I have to admit, I get a tiny bit annoyed when I see people blog about “going back to paper.” It always feels a bit like they’re just trying to buck a trend1. That being said, I appreciate paper for its two strongest points: speed and ubiquity. I can almost always find something to write on faster than I can load up a notes app on my iPhone. If I need to write something down fast, it’s going on paper. I get it. I don’t write anything long form on paper, but I do touch the stuff. That’s why “Capture Cards” from Frictionless Tools2 have been of great interest to me3.
My primary tree-based notetaking system consists of 3x5” index cards which I carry around in a Moleskine Pocket Memo Portfolio. It looks like a regular Moleskine, but inside it’s just an accordion folder that fits 3x5” cards. I carry about 10 blank cards in the front of the folder. When I need to capture anything faster than I can get it into any kind of digital form, I jot it down on the card4. When the urgency has passed, I add a date and basic subject line to the card.
When I’m back at a computer (or have long enough to make a transfer on an iOS device), I put the note into an appropriate place in my digital filing system (OmniFocus, nvALT, Address Book, etc.). Once the info is transferred, the index card goes into a VAULTZ index box and is filed by the first primary letter of the subject line in alphabetical folders.
There are a few things that make the Capture Cards really nice for this system.
- They’re pretty. Standard red-line-at-the-top-blue-lines-below index cards aren’t. I like pretty.
- They have a very handy place to add the date (or whatever you want), which makes it really easy to sift through multiple cards and compare. Having a sort “field” consistently positioned and colored makes it really smooth to flip through quickly.
- Beyond a date box and classy header line, they’re unstructured. There’s a grid, which is a godsend for those of us with horrible penmanship, but it’s unimposing and doesn’t dictate an orientation or content order for the card.
If you’re looking for a quick way to take notes that doesn’t force you into a linear order (i.e. bound notebook) and allows sorting and filing later, you should take a look at the Capture Cards.
Because, obviously, computers are just a trend.↩
Yes, I have previously used the Helvetindex cards that these have replaced.↩