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 thought on index cards and collect them in the dock.

I used to feel difficulty with start writing every single morning. Consciously or subconsciously, whatever. I used to spent long time to start writing with thinking "what I should write...". In terrible 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 o.k. All I need is just pick up a pen and card, and start.

But same time, if I say "let's start writing", I feel a certain resistance. Rather, I say for myself "let's start from diary". More precisely, I start from a 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 happen in the morning, say "got up 7:00" "arrive at office 8:30", on the same card. It's not difficult, too. Just describe without thinking. This card should be classified Record Card. This way, I fill a first card of the day.

Avalanche writing

In fact, a 5x3 index cards is too small to write all about the morning. So the diary is quite short, really just a record. My case I write the first card of the day at office. I get some ideas on a way 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. Sometime I take 15 - 30 minutes to do this. The idea is not only about work, but also about life. Because discovery generates new discovery. I call this as avalanche writing. An important thing is what trigger the avalanche is just a tiny record, diary.

I keep this habit on week day. Now I can say I'm a state of "Pavlov’s dog". When I sit down at 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 hundred index cards per month only with this. Now you won't surprise why my dock is filled by many index cards.

Note taking

We use Reference Card to extract a contents of a book. There are several merit to take note of the book.

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

A way of taking note might largely depend on a person and situation. In my case, reading book is something like "eating". I don't hesitate to put memo, line on the book. To do this I buy all book I want to read. I read this attitude for 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 style of note taking. We can choose one of them, or combination of them. When I take note from technical book, it sometimes exceed 20 - 30 cards per day. According to my own experience, output without input is impossible. The Reference Cards are the input. It is a seeds someday blooms.

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

When we understand what author says, we can express it by our own words. I recommend to use it for a title of the Reference Card. Expressing one thing in two way, that is authors words and our words, helps our understanding. And the title is nothing about what we thought.