Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Note Taking Tools: A Graveyard for Ideas

A set of tools

We all gather various bits and pieces of information. Ideas for blog posts or businesses, links, quotes, recipes, snippets of code, and more. I’m willing to bet that most of us put that information into a note taking tool.

A good note taking tool is a boon. When I say good, I mean a tool that’s easy to use and with which you can interact whether you’re using a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. Two such tools are Simplenote and Evernote.

But a tool is that. It’s just a tool. I was reminded of the dangers of using note taking tools when this tweet crossed my stream in 2014:

Doing the work

I wonder how many of those 356 ideas that person has turned into actual blog posts. One? Two? Half a dozen? None? And what’s the chance that person will ever turn all (or even a portion) of those ideas into posts?

That’s the trap of any note taking tool, no matter how simple or complex. It becomes more than a repository for ideas. It becomes a graveyard for ideas that never will be.

Tools like Evernote can be incredibly useful. If used properly, they help us organize information. They help us keep track of what we need to do.

Tools can also become a crutch. Tools can also become a corner into which ideas and information gather digital dust. The information piles up until it clogs the tool and becomes unmanageable.

That happens far more often it should.

You can amass notes and ideas and thoughts and quotes. You can clip and research to your heart’s content. But unless you act on all of that information, unless you turn it into something, then that information is useless.

Keeping your ideas above ground and alive

The best way to do that is by doing a periodic purge. Every eight to 10 weeks, go through your notes. Look at the ideas and research that you haven’t touched. Look at what’s on your slate for the next eight or 10 or 12 weeks. Will you be able to use that information in that time, and in the projects that you’re working on?

If the answer is no, then delete it. No matter what you might tell yourself, no matter how adamant you are about getting to that information, it’s more than just a bit likely that you’re never going to get around to using it.

Until you use the information you’ve gathered in a tool, that information is worthless. It has no meaning aside from being a mass of information that’s waiting for you. Until you use it, that information is just trivia that serves little (if any) purpose.

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