Writing cards in daily life

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The late Dr. Pye Smith, when apprenticed to his father as a bookbinder, was accustomed to make copious memoranda of all the books he read, with extracts and criticisms. This indomitable industry in collecting materials distinguished him through life, his biographer describing him as “always at work, always in advance, always accumulating.

Samuel Smiles, Self Help, 1900.

Start from diary

Great habit of collection.

A first step of the PoIC is to write down all of our thoughts on index cards and collect them in the dock.

I used to feel that it was difficult to start writing every single morning. Consciously or subconsciously, whatever. I used to spend a long time before writing thinking "what I should write...". In an extreme case, I couldn't write anything.

One day, I found there is a tip to overcome it. The answer is simple: just start writing. Anything is okay. All I need to do is just pick up a pen and card, and start.

But at the same time, if I say "let's start writing", I feel a certain resistance. Rather, I say to myself "let's start from diary". More precisely, I start from the weather of the day, like "Fine", "Cloudy" etc. In Japanese, it is just two or three letters (晴れ or くもり). Then record what happened in the morning -- say "got up 7:00", "arrived at office 8:30" -- on the same card. It's not difficult either. Just describe without thinking. This card should be classified a Record Card. This way, I fill the first card of the day.

Avalanche writing

In fact, a 5x3 index card is too small to write everything about the morning. So the diary is quite short, really just a record. In my case, I write the first card of the day at office. I get some ideas on the way to the office. While writing the diary, it triggers what I've been thinking. So just after the Record Card, I write the ideas on individual Discovery Cards. Sometimes I take 15 - 30 minutes to do this. The ideas are not only about work, but also about life. Because discovery generates new discovery. I call this as avalanche writing. An important thing is that what triggers the avalanche is just a tiny record, the diary.

I keep this habit on weekdays. Now I can say I'm in a state like "Pavlov’s dog". When I sit down at the office, I immediately pick up an index card, and write a diary. No effort, no resistance. A single Record Card + average five Discovery Cards. Over one hundred index cards per month only with this. Now you won't be surprised that my dock is filled by many index cards.

Note taking

Line and memo on the book.

We use Reference Cards to extract the contents of a book. There are several merits to taking notes on the book.

  • Enhance memory by hand writing notes
  • Enhance memory by reviewing the cards later
  • Store the complete record of the contents in the dock

A way of taking notes might largely depend on a person and situation. In my case, reading a book is something like "eating". I don't hesitate to put memos, lines on the book. To do this I buy all books I want to read. I read about this approach to reading in 渡部昇一 (Watanabe, Shoichi, 1976). I use pencil and darmatograph for this. As I wrote in four cards, there are two styles of note taking. We can choose one of them or a combination of them. When I take notes from a technical book, it sometimes exceeds 20 - 30 cards per day. According to my own experience, output without input is impossible. The Reference Cards are the input. It is a seed that someday blooms.

Taking Reference Card requires much effort than the other three cards. Sometimes this is good because we try to select valuable contents good enough to take notes.

When we understand what the author says, we can express it in our own words. I recommend to use that as the title of the Reference Card. Expressing one thing in two ways, i.e. author's words and our words, helps our understanding. And the title describes what we thought.