by Stef Pletinck
I take a lot of notes. A lot of notes. Some of these notes are temporary, to be written down and never seen again. Some of these notes are absolutely vital, notes I never want to lose. Some notes are nice to have. There is no one system that fits all of the above.
Some parts of the system have really improved lately, such as my To Do system. Other parts, like some of my domain specific notes, are in need of improvement.
I consider To Dos to be a type of notes, albeit very short notes. For this, I use a hybrid paper and digital system using Remember the Milk.
Remember the Milk is my main todo system where every single task ever goes, it is constantly open on both my phone and computer and it is what drives my day. It contains todos for uni, personal todos, when to work out, errands, hobbies and so much more. I find digital to be the best tool to keep track of what I need to do wherever I am.
Where paper exceeds digital however, is in planning and time management. My notebook is my agenda and my calendar, which makes it the logical place to plan my week and distribute tasks across time.
Every week, I will take a list of tasks that need work that week and distribute them, on paper, deciding when I will put time into what. Putting a task down on Tuesday does not necessarily mean its deadline is Tuesday, but it does mean that I want to put time into it on Tuesday. Large tasks also get split up into the smallest possible chunks while I’m scheduling my week. This plan will then go into RTM where I assign deadlines and start dates to tasks and subtasks.
Note that there is cross-pollination between both systems. Recurring tasks with checklists — such as the monthly server updates — are scheduled automatically in RTM, so I copy them into the paper notebook.
I find journalling to be an amazing tool, even if I don’t take it very seriously.
For me, it simply means looking at my notebook for the previous day or days and writing little notes about what happened, how well some tasks went, how certain events went, interesting things someone told me, …
These are notes I will sometimes look back at, but they are not vital. Looking back at them is useful to get an idea of how I felt during a time, but I do not need indexed and searchable notes for my journalling. This is where paper excels. An append-only log of my feelings and experiences and a way to help myself remember by writing.
The journal and planning notebook also sometimes holds sketches or ideas, but only for a short time before I transfer them out.
This is where things get messy. For some situations, I use small pocket notebooks to keep track of a single project or situation. As an example, each summer camp I organise will be kept in one notebook. This notebook — often a Moleskine Cahier as they are sturdy, have good paper and size and very affordable — will contain schedules, notes and tasks specific to this situation. Pocket notebooks are very small, so retrieving information is never a slow or difficult task and I can add little stickers to the pages if I find myself referencing something often. I can also keep them on my person together with my Bullet Space Pen and not have the issues that come with fragile electronics and power in active and outdoors environments.
In some situations, like for university research, I will use Obsidian. Obsidian is a Roam-inspired Markdown editor that stores your knowledgebase as a simple folder full of plain text markdown files. I use this system to store larger amounts of structured information that needs solid cross-referencing, regular updates and variable sizes. The fact that Obsidian is only available on my PC is not an issue, in fact I consider it to be an advantage as it stops me from doing work on my phone at times where I really shouldn’t be working.
Wikis are something I use for information that is read more than it is edited and that I want to easily share or have widely available. An example of situations that I use wikis for are notes about tabletop roleplaying games and worldbuilding notes or just information about the home network.
I am personally a big fan of DokuWiki for similar reasons as Obsidian. It is very easy to host, only requiring a basic PHP host, a database is optional. The pages are stored as a simple folder full of plain text documents, ensuring I will always have access even if DokuWiki goes under and making the data trivial to back up.
DokuWiki is also rather easy to explain to others and has robust Access Control Lists built in.tags: notes