Levenger Circa/Rollabind/Something Else?

Hi guys!

I've run in to the topic of Circa notebooks or Rollabind Notebooks on several blogs and I've done a lot of research into them. But I'm still not sold.

I'm a student teacher in the Cincinnati, OH area and I'm struggling keeping up with the sheer amount of information. Staff meetings, observation notes, notes/to-do lists, lesson plan ideas, and even some of the college classes I'm taking. I'm overwhelmed and all too frequently I find myself writing in notebooks for the wrong class and end up with my notes all over the place making it a nightmare to try and find anything.

I love the idea of the Circa notebook, but I've read some places about issues with paper (i.e. ink bleeding through), and how easily the pages seem to come out when flipping pages. And I wanted to get some feedback from you guys about the Circa system.

I've tried 5 subject notebooks and Franklin Covey Planners, but everything just seems to fall apart. I've got too much room in some classes and not enough by virtue of the notebook splits and I find the binders from Franklin Covey to be annoying to write in - they're just awkward - especially on the tiny collegiate desks that would better accommodate a notebook that can fold over rather than a cumbersome binder.

I've looked at a few of the office supply stores around here, specifically Staples, to try and find a Rollabind product at a lower cost - but I haven't even found one Rollabind Product anywhere.

Money is tight as I'm sure many of you know yourselves, and I want some feedback before I shell out $40+ for a system that I'm still weary of. And if anyone can tell me where to find a Rollabind or Circa product on the lower end of the price scale that I can try to see for myself how it works, I'd love to hear it!

Thanks for any (and all) help/suggestions you can offer!


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Go to Staples.com

and type "arc notebook" in the search field.
If they do not have them on the shelf at your local Staples, you can order them online.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson) ***

tough situation

I don't envy you your predicament. I'm almost afraid to suggest just going with Rolla/Circa. I love mine, but if I were studying again, I'd probably go back to what I used then. At first glance, it might seem chaotic, but it worked really well for me. Here's what I did.

I bought manila folders--the plain type--and simple, lined, three-holed paper. I kept the blank sheets together in one manila folder, and had separate manila folders for each class. Each page had written in the top-right corner the date that the page was started, and top-left corner, the class number and name shorthand. I would use the sheet until it was filled. If a lecture finished before a sheet was finished, I drew a horizontal line in the left margin, and the next lecture, wrote the date under that line, and picked up where I left off. Some classes took multiple sheets per day, others I got multiple days per sheet. Each of these loose-leaf sheets went into that class's manila folder in reverse order, second side up, so the latest was on the top, but when the whole stack was pulled out, it was in proper order. When it came time to study for exams, I could either leave them loose, or staple them together. I suppose you could also use a paper clip or binder clip to hold everything together, but I never bothered. I just left everything loose-leaf, and at the end of the semester, I had an archive binder that everything went into, with dividers between courses. I could put an entire school year into one thick binder. Some years, I used those folders with the tabs, and kept the courses separate. I did these mostly for important, major classes I thought I would need to refer back to.

If you really want to go Circa/Rolla, you can sort of duplicate this, by keeping blank sheets loose-leaf, and only adding them to the Circa when you are done writing in them. The beauty of the Rolla system is that you _can_ easily take sheets out or put them back in at will. So, you can keep your blank pages separate from the binders, and only put them on the rings when you fill up your pages. I would use 1/2 or 3/4 inch binder rings in such cases, unless you go through reams of paper. ;-) You _will_ want plastic covers, though, not paper. But honestly, comparing any binder to loose-leaf, the loose-leaf and manila folders is about the flattest, most space-efficient system I know. Plus it's super-cheap.




My suggestion, after having been through the "let's circa punch everything and make a book from it" urge and come out the other side, is that you keep it as simple as possible.

The Circa/Rolla stuff works fine if you have good paper (heavier than spiral-bound for sure). But it's fussy. You have to obtain the supplies, print them if you want lines, punch them, and stuff them onto the rings before you even get started using anything. The pre-printed paper that Staples has may or may not suit you. Levenger is expensive.

I like Jon's suggestion except that without a binding of some sort, the pages can get scattered accidentally, which is horrible. Some of the heavier manila folders also come with the little metal prongs for binding 3-hole or 2-hole paper, so the papers can't fall out. This might be a reasonable adaptation.

A lot of the busy execs at my company use plain old spiral notebooks, which provides chronological order but not so much the subject division. I happen to have one in front of me that's pre-punched with 3 holes and perfed to remove. If you have the discipline to process your stuff daily so you transfer important stuff around, this method might not be all bad. It's definitely cheap.

