I found what a commonplace book was by accident. I remember a discussion with friends on how to get the most of the books we read. For me, it was about taking notes and creating short summaries. And this practice worked beyond books.
That’s what a commonplace book is — a place where you store anything that is valuable to you for later revision. I explain it better in this article.
Authors like Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene are very passionate about this practice. They believe it should be done in a physical way:
Actually writing the stuff down is crucial. I know it’s easier to keep a Google Doc or an Evernote project of your favorite quotes…but easy has got nothing to do with this.
Says Holiday. I get that and I share the understanding. But not everyone can afford it. When you want a new habit to stick it needs to be easy. And that is what digital brings to the table.
For professionals, a digital commonplace book may look like cutting corners. But for the rest of us, digital is the best starting point. Even when physical outperforms digital in some aspects.
The best of both worlds
As Hans Rosling put it on his book, Factfulnesss:
We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.
That is most of the advice I’ve read. But why can’t we use the best of both worlds? If I want to keep the habit of commonplacing in the long run, I need to have a good system in place.
When it comes to collect, review or connect ideas, a digital system is the best way to go. It’s simple and scalable.
However, easy and scalable has nothing to do with physical. I don’t see myself re-arranging, restoring or carrying on my physical commonplace book. After just a few years, your commonplace book could take up half the space in your closet.
Here I listed some of the benefits of digital:
- 24/7 Availability
- Full-text search
- Cross-device sync
- Easy to curate and edit
- Easy to review
- Easy to share
- Easy to connect
- Easy to backup
What you have in your commonplace book is your business and so should be how you build it.
Commonplacing is one of the most productive habits a person can have and requires time and effort. Digital makes it less scary for most of us.
Make better use of your phone and use it to collect and review anything, anytime, anywhere.