« The best how-to book turns 50 | Main | College: It’s not where you get in, but how you come out »

April 20, 2009


Doug Manchester

3x5 cards and my Shirt [Hip] Pocket briefcase are the staple of my note taking diet. Laptops, PDAs, Cell Phones are all excellent points of aggregation, but you cannot beat the index card for the ultimate in facile note taking and organizing. Index cards are always on, lightweight, will accomodate any writing instrument (including charcoal), can be Xerox'd en masse, and do not require updating, antivirus software renewal, a customer support call center... oh, I could go on.

Diane Williamson

There is no way my computer can reproduce the smooth and easy tactile flow from my brain to paper. A 3x5 is concise and efficient and more permanent than a paper napkin. The computer is the cold, impersonal copy of a compilation of floating and spastic thoughts designed on an index card.

Patrick Rhone

I use my 3x5 cards to capture information on the go. I have a few cards I keep for reference and sometimes use them to leave a quick note. They are an endless source of usefulness.

When I get home, I throw my capture cards into my inbox (a Priority Manager, natch). I process any action items I have captured into my task list on my computer, thus the analog becomes digital.

The digital eventually becomes analog as well. I use a fresh 3x5 card each day to list the three most important tasks from my list I want to accomplish for the day and keep that card on the desk right next to my keyboard.

My 3x5 make quite the effective and productive system.

Susan McIntyre

Thanks - a particularly interesting essay. (I also really liked your essay on trees and paper: it's farming, really, and I wish more folks realized it.) I couldn't live without my 3x5 cards, 3x5 Circa and bleachers. Yes, I use Google docs for shared project management, but 3x5's are perfect for today's to-do's, midnight notes, shuffling and prioritizing, visualizing projects in layers and links, adding sketches. My circa has work in front, then family, then health. Gave one to my niece - she loves it too.

Dr Charles Gillenwater

I always read your posts and truly enjoyed this one. I use 3X5 cards for almost everything, better than post-it notes. My notes, appts, just about everything is on them. Thanks for an interesting read.

Elizabeth S. Wheeler

My first husband who died suddenly in 1993, was not very computer literate; he typed by the h & p method in all caps. He was quite organized by the index card system however. He kept his lists (to read, to-do, shopping, etc.) on cards in a stack on his dresser. Each morning of our 30 years together, he flipped through the stack of cards to organize his day. I still have the stack on his dresser the day he died.

Sabne Raznik

When I must give a talk in which I will have an assistant, I generally write out the talk on paper, then go to the computer to print out my assistant's copy of what I will need from her. But I have found that a small index card is the perfect size for my copy of the notes, since it is manageable and can be seen by myself without being overly conspicuous to the audience. In a similar way, I write and revise my poems in a paper journal and turn to the computer only for finished final copies or to organise individual poems into manuscripts. Thus, I find paper and electronics work together rather than replacing each other.

Lori Kaplan

Hi Steve

I am an avid Circa user and I am wondering that with all the details you include in the calendar..all holidays, global as well as local...why the Levenger calendar doesn't recognize Administrative Assistant week/day? I almost missed it this year (thankfully someone reminded me and I was able to celebrate my admin's contributions in time)....since Levenger is business focused, have you ever thought of including this event in your calendars?? thanks

Rose Maloney

Dear Steve,
I usually discard notes like yours as THEY'RE SELLING SOMETHING, but I happen to use 3X5's a LOT! I'm just an ebayer, computer lover but everyone ends up with lots of little pieces of information. I took an old cigar box (squarish) labeled the front "TICKLER FILE", inserted alphabetical index cards and store ALL of my little notes to myself and pieces of info that just don't seem big enough to rate a file folder.
This helps a lot!
I'm not familiar with the other 3X5 ideas and accompaniments, but I'll sure look when I go to Office Max again!

Marilyn Eigner

ALSO Sweepstakes contest entries require either a 3 x 5 piece of paper OR a 3 x 5 card!!

John L. Lehet


I just received your email regarding "Index" cards. I'm glad to report that I've carried my "pocket briefcase" with me for over twelve years now! I rarely go anywhere without it. I'm always jotting notes to myself. Whether they're reminders, quotations or something to look into, my pocket briefcase (with pen) and index cards facilitate my being organized. They're simply awesome. On another note, I've been using Circa Notebooks in my personal and work life for over ten years. I've convinced many co-workers of their usefullness and utility. My Circa punch allows me to keep many of the index cards right with my notebooks. Very convenient. Finally, I've been using the Bookography to maintain a log of my personal reading for over two years. This far surpasses any other method I've previously used. Although I've nothing against technology (my personal journal is maintained electronically), for many uses, I prefer the effectiveness and simplicity of your products. Keep up the good work!

John L. Lehet

P.S. I just finished "On a Life Well Spent". Great choice of books to publish!

Thom Leettola

Steve: Your email on the uses of the 3x5 index card was probably one of the best emails I have ever received from Levenger. I have the leather holder but when I ran out of cards some time ago I put it aside. I now plan to purchase more personalized cards when Levenger has its next discount event, as I am currently between jobs so money is tight. Thank you again for such an interesting and inspiring email. Thom

Lisa Bednarz

HELP! I love the idea of the 3x5 world - in fact, I'm all set up with bleachers, the portfolio, the pocket briefcase - but I CANNOT WRITE SO LITTLE - PLEASE consider a card with a wider rule - I realize that it won't hold as much - but I can't be the only one with this issue. I will gladly use more cards, but generally, I use it for shorter thoughts or tasks anyway.

