Notes, notes, notes, notes…

Notebooks to work through
Notebooks to sort

I hope this post finds everyone well and coping with the restrictions life has sent our way.

I’m currently engrossed by notes. Not, I hasten to admit, actually taking notes, but reading about note-taking systems, watching videos of other people’s notebooks, and dredging up my own collection of part-used and blank notebooks in an attempt to make sense of them. I still feel happier using notebooks as an accessory to a good memory, rather than consigning all of the remembering to the notebook and using the brain as an ideas machine, but I love a good notebook.

My dining table, which previously groaned under the weight of a miscellany of receipts, letters and other items to be sorted, is now groaning under piles of notebooks which have replaced the other things. Piles of notebooks which need to be sorted out.

This is actually part of an ongoing project which is aimed at me attaining a less scattered approach to note-taking. One thing I particularly noticed in the job I’ve just finished was that I seemed incapable of taking and using notes effectively, which upset me because I think it’s very important to have an effective note-taking system when you’re trying to learn a new job. As I went along I came to realise that as well as good tools – the pens/paper/electronic devices – a good note-taking system also needs physical space in which to work and a disciplined approach to writing and using your notes.

I have recently worked hard at getting random creative writing pieces collected into one notebook or into Scrivener on my computer. Now I am turning my attention to more general notes, trying to follow a rational process:

  • If they are ephemeral I am shredding them.
  • If they are ideas of things to do (such as books to read) I am adding them to the appropriate list in my William Hannah notebook.
  • If they are creative jottings I am writing them in my writing notebook.
  • If they are quotes I will write them in my Quotes notebook.

During this process, I may well find that I need a separate collection area for notes that are not ephemeral, but don’t fit into clear categories – the notes I always ear-mark as “ponderings” (I actually have a folder on my computer called “ponderings” and I’m sure I’m not the only one). Luckily, I do have an odd blank notebook or two, so it won’t be difficult to set up a place for these to live.

I am going to try very hard to avoid falling into the whirling vortex that is the Slip Box Method (if you are so inclined, you can skim the surface of it here) because I think that might be a very short path to madness. It’s interesting, though, to see the lengths to which people will go in their efforts to keep their notes in order. Or do I mean their thoughts? It’s an interesting distinction and I will say right here that I don’t see any need to write all my thoughts down; most of what I think is just a fine mist that is happy to evaporate as soon as it’s touched by the sun.

As far as working through my pile of notebooks goes, today’s score is four blank books set aside for storage; several loose notes and two notebooks harvested and then shredded; one workbook on goal-setting (started but never finished) resurrected for me to work through in the coming weeks; and the Quotes notebook unearthed. Not a bad start. My aim is to have cleared through all the notebooks currently on my table by the weekend.

Do you have any favourite note-taking tips? I’d love to hear them.

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