it for jotting down notes during meetings (more and more in the form of sketchnotes).

My daily todo’s are by far the most important ones; tasks that I don’t finish on a day get migrated to the new day. If tasks get migrated 3 to 4 times, they tend to get annoying so this makes me really want to finish them eventually :slight_smile:. For me it’s a perfect mechanism to keep my on track.

I agree on what people said earlier in this thread: physical notes help me to process information. A form of rubber-ducking indeed!

I recently replaced my notebook with a Leuchturm 1916 whitelines, which makes it very easy to digitize my notes: simply making a picture with the whitelines app transfers it directly to my evernote account.


I use the iPad pencil and GoodNotes app nowadays since I am taking notes constantly to think and remember daily interactions. I like being able to doodle in a meeting to remember an abstract concept or to share notes afterwards. What’s cool about the app is it uses the nebo notes handwriting recognition so I can convert to text really easily and scarily accurately. I’ll use iThoughts if I need a real formal mindmap but most of the time only if I cannot sketch or reorganize my freehand notes. Also I will jump into onenote if i want a very big canvas for a big collection of ideas to represent. Otherwise I cannot stand it for organizational purposes of big collections of notes. I use google keep for my digital corkboard of sticky notes. Miro if i need to draw a big diagram with stickies.

I’m an avid note taker, virtual and physical. I have 3 notebooks on my desk right now for 3 different purposes: a to do list, a scratch pad where I note temporary things (test steps in short hand, username/passwords I need for a test, things I know I’ll need right now but can be lost in the future), and a small hardcover notebook where my “formal” notes go (takeaways from meetings or learning experiences, instructions on how to do something, mostly things I know I’ll have to refer back to).

I love google keep! I recently converted some coworkers. It’s very useful when you have a quick sticky saved in google keep and can send it right to someone else who needs the same quick info.