Living on the Upper West Side for years, I developed a weekly habit of waltzing up and down the back stairs, helping myself to tabloids, glossy eight-pound women’s magazines, and the occasional literary quarterly from my neighbors’ recycling bins. Sitting atop Therapist Monthly was where I found a pile of unused check pads.
I hadn’t played restaurant since I was 10 and didn’t have a job at one, either; still, I took the check pads, certain I could find some use for them. One blank receipt became a bookmark, while another bore a message to a friend who’d just sent a postcard. Then I started using them for lists, but instead of salad and sandwich requests, I wrote out my to-dos.
It turns out that a check pad is perfectly suited to corralling work. Each sheet is long enough for a reasonable number of tasks, but not so big you feel like a slacker for not filling the page. Not only are there copious boxes hungering for a check mark, but the perforated edge of each sheet offers a satisfying rip at the end of the day.
Every so often, I’ll try out some to-do app and forget about my check pads entirely. But they always find their way back to my desk. A few weeks ago, I was struggling with a to-do list that never seemed close to done. Erasing a task isn’t the same as crossing it out; tapping “check” can’t compete with hand-drawing one. So, I fished a waitress pad out of the back of a drawer. It helped. When it’s humid and I’m feeling sluggish, a little extra push is essential for helping me accomplish tasks. The days grew longer and my to-do list somehow got shorter, giving new meaning to the phrase, “Check, please.”
Other Strat-approved note-taking accessories
Writer Mark Byrne found the best pen, which is Japanese and collapsible: “Because it was beautiful, I wanted to carry it everywhere. Because it was small, I could. Now I am never the Guy Who Needs to Borrow a Pen. I am the Guy With a Pen.”
Writer Hannah Morrill adores this Rollbahn notebook: “The paper stock is thick enough that felt-tip pens don’t bleed through, but not so luxe to feel precious, like you’re jotting your Time Warner account number onto the Magna Carta. Every Rollbahn notebook also has five full-page plastic pockets in the back — one of those features you don’t know you need until you have it.”
Chris Bonanos swears by this pencil (Chuck Jones’s favorite): “What makes the Blackwing a life-changer is a little hard to explain, at least until you try one. The lead is extremely soft — that’s why I switch among four of them, because they get dull after half a page. That softness comes with an upside: smoothness. You get nice black marks while barely touching the paper, which means you can write faster.”
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