A writing inbox for incomplete notes

A writing inbox for incomplete notes

In my last video, I talked about how I optimized my environment to make the best use out of my peripheral vision, using subtle cues to improve my attention, creativity, and productivity as well.

In that video, I briefly talked about how keeping a simple notecard in my proximity can act as a kind reminder of the stuff I need to take care of.

And I’ve been always taking notes using a notepad of some sort, as I do enjoy the physicality and simplicity of paper technology.

But this is a simple system I used in the past 3 months that has helped me improve my productive output and making sure I am first taking care of the stuff I want to do and also helping me capture ideas, thoughts, intrigue, and a variety of other things.

How does it work?

I am using a small and cheap A7 memo pad. I believe you can pretty much buy this anywhere. And I do keep it on my desk.

This makes it small enough for me to approach it and also makes it very portable, although I am not keeping it in my back pocket, but simply I might carry it inside my bag.

The workflow is simple. If there’s a full-page inside, that means the page needs to be processed. Once I crossed off the items on the page, I will throw the page away.

I view it as a physical inbox for my thoughts.

So, I want to make sure that I can:

1. Record a task anywhere and with ease. And this is why the pen always sits in close proximity.
2. I am able to deplete this task tank and make them go away.
3. Be able to delegate, restructure, or delete/bin tasks that I can’t prioritize.

What I usually do is dedicate one page for a macro-level view of the things I need to do. I outline these with bullets and… tackle them one by one.

Then, what I can also do is use a separate page if an idea comes to my mind while, say, doing random things around the house. And if I have more thoughts about it, I will dedicate a full page to that idea. I will then go and use my computer to process it, expand my horizons on it and then distill it and make it atomic.

Sometimes I end up having multiple note cards on my desk, and I possibly keep them for a while. I would sometimes place them on my blackboard so that I can quickly take one with me if I have to leave the house and work on my laptop somewhere else.

A physical paper is tangible

I found that it is much easier for me to quickly capture that piece of thought in a physical entity, instead of placing it in some to-do list app or folder.

And do not get me wrong, I still use to-do apps as well. But the problem with these apps is that they give you too much choice, feeding the paradox of choice.

With you having to actually decide in which folder to put that specific to do, to which project you need to attach it, choose a deadline. If you want to postpone it, you need to pick a date as well. Quite a lot of decisions to make this smooth. If you complete a task and cross it off your to-do app, the task goes away and you do not see it anymore.

This is why I like a simple system that should be easy to use, that I do not have to think about.

And even if you manage to create this beautiful structure, assigning icons to folders and having this neat category-based system to track your stuff, the app will treat all of your tasks the same way.

Todo lists and systems should work together

I do not use this for big projects, but I found that having it on my peripheral vision and also keeping all of this trapped inside small squares that are, again, in my proximity, approachable and also very satisfying to throw away.

There’s something beautiful about finishing a bunch of todos, discarding a note, and throwing it in the bin.