The Black Book

For my entire life, or at least as long as I can remember, I have used a “black book.”  Over the years they have changed off and on in terms of binding, whether or not they have lines, and which brand – but, generally, they have all been a form of what is known as a “sketch book.”


In a day when people use smart phones, think pads, and every other techy-gadget out there, why would I still recommend using a “black book?”  Here are the reasons that I use one, and I will include some pictures to give you examples.  I am sure some these things I am sharing as what I LOVE about a sketch book are possible with some form of technology . . . but don’t even bother telling me.  I have ordered my supply of “black books” for the remainder of my life . . .

Here are my favorite aspects of the black book:

Visual Calendar:  I love seeing 10-12 weeks at ONE GLANCE.  For me, this is very helpful.   On my phone, it’s one month at a time, in my day timers, same thing.  I love to hand scratch out a 3 month window and see what is coming . . . I often will then work on an action list from that calendar.  It seems like when I see it at a glance, there are always things that need to be done in preparation.

Box “To Do” List:  Some people like “lists” and maybe some don’t.  For me, I love a list that I can refer to, see, and specifically, check-off the box showing that it is DONE.

Notes:  Whether I am listening to a talk or preparing to give a talk, they both start with notes.  I bring my book with me to church, to every meeting, to every appointment, and as I sit in my airplane seat I stow everything but a pen and my black book.

Documentation:  I have hired a lot of staff over the last 10 years.  I don’t know the exact number, but off hand it would be well over 100.  Every person that I hire in my line of work has a different “package,” start date, salary agreement, amount of funding that has to be acquired prior to starting.  On more than one occasion I have said, “I took notes, let’s refer back to our meeting.”

Scotch Tape:  There are certain things for me, for example, a Regional Financial Summary, I will cut out and tape into the book.  I also tape in random “lists,” directions for a future meeting, an email with info I want for another meeting.  If I am going to a meeting for a golf tournament for an example, I will tape in our player list, as well as a mock budget.  It’s info I know I will want.

Reflection Time:  If I am praying, if I am writing down thoughts, reflections, or things I sense God might be nudging me on . . . it’s in the Black Book.  I have a prayer list of who I want to pray for, and I have my own “Life Plan” in the book for weekly review.

The “Chuck”:  Many, many decades ago I had a meeting with a guy named Chuck.  (Chuck Reinhold, at the time was the VP of the Eastern Division of Young Life.)  Chuck asked me a question, and as I answered he began to take notes on what I said.  It stuck with me – I want to be a note taker, and specifically, a note taker on what people say to me.  It is quite affirming when someone writes down what you say . . . so I like to do that!


There are many more ways I use my black book.  But here are the final things I love about my black book:

  • I am never looking for paper
  • I am never bored or don’t have something to do while waiting – anywhere. (Dr.’s, airport, appointment, restaurant, oil change)
  • In the end, it serves as a diary of sorts for my life
  • I can always work on something – personal or work
  • The blank canvas for vision is always before me
  • I look teachable and organized when I show up to a meeting
  • It can go anywhere, and never has to be “off” or in “airplane mode”

Do you want one?  The first 5 people that contact me and want one, I would be happy to send one to you!  Everyone else, here is the specific book I use and where you can get one for yourself on Amazon.

Bless you,

16 thoughts on “The Black Book

  1. Just read this sitting here in my office and glanced over to my row of completed ‘black books’….LOVE THIS POST!

  2. Eric,
    I couldn’t agree more! I use graph paper composition books, (I write very small most of the time) always have one with me! I also like to draw out a three month grid and I have a book for every project I have worked on back to 1992.
    I also have some smart technology, but I keep using my books. I use different colors for my different companies. I really enjoyed your blog!

  3. Great Men of God talking about important things! I am privileged to continue to be and to have been among you. Thanks for posting this Eric… “black books” have too often came in many shapes, colors and sizes and are now found in books, folders, day timers and on hard drives and discs. My best ones of late have “apples” on them thanks to the great influence of Leeper. One book, one pen, always with me…..worth considering…..along with my apples.

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