Post 5 in the series: Recommended Productivity Tools
The One Rule of Pens
When it comes to pens, there is one very, very important rule: Never use a Bic pen.
If you have any Bic pens, please throw them away right now. (OK, maybe that’s a little extreme, but you get my point.)
The problem with Bic pens is that they skip frequently. This gets in the way of quick and efficient workflow. It is a frustrating to be capturing a fresh idea or action item (hopefully in a moleskine journal!), only to have the pen skip out on you every few letters. Plus, they simply aren’t fun to write with.
But finding a decent pen is surprisingly hard. A few years ago I got tired of my pens always skipping on me, so I tried a bunch of different kinds. Not many people probably do that, I grant. But I was curious to know if there was a pen that I would actually like using, without costing very much.
I determined that there are dimensions to choosing a pen: defining the qualities of a useful pen, kinds of pens, and the size of the line.
Qualities of a Useful Pen
As with all tools, you want to have a pen that you enjoy using. This doesn’t mean the pen has to be expensive. It does mean, however, that the pen should have at least four qualities:
- It doesn’t skip.
- It writes smooth.
- It isn’t annoying to hold.
- You like to write with it.
Kinds of Pens
There are two large categories of pens: disposable and non-disposable. The fountain pen is probably the most popular kind of non-disposable; there are also ballpoint and rolling ball non-disposables. We’re not concerned with non-disposables here.
I prefer a pen that is more economical, yet still writes well. This puts us in the camp of disposable pens. Among disposable pens, there are three main kinds of ink types to choose from: dry ink, gel, and roller ball.
Dry ink pens easily skip. Ballpoint pens are dry ink. The best example of the dry ink pen is Bic. The purpose of a dry ink pen is not to provide a good writing experience, but rather to be cheap. Because they use less ink, they last longer. But because they use less ink, they also don’t write as smoothly and tend to skip.
Gel pens write more smoothly. The flow is fairly even and it dries quickly. But, sometimes they blank out and sometimes they bleed/leak a bit.
Roller ball pens write smoothly and don’t skip. Also, I haven’t found them to bleed or leak at all. Hence, after testing out those pens from Office Depot, I discovered that my preference is a roller ball pen.
When it comes to the size of pen to get, I discovered that I prefer the extra fine (which is 0.5 mm) because I write small. The next size up is the regular fine, at 0.7 mm.
Update: I used to get these at Office Depot, but of late I am not able to find them. So I recently tried the Uni-ball Vision Elite, and found it to be just as good. So that’s the pen I recommend now.
At the end of this post now, I’m thinking to myself “why would I go into so much detail on pens???” Aside from the value of good tools discussed often throughout this series, the main reason is that it simplifies things. Whenever I need to get some more pens, I don’t need to think about what kind to get. Even though there are dozens of options in the aisle, it is a piece of cake to go right to the one that works and move on.
Posts in This Series
- Recommended Productivity Tools: An Introduction
- The Tools You Need to Have (And Where to Keep Them)
- Recommended In Boxes
- Recommended Capture Journals
- Recommended Pens
- Recommended Pencils and Paper Pads
- Recommended Staplers, Staple Removers, and Tape
- Recommended Scissors, Letter Openers, and Post-Its
- Recommended Paper Clips and Super Glue
- Not Recommended: Desktop Organizer Things
- Recommended Chairs and Waste Baskets
- Recommended Labelers and File Folders
- Recommended File Cabinets and Bookshelves