- Don't worry about all those fancy features or about losing track of what you have. It'll work out.
- Check Biggerplate and other mindmap collections for inspiration.
- Check out these other role models and books.
- Structure + detail
|1:02||Started in 1990|
|2:53||Building an archive of book notes|
|3:42||Mind-maps and to-do lists|
|5:23||Organization vs brainstorming|
|5:40||How to process a book|
|6:23||Don't like linking maps|
|6:59||Mindmaps not a solution for everything|
|9:11||Keeping maps when you move computers|
|11:09||Forgetting what you have|
|12:21||I don't really search them|
|13:26||Mapping for others|
|14:48||~12 hours to process a book|
|15:18||Highlighting on a Kindle|
|17:00||Learning about mindmapping|
|17:52||Other techniques: Major system, spaced repetition|
|22:34||Printing and laminating maps|
|25:11||iPad and iThoughts for mindmapping on the go|
|28:51||Mindjet vs Freeplane|
|32:20||Learning from other people's diagrams|
|38:21||Copyright and book summaries|
|42:03||Paper, digital; ScanSnap|
|46:19||Teaching English in China for three years; visual thinking|
|48:04||More creative mindmaps|
|50:52||Biggerplate and sharing mindmaps|
|52:22||Two people: Jamie Nast, Michael Deutch|
|53:25||Use Your Head (Tony Buzan)|
|54:05||Unwieldy map, unwieldy thoughts|
What else gets in the way of your note-taking? Let's see if we can blast those excuses and get you going!Image credits: Pen with notebook, Mikael Cedergren (Shutterstock), Burnt notepaper, Monchai Tudsamalee (Shutterstock) Thanks to gozes, John Dietrich, Mich W., Mel Chua, and Richard Manriquez for feedback through Twitter!
|Type of note||Description||Organization||Improvements|
|Sketchnotes||Collection of my sketchnotes for easy searching||Shared notebook, tagged by type||Fine the way it is|
|Inspiration||Interesting sketchnotes, images, and web designs||Notebook, tagged by technique||Tag and file when clipping, identify key areas of focus|
|Visual library||Visual thesaurus / sketches of abstract and concrete stuff||Notebook, titles updated, duplicates merged||Improve workflow - delegate titling?|
|E-mail archives||Keep important information no matter which e-mail inbox it's from||None at the moment; notebook and tags||Tag and file when forwarding|
|People, conversations||Quick notes from my mobile||Notebook||Add full names; consider Evernote Hello for mobile input?|
|Ideas and thoughts||Quick notes from my mobile||Notebook||Should have weekly task to review and act on; separate from main Inbox?|
|Actions||Quick notes from my mobile, when I'm away from Org||Notebook||Should have weekly task to review and act on / copy into my Org file|
|Cooking||Recipes, usually with pictures||Notebook, tagged by technique or dietary considerations||Review periodically; update when cooked|
|Wishlist||Resources to buy after more consideration||None at the moment; tags, probably||Tag and file when clipping|
|Reference books||Books held by the Toronto Reference Library, to request next time I'm there||Notebook, search||Go to the library more often|
|Letters||Scanned letters so that I can review correspondence||Notebook, tagged by person||Fine the way it is|
|PDFs||Makes PDFs more searchable||Inbox, occasionally tagged||Use Web Clipper to specify tags and file in Notes right away|
|Blog posts / casual browsing||Interesting things that might be useful someday, especially for related items||Notebook||Use Web Clipper to file in Notes right away|
|Other sketches||Scanned sketchbook pages so that I can review||Notebook||Fine the way it is|
|Private notes||Things that I might want to remember or write about someday, but not yet||Notebook||Have an outline?|
|Blog post ideas||Inspiration, drafts, links, images, checklists||Notebook, some tags||Add links to outline?|
|Business and personal receipts||Back up business and personal receipts; possibly be able to search through them||Notebook; tags, or just use folders on my drive?||Decide where to do the organization; have an assistant retitle before import?|
|Blog research?||Clipped pages so they'll show up in Google Search and related notes, and so that I can review them even if the source disappears (payoff > 2 years)||No organization; search by keywords or sourceurl:||Clip, but remove from inbox quickly|
Here’s what I want when it comes to visual notetaking. I’m going to go through thousands of books, presentations, blog posts, conversations, ideas, and thoughts in my lifetime. Maybe even millions of these little pieces of content.
I want to get really good at remembering, reusing, and sharing the significant ones, a tiny fraction of the whole. I often refer to ideas I’ve picked up in the past. I recommend books to others. I review items to see if I’ve been applying the lessons I learned, and if there are more I can use. Sometimes I come across unexpected combinations – part of one book resonating with a presentation on a different topic mixed in with a conversation I’ve just had. I benefit from holding these ideas near working memory.
Like the way I can flip through a slideshow faster than I can speedread a book, it might be easier and faster to review an archive of visuals than to refresh my memories using text notes. If I can convert some of this abundance of content into visuals, then I can use that to get around the limitations of time, attention, and memory.
Maybe other people will find the sketches useful. Maybe I’ll scale up and work with other illustrators, readers, and writers. Even if I don’t, though, I think that having these visual notes will make it easier for me in the long run.
