How Do You Take and Keep Notes and Journals?

I was reading through Tim Ferriss' blog and came across a post on how Tim keeps notes. I was hoping for constructive comments on Tim's post, but right at the end he threw in a brief comment asking people what their dream dates are. The majority of comments were about dream dates, with a sprinkle of useful note comments.

I've tried for years to find a good way to take and keep my notes on a variety of subjects. When I read David Allen's "Getting Things Done", I went through a brief period of trying to capture ideas on anything I could get my hands on. I'd write on business cards, receipts, toilet paper, or anything handy. Due to my inability to maintain a weekly review, this process fell through.

I've tried other note taking ideas over the years. I've tried using Outlook notes, Evernote, emailing myself, OneNote, The Journal, plain text files, paper notepads, and others too numerous to list. I haven't settled on "the perfect" note taking method or medium yet.

For now, I've settled on Evernote. Evernote 3.0 is a robust, secure, multi-platform client. It's not yet perfect, but the notes are securely stored on Evernote's servers and I can access them from anywhere. I use a Windows client on my work laptop and home computer. I use the Windows Mobile client on my Samsung Epix, and I use the iPhone/iPod Touch client on my Touch. I don't use that one as much, but it's reliable enough that I can take notes on it all day and expect them to upload next time I have a wireless connection.

So how do I take notes, and what do I take notes on? I wish I could report being more disciplined. I try to follow the Franklin Covey system of the "Daily Record of Events". I keep a tag in Evernote for "Daily Notes/Record of Events". One of the strengths of Evernote is that one note can have many tags. Prior to this blog entry, I was inspired to record some thoughts of mine from a meeting this morning, then I wanted to also record details of a conversation with my wife last night and my thoughts on the 4 Hour Work Week and Seth Goodin's "Tribes". That note was then assigned the tags of "Daily Notes…" and "Journal". I should also add a tag for work.

Yesterday in a meeting, my superivisor gave me an action item. I took out my Epix, fired up Evernote for Windows Mobile, recorded that AI, confirmed that I properly understood it, then uploaded the note. Ideally, when I do a weekly review, I will go back over the notes from the past week to make sure that I've captured all action items and added any ideas I've come up with randomly to some kind of project or task list.

I use Evernote also to capture journal entries. Sometimes I just write about my day. Sometimes I'm really ticked off about something and try to use Evernote to burn the frustration out so nobody else gets the brunt of it. Other times, I'm annoyed but don't understand why, so I'll journal my thoughts on the issue.

Evernote Mobile is helpful when I'm out and about. If I have an Earth-shattering idea, I can record it in Evernote and deal with it later. This is a lot more productive than forgetting it. It's not a perfect system though. One time when my wife was in the grocery store and I was waiting in the car with the kids, I had a brilliant idea for a blog post. For some reason, TypePad Mobile won't work right on my Epix, so I used Evernote and started banging the post out. Then my wife called, so I stuck the Epix back in it's holster and drove around to get my wife. By the time I took it out again, the screen had apparently turned itself on and Evernote closed itself and lost that post. That could have been the post that launched my blog into an income source. OK, probably not that post. I'd just gotten back to New Jersey after being away to Virginia for a week, and I was writing a post about how I realize that I don't really like New Jersey when I get a chance to be away and have to come back.

How do you keep notes? Any good ideas you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments.


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