Three queues for notes
Lately, I’ve found joy in learning how other people organize their notes: Taxonomy of note types, the PARA system, and the Johnny Decimal are three of the most popular links on the note-taking internet sub-culture.
Over the years, I’ve tried several things. The last iteration doubles down on organizing my notes as an I/O queue ― capture input, develop thoughts, produce output.
I implemented this approach by having them as folders:
- Input. It holds notes about things I’ve read, podcasts I listened to, events I’ve participated in, etc. When I come across something that I find interesting and potentially useful, I store it here. It doesn’t need to be long-form; it can be one paragraph if that’s what it’s meaningful to me. Folders are organized by type of input (podcast, talk, article, etc.), so it’s straightforward to capture and store anything. At this point, I may or may not know how I’m going to use it, so I don’t try to guess by giving it a predefined category ― it’s just a book, a talk, etc. Having this structure also reminds me of what’s important at this stage: summarize, help my brain digest the information.
- Process. My scratchpad or journal. It’s messy and raw. It contains small notes I use to quickly brain-dump anything I want to revisit later, daily notes to keep TODO lists, thoughts that pop up connecting other thoughts, etc. Most things here tend to be highly useful in the short-term (days to weeks), but fewer are longer-term. They’re intermediate steps to help me think. This area has the same role as a paper journal: when it is full (the month is over, I start a new folder), I no longer see what I wrote the past month ― there’s an organic way for things to get out of sight if they don’t graduate to become anything meaningful (notes in the output folder, etc.).
- Output. It stores what I consider my deliverables to be. There’s a place for pieces of knowledge that I judge can be useful to my future self. It’s a Zettelkasten of sorts; it contains notes about the difference between analytical and synthetic languages or how the WordPress style system works. There’s a different sub-folder for articles I’m publishing (like this one). And so on.
This is all more simple and less compartmentalized than it seems, as notes have links to each other, and I also use some tags.
I’ve been testing this setup for a couple of months now. It’s fine so far, but it needs more time to reach its full potential. I remind myself that this is not about having a nice note-taking system but about producing more and better output: write quality posts more frequently, understand how a specific piece of software works faster, etc. By asking myself to express my thinking process through these three steps, I aim to introduce a rhythm that forces me to split up work in small units, lowering the effort it takes to do them. Or so I hope.
Started reading Stories of your life and others, by Ted Chiang. My first impulse was to jump right into “Story of your life” but I refrained and decided to go chronologically. I’m happy I did because the Tower of Babylon is a fantastic tale, a reinterpretation of the biblical story. I’d like to compare my notes with another reader, haven’t read yet any online reviews, but it inspired me so many thoughts: the way science is made, our views on the religiosity of ancient civilizations, etc. I also enjoyed the calm and steady rhythm of the text: it reminded me of Ursula K. Le Guin at times, although it has a certain feeling of the hard science writers as well ― undecided which group is most representative of Chiang’s style yet.
Talking of UKL, I ran into The carrier bag theory of fiction. Probably only interesting if the topics of evolution, soft vs hard science fiction, or UKL are things you entertain.
I got to finish the special about the coat of arms of the medieval kingdom of Galiza, by NósDiario. It explains how kingdoms developed their symbols and how Galiza’s evolved and was depicted across Europe.
The making of a corporate athlete. This article is about what it means to perform to your full potential and how do you sustain that level for longer periods. It presents a set of areas to balance: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Have you found yourself in unhealthy habits of sleep, diet, etc., that affected your ability to deliver? That’s your physical capacity. Have you felt so frustrated by a decision that you were unable to deliver anything for a couple of days? That’s your emotional capacity. Have you felt your soul needs re-charging? That’s your spiritual capacity. And so on. In addition to providing a framework for thinking about this topic, it provides some practical tips.
Héroes del Silencio is considered one of the all-time best Spanish Rock bands. With only 4 studio albums, they had a short career as a group but had good selling numbers and a huge fan base. Netflix released a documentary with original footage from the 80s/90s and interviews with the protagonists. I don’t remember myself as a fan of HDS, but I learned to appreciate their work after the documentary. Here’s a half-an-hour list I compiled that includes one song from each of their albums (plus a bonus).
O sabor das margaridas (Bitter daisies), second season. Recommend if you like the early David Fincher’s movies (Seven, The Fight Club).
LaretasGeek AMA (Spanish). I discovered a new format for videos and talks: linked interviews. The person interviewed in one session is the interviewer of the next, and they get to choose who they talk with. I watched the six of them, and it’s fun. It has a very personal tone and feeling. I’m particularly fond of Fran‘s and Antón‘s, who I know and I’ve spent a bunch of my time with.
Don’t forget to reach your daily water goal.
It’s dense and has a lot of ideas to digest. In this first pass, the relationship between emotions and body states picked my interest. In “The nature of feelings, evolutionary and neurobiological origins“, he goes deeper on this idea and argues that our brain has a Strava of sorts to record and measure our internal states. Feelings are a mental representation of the imbalance in those states: when the states are out of range, the body sends you a notification in the form of a feeling ― “don’t forget to reach your daily water goal“.