Monday, January 5, 2009

Externalizing my brainwaves

For starters, new blog with zee puppets.


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It's a new year, folks!  Did you rock in 2008?  Did you suck?  Yes, you sucked?  Is it time to stop sucking so much?  There are a number of things I'd like to work on in 2009: regrowing an attention span, not being a jerk to my mom when she asks me computer questions (ugh, so bad at this... sorry, Ma), getting more sleep like I promise myself I'm going to do EVERY SINGLE YEAR...

I'd also like to do a better job getting my thoughts in order.  These days, it feels like I keep ideas in too many places.  Here are some (not all) of the ways that I'm recording the thoughts that are worth saving - in other words, these are notes about my notes.


Text files (Google Docs & Microsoft Word)

All-purpose, simple, effective.  I use them for all sorts of lists, like words I love (most recent addition: zaftig) or blog ideas.  Lately I'm using Google Docs more often for the simple interface and the ability to view the files at any time from my iPhone.


Mind maps

Long my preferred method of choice for taking notes at work, via the freeware Java application Freemind (shown in the screenshot).  Mind maps make connections between ideas much more visual.  They're perfect for concepts with a hierarchical structure, which might be why I've found them so useful for tracking projects at the office.


Google Notebook

Great for capturing info on the web, especially with the Firefox Google Notebook extension: highlight some text, right click, and choose "Note this"; the text is recorded in your notebook, along with the web page title, a link to the page, and the date the note was recorded.  Tagging and search capabilities help you track things down, so you don't lose track of that great Churchill quote you wrote down a few months ago.


legal pads

I keep one at my desk and one on my nightstand for writing down the stuff that pops into my head right before falling asleep.  It's easier to relax when you don't have to worry whether or not you'll remember to add gummy bears to the grocery list for your fancy dinner party tomorrow; write it down and fall asleep with a clear mind.


back pages of books

Only done this a few times with my non-fiction reading.  It's nice having the notes on hand whenever I'm reading, and I try to fit them all on a single page that I can reference quickly.


I'm really interested to hear anyone's suggestions on this topic, so fire away.

Stories of the Road returns soon with a new international edition!