I’ve Been Trying the Sidekick Notepad for 30 Days and I’m Convinced It’s the Best Productivity Tool I’ve Used Yet

Jason Aten.

The Sidekick Notepad is well-made and good at doing exactly what you need it to do.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the best tools for staying productive. I’ve tested a lot of apps and devices, and honestly, the thing I come back to is a simple pen and paper.

I like to write things down. There’s something about dragging ink across a page that helps me think in a way that an app on a phone or on my laptop doesn’t. For one, pen and paper don’t require software updates, and they don’t crash. They are just always ready for you to write down a note or a list.

The other thing I love about pen and paper is that there are no constraints. They just fit into whatever system best works for your brain. There are a lot of apps designed to help you think, but my experience has been that they usually just get in the way. In a lot of ways, a simple piece of paper is more effective than almost any app you can download on your iPhone. I mean that.

Of course, in pursuit of the perfect productivity tool, I’ve tried a lot of different types of notebooks. At various times, I’ve carried notebooks from Moleskine, Leuchtturm1917, and even more generic versions from Amazon Basics.

Sidekick Notepad


Recently, however, I discovered the Sidekick Notepad, from the guys behind the Cortext Podcast, and Cortex Brand. I guess, technically, it’s not a notebook, since it’s primarily designed to sit on your desk, though it does fold closed and is easy to throw in a backpack.

After using it for 30 days, I’m convinced it might be the best productivity tool I use every day. Here’s why:

For me, a tool that helps me be productive has to help me solve the biggest barrier to productivity–distractions. That’s why apps are a challenge. Inevitably, I end up finding something else to focus on or do. I’ll open my iPhone to make a note in a to-do app and see an icon badge letting me know I have a dozen unread Slack notifications, so I check those instead.

One of them is asking me to email something so I open my email but quickly get distracted scrolling through the list of unread messages. One of those is from a friend who asks if I’ve watched the finale of The Last of Us, so obviously I have to open HBO MAX and watch it. An hour later, I have no idea why I opened my iPhone in the first place, and nothing I’ve done has been productive. I don’t have that problem with pen and paper.

Another reason I like pen and paper is that whatever tool I’m using has to be ready for me whenever I have an idea or a note to write down, without a lot of user interface to slow me down, A notepad and a pen will only do whatever you ask them to do. They have no agenda. They have no system. They have no distractions.

The Sidekick Notepad is great because it seems to be designed for exactly that. The physical shape and design make it easy to keep on your desk, where you can easily use it when you have things to write down. It’s meant to be placed between you and your keyboard, so it sits in the ideal location for a quick note or making a list of action items.

To be fair, the Sidekick notepad does have a little bit of an agenda, inasmuch as it isn’t simply a blank sheet of paper. Roughly 80 percent of the page is a dot grid, while the rest is a series of spaces for making a list.

I suppose some people will be turned off by the dot grid, maybe? I happen to find it far more useful than either a lined page or a blank sheet, since you can use it in far more situations. It’s great for taking notes, making a quick sketch, or even creating different sections on your page.

Of course, you can do that with just about any piece of paper. And, the Sidekick Notepad is not inexpensive, especially for something you quickly jot down notes. It’s definitely a premium product.

Still, it’s a very smart, well-done solution to a problem I have all the time, which is when I’m on a Zoom call–or having a conversation–and I need something to write down a thought or an idea without getting distracted. It does that, and nothing more, which is why I’m convinced it’s the best productivity tool I’ve used yet.