Friday, May 9, 2008

Introduction to Vital Ideation -- Notetaking

Starting about two years ago, I began to experiment out of neccessity with various methods of taking notes. I had a job that could be tricky at times, hundreds of contacts to keep track of, and a dozen little things that changed every day which I needed to pay careful attention to. I did have access to many of the tools that seem to be so familar to Olin College students: namely, email and outlook calendar. However, I often needed to be able to keep track of events while I was on the move, and it was usually a bad idea to bring a laptop along.

The following are my experiences with but a few of methods with which I played around with:

A. Hipster PDA

The Hipster PDA is a cult classic among GTD fans, but I found it not to my liking. I couldn't stand the bulkiness, and, quite surprisingly, I found that access just took too long. Do you know how long it takes to remove that little binder-clip? I gave up on mine within a week.

B. Small Notebook

I use these to keep track of contacts. When I went to volunteer activities before coming to Olin, I would bring my notebook with me. It was great for collecting people's contact information! I got this one after I moved into the area this year -- hopefully, it will be a lot more full after this summer!

C. Post-Its

So, the picture is kinda how I use them nowadays... Anyway, these were extremely convenient back in the day when I had to work with a phone and a desk. They were perfect for taking quick notes, and you could stick them in visible places or on relevant papers and organize them in whatever way you wished. However, when you were on the move, I found the next method to by much more handy:

D. Index Cards

Unlike Post-It Notes, which will fall apart in your pocket, index cards are durable enough to repeatedly stuff in your trousers and take with you on the go. They are the perfect size, and fold up nicely as well. Back in the day, I used to keep them attached with a pencil as shown in the photograph. These are extremely handy and easy to access for the dozen times a day when I had to jot down a note. As things got done and I crossed them off, or when everything just got too messy, I would copy the relevant information into the computer, into a notebook, or onto another index card.

E. Design Notebook

This is a relatively new note-taking method for me; I only started using it last semester in Design Nature. I used it to write, sketch, and design, and I had all my notes in one place, which ultimately saved a lot of time. I ended up liking my design notebook so much, that I filled the whole thing up partway through the second project! However, this item doesn't seem like the type of thing that was especially convenient to use to just jot things down whenever; rather, it was much better to use as something to take with you to an empty classroom at four in the morning when it's nice and quiet to just sit down and work. Nevertheless, for this course, I carried my notebook with me wherever I went and jotted town ideas when they came up.

Now that I am at Olin college, my laptop usually follows wherever I go. Nonetheless, I find that I still prefer to keep track of a lot of things with the methods that saved my life. The non-electronic methods are simply irreplaceable -- the ability to sketch, the speed with which you can jot things down and convey ideas, the lack of start-up time, the fact that you don't run out of power, the replacability, the feel of pencil on paper, and the ability to sort and organize in a hands-on fashion -- these are reasons why I prefer to take notes the way I do.

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