Getting Started With the Levenger Notebook System

I'm a prolific notetaker. Even before I implemented the Getting Things Done method in my productivity system, you wouldn't find me without my choice of two capture tools: a notepad and a pen. And even with all thew digital tools available like your phone and a tablet, I still stuck to my notepad and pen.

And so throughout my working career, I'd go from meeting to meeting, or at me desk, or at a project site with my trusty notepad and pen. Recently, however, my wife and I decided to make a a change and invested in the Levenger notebook system and this is a post on why we made the change.

Discbound notebook systems

I'll start with generically describing the disc-bound notebook system. I realize I'm a late to the game writing about this because these have been out for a number of years now. But when it comes to changes in my productivity system, I hardly ever change. When I do, the rule I follow is that the change has to result in a "large" return on investment. Unfortunately, I usually can't quantify what a large ROI would be. But my rule results in me fine tuning the tools that I have and only considering changes that feel worthwhile. Changing to a disc-bound notebook system felt worthwhile.

What's out there

Here is a fairly complete market survey of the different types of disc-bound notebook systems out there. I've included links to some of the brands out there so you can see and compare each for yourself.

It's a fairly robust list. I definitely won't be reviewing all of these brands. Instead, this post is about what I'm currently using: The Levenger Circa system.

The parts

There are four basic parts of a disc-bound notebook system:

  • The discs. These are the most important part of the system and what makes the whole thing unique from past notebooks and planners. The discs come in different sizes, so you can change the thickness of your notebook. Contrast this with a traditional steel ring binder where you're stuck with the size that you have.
  • The cover. The front and back of your notebook protect your pages and create first impressions of your notebook and planner system. Because of the disc binding system, the covers can be removed and replaced easily.
  • The paper.  Each discbound brand comes with its own paper pre-punched with the holes needed to fit its rings. The shape of the holes allows for the pages to be  removed and reinserted easily.
  • The punch. However you use the system, you'll want to insert your own pages and will need a paper punch specifically designed for the discbound discs.

All four of these parts come together to create a planner and notebook system that looks sleek, tidy, and (very important) is adaptable to however you want to organize your paper notes. A discbound notebook is unlike all the notebooks you've used in the past.

Although there are some reviews out there that say there hasn't been a problem with "mixing and matching" paper from brand to brand, there's not a standard for these notebooks and so systems aren't completely interchangeable. A little research shows that Staples' ARC system and Levenger's Circa system are interchangeble.

Why Levenger?

Frankly, this is the brand my co-worker was using and one day I asked her about her notebook. When she told me she used a Levenger and that 1) she had been using it for years and 2) she LOVED it, that's when I started looking into discbound notebooks and poked around on the Levenger website. That's it. Word of mouth and a testimonial from a co-worker got me to switch my tried-and-true, no frills, pad and pen-only, notetaking system.

For my co-worker, what she liked was were the features available with her system. She knew what data she needed with her at all times, that she needed plenty of blank sheets for her notes, and that pockets for holding her pen and business cards were important. Her notebook was quite bulky (too bulky for my taste), but Levenger had the options for her to build the notebook that worked and looked good.

Starting out for me, I wanted something sleek, thin, and minimal. Levenger had what I was looking for in the Circa Impressions Sliver notebook. The three things that got me to buy the Impressions Sliver:

  • It was thin. Levenger describes it as a "slimmer silhouette" (which is good marketing). Whatever words you use, I wanted something that was easy for me to take. Whether it was hopping from meeting to meeting or throwing it in a bag for a trip, the Impressions Sliver has worked out in being easily portable.
  • It was (relatively) low cost. As a starter notebook, I didn't want to shell out $100 to $150 for a brand I hadn't tried out before. But at $60 for the letter-size notebook, it's double the price compared to its Staples counterpart. So why try it something from Levenger? My wife and I checked out the Staples brand notebook, and well, you get what you pay for.
  • It was personalizable. That's right. I paid extra to get name embossed on the front cover. I believe its important to make consistent impressions. Who garners more trust: Someone who looks like they have their day together or someone who looks like they are frazzled with too much on their mind? Along with keeping my notes together, the personalized front cover adds to that consistent, important impression.

How things have worked out

Remember how my co-worker LOVED her Levenger notebook? And how I believe you get what you pay for? Well, I did get what I paid for and I also LOVE the Levenger Circa notebook system. Here are my reasons why:

  • Easy upgrades. This is different from being customizable. What I mean is that once I realized that the 3/4" discs the notebook came with was too small, the larger rings were easy to replace to make a larger notebook.
  • Sleek look. Even with the larger rings, the notebook keeps its minimal, no frills look.
  • Levenger paper. The Sliver also came with 60 sheets of their custom ruled paper. The paper has a wide margin on the left side which allowed for the Cornell style of notetaking. Levenger calls the paper "archive-quality". I don't know what this means, but it does feel high quality.
  • Dividers. After a few weeks, I decided that I wanted to try out dividers in the notebook. I paired it with printed labels from my label maker and was very happy with the result.
  • Durable covers. The covers have held up. Granted, I've only used the system for 10 months, but they feel and look the same as when I took them out of the box.

Pros and Cons

With all this said, here's what I think the pros and cons are of going with the Levenger Circa discbound notebook are:

So if you're willing to pay a little bit extra for your planner or notebook system (and I obviously think the value is worth it), you'll be happy with going with Levenger. Get to their website from here.

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