Making the most of paper notes

I’ve been drawing a lot more on paper lately, so I should update my Sketching Tools page. It is nice as a way to quickly get my thoughts down without the tiring brightness of the computer screen or the distractions of the Internet. Here’s what I’ve been learning about the differences between drawing on paper and drawing on my computer:

2013-10-28 Drawing on paper versus drawing on my computer

There’s always room to make things better, of course. How can we think on paper more effectively? The mindmap that I’ve been working on gives me a useful overview, letting me see when I’ve accumulated several sketches in a particular area so that I can put them into a blog post. I’ve also figured out how to include the sketches in my review process, thanks to this Flickr metadata downloader (Python). Speech recognition still hasn’t made its way into my toolkit, though…

2013-10-21 How can I think on paper more effectively

Now that I’ve got a decent archive of paper notes, the next challenge is making these easy to search and organize. I’ve put together some tips for making your paper notes more searchable here:

2013-11-11 Make your paper notes more searchable (low-tech and hi-tech tips)

… and getting them into your computer so that you can organize them along with the rest of your notes.

2013-11-14 Integrating paper and digital notes  

Lately I’ve been using Flickr for sharing and tagging images and Evernote for the occasional hand-written search. Let’s see how this works out…

I’m really curious about how other people manage their paper notes. I’ve been trying to find more details on how Isaac Asimov organized his notes – filing cabinets, apparently, but it would be great to get more detail! Do you have a large paper archive? How do you manage it? Do you know anyone who does this really well?

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  • It strikes me that you just established that taking notes is better done on paper and retrieving notes is better digitally. The technical hurdle is the transfer from paper to digital. (Would like some hyper portable iPhone rig + software.)

    • I find that scanning things when I get back home works fine for me, since I can just flip through the notebook if I need to refer to something recent and everything else can wait. =) Some people take pictures of their notebooks with their smartphones, but lighting and perspective can be tough. There are apps that will autocorrect some of those problems, although I still find it more convenient to use a proper scanner.

      • Regards page numbering, a know of one person that uses an automatic numbering stamp to number each page and then use this number in this online notes to reference the page. The numbers are consecutive across notebooks so a number uniquely identifies both a page and a notebook.


        • Oh! I had considered using one of those, but the stamps were pretty expensive, so I didn’t bother. Awesome tool, though. =) Hmm, maybe I should use those for my sketches, since I go through more than a hundred a month…

  • Like the idea of building your own index at the back of the notebook. I wonder why I had not seen that before?

    • I picked it up from someone else. =) Handy little hack, although it takes some work to number the pages if your notebook doesn’t already have numbers. I number every other page and then just do the math.

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