GTD: Levenger Pen Pocket Briefcase Review

I'm a big fan of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) system. I think he's got a lot of great ideas that can make a difference in your life. Unfortunately, I've been struggling a bit with implementation. My problem is mostly the capture device. I just can't seem to find a tool that doesn't fail me in some annoying way.

I started out with a Hipster PDA (hPDA). It has the advantage of being exceedingly cheap, easy to implement and light weight. For a week or two, I thought it was going to work out for me. Then I realized the fatal flaws: I'm a big guy and my body constantly is pouring off enormous amounts of heat. As a result, I sweat a lot, even in normal room temperature. Unprotected 3x5 cards in my pant pockets get ruined pretty quickly from the mildly damp environment. The cards lose their stiff cardboard quality, then become sort of soggy and unwriteable. The corners get bent. The edges get ruined. It's not as annoying in my shirt pocket, but only about 50% of my shirts have pockets.

I decided I needed something to protect the cards. At first, I tried a cheapy buxton 3x5 holder from Staples for $10. After I cut off the annoying pen loops and removed most the extraneous garbage from the inside, I had something that worked. Sort of. The corners of the 3x5 were covered, and thus I only had a writing surface of about 2x4, which reduces the usefullness greatly. And it was on the wrong side (left) for a right hander.

The next thing I tried was a moleskine. I started with a cahier. It worked alright, but the flismy cover and bendable quality quickly got on my nerves. I switched over to the full pocket notebook. It has a lot of advantages over the other systems; the full leather cover protects the paper, the bookmark, the rubber band to keep it closed. I organized the last chunk of the book into a datebook/calendar by putting one week per page. I put my open projects in the front of the book with an index. I used the middle portion for other data collection: maps to places I needed to go, phone numbers, email addresses, ideas, lists. It works pretty well. But I hesitate to write in it for some reason. I'm afraid to fill it with garbage, after I've invested so heavily in the format. It really is a top quality notebook though. Durable, good quality, easy to use. I still carry it with me, only I leave it in my car or at my desk.

After nearly a year of drooling over the levenger shirt pocket briefcase, I finally decided that it was time to just bite the bullet and order one. $38 is a hefty chunk of change for a glorified piece of leather though, and the shipping from levenger isn't exactly cheap either ($9 for a $38 pocket briefcase by USPS, ouch.) I hesitated. I pawed through the catalog again and again.

Then I did something I don't normally try - I tried eBay. It turns out that Levenger was unloading some outlet merchandise for CHEAP. I got a levenger pen pocket briefcase for only $19.40 shipped! (Normally $68 + shipping) Of course, it is monogrammed with some mistaken initials, but hey, I don't care and it's hardly visible.

Here are my impressions of the item so far:

  • The Pen: I'm not a huge fan of it. In fact, I took it out and left it on my desk. It's got a strange square shape that takes getting used to, but the real killer is the fact that it's a ballpoint. After being spoiled with years of using Pilot Precise V rolling ball and Pilot Varsity fountain pens, I really can't go back. If it were a gel pen, I might be able to handle it. But not a simple ball point. It doesn't do well on 3x5's at all. I can't imagine paying the extra $30 for this feature, or $32 for the pen by itself. It's just not worth it.

  • The Pen Holder Pocket: It fits the pen that comes with it just fine, although it seemed to try to slip out. Annoying. It also makes the whole thing sort of rigid and puts a bump on one side of the writing surface if you don't remove the pen. I tried putting a different pen in there. A precise V will fit, but just barely, and then you have to pull it out by the cap. I'm really not too impressed. I think it's far better without the pen at all.

  • The Briefcase: It really is like a little briefcase. Has three pockets. You can tell by feel alone which one is which. I use the outside pocket with the lip indentation for my context oriented cards (@Home, @Work, etc), the center pocket for blank cards (which I've been carrying about 7 of), and the remaining pocket for used cards that have random thoughts and information on them. The leather is top quality, the stitching is perfect, everything about it is nice. It holds 3x5's very well without covering too much of the writing surface. The whole thing is nice and flexible, and it's hardly noticeable in the pocket.

    Overall: It's definitely worth owning. I'd say it's even worth the $38 plus $9 shipping. It takes the hipster PDA to the next level: Better organization, easier access, more protection for the cards from the harsh environment of the pocket.