Have you struggled with information overload? Have you tried a multitude of software programs, smartphone apps and physical planners (Franklin Planner, anyone?) to keep lists, stay organized and be more productive?
Most people have. I sure as hell have. But maybe software is not the solution. Until recently none of my attempts to deal with information overload have worked. None. Having tried every type of planning system under that sun, I decided several years ago that my problem was not organization, but stress and too much computer time. So I tried laying down to do more Feldenkrais sessions. I spent more time with friends, more time in nature, more time walking my dogs. I did self-hypnosis sessions and several sessions with a well-known author and psychotherapist. I started reading more physical books and fewer ebooks and pdfs. It helped a bit, I guess. But something was missing. I was still distracted and brain-tired every god damn day. And even worse, my productivity was off....way off. It was getting so bad that I was considering quitting my various online businesses and getting a job in the real world. Maybe it was time to find a University teaching job and get back to the classroom?
In a fit of desperation, I decided to go back in time to my strategies of the early-1990's. That is, to a time before I had a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone and a kindle. To a time when I did nearly all of my organizing on paper...on 3x5 and 4x6 index cards to be exact. For the last several weeks, I have been keeping my computer off or in the background and I now write down all my notes, quotes and anecdotes on notecards. Using pen and paper to stay organized has been an absolute godsend. It has given me my time and attention back. It cuts down on my use of my laptop and other devices. That in turn helps me stay in the moment and limit distracting surfing of the web and other stimuli. And it helps me to review and organize my most important thoughts and ideas. Everything is literally "at hand." I do not have to power up a device to see what needs done. It has been the biggest change in my life in many, many years. I owe the change to a blog post from Ryan Holiday, a former student of the best-selling author Robert Greene. I read the blog post below, the heavens opened up and I got to work. If you are interested in such things, here is the link the the blog post (and for the record, there is nothing to buy) Ryan Holiday's Note Card System.
Update: I wrote a draft of this blog post on October 24th, 2016 before editing and publishing it on November 8th. Using index cards is still a godsend and still helping me immensely. However, I have also expanded my use of paper and I have started printing out hard copies of articles, webpages and other written materials that I want to review off screen.
If you look at the picture above, you will see a photo of the book, "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder - How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place. I highly-recommend it.
And can you read any of the notecards on my desk? One will be the headline of a future blog post or of perhaps I may use it to send a rather offensive email to a person who teaches certification trainings.