September 14, 2020

Notes Are Personal

 Even though I haven’t posted lately, I have continued to think about my note-taking system and how I might further refine my process. This has led me to think about what principles have been important to me developing the system I have. I’m also thinking about the things that are most important to me that will help guide my way forward. 

I have decided to turn these principles into a series of posts. This first item is central to how I got to where I am right now. It is also something I keep in mind as I continue to learn how other people work. 

When I think back to when I was getting started I was so quick to adopt systems from other people. It let me on a wild goose chase. I would run into frustration almost everywhere I turned. I got to the point where it no longer became helpful to see how other people worked because I didn’t have a foundation for myself to build from.

It wasn’t until I created my own simple workflows that I was able to start improving. I had something that I had created that worked for me, and now I was ready to start building onto that using ideas from others. 

Your productivity workflow has to be something personal to you. For notes to be effective you have to be able to engage with those notes in a productive way. If you are using a system that doesn’t fit you there will always be friction. You will have a ton of trouble trying to stay engaged and excited about your note-taking system. You will stop using it. You will be back at square one. 

I have an extremely analytical personality. I like structure. I have to create discipline and consistency in my routines. Those things give me a sense that what I am doing is working for me. My entire productivity and note taking systems are geared around those personality traits. I have started to understand what worked for me and now I am able to try new things and push my comfort zone in a way that is useful and expands how I think. 

Earlier in my productivity journey I did not understand exactly what I needed and what types of workflows connected with my brain. It can feel like you are blowing in the wind trying everything you see but never finding a system that completely works for you. 

My guidance would be to create something from scratch. What is the simplest thing you could think to do that is better than what you do now. Does that work? Build on it. 

What I am writing on this blog is something that I would find beneficial in my current productivity journey. The whole point of me writing all of these things down is to further teach myself what worked for me, and continue to push myself forward. I don’t want to lead anybody astray that hasn’t figured out what works for them yet. 

So what am I really saying here... you already have to know what works for you in order to create something that works *better* for you? That seems silly. 

I’m saying that you have to explore options and be aware of when a system creates friction for yourself. In order for any of this to work you have to want to do it. I don’t think anybody is going to force a personal productivity system onto you. You have to know what you want to get out of it, and you have to identify when you find something where the juice is worth the squeeze. 

I was lost in the wilderness for a long time before I ever felt like any of this was worthwhile. I still question it from time to time. There will be days/weeks when I disengage for some reason. Then there are times when I don’t do something I have put in place for myself and it causes me to completely fail. I’m getting better at catching myself and getting back on track. Those are the times that keep me trying. My desire to be better at all aspects of my work pushes me to follow my own rules and keep up with my own expectations. To make it work you have to want it. 

This post doesn’t have anything you can tangibly do to get better. It is warning you to be aware. Try new things, but don’t be too hard on yourself if they don’t work. You have to try new things and figure out what connects with you. Don’t feel like you need to wholesale adopt a system. What do you need to do to get to a point where you can build upon a foundation and continually improve? 

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