Anyway, my thought is that you have to keep it simple. Fussing around with your stuff before you can even use it will eventually make you want a simpler system. And with the cheap thing in mind, I would suggest sticking with a mainstream binding method (3 ring or 2 ring), with a single notebook as the 'inbox'. Write everything new in the one notebook, then move the sheets to Jon's folder system (the folders with prongs, maybe) where they can be available for future reference. It's still somewhat fussy, but the fuss is after you know the note is worth keeping, rather than before you even know what you're going to write..

It may be that the folders that come with the prongs already in them might wear out after a lot of adding and removing sheets. An alternative might be to just punch plain old manila files and use the loose prongs you can buy in a box, so that when one breaks you can replace it. Or you can use loose notebook rings--and those come in various sizes so as your stuff gets thicker you can trade up your ring size. All of that fussiness there is to prevent stuff from becoming as thick as a 3-ring binder. Personally, I like 3 ring binders for durability, but they do take up extra space. Just depends on your preference. The bigger ones, of course, can have dividers inserted so you have multiple subjects in a single book--with the subjects taking up only as much space as they require. When one gets too big, you can move it to a book of its own..

Having just one place to write new stuff is better. When you're done writing it down, you can move it to its permanent home. If you want that to be circa/rolla that's fine, but keep in mind that it IS limiting. If your situation requires that your 'new stuff' be written on a notebook that folds over, that's fine--get one you like and use it. When you move the stuff out it'll be protected by whatever you put around it. Using a 3-hole binding system means you'll be compatible with pretty much everyone else around you, and if you want to put your papers in a hanging folder later they won't get snarled up. The teeth on circa paper are not very good for sitting loosely in a hanging folder with other punched papers.

So I'd say have one notebook of blank paper that's wirebound or whatever for writing your new stuff in. Take it everywhere with you. Write different subjects on different pages so you can separate them later when it's time to process. Have your different subjects bound in case you need to carry them around to meetings or whatever so they don't leap out and scramble themselves on the floor. Bind them simply so you don't have to mess around a lot.


Simple is best

Hi Erin

I agree with Shris that simple is best.

The first thing I suggest you do is come up with a simple system for filing and indexing your papers.

For example, if I was in your situation I'd come up with 4 or 5 categories that apply to all my classes/roles. The categories would have to be useful ones for me.
Perhaps something like
- To do and tasks,
- lesson plan ideas, presentations, etc (This could be called @presentations)
- meetings, research (this could be called @information gathering, or @info)
- class notes

Then when I was taking notes etc, I'd scrawl the role and the heading of the category on each page. eg College Class 3 @info

I'd mark every page with the reference (perhaps in pencil on class handouts etc), keep the ones I need on hand with me in a folder divided by category, and file the papers I don't need with me in separate binder for each role/class with dividers by category.

As to the binding mechanism. Personally I do not like circa. Its fiddly, costly to set up (I class as more than $20 to be costly), and papers with unusual holes are often disliked in the workplace.

I'd prefer to 2 (or 3) hole punch the paper and bind it with binding rings to make a notepad, and keep the completed papers I need on hand in a soft covered, 1/2 inch spine, 2 ring binder that folds over flat.
Or use a spiral bound notebook with perforations and holes punched in the paper. Tear out the pages at the end of the day, and file them in either binders/folders at home or in the got-to-keep-with-me binder


With lighter gsm/lb paper, Circa does not work well as the sheets do tend to slip off. In fact, even with Levenger paper which is 60lb text/89 gsm, I tend to get suspicious as it does not feel sturdy enough, though there have been no incidents of slippage in my experience. That's why I use 104 gsm/70 lb. text or heavier paper which works perfectly with Circa and does not cause me to have any anxious moments.

After resolving the paper issue, and despite the greater complexity and cost involved in setting up the system, I find Circa suits me perfectly.

Loose leaf with binders or poly wallets.

For classes, I have always used holes punched loose leaf.

Each evening, the everyday carry light binder or poly expanding wallet is filled with blank paper.
Handouts are inserted in plastic page protectors added to the binder or just placed in the poly expanding wallet

Prior to each class, the date, name and number of the class or name of the conference speaker is written on the first page, while writing, the subsequent pages are numbered.

example: Hist 101 2/1/11 p1

At the end of each day, the everyday binder or poly wallet is emptied of notes and handouts.
They are studied then filled into a binder or poly wallet color coded for each class.
Handouts are inserted in plastic page protectors added to the binder or just placed in the poly expanding wallet

Alternatively one can use poly envelopes which are slimmer and lighter.
During the day, one folder can hold the blank pages and the other the written ones.

Another solution for handouts is to use a poly portfolio with fastener, filled with page protectors ready for the day handouts

Poly wallet pictures:

Eversince they came out, I also toyed with the idea of getting some Circa but I do not live next to a Levenger shop.

The price and weight of the desk punch was enough to deter me from the whole system.

I have plenty of hole punch binders and accessories, such as tabs, poly folders, reinforcement rings I got on sale.

go with simple

Surely you are WARY not weary?

