Find your focus
Organize information and inspiration with a commonplace book
Boost your memory, capture quotes, and gather research with your reMarkable paper tablet.
Picture this: You’re on the train to work, and you pass that billboard with the funny slogan that never fails to make you smile. At the office, one of your colleagues delivers a pithy quote. During your workout, you pick up an interesting factoid from a podcast.
Where do you store all these disparate pieces of information and inspiration?
For many writers, thinkers, activists, world leaders — and perfectly normal people who enjoy the mental and organizational exercise of journaling — the answer has been a commonplace book.
What is a commonplace book?
A commonplace book is a place to record interesting pieces of knowledge, quotes, thoughts, drawings, and more for later use. Think of it as the notebook equivalent of that one drawer in your kitchen where you keep batteries, spare buttons, rubber bands, keys that don’t belong on a keychain, and so on. It may look like clutter, but it could come in handy someday.
The commonplace book tradition dates back centuries. Search for the term, and you’ll find all kinds of celebrities and historical figures who purportedly kept a commonplace book, from Marcus Aurelius to Bill Gates.
Keeping a commonplace book has perhaps never been more relevant than it is today. With apps and devices nudging, notifying, and needling you to pay them attention, a commonplace book is a welcome respite. It won’t bug you to complete a daily entry or interrupt your thoughts with what an algorithm thinks you might be interested in. Instead, it will wait patiently for you to engage with it, whether it’s to revisit old entries or add new knowledge.
Organize your commonplace book with tags
One of the difficulties of managing a commonplace book has to do with its serendipitous structure: if all you’re doing is writing down morsels of information as you come across them, how do you keep the book organized?
Tags on reMarkable let you attach keywords to your commonplace book, making it easier to find, browse, and filter entries, whether you’re writing about “Baseball,” “Meditation,” or “Seabirds.”
Consider using your tags for more than just your commonplace book. An overarching tagging structure that covers all notes, files, and folders on your paper tablet makes navigating through different kinds of content and finding what you’re looking for effortless.
Customize your commonplace book with a cover
Your commonplace book should be uniquely yours — a special notebook that invites you to both add new knowledge and explore everything you’ve added to it.
Need some inspiration for your cover page? Below are some styles you may want to consider.
Keep your commonplace book handy
This piece of advice, while simple, is also one of the most important things about a commonplace book: actually having it available when you come across something worth writing down.
Consider adding your commonplace book to your favorites on your reMarkable. That way, the book is always available by tapping Favorites in the menu bar, or by swiping down with two fingers from the top of the display to open the document drawer, and then tapping Favorites.
There — your commonplace book is ready, its blank pages waiting to be filled. Here’s a quote by the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth to get you started:
“Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know,
Are a substantial world, both pure and good:
Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
Our pastime and our happiness will grow.”
Of course, you decide whether or not to write it down. It’s your commonplace book, after all.