How to organize your thoughts and notes

I know a lot of people keep notebooks pertaining to their hobbies. Any time they find something good on a discussion forum or elsewhere, they made a copy, print it out, punch holes in it, and put it in the notebook. Some people even put their own notes, from experience or discussions, in there.

These notebooks are a good way to learn a lot and retain it–you may forget some things over the years, but reading through the notebook again will refresh your memory.

There’s just one problem with notebooks–finding the information buried within.Notebooks are, after all, reference works, not something intended to be read cover to cover. The key to a good reference work, though, is a good table of contents and index.

Who wants to spend the time putting that together? But that’s the perfect use of the piece of software I discussed yesterday.

Just install LyX, learn how to insert a table of contents and index, learn how to flag something for inclusion in the index, and then, as you find things, copy and paste them into your “virtual notebook.” As you add things to it, you can print new copies of your notebook, and your notebook will have page headings and page numbers and a table of contents and an index so you can find stuff quickly. Keep your working copy for adding new stuff in LyX, but output a PDF from Lyx that you can read on your computer(s), and print a copy that you can keep in the basement where you’re actually going to use a paper copy.

The better you organize it, the better it’ll work, but even that isn’t strictly necessary since you can flip to either the front or the back to find stuff.

I can’t think of a hobby that this wouldn’t help. I don’t believe that information overload is so much a problem of too much information as it is a problem of not being able to sort through the information available to find the bit that you really need.

Where’s this software been all my life?

One thought on “How to organize your thoughts and notes

  • August 28, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Sounds like an outliner to me. Paging Dave Winer…


    Actually this is really a good idea.

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