I'm so frustrated, because I am not using my system at all - I don't like writing on blank cards, I just want a nice, wide ruled card that will accomodate my well-rounded handwriting!

A. Fairfax

Great article and historical background. I once worked for a university president, and he organized his whole day with 3x5 cards. We would type out his daily schedule, speaking and meeting notes, briefings on dignitaries he was meeting, etc.

He would neatly tuck them into his chest pocket where he could quickly and discreetly pull them out and refer to them.

All of those cards were kept, and have been an invaluable source for his soon-to-be completed memoirs.

I have a use for both 3x5 cards and a set of beautiful wooden card catalog drawers, discarded from a library.

Ever since high school 25+ years ago, I have kept a record of every book I have read using 3x5 cards. I record the title, author, number of pages, publisher, and the dates I read the book. I often include other information, such as my thoughts on the book, if it was a gift, etc.

It has been a wonderful reference for me over the years, and going to my small card catalog and just flipping through 1,400+ cards brings back many memories of great books and the times in my life when I read them.

joel blaylock

Hey why don't you guys make something we can put on our desk, made of wood that will hold the 3 X 5 Cards. Has a slightly spring loaded back so I can write on it and it will hold the cards securely. I need to write stuff there, but always have so much junk on my desk, that 3x5 is about all the area I have to work with!! Make it engravable on the top so I can have my name put on it!! So that none of the other teachers (or kids) will make it disappear. Thanks for listening!!

Jay Corcoran

I love 3 x 5 cards. I take a new card for each book I read and use that as my bookmark--convenient to write notes or important points (over 1000 now since 1988). I use a new card every week as a running list of "things to do". I keep names and phone numbers on one in my Pocket Briefcase as well as a list of "books to read". They are also convenient to jot "notes on the go" and as business cards if necessary. A very useful tool.

joel blaylock

One more commment and I'll stop: How about a library style box to hold all those 3x5 cards I don't want to trash. Like Mr. Leveen suggests: It would look like a retro library card box, many were a light oak with gold colored pulls on them. Each box would hold up to 500 cards, enough for a year for most of us!!

Karen C

I really enjoyed your article and as a working mom I am always struggling to balance work and home life and to keep it organized. The 3x5 cards are the perfect size and it goes easily from my purse, to planner, to desk and back. I have my daily priorities at my finger tips so I don't forget what is really important - and that is making time for my family.

Eric Henning

I am a professional magician, and use 4x6 cards to plan each show, as different clients have different needs. I can plan out my set list, sound cues, etc. and have it ready on stage as a reference. The card then becomes a log of my shows, which I have going back for years.

One of my mentors, Jeff McBride, has a system using a 3x5 spiral notepad to jot down notes during the day. At the end of the day (or the tour), he removes the sheets and pastes them into a notebook, four to a page. Then he re-types the notes, locking the ideas into his brain.

I plan to adopt this system with 3x5 cards (I just like the feel of the card stock better) and will let you know how it works out.

Dale Schultz

Levenger inspired me to use a 3x5 business card. Mine always get positive comments - and, I always add a personal note on each card. Your accessory tools are great helps.

Aeon J. Skoble

Sometimes the simpler tool is the better tool. Your shirtpocket briefcase concept, with 3x5 cards, is a perfect example of this. It's always there, always on, and always ready, so capture can take place immediately. Adopting this has been a great boost for productivity -- I only wish I had had this in grad school!

Rowan Anderson

I'd love it if you'd find a supplier in New Zealand - with the exchange rate AND the cost of shipping, the neat little holders are out of my reach.....If you brought them out here in bulk, they'd be more affordable I'm sure. The card system is so useful (quilt patterns, design ideas, sketches). I'd enjoy it so much more with your wonderful accessories. All the best. Rowan

Steve Leveen

What wonderful comments. Especially interesting to me is that so many of us have found ways to have a productive coexistence of new tools and old.

It’s also fascinating to read the range of uses Levenger customers have for 3x5 cards—from real magic to the magic of real work. My favorite quotation: “They are an endless source of usefulness.”

While we offer the most popular kinds of card layouts, if you don’t find a format that’s right for you (for example, you want wider spaced lines), you can easily make your own design on your favorite program and run our blank cards through your printer, or have a copy shop do it for you:


To our customers who lament discontinued products, I feel your pain! I can’t count the number of cool Levenger products I wish we could keep in stock, but sales of them aren’t brisk enough to merit the continued investment. Alas, things do come and go. Sometimes they come back, but if so it’s for a limited revival. The moral is: if you see something you like, seize the day (and the product).

Cheer to you all!


Catherine Berger

Dear Steve,
I love 3x5 cards as I am one of those who scribble notes on anything handy and the 3x5 size is perfect. It is much easier to slap a 3x5 on a refrigerator with a magnet than a post-it(they fall off). Now maybe some bright colors for people who are more global thinkers and visual types to correspond with the book flags would be most handy...and what about a shopping list on card stock...handier and lighter than a Circa.

Honore Francois

Ubiquitous! That's the word that came to mind.
I use and have used practically all of Levenger's Circa products - love 'em! The 3x5 is not on the top of my list, yet, but after reading this post and all the comments, think I'm in for a re-evaluation.
As a librarian, of course my heart warmed to all the references to the "card catalog." Wonderful but very time-intensive to maintain for currency and accuracy of a library's holdings and the availability of any one single title.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)