Personal knowledge management, morgue files, capture systems

How do you organize what you know so that you can use it for inspiration later?

Here’s what I have:


  • Experience
  • Conversations
  • Books
  • Blogs
  • Ideas
  • Experiments

Capture and sharing:

  • Words, sketches, brainstorms – paper and pen
  • Mindmap on my iPod Touch and laptop
  • Quick tips through microblogging and bookmarks
  • Longer thoughts in my blog and on wikis
  • Generally useful information – slides, presentations
  • Book notes – scanned pages, text files; this needsh to be integrated into my system and set up for regular review
  • One big text file organized with outlines and keywords for life, and another big text file for work


  • Search
  • Indexes in my notebooks
  • Randomness, similarity, and on-this-day in my blog
  • Hyperlinks
  • Summaries
  • Outlines and keywords

Index cards are useful for brainstorming too (especially for life planning or when I’m sketching a big talk that doesn’t have an obvious structure), but I don’t use them for long-term storage yet. My blog includes first drafts as well as more polished posts. I need a place to braindump. =) If you want less volume and more thought, just check out the highlights. (Note: I haven’t been keeping this tag up to date)

I love the idea of a morgue file. I’d love to eventually build myself a good random-access information management system. I currently stuff most things into my blog, and am slowly figuring out how to organize things more. I used to use howm, which was pretty cool too (if very geeky). I may go back to building a personal wiki. W- uses Tiddlywiki. =) Digital works well for me because I like being able to access things from anywhere. I don’t interact with enough paper to have a full-blown paper system, and would rather go digital instead of printing things out to integrate them with a paper system.

I love mapping things out. Mapping helps me navigate, see gaps, and plan. It’s also a good way to make it easier for other people to discover interesting things.

Next steps for me:

  • Digitize paper
  • Build indices
  • Build online and offline naming conventions for linking
  • Flesh out map
  • Learn more

More to come as I figure out and improve my system. =)

Thanks to Eric Blue for the inspiration!

  • Hi, Sacha!

    The link under “highlights” doesn’t seem to go anywhere….

    • Hello, Tamara! Hah, ancient link still referred to my old blog directory. I’ve updated the post. If you’re curious about this topic, by the way, I’ve described my current process at Deliberately making sense.

  • I can highly recommend the “white lines” products for each sketching and digitizing. It’s specially marked paper (white lines on a slightly grey background) with registration marks that you digitize by using either an iOS and Android app. They’re at and they have samples you can print out and try.

    • I tend to stay away from things that require special backgrounds, since they’re either consumable-based businesses or I have to remember to print out and keep pads handy. =) I’ve worked out a decent sketching workflow with index cards or 8.5×11″ sheets of paper, or drawing directly on my computer. When I draw digitally, I have a grid. When I draw on paper, I do a few things to minimize skew. Hope that helps!