Notsu 3x5 Dot Grid Cards

Gear I use
My HipsterPDA + Pilot G2 Mini

I have been using small pocket notebooks, such as Field Notes or Moleskine, Leuchtturm, for on-the-go analog note taking and as a catch-all brain dump system for more than two decades - long before I had any type of smartphone or PDA. I love the feel and process of taking handwritten notes - it feels so deliberate.

In 2004, I stumbled upon Merlin Mann's blog post ( about what he was calling a 'HipsterPDA' - essentially a stack of 3x5 index cards held together with a small binder clip. Also referred to as 'hPDA' for short.

From Wikipedia:
"The Hipster PDA is a paper-based personal organizer, popularized by Merlin Mann in 2004. Originally a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the increasing expense and complexity of personal digital assistants (PDA), the Hipster PDA (said to stand for "Parietal Disgorgement Aid" and often abbreviated to "hPDA") comprises a sheaf of index cards held together with a binder clip. Following widespread coverage in the media and blogs, the hPDA became a popular personal management tool, particularly with followers of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology. A Hipster Nano PDA uses business cards with blank backs and one that has a calendar on the back."

I started using the hPDA system and quickly fell in love with the simplicity of it and its ease of use - it's so quick and easy to switch out cards with fresh ones and archive old ones (see PoIC for archiving). Then I started to go down the rabbit hole...

hPDA broken down. Acrylic stencil & G2 Mini

I moved on to grid-marked index cards. These are slightly harder to find in stores, but so much better for vertical orientation and the handy grid helps with writing, organizing, and outlining. I was happy with grid cards for a year or so, then I started playing around my own custom 3x5 card layout designs, loosely based on the ones I had seen for sale (at ridiculous prices) by Levenger.

Dots Rule!

Along the way, I stumbled upon dot-grid pocket notebooks and fell back in love with using notebooks again. Not because I had tired of my hPDA, I just really liked the structure of dot-grid markings and the fact they were extremely subtle - the dots are there, but almost not there. Then I found some dot-grid 3x5 index cards!! The hPDA was back in business and all was good again. The only small nag I had was that the dot-grids were very widely spaced (8mm = 7x13 squares per card) and they were only printed on one side of the index card.

Notsu Dot-Grid Index Cards

Notsu dot-grid cards, packs of 50

I recently received two packs of Notsu dot-grid 3x5 index cards for Christmas. Each pack contains 50 cards with a usable grid of 14 x 25 (4mm) squares, and they are printed on both sides. I am in love with these new index cards!

Notsu dot-grid card shown on left

They are made from paper stock that feels almost double the weight of any other index card I have bought over the years. They are of impeccable quality and the surface is far superior than all other index cards I have used, all of which were very rough quality.

Notsu logo, bottom right on back

Notsu is a new brand discovery to me. They appear to have been around for some time, and have a wide range of stationary focused on the 3x5 index card system. In fact, they have entire systems and bundles ready to go. I like their Centre Rise To-Do List Card Stand Box Set - makes me wonder where Ugmonk got their design idea from....

If you are a fan of using 3x5 index cards for note taking, or an avid user of your own HipsterPDA - check out the Notsu line-up of products. These are without a doubt the nicest quality and best designed 3x5 cards I have used, and I've tried a lot of different brands over the years. A single pack of 50 Notsu cards will run you about $8.00, so they are definitely not the cheapest. They do occasionally go one sale and can also be found on Amazon if you're lucky.

If you haven't tried using a HipsterPDA for pocket notetaking, give it a try. It's highly customizable and extremely cheap compared to many of the niche pocket notebooks on the market. You might actually like it!

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