On Notes Processing

Riffing on David Perell:

Note-taking requires a balance. Too much note-taking and I’ll take myself away from valuable experiences; too little and I’ll forget them.

Here’s how I’m doing that:

  1. Quick Notes: Writing comes alive when you capture details. But when you’re doing things, you want to minimize the time you spend on your phone. Therefore, I have a page where I capture 2-5 word notes that will spark my memory whenever I sit down to write extended paragraphs. ​

  2. Paragraph Notes: 1-2 times per week, I sit down at my computer to capture the highlights of my experiences. I write about anything that resonates without regard for how useful it will be down the road. Whenever a bullet point resonates, I expand it into a paragraph-length description. ​

  3. Publishing: Monday Musings is a weekly forcing function to clean up my ideas and distill them into a sharable format. Since I’m here for a month, I’ll have four chances to do this. I’m also thinking about essays. Since this is the mezcal capital of Mexico, I’m writing a piece with the tentative title: “Should You Drink Alcohol?” If I’m able to string it together, the stories will orbit around this trip.

Notes Processing

How do we get our “stuff” out of our brains and into our “extended brains” (everything from To-Do lists to formal “knowledge management” systems)? To me, getting them out of our heads and into something is the trickiest piece.

  1. Write Raw notes. Do it NOW! Whatever it is, whatever form, whenever it is. Napkins. Notebooks. Voice messages. Cards. Get it out of your head and into some sort of media. Minimize the mulling… or at least write quickly. Whether it is “I need to buy butter the next time I go to the grocery store.”… or “This would be a great business” or… “I really need to get my wife a present” or … I’m moving towards a mini-notebook, I think, so I have it with me all the time (with a pen, probably). The problem is when I have an idea in the car… I think that is the one case to wait. A “dicta-phone” option is tempting, but probably not safe.
  2. Process the raw notes. This should happen… daily? This needs to be turned into a workable habit. Maybe twice daily or even three times (first thing in the morning, end of work day, lunch)? Raw notes need to get cleaned up and put wherever they need to go. Onto an actual to-do list, turned into a “Smart Note”… added to a project file… (a draft blog post 🙂 )we all actually have multiple knowledge management tools that we (actually) use… clean the raw notes and get them into your system of systems. Some may be discarded (redundant, incoherent on reflection, …).

The Zombie Idea / Note Problem

What do do with “processed notes” so that they are useful. I have tons of archived ideas that are … dead. Forgotten. Forgot forgotten. I need a way to “bring them back” to be reviewed…a random rota?

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