Last updated on February 11, 2022
I’ve had several people ask me how I use all my pens. I went through a few methods before I settled on the current one. It seems to be working pretty well. I’ve gone through 4, maybe 5, rotations with it so far, and I don’t see myself changing it any time soon.
The base of my strategy is separating my pens into categories. It doesn’t really matter what the categories are, you just don’t want more categories than the number of pens you’ll have in use. I keep 5 pens inked — not including my always inked pens — and split my pens into “Less Expensive” (under $250), “More Expensive” (Over $250), and “Indie Pens” categories.
I keep each category cataloged in its own list in a randomizer app. The app chooses my pens each week without repeats until I’ve used them all. If you have an android device, you can use the same app I use: Random Number Generator. I don’t think it’s available in the App Store.
Granted, it takes a bit of work ahead of time. I have to figure out how many pens of each category to ink at a time. Right now, my rotation is 16 weeks long.
Having a randomizer choose my pens makes sure I use them all and that I don’t play favorites. By changing my pens each week, I can use them 2-3 times a year. Only having 5 rotation pens inked at a time means that I actually get some good use out of them while they’re inked.
This method also gives me all week to clean pens, so if I’m feeling lazy, I can just clean one a day. Generally, though, fill them on Sunday and clean the previous week’s pens on Tuesday. It’s a good system for me.
I regularly get several questions when I discuss my system, so I’ll cover the main ones here.
How do you avoid wasting ink?
It took some trial and error, but I figured out that I use between 0.1 and 0.2 ml of ink per pen each week. I choose to fill my pens with 0.2ml, since that way I likely won’t write any pens dry.
What about new pens?
When I acquire a new pen, it automatically takes a slot in the following week’s rotation. I just use the randomizer for one less slot. This does end up throwing off the end of my rotation. Usually I have to adjust the last 1-3 weeks, and sometimes I end up with a “small” week at the end with less than 5 pens.
To help mitigate the “I want to play with my new precious” feelings, I’ll ink a pen immediately upon receiving it. It will remain inked for the rest of that week and the following week for its “regular” rotation.
Does it bother you that you don’t get to use your favorites very much?
I do sometimes wish I could use my 2nd tier favorites more, but I’m not willing to sell pens to facilitate that. My absolute favorites are in their own category: always inked. I have six always inked pens. You can read more about them in my 2020 Top Pens post.
Bonus: Using Ink
I use a slightly similar system for ink. I only let myself use an ink once per notebook. Granted, I don’t count inks used in my always inked pens. While I don’t randomize the inks (come on, that would be madness), the system has let me make informed decisions about which inks to get rid of.
Do you have a specific method for ensuring you use all of your pens and inks? If so, what is it? If not, do you think you’ll implement one? Let me know in the comments.