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My System - Index Card Centric

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The major insight for me in developing a system for improving my productivity was inspired by David Allen's Getting Things Done, which we talked about in GOE 2006.

The insight was simply that trying to keep things in my head was wasting a huge amount of my mental energies.  Of course this is something I already knew but i didn't realize how much of a benefit it would be to have a strict system of offloading all ideas and tasks to paper immediately.

I think this approach may be especially useful for people who feel like they are constantly getting ideas for new projects, and need to find a way to satisfy these urges while not getting distracted.

So my system is very simple:

* Every time I have an idea for a new project or a feature to implement, I write it down on a 3x5 index card and file it in one of several card boxes i have on my desk.  The cards are within arms reach at all times so I'm constantly reaching over and jotting down an idea.
* Once an idea is written down, I can "let go of it" from my mind -- this is absolutely key -- it means i don't waste time and brain cycles trying to remember all the ideas i had, etc.
* All todo tasks are also written one on each card and filed away into the card box in sections designated for each ongoing process.  Having previously used todo lists written on 8.5x11" notebook paper i can say that moving to a system of writing each item on a card is *vastly* superior.  It's much easier to lay out tasks and look at them, much cleaner to maintain, just a win-win on all levels.
* Periodically i go through all the cards and throw out the ones i don't care about, and remind myself of outstanding issues.
My System - Index Card Centric

Links to where i bought my material in case you are in the USA and want to try it:


excellent. anyone else going to give this a try?

There is an appeal to this way of thinking (or not thinking, depending on how you look at it!). I do frequent, written brain dumps as well. The key difference is that I dump my ideas and thoughts into A4 (bought them in the UK) sized, lined, hardcover notebooks. Once they're in there, they're gone. For good. The card system is attractive because you can move the cards around and keep them organized - you don't have to flip through pages of illegible scribbling and doodling to get to the idea that you had in March of 2003 for microwave clothing.

There's an Office Depot about 3 klicks from my front door. I think I'll try this out. I know you've posted this "brain hack" in the past but I didn't pay as much attention then (I'm that much more in need of hacking today!).


I just find it fascinating that such a computer-oriented person opts for a paper-based system, though I can understand why one would want a medium different from his work. The main reason I got my first computer in 1983 was to organize my thoughts (it didn't work), and I remain dependent on my notebook for this. One key thing for me since I'm congenitally disorganized is that if I allow the system to become cluttered it doesn't take up any more physical space, unlike a paper system. The bottom line is that any system that works is great, and mouser is clearly much more productive than I am.

Well I keep thinking about a possible computer version of the card system.
Certainly it would be nice to be able to search and print.

However, having a tactile physical card to hold and organize has a more tangible impact.


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