Frictionless Capture Cards

Frictionless Capture Cards Header Image

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.

Front and back of Frictionless Capture CardsThere 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.

  1. Because, obviously, computers are just a trend.

  2. Product of Aaron Mahnke, designer, writer and Read & Trust ringleader.

  3. Yes, I have previously used the Helvetindex cards that these have replaced.

  4. With my trusty Fisher Space Bullet Pen, of course. Check out the Writer’s Edge (no affiliation) for occasional sales (ask my family, they get them as gifts all too often) and other cool options.

Brett Terpstra

Brett is a writer and developer living in Minnesota, USA. You can follow him as ttscoff on Twitter, GitHub, and Mastodon. Keep up with this blog by subscribing in your favorite news reader.

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