I don’t necessarily like having too many separate systems for your notes and ideas, but I have one that is becoming particularly invaluable — a place for temporary, disposable notes.
About five years ago, I heard David Allen mention that “you should only think about cat food once“. You can read this post for more info, but the basic idea is that if you remember that you need cat food, you should put that into a trusted system to get it out of your mind.
Nearly 12 years ago, I wrote about the idea of a “trusted system” for your notes. The idea is that you need a system that you really trust, deep down, or else your mind won’t be able to let go of what it’s holding.
Further, you need a system that you know you’ll get back to in time. If you just throw “get cat food” into Evernote with your 10,000 other notes, there’s a good chance it’ll get lost. I think the solution is a disposable notes system.
This is really pretty simple; everyone should have a place to take quick notes that does not also hold long-term notes. This system should be completely emptied as frequently as possible. Your notes from there become items for your grocery list, or events on your calendar, or whatever they need to be. Deal with them properly, and get them out of that system.
Personally, I use Google Keep for my disposable notes. It’s easy to access and easy to keep clean, and frankly, isn’t great for long-term storage anyhow. I have a widget on my phone for quick notes, I can speak it in my car (“hey google… take a note…”), and then I have desktop widgets for it. Stuff goes in it constantly, and then comes back out when I have a chance to sit down.
You can use whatever you want for it. Other good options could be Apple Notes or Simplenote or one of dozens of others. Even a small paper notebook could work great.
Tools like Evernote, Notion, and Roam Research are better solutions for long-term notes — those are very important too, but not really for what we’re talking about today.
Ultimately, my advice is to keep those notes somewhere that you won’t forget about them and where the notes won’t get buried, so you can really trust stuff that you put into it and won’t have to think about cat food twice.
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