I agree, keep it as simple as possible until you figure out what works for you. You also have to consider what needs to be portable versus what needs to sit somewhere until you need it. I like the idea of the poly wallet shown above because that is open and free for you to arrange and fill as you wish, perhaps with the manila folders mentioned. When I was in college, I used one of those 13 pockets plastic wallets with an elastic string closure. I had blank 3 hole punched college ruled filler paper in the front pocket, and one pocket for each class, project, activity that I was involved in. When it came time to purge the portable system (daily, weekly, whenever), I had either a 3 ring binder or file folder at home.

I use plain old papermate and bic ballpoint pens and I've never had bleedthru issues with any paper. I use Circa and Staples Arc paper as well as my own 24lb paper and I don't have problems with them falling out until I start to overstuff the binders, then there are some difficulties when turning pages.

Rollabind and Circa

I have a surplus of tiny purple Rollabind discs and some unused pages from a junior sized agenda - no spare covers that I can find, but I have a punch so if I can find some card stock (I think I have some) I could punch you a cover, plus some regular weight printer paper so you can play with the system in person if you'd like. I don't think it'd be enough to really USE, but you could handle it and carry it around and see how it holds up.

(I will honestly NEVER use the discs because they're so tiny, and I didn't get my binder together in time for the start of the year, so what am I going to do with out of date pages I never wrote on? Plus, I already bought the punch and am still in that 'punch everything in sight!' phase with it. ;) )

Send me a message on here if you're interested, and I'll see what I can rustle up. :)

extra Rollabind supplies

If you're looking to get rid of your tiny Rollabind discs, I'd like them! I'll use them for flash cards for my children. Please stop by my blog--www.bike-bliss.com--and grab my email there.

Arc Customizable Notebook System

Check out the Arc system available at Staples. I think you'll find everything you need. Good luck!

I too recommend Staples Arc

I too recommend Staples Arc system. I personally think Staples leather foldover quality is on par with Levengers (I own a few Levenger foldovers) but is much better on your wallet. The dividers, papers and task pads are great too!

Answer to Levenger Circa and Rollabinder

Erin I hope this helps:

Recently I was at Staples and ran across a product called Arc by Staples. I purchased the letter sized leather (Circa and Rollabinder) product. It has Project Planner, To Do Lists, Page Flags (way too bright for my taste, Divider Tabs, Pocket Dividers, Graph Paper and Task Pads. Nice leather and paper!!!

The paper is just as good (in my opinion) good as Levenger’s products (exception is the Task Pads – I use them as a page finder).

The cons are as follows: as of yet there is no hole punch or page finders. I think they are probably in production. You can use the Levenger hole punch or Rollobinder products (they are quite expensive, but you get what you need).

I love the Levenger products and the quality I get. Sometimes you can find them on eBay from their outlet or other who did not like the product.

Staples Arc product also comes in a junior size with leather outsides or heavy duty plastic covers. I like the plastic because I can have more “stuff” in my agenda/planner. By the way, I heard on this website (saw a picture too) that they are making bigger rings for expansion. Sweet!

Hope this is useful to you and others.
Terresa – I love paper, planners and pens!!

Custom Pages

I may have skipped over some suggestions that are similar to mine, so I apologize if I repeat.

I'm a writer, a legal assistant, and I'm about to start tutoring on the side. I've found that the Circa system is the best system for all I have to keep track of.

The only thing is that my suggestion involves getting a Circa punch. You can find punches, discs, and covers on ebay and the Bazaar section of this site. I've acquired most of my Circa stuff in this way. There are so many generous people on this site and I think that's a great place to start. It's a lot cheaper than buying direct from Levenger or Rollabind.

I've made about a dozen custom pages in Word that work every bit as well as the expensive Levenger paper. I use (I think it's) 30 lb paper and I've had no problems with bleed-through. Granted, sometimes the smurfs get hung up on the discs, but it's generally not to the point of being troublesome. It might be for those who are a little more OCD about such things, but it's never enough to really bother me in relation to the pros of this system.

As far as the custom pages, I've found that the tables feature of word is the best thing for making them. I use it for my lined and graph paper and I make a lot of custom pages for problem scenes in my novels and project to-do lists and ideas. The great thing about doing it this way is that you'll always have exactly what you want and what's going to work for you.


Circa is a great notebook but pricey. Right now at www.rollabind.com save 20% & get a free notebook & shipping if you buy $60+

Use code ROLL20

I find that Rollabind's notebooks are great & there are great discounts if you like them on Facebook.

Right now you can score a $5 or $10 Starbucks gift card!

Your enthusiasm is commendable, but...

one posting of a discount code is sufficient.

By any chance, do you work for Rollabind ?
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson) ***


Isn't Rolla the one that gives everyone who orders from there anything but discs grief?



You are correct.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson) ***