Here’s a project for myself: convert my book notes into sketches. I could do the Lean Startup thing to find out if other people would be interested in the idea before I invest a lot of time and effort into it – mock up a minimum viable product with payment options or a subscription model. But then I want something like this for myself, too, so it’s okay to spend some time figuring out what I want before pitching it to others.
What would wild success look and feel like?
I have visual notes for the key ideas I want to revisit. I flip through them rapidly once a day, and rotate my desktop or screensaver through random ones for serendipity. They’re searchable through Evernote and accessible even when mobile. I’ve posted many of them online. Subscriptions, book reviews, and advertising provide a stream of income. People recommend other books and ideas I should check out.
I occasionally do sketchnotes on commission: simple sketches of key ideas captured in real-time during webinars or recorded presentations, used for marketing and post-session follow-ups. I also sketch summaries based on blog posts, e-books, or books sent to me. I do the occasional meetup or lecture as well, taking notes on my laptop. Focusing on electronic content means that I don’t have to travel or lug large rolls of paper around, and it takes advantage of my setup with multiple monitors.
In addition to sketchnotes, I offer or coordinate useful complementary services: presentation planning, design, coaching, transcription, e-book creation, writing, and so on. These help people scale up their ideas and engage more people.
My visual style is crisp, simple, with visual metaphors and the occasional pun. I usually work with one or two accent colours, and have figured out how to draw people with character and objects that have some heft. I draw in high-resolution mode just in case I want to make a letter-sized print of something, although I’m okay with redrawing in case I want to make a poster.
Most of the time, I work at a standing desk I’ve rigged up facing the garden. I take breaks and go for long walks, or do some gardening. Sometimes I go to art galleries to immerse myself in colour and shape and line. I keep a digital notebook of things I like: title treatments, hand-lettering, colour combinations, visual metaphors, drawing techniques. I flip through it for inspiration, and add my experiments to it as well.
I use my sketches as anchors not only for ideas, but also for memories. Like the way people flip through their photographs, I go through my sketches. I like it because I can sketch scenes that I didn’t get to shoot, and I can draw them the way they felt like instead of just what I saw. Drawing has become a part of my life, and I sketch regularly. I’ve even started drawing on paper, using ink and markers.
So, how do I get closer to that?
I'll start with the sketchnotes, because that would be a great way to review things, develop style, and practise the craft. As I accumulate more notes, I’ll put them in a special section of my blog so that people can read them easily. I already have the standing desk (actually a kitchen chopping board). When I want to take a break from making sketchnotes, I can draw memories or fiction. Looking forward to it!
The new workflow looks like it works better for me. Or rather, it's an old workflow with new tools. Now, instead of using Windows Live Writer or ScribeFire to post my notes directly to my blog, I'm back to using M-x remember and Emacs, keeping a superset of my notes in text files and publishing selected parts of it.
I sometimes use Microsoft OneNote on my new tablet to take notes during meetings, but it's easy enough to convert my handwriting to text and paste it into my Org-mode file. I still have to think of a better way to refer to images while keeping my file manageable, but a filename is probably okay.
This is being composed in a M-x remember window. (Well, remember is bound to C-c r on my system, so it's easy to invoke).
After I finish braindumping, I'll use C-c C-c to save it somewhere.
I may schedule the post immediately (C-c s (org-schedule) and then C-u M-x org2blog-post-subtree), or tag it for later review. (:toblog: - ready to go, but not scheduled? :rough: - needs more thinking?)
When I review the items, I'll copy this into the Geek - Emacs section of my outline.org.
It feels nice having my notes in plain text, and being able to organize it in more than just chronological order…
From 2001 to about 2006, I kept an Emacs Planner wiki with all of my notes in it. Emacs Remember let me write notes that were automatically hyperlinked to whatever I was looking at, and I added code to Planner that made it easy for me to file the notes both chronologically and topically. Planner rocked. I loved being able to easily hyperlink between topics, and the wiki structure kept pages a mostly manageable size. (My public Planner files are still on the Net, but I need to regenerate the index or enable directory lists so that they're usable.)
When I moved to WordPress as a blogging platform in order to make it easier for people to leave comments, I hacked around with RSS to import my posts from Planner into WordPress (ex: http://sachachua.com/blog/2002/). Moving to WordPress meant a change in my workflow. I now had two places to store my notes: Planner and my blog.
I tried Emacs Org because I liked the way it organized information. In Planner, we'd been struggling with elegant ways to manage tasks and notes that needed to be accessed in multiple contexts. The approach we had taken in Planner was to make copies of the information, but Org had a cleaner way to do it using different views. It was intriguing.
When I started working at IBM, however, my information workflow diverged. I shifted to using a web-based to-do list and Lotus Notes, posting on an internal blog and an external one, and managing multiple sources and repositories of information.
I wanted to go back to keeping my notes in plain text, encrypted if necessary, and to have a place where I could keep notes that might not be publishable. I still had to manage multiple computers, but synchronizing systems like Dropbox or SpiderOak got rid of some of the hassles I'd encountered with git. When I found out about org2blog thanks to a test link from punchagan, I modified the code to work with subtrees instead of new buffers, and that solved the blog publishing part of it.