Ever get one of those days when you can’t settle your brain on one topic? It whooshes around, steadfastly refusing your requests to please PLEASE focus on the document you are trying to read, preferring to hone in on any of eight or nine different topics.
I used to fear this state of mind —the whole “can’t concentrate on anything” frame of mind is a bit of an alarm bell these days— but now I embrace it, and occasionally encourage it. The trick is to be able to flip from topic to topic, keeping an open mind at all times, capturing as much as you can.
HOW you do this is an entirely different thing of course. In the past I’ve tried multiple text files, roughly divided per topic, but it can be a little tricky to find the information at a later date… “I KNOW I wrote it down.. somewhere…”. This is similar to scribblling things down on a notepad and ends up with the same problem. Unless you review your notepad once a week (or more if the info is time critical) then you end up with a notepad full of useless, lost, information.
I’ve mentioned productivity tools and methodologies before and have tried variations on many of the more common ideas. I’ve captured tasks ensuring they were a next step rather than an end goal, I always ask for deadlines when someone asks me to do something, and if a job is quick and easy I’ll do it there and then.
However that’s all well and good for things which are easily quantifiable as “tasks”. At the moment I’m in the ‘theory’ stage of a few things and as my brain is leaping about, hopping from topic to topic, I need a reliable way to capture my thoughts.
And I’ve turned to Microsoft for the answer.
The product is called OneNote and is, essentially, a note taking application. You can create high level divisions (top-level tabs), and have sub-divisions (side-level tabs), and then start typing, drag in images, or even sketch free-hand. You can search, collate and distribute info as you need it. Admittedly I’ve only been using it for a couple of weeks but it’s already fast approaching “must-have” status in my own little software scoring system.
I still use Outlook for tasks, but I’ve hardly written anything down on my notepad in the past couple of weeks. Could this be the start of my own little paperless office??