If you want to put your mind on paper, you need the right tools

This tweet inspired me to this blog post, I wanted to do a quick post and I ended up spending several hours on this topic! Thanks buddy, I went into a lot of meta thinking :-)

A few years ago, I asked myself the exact same question. Why am I not able to put my mental models on paper? I mean sometimes it happend but not always.

I have a pen, I have some paper. Sound’s easy to me.

I do a lot of writing every day, mostly in my diary. So I guessed writing was not the problem. So what was it?

I asked myslef why do you use a diary? And after a while it struck me. I cared about my diary, I cared about what I’m going to write in it and I cared about my Waterman, that I got from my aunt for my eight birthday.
My tools were important to me and I wanted to use them on a daily basis.

So what happens if you don’t care about your tools?

It’s like when an artist says, you know I don’t care about my easel, the colors and the brushes, I do some art from time to time… yeah, good luck with that.

Not that I wanted to do art but I guessed that if I had a nice note book and a good pen I would care more. So I bought several pens and several note books and a few different writing pads and I did some experimentation.

Today I like to work with different sized note books.

  • I use a small pocket note book for everything, I capture all my thougts and ideas during the day in it. It’s not necessarily for work.
  • I have several medium sized ones for when I’m learning how an application works or for when I’m learning stuff releated to my work.
  • I have also an A3 writing pad, which I use frequently with a lot of colors.
  • I work with a big A4 note book where I write down my tasks.
  • I still use my Waterman.


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I don’t use the writing pads, notebooks and pens provided at the office. If I can help it, I buy my own tools. It’s nothing wrong with other stuff. But if you want to imprint a new habit, do it with things that you like and in a way that you like. It’s easier and a lot more fun in the end.

I don’t know if I got better at testing since I model a lot of things. I want to believe so. But it sure made me more self-confident. My customers notice my notebooks, my writing pads and my different pens and markes. They often tell me that I am a professional because they see the evolution of my thinking. From my raw thougts over to beatuiful models, leading to my test ideas.

I recommend the course Model Thinking on Coursera. You are going to learn a lot of models and theire real life applicaton  and I loved it !

The Standing Ovation Model it’s a good example why it is important to model problems, by modelling problems you often realize, that you missed an angel.


Please let me know in the comments, how you approach this whole note taking, sketching and modelling thing…




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A philosophical approach on software testing