Five reasons to add a pen (and paper) to your EDC

pen and notepad
field notes with pen, pocket knife, and flashlight

A pen is one of the most versatile everyday carry items you can have in your rotation. If you added one, what kind of stuff would you write down?

  • To-do lists: A daily list of things you must do, times you’ve committed to, or even those 5 things you need to pick up at the grocery store on your way home from work
  • Goals: What are you moving towards and what steps do you have to take to get there? What is on your bucket list? Have you set small steps to get you there?
  • Ideas: Brainstorming that idea you came up with
  • Phone numbers: Quick; recite the phone numbers of the five people you call the most. Can’t do it anymore? Write those numbers down so when your phone dies, you can get ahold of someone to help you out
  • Doodles: Put down Clash of Clans and get back to what you did in 5th grade–drawing superheroes
  • Journal: Writing out thoughts, feelings or just logging what you accomplished

Even with the rise of smartphones, tablets and other modern technology, the ability to write something down can still be one of the most critical things you do. Let’s explore five reasons why you need to start carrying a pen and notebook.

1. It’s more likely to stick around

The human mind is a fickle thing. We may remember the shirt we were wearing back in 2005 or every single lyric to that Jonny Cash song, but we won’t remember the ground-breaking idea we had in the shower just last week. Or, even what we ate for dinner last night.

A 2014 study published in Psychological Science found that students who wrote out their notes on paper instead of typing them out on a laptop learned more. Why? Mueller and Oppenheimer’s theory is that taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than just typing them out on a laptop (or for most of us, our smartphones). Writing stuff out by hand is typically slower, so students had to engage in more “mental lifting” to listen and comprehend what they were hearing instead of just typing out what they heard.

pen and notebook with notes
Word. Notebooks have a unique system to help with to-do lists or planning lists.

Taking the time to write your thoughts down means that you are also taking the time to think through what you’re putting on paper. This creates a much stronger memory association with our thoughts. 

Not only will your ideas stick around because you can physically refer to it later, but it will stick around in your memory much longer.

2. It creates a note-taking habit

Carrying a pocket notebook and a pen on your person (not in a bag or in your car) creates an environment where you can write down important notes as soon as they happen. Like any good habit, it takes time to remember that you have the ability to write stuff down, but once the habit is created, it can positively impact other parts of your life.

Advantages include:

  • You better plan for your day because you can write down what you need to accomplish
  • You become more reliable because you will be less likely to forget what you need to get done
  • You become more goal-oriented because ideas and solutions that you come up with aren’t quickly lost
  • Your memory improves, because of memory association of writing things down (see #1)
field note in back pocket
A 3.5″ x 5.5″ notebook, like this Field Notes, fits in a standard pant back pocket.

Carrying a pen (and notebook) with you pulls your thoughts out of your mind and down onto paper. The mental lifting to write it down means you’ve taken the first step to making your thoughts become reality. It creates good life habits that make you more of an action-oriented, reliable, goal-oriented person.

3. It’s more reliable

How many smartphones have you gone through? How many times have you been out and your phone battery dies? For most people, it’s not unusual to have either lost a phone, dropped it or have dunked it in water (or soup . . . or the toilet . . .). Technology is great when it works.

various edc pens
EDC pens come in various sizes, finishes, shapes, and weights. Left to right: Fisher Space Pen StowawayKarasKustoms THE BOLT in Copper, Fisher Space Pen Bullet Space Pen in Brushed ChromeKarasKustoms Render K in Aluminum, Fisher Space Pen PolicePro, and Fisher Space Pen in Raw Brass.

If you’ve created the habit of taking notes (see #2), your pocket notebook is now full of things that you don’t want to lose. Don’t let your thoughts just live on a device that can easily be lost, stolen or ruined. 

Could you lose your notebook? Yes. But a $3 notebook full of your scribbles is much less desirable than your $1000+ iPhone X. An EDC pen keeps your notes, phone numbers, ideas and lists around much longer after your smartphone has bitten the dust.

4. You have a history

When we write stuff down, we can access it later.

Here at Option Gray, we keep our old notebooks and journals because they offer a history of where we are, what we’re doing and what is going on in our lives. Some of us just throw them in a drawer or basket, but others keep them somewhat organized in chronological order to reference–everyone is different.

A stack of some of our current and past pocket notebooks.
A stack of some of our current and past pocket notebooks.

A stack of some of our current and past pocket notebooks.

As you become a more goal-oriented person (see #2), it’s encouraging to go back and see where you were three years ago. Maybe it was the “to-get” list for your first child, the brainstorming of company names for your new start-up, or even your bachelor grocery list. The history of our day-to-day life can be insightful, encouraging and resourceful. 

Tip: Reserve the first or last page of your notebook to keep a “Table of Contents” of the date, situations, time in your life, etc. that you used the notebook for.

5. It can provide a form of self-defense

You’re asking, “A pen for self-defense?”

There has been a huge surge in the market for “tactical” pens, which are more aggressive-designed pens carried for self-defense (sometimes marketed as “glass-breakers,” which could be needed in an emergency situation). Although we’re not necessarily on board with some of these very aggressive-looking pens, you can carry an all-metal body pen which can be used for self-defense.

You can’t always carry a gun and even knives can be limited due to your clothing, activity, situation, or location. That leaves you with your natural, God-given talents and any training you’ve acquired and practiced with. Having an improvised weapon like a tactical or all-metal pen can’t hurt.

Let me know the reasons why you carry a pen and notebook as part of your EDC?

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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