Remembering More

Patrick Burtchaell
Mar 31, 2016 · 3 min read

I enjoy reading ideas, stories and notes I wrote in the past. Notes on my computer include notes from classes, topics I am interested in, outlines for papers or projects and letters I have written to people. For my classes, I take lots of notes with pen and paper. I don’t like having a laptop out in classes because I find it distracting. However, most of my notes end up in the Notes app on my computer. Because I take notes on such a wide range, my Notes app ended up disorganized and I couldn’t easily reference notes.

I have decided to be more intentional about note-taking. First, I spent some time organizing my old notes. Then, I designed a new system. My goals were (1) have as few categorical folders as possible and (2) keep the system flat.

The top-level folders are simple:

  • “Topics,” for any topic that interests me
  • “Work,” one note for each project worked on or company worked for
  • “School,” for notes from classes; contains a one folder for each semester and one folder for each extracurricular/club
  • “Life,” a folder for personal ideas, letters and long-form writing
  • “Projects - in progress,” one note for each in progress project
  • “Projects - ideas,” one note for each idea I have for new projects

Additionally, there are two more folders, “Annually” and “Daily.”

In the Annually folder, there is one note for each year. The note for this year is simply titled “2016.” In this note I will store what ever I think is relevant to the year as a whole. It has my goals for the New Year, my lenten goals, a list of favorite articles, and my thoughts on global, national and personal events. I am sure this note will change as the year goes on.

In the Daily folder, there is one folder for each month of the year. In each folder, there is a note for every day of the month. In this note, I store what happened that day. Notes are separated by day and month, but I do not separate my journal pages by year. My note for yesterday was titled “30th,” and it has my notes from this year, 2016. Next year, I’ll return to this same note and add a section for 2017. Each year, I will return to the same note I did the year before and add to it. I originally got this idea from Chad Hall, who wrote about it on the Todoist blog.

I believe making daily entries will help me analyze my behaviors, improve my weaknesses and build upon my strengths.

To help me stay on top of my daily entries—which will be hard without a doubt—I made a recurring task in my routine Todoist tasks.

I designed this system because I believe taking notes helps me retain information and ideas I encounter. I hope it will serve as a tool to help me remember more —that is what technology is good for.

Patrick Burtchaell

Written by

I’m a designer and developer with experience of building and growing products at scale. I work as a product designer at Facebook.

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