Thursday, September 22, 2005

Organizing with Index Cards

I’m getting organized. I make this claim often and it never comes to pass. But this time I think I’m really on to something.

Back in April, I read an article on organization in the Globe & Mail that directed me to the 43 Folders blog. There, Merlin Mann extols the virtues of the Hipster PDA, a low-tech organizational system built from a stack of 3" x 5" index cards and a paper clip. I’m not fond of electronic gadgets, so this system struck me as a highly promising route out of my usual chaos.

I bought stacks of index cards then promptly forgot about them. As with previous organizational efforts, my failure to follow through rendered the proposed solution part the problem. The unused index cards became more clutter to clear.

Happily, I’ve now come up with a use for the index cards.

Those who have read my introductory post know that this blog grew out of a pen and paper book journal. I’ve continued to maintain both journal and blog. The former is simply a dated list of books I’ve finished reading whereas the latter is a forum for more detailed ruminations about the most thought-provoking of those books. Lately, I’ve been wishing that I’d structured the book journal differently so as to keep track of all of the books I’ve started and not just the ones I’ve finished. I’ve also been thinking that I’d like to be a bit more organized about the whole blog undertaking. Enter the index cards.

Here’s my new system. When I begin reading a book, I write out the title, author and publication date at the top of an index card. Thereafter, I use the index card as a bookmark. I keep a pen at the ready and, if moved to do so, make notes on the index card as I read. When I finish the book (or finish with the book if I decide not to persevere to the end), I put the card in a file box. The file box becomes my new more complete pen and paper book journal, and the cards with notes on them become the basis for blog posts.

There’s a beautiful simplicity to the system. It certainly makes me feel more organized, which is no small thing. Whether it generates more or better blog posts remains to be seen.


GM said...

Neat idea, Kate. I tried the hipster system too and it didn't work for me either. I am notorious for the monthly day planner. As in, I only last a month before I stop using it.

I use my receipts or promotional inserts as book marks and leave them where I stop reading. That way I know where and when I purchased or recieved the book.


Edel Grace said...

Hi there Kate! I know this is an extremely old post, but I would like to say thanks for the great idea! I've been meaning to find a paper and pen way of keep track of my books. I currently use Goodreads and regularly export my books from the site. Although it's quick and handy, the Internet does not last forever. Neither does pen or paper, but it serves as a nice back up. So thank you gain for idea! It's great. I've been using a lot of index cards lately for a lot of things. :]