Aug 15, 2021 - 3 minute read - productivity GTD

Finally, Somebody Makes This

For at least as long since I came up with The Agile Organizer I’ve been using disc binding systems like the Arc-M from Staples. While the Arc-M system works, it was never quite what I wanted. Recently, I finally discovered a product that’s what I’ve actually wanted.

It turns out, what I wanted is made by a Japanese company named Kokuyo, and it’s called the smart ring series of binders. Ultimately, what I’ve wanted since the beginning, was a binder that you could fold around so that it only took up one sheet’s worth of space on my desk when it was open. Like this:

binder folded around

Disc binding systems are decent, don’t get me wrong, moving turning pages isn’t the smoothest of operations, especially when turning a bunch of pages. Worse yet it’s easy to accidentally have the page come out, especially on larger diameter rings when turning single pages. Lastly, when using a disc-bound binder in your lap, it tends to be a bit floppy when open, especially if you don’t have hard covers.

The covers on this binder seem to be sufficiently stiff that even though they’re soft, they’ve not been a problem when writing with it in my lap. My only criticism about it, which is very minor is that pages don’t turn especially well when it’s folded in half. Given everything, it’s absolutely ok by me. When the binder is fully open, pages turn very easily.

The jaws on the binder open easily enough, but I do have to remember to grab each side of the notebook when pushing on the thing at the top.

binder opened

One aspect of this binder is it uses B5 sized paper, which I’ve had some of it before, as I had some Muji notebooks kicking around (if you don’t know about Muji, find out, their stuff is a great value). Getting B5 paper in the US is a little more tricky – the Muji brick and mortar store often has it, but not always, and availability via Amazon is a bit sketchy. That said, the effort to get it is worth it. The Kokuyo Campus sarasara paper is great when writing on it with a fountain pen, and the paper that comes with the smart ring notebooks is this dotted line format paper which is something I never knew I needed until now I’ve had it. I imagine if you do any kind of bullet journalling or need/want to draw boxes in your notebook, this is fantastic:

closeup of dotted line paper

Getting the smart ring 60 series notebooks is also a bit tricky – the 60 series hold more pages; the regular ones hold about about 25 pages, the 60 series holds.. you guessed it about 60 sheets. Amazon has some but you have to buy like five of them, if they’re actually in stock. Jetpens carries them, but hasn’t had them in stock – though they do carry the Kokuyo sarasara dotted line paper in B5. I eventually found them on vanness1938.com, and got it that way. The normal smart ring notebooks look to be a bit easier to find. Especially if A5 works for you; but it’s smaller than I want.

In any case, if you’ve been looking for something like this like I have this is what you want:

binder closed

If you don’t already use metric sized paper, you might want to pick up an appropriate hole punch while you’re at it.