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My ever changing notetaking system

·4 mins

“Everything starts from a dot.”

I came across this quote via Leuchtturm1917 – the folks who makes notebooks that are very popular with folks who like to bullet journal. I started bullet journaling last year and after a few months of enjoying it with a plain paper notebook I decided to get myself the coveted dotted paper notebook from Leuchtturm1917. It so happened there was a special Bauhaus Edition of the notebook available at the time and it caught my eye so I got one, along with a regular one.

The inside cover of the Bauhaus Edition reads:

Vasily Kandinksy, Russian-born artist and former Bauhaus deputy director, had a point when he said, »Everything starts from a dot«. The dot is the point of departure for every line, whether it develops into a sketch, structure or script. Kandinsky elaborated on this in his 1926 book »Point and Line to Plane«. Your passion may be art, architecture or autobiography – but the future begins here…

The quote came to mind when I revisited a recent note, where I had saved another quote about dots:

“The dots connect later.”

I found this one exploring Alexander Obenauer’s website. While talking about ideas and dots Alexander compressed a longer quote from Steve Jobs (that mentions dots, of course) into something beautifully succinct that has stuck with me since I first read it.

I like the idea of looking back and reflecting on how you’ve arrived at where you are, and considering points along the way as dots that form a bigger picture when connected.

When I first saved Alexander’s quote, I was reminded of another quote about dots I had saved before.

“Read to collect the dots, write to connect them.”

This one is from David Perell and was accompanied by an illustration which made it pretty memorable too.

read to collect the dots, write to connect them
read to collect the dots, write to connect them

Source: ckarchive, twitter

endless experiments #

So… what about my notetaking system then? My ever changing notetaking system?

When I started looking into notetaking more seriously in 2020, I wrote a blog post declaring I was starting an experiment. Over the next 6 months I wrote a few more blog posts on the topic. When I looked back, they weren’t quite what I had aspired to write at the beginning.

In my experiment conclusion I listed a few items that, at different points, I had very much been meaning to write about. But for each of those items (and others) it didn’t take me long until I was thinking about and tinkering with the next idea. I could have written many “My XYZ Experiment” blog posts, but instead I wrote none.

Fast forward to now and, well, that hasn’t changed much to be honest. The rate at which I dive into rabbit holes might have slowed down a bit, but I do still have at least a handful of experimental things within my notetaking system that I could (and would like to) write about.

Every now and then I think something like “I could write a little bit about this” but then its followed by “ah but I’ll need to introduce the whole thing with some backstory and context and so on…” and I quickly lose enthusiasm. I’m no longer imagining writing a little bit, I’m imagining a laborious endeavour. One where I must cover everything in detail up to the point I’m at now – just so I can add the little bit at the end. Just so I can add a single dot at the end…

I need to start from a dot.

A bunch of dots, in fact.

Only dots though. Not thoroughly detailed accounts of how each of those dots came to be – I can do that later, or maybe never – just an initial dot for a few of the things I’ve contemplated writing about before now.

This post shall be that first dot for all the experimental things I’ve listed below.

a cluster of dots #

system diary #

  • trying to keep most thoughts and notes related to my notetaking system in one place

Command Panel note #

  • I’m building a toolbox panel in my sidebar
    • Buttons, Templater, Text Expand
    • Buttons, Incremental Writing
    • Dice Roller and my “zettel questions” template

Home note and Horizons note #

  • keeping the number of notes I leave open to a minimum
  • keeping plans I make visible

the Incremental Writing plugin #

  • a “writing inbox” that works for me

spaced repetition and Anki #

  • the Obsidian_to_Anki plugin
  • an idea I’m calling “ankibox”

migrating to nested tags #

  • “system tags” vs “topic tags”

weekly and monthly review templates #

  • Looking Back and Looking Ahead

daily notes #

  • my RandomNote prompt
  • using QuickAdd for fleeting notes

dot dot dot… #

That’s all for now.

See you at the next dot!