With our incredibly complex brains comes the need for most of us to organize that madhouse bank of thoughts into referable text. There are countless systems to keep track of everything: any number of different analogue notebooks and note-taking systems, analogue planners, digital calendars, to-do list systems, Evernote, Simplenote, Springpad, read-it-later services, etc.
The trouble is that there are so many different kinds of thoughts that we might want to keep track of, and many thoughts fall under multiple categories. So the issue is raised — do we keep track of everything in one source, or split things up into different notebooks dedicated to specific topics?
I am currently overloaded with too many tools keeping track of my life. Putting certain things together either does not work well or makes everything harder to find later. This is what I currently use:
This is all getting to be a little bit too much for me to handle. I am aware that some of these tools can be connected, in particular to Evernote. I’ve given Evernote many tries, though, and it just doesn’t bode well with me as a quick-reference tool.
I would love to get some insight into other systems. How many different tools do you use and keep track of to manage your life?
EDIT, PART 2 — (August 2015)
It’s a year and a half later, but I want to thank all of you guys for your comments and insights and share my slightly evolved current system.
The biggest point I want to make is the answer I’ve come to for the original question this article asks: I am now using one Moleskine to rule them all. While that’s really against my nature, I find that the pros outweigh the cons. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this might not always be as organized as having multiple notebooks, but letting it go and allowing myself to pull out my one notebook at any time and write what I need to, without thinking about organizing it, has come to be very freeing. It changes the way I write my thoughts, which is more important than the nitty-gritty organization of it. And when I finish the notebook, guess what, I scan it all into a PDF and throw it into Evernote.
(I use a music Moleskine with half blank pages, half manuscript paper; but if music wasn’t my thing, I would use the dotted grid ones. Those seem to strike a perfect balance. I’m also trying to figure out whether I prefer pencil or pen, which changes how I write things.)
Here’s the other big change: I use Day One as a journal for when my mind gets too crowded with deeper thoughts. It seems that people generally prefer to use an analog notebook — a diary — for writing their deeper thoughts down, because it makes you slow down and really think about what you are writing. My mind works differently. Things get so overwhelming and crammed up there that I need to get it all out as quickly as possible, or I forget some thoughts I needed to get out. I find that being able to blaze through, typing it all out somewhat stream-of-consciousness style is what really puts me at ease and lets me get everything out. And you know what, I look back and read those posts, and their purpose of giving me another look into the deeper thoughts I don’t want to forget is served well.
My other analog and digital “notebooks” remain similar, but I’ve improved how I use them. If you’re interested, here’s a more in depth look:
This stuff is all very important to me because I’m plagued with somewhat severe OCD, medicated and all, and finding the most efficient, perfect, clean system for organizing everything is such a beautiful, appealing, magical notion.
But there is no perfect system. As nice as it sounds to put my todo list, audio recordings, college planner, nVALT notes, and Read it Later articles into Evernote to have a truly singular hub for everything, I would be losing too many valuable features of the apps that run those different functions, in favor of having everything in one app. And likewise, having everything separated how it is can suck sometimes and throw off the flow of just getting things down.
More important than all of this, though, has been changing myself internally more than the external system. Just live your life, and your systems will always evolve naturally, no matter how much you think about it. It’s great to stay organized and find a system that works for you, but it’s better to just forget about it and write down your brain however you need to in the moment.
Photo by Dvortygirl.