office supplies

School Supply Shopping for Grown-Ups

school supplies for grown ups - fueling creativity

It’s back-to-school season, which means that the grills and outdoor rugs and patio furniture and colorful poolside goodies have been replaced by pencils and colored folders and notebooks since early July (insert sad violin songs here for those of us who want summer to last forever...). 

The bright side is that shiny new office supplies can be fun. There’s something thrilling about opening up a brand new notebook or writing with a previously-untouched Sharpie or peeling back the wrapper of a new stack of Post-Its. 

On that note, here’s a list of my favorite office supplies for grown-ups. 

*Note: you don’t need any of these things to start a business, become an entrepreneur, go to the networking event, or attend the workshop next week. We humans have a funny way of not starting [fill in the blank] until we have purchased [fill in the other blanks] which can lead to never doing the things we really want to do and buying a lot of crap that we don’t actually need. 

Notebooks 

  • Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted. These are far and away favorites. They are slightly wider than the similar Moleskine notebooks, making enthusiastic note takers like me very happy. They contain page numbers and an index at the beginning so you can actually organize (and later find) your notes - which can be a game changer. 

Pens & Pencils 

  • After much experimentation over the last 6 years, I’ve recently returned to the Pilot G2 for my daily pen of choice - specifically, the ultra fine (.38) version which keeps things a bit tidier for those of us who write a lot. The ink is easily replaced, helping to reduce the amount of used plastic pens in our landfills. (The EPA estimates that Americans throw away 1.6 billion pens each year).

  • For more colorful notes, I like the iBayam Fineliner pens. They are smooth and don’t bleed through thin sheets of paper. The downside is that they are not refillable, and they don’t last forever - so I try to use them sparingly to cut down on waste.

  • For pencils, I’m excited to check out The Good Pencil Company next time I have a need; they are certified as a B Corp and through 1% for the Planet, and they donate a pencil to a school in need with each purchase. Read more about their impact here. 

Paper 

  • There are few things quite as thrilling as a big, blank sheet of paper. For this, I find that a big chunk of recycled printer paper does the job best. This is what I use for client notes; the blank pages photocopy and photograph easily for clients who want to take copies with them. 

Brainstorming 

  • I wish I didn’t like Giant Post-Its as much as I do, because they are absurdly expensive, comprised of paper, and I do not have tiny handwriting. However, in the six and a half years I’ve been running my business, I haven’t found any sort of suitable replacement for when I’m leading retreats, courses, or workshops in spaces with limited or no whiteboard space. I find that the Sharpie Flip Chart Markers to be the best and last the longest (even over some more expensive brands like Neuland which have the absolutely perfect chisel tip but seem to run out of ink more quickly). Speaking of markers - tip: BYO whiteboard markers when leading anything where you’ll be using a whiteboard. 80% of white board markers in conference rooms and retreat venues across the country seem to be dead upon arrival (insert that sad violin again) so I like to bring my own to be safe. Board Dudes White Board Markers have been going strong for the last several years.

Idea Capture 

  • For this, it can be best to stick with the classics: index cards and post-its. Index cards are great for mapping out ideas and projects in a way that can be easily moved around and re-ordered. A stack of post-its, in various places around the house, are great for capturing impromptu grocery lists, reminder notes to loved ones, and thoughts that are swirling around when we are trying to go to bed.

Electronic Organization 

  • For storage: I am not the best person to advise on this topic because I have a deep love of all things analog when it comes to writing and reading and note taking. “Real” books, real notebooks, real paper, and handwritten over electronic notes for any in-person conversations. However, this system can get a bit cumbersome for a long-time journaler and paper lover. I’ve been working on scanning and uploading some of this paper over the last few years. Google Drive , DropBox, and Google Photos have been the systems of choice. Both might require paying a small monthly fee if you have a lot of files, but I find the small fee to be worth the peace of mind that all documents won’t be lost in the instance of spilling an entire cup of coffee on one’s laptop. Not that this situation has ever happened, though………

  • For project tracking: Trello is great (and free) if you’re a visual person. I’m thinking about trying out Notion at the recommendation of a trusted friend and client. 

  • For note taking: I like to keep it simple with Google Documents. They are easy to use, easy to share with others who need to edit or collaborate, and Google Drive is relatively searchable (though the search function can be a bit spotty). Many clients adore Evernote but I’ve never been able to convert fully. 

It’s sometimes said that September is the new January - a time of fresh starts and new beginnings. Sometimes, a fresh notebook feels like the perfect supplement to whatever it is that we’re starting - whether it’s school, a new project, or tackling a goal we’ve been thinking about for awhile. 

For other fun reading on this topic:


Any favorite grown-up school supplies on your list?