Productivity

How I Work – An Update on Capture

In my last How I Work post, I was much enamored with Bullet Journaling – or BuJo for short – for note capture. As a recap, I had never used a note-taking system that worked the way my brain did, and as such, nothing ever stuck until Bullet Journaling. Its solid, simple, flexible capture that just works. How to organize and track for retrieval after the fact I never got the hang of, so my system ended up being easy-in, serial page-flipping search to get anything out. Still, it was an major improvement from living in my head.

GoodNotes – Redefining Capture

My wife Susie turned me on to an iPad journaling app that she’d found through her Life Coach School and NoBS coaching communities called GoodNotes. GoodNotes is much like a paper journal in that you’re capturing notes and sketches, but rather that ink on paper, the app captures into digital ink. One of the fantastic features was being able to use PDF templates for pages. I had an effective Daily template that had some standard gratitude and goals questions that I found helpful to start the day with – many thanks to Robert Terekedis for his [article on effective Digital Bujo]) https://blog.euc-rt.me/2020-03-06-organizing-adapted-digital-bullet-journal-ipad-goodnotes/#gsc.tab=0). Robert’s work was a helpful foundation to get me started. Moving to GoodNotes on the iPad with Apple Pencil was a solid upgrade.

Importing PDFs to use as immutable templates is GoodNotes superpower.

Feature Rundown

  • Capture of text was equally as good as the paper Bujo.
  • Having easy access to more (digital) ink colors and line widths was a plus
  • Erasing easily was a huge plus
  • Copy and paste of inked text was fantastic for rearranging a day’s notes and for daily and monthly migrations. With a paper Bujo, rewriting everything at the first of a new month as part of migration always struck me as more hassle than benefit. With GoodNotes, it’s lasso/copy/paste and you’re done. That made migrations much easier.
  • Pasting pictures was very helpful. Often, after I’d captured notes from a meeting, I’d go back on the Mac GoodNotes client and paste in useful images and screencaps from the meeting. It was super useful to have notes and images together – not easily doable with the paper BuJo.
  • One of the big expected benefits I was looking forward to with GoodNotes was Search. Since GN converts inked writing to text behind the scenes, it’s all searchable. Unfortunately, the search is disappointingly basic. Sure, you could find the word "lasagne", and it’d show you all occurrences of that word, but you couldn’t search for "lasagne AND vegetable" to find those words on the same page, or "lasagne AND date in JAN2022" to find pages within date ranges. The final disappointment with search was a lack of hashtag searching. I tried tagging my notes with #ALMOND, and it wouldn’t search for the hash symbol – it just ignored it, making hashtagging notes not so useful.

The Verdict

The final verdict: good for capture, but not for long-term storage and retrieval. In my next How Do I Work post, I’ll cover what came next: Obsidian, and cover the GoodNotes feature that made the transition relatively painless.

Productivity

How Do I Work – v4.0

I’ve been taking a hard look at how I do work. By that, I mean how I chose what work to do and how I arrange my day to make it happen. There have been a few iterations over the last year, and I keep getting better and better at it.

All In My Head – v1.0

In the beginning, there was my not great memory and my “feels“. My todos lived in my head (or my inbox) and calendar had a scatter of hard scheduled meetings and open time. Project time had to happen in my scattered free time, and was largely done based on what I felt like doing in the moment, or what urgent thing had been dropped on me. That was good enough in some ways, but I wasn’t as nearly as effective or productive as I could have been. Some days, it was hard to state a solid item that I had done that day, but I certainly stayed busy doing emails and the like.

I dabbling in GTD (Getting Things Done), in both paper and digital versions, and that never stuck. Capturing and organizing open items and tracking contexts never worked for me and took more effort than it benefitted.

Effective Capture – v2.0

Then I discovered Bullet Journal. (Site / Book) It’s a light-process, flexibly structured system of capturing things – todo’s, notes of different kinds, events to be organized, and whatever else comes up. All it takes is a notebook and a pen. It clicked for me in really useful ways. My biggest win was finally capturing all the todo’s that used to (poorly) exist just in my head and getting them on paper. That alone has been life-changing.