The Versatile Notebook: A Modular Circa Setup

Yes, there is something a little sensual about writing with a quality fountain pen in a nicely bound journal like the Epica, or perhaps a Moleskine inside a rustic Renaissance Art cover. They exude a certain romance, evoking a cafe Hemingway or a WWII pilot jotting down his desperate days in a foreign land. But, romantic as that is, it's often not very practical in a workplace environment. (Would you jot random boardroom notes in an exquisite $100 leather journal? I think not.)

However, these past few days, I've experienced a shining example of how the modularity of disc-based notebook systems like the Circa/Rollabind and Myndology/Atoma ones can be extremely practical from an informational and organisational standpoint.

Although the nature of my job dictates a degree of confidentiality, and thus I can't get into specifics, I've been recently working on a video project that involves a lot of notetaking, paper-shuffling, scheduling, file-toting and creative exercises. While some might prefer a laptop for such things, carrying one in this case would not be a particularly bright idea. Walking outdoors in semi-mountainous terrain, I had to keep my weight low, and had to expect both rain and extremely dusty conditions with little notice.

My system consisted of four different components. Most initial notes were taken in either my junior Circa Zip Folio planner (which is my main planner nowadays), or a Circa PDA, depending on if I was sitting at a table or desk, or if I was on the move. The schedule was laid out in my regular weekly planning pages, and contact information was duly entered in the planner's address pages as I obtained it.

However, a large amount of letter-size paperwork was also generated, consisting of interview questions, daily routines, emails and memos, press releases, background information, and the notes of other team members. To hold all this, I created a letter-size Circa notebook with standard stock Levenger covers, then snapped five dividers within. I used a portable punch to insert my printed 8.5x11 pages, which consisted of spare note paper behind the first divider, questions behind the second, schedule and logistics the third, background information the fourth, and technical information related to the equipment/etc. behind the fifth. Notes and schedules were removed from my junior planner and Circa PDA and clipped into the rings in the appropriate sections. When all was said and done, I had a nice little notebook that was ultra-portable and possessed all the information I needed for a successful shoot.

That being said, sometimes it isn't very practical nor necessary to bring something that wide everywhere I go, and so I came up with an additional solution. Since rain was a distinct possibility while away from our vehicle, I decided to make a waterproof Circa PDA to slip into my pocket or camera bag with a pencil. I purchased a small pack of Rite-in-the-Rain paper (meant for personal-size ring-bound binders), chopped them to index-card size in a guillotine, and then punched them with the portable punch. Slap them inside the standard plastic Circa PDA covers, and you have a durable and water-resistant notepad for taking notes in inclement weather. When I was done with my field notes, I simply snapped the pages into my large-size Circa notebook to keep everything together and organised.

This week will be see the beginning of the editing process, and I have some logging, storyboard and A/V scripting forms ready to go. I'll simply remove any unnecessary notes and materials for filing, and then clip in the new sheets. Very easy, very neat, very effective.

Yes, what Circa and company lack in romance, they certainly make up for in practicality. Although such trips as mine can typically turn into an organisational or logistical nightmare, this one demonstrated to me that my new little modular system is more than sufficient to keep a complex project on task and highly adaptable, even without the technology I've relied upon lo these many years. It's inexpensive (especially if one uses his or her own paper), versatile, lightweight, and can change on a daily basis to suit the work at hand. Not bad at all. Is there any doubt as to why I'm hooked on these ring-based notebooks?

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Circa and company is lacking

Circa and company is lacking in romance? Nooooooooo ...

How much more romantic than setting up your own notebooks with your own choice of paper within? Okay, the practical among us will just use plain paper (or colour paper, for variation) and a nice picture cover (sunset, mountains, take your pick), but I can see the more creative DIYPlanner members looking into fancier paper (not just simili, but maybe parchment, onion-skin), maybe fancy borders, too ...

Creative and romantic.


What could be more romantic than a custom-built Circa notebook? Those pricey, leather-bound journals are like the good china - pretty to look at, but too nice to use.

Do like I did...

Get a slightly scuffed up one (or two !!) off of eBay for a fraction of the price. One of the two I got was described as significantly scuffed. My first reaction when it was in hand was, "This is about how a perfectly new one would look after I used it for a few weeks."

Make sure you get it from levenger_outlet on eBay. It's Levenger's themselves.
"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)

Distressed leather Circa???

You didn't have to pay extra for the distressed leather?

Scuffed and dented, not "distressed"


Sadly, they seem to have run out of Circa Zip Folios for now

Levenger Outlet on eBay
"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)

Jr. size zipper binders

I saw a couple Junior size Circa zipper binders on the Levenger outlet on Ebay. One thing concerns me about them: it says maximum disc size 3/4". I use 1". How accurate is the max size listed?


I love disc binders

In my view, disc binders are the absolute best thing to happen to notebooks in years (maybe ever). We use the Rollabind discs in our 360 products and have been experimenting with the smaller sizes like you describe in your waterproof pocket version.

You've given me the extra push to move forward with the pocket sizes. This is like a re-birth of the Hipster PDA.