Writing Notes to Self

Often I run across online articles about so-called “note-taking” apps. There is good reason for the popularity of these apps — there is just too much information to remember.

In some ways I am an old relic with respect to technology. I purposely strive to keep my life uncomplicated. For example, despite some nominal benefits I refuse to use a smart phone. I do not want to be tethered to technology.

I refuse to store personal data online. Not only because of privacy concerns but because I do not want to be tethered into a dependency on technology.

How do I access my notes when away from home? Mostly I don’t because I strive to keep my life uncomplicated. I have configured a VPN into the home network, but more often than not when I am away from home I am engaged in activities that don’t need computers or information access. I also do not want to be tethered to technology.

I am well aware that many people are connected to technology 24/7 and cannot fathom what seems to be such a simplistic approach. C'est la vie.

Yet I am no exception to keeping notes. One difference is I have been writing notes before I started using computers and before computers became popular. My original favorite note taking tool was spiral bound notebooks and three-ring binders. When away from the house I always have paper and pen in my shirt pocket.

To this day I still use dead trees for notes. My other preference is plain text documents stored on my computers.

Often when I am researching I prefer dead trees. This applies to researching with dead tree books or online using a computer. Often while researching with the computer I use scrap paper next to the keyboard. I've never been without a good supply of scrap paper considering how often many people waste paper. I just visit the recycle bins anywhere I am granted access.

Often the scrap paper notes are transferred into actual ideas on the computer, such as when writing a shell script or the scrap paper notes are moved into a text document on the computer.

Some people might consider this two step process of writing notes to be inefficient and wasteful. I find this two step process helps reinforce my ability to think and remember. First, writing notes with a pencil or pen requires me to think about what I want to express. Writing on paper requires me to think efficiently about the words I choose. There is no computer like Cut-and-Paste available when writing by hand. Second, transferring the notes from paper to a second location helps me think a second time about what I want to remember. This is a reinforcement exercise that succeeds well for me.

Some people might offer some caveats about plain text notes, such as screen shots. After almost four decades of using computers, my reply is that I have no such need. Really. I write notes that do not need screen shots. If I am writing some kind of formal document, then I am not using a text editor because I no longer am writing notes. Any related images are stored in the respective directory of the document or in the document.

At work I installed Dokuwiki and that platform works well for the company knowledge base. At work I continually use Dokuwiki. I installed DokuWiki at home, but after several years the content remains mostly empty. Dead trees and text documents work well for me.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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