Pile of Indexcards

Every few weeks, I get excited about some new organizational scheme. Getting Things Done, index cards, Moleskines, all-encompassing spreadsheets that track my every thought and mood...oh, and blogs. Clearly I have too much time on my hands.

Fortunately I don't just start one then throw it away. They evolve and build upon each other. I still have my index cards and Moleskine planner. I still use the GTD infrastructure. Each new segment of productivity porn makes me a little more calm and reduces a little stress. Every index card I tear up gives me a sense of accomplishment.

I found the latest scheme yesterday, and I'm already deep into the mania. (See, I'm actually posting again. It works!) My new fascination is this Web site: Pile of Indexcards.

I heard about it from 43Folders, and it struck directly at my stationery-loving, system-creating heart. Pile of Indexcards outlines an approach that uses index cards to track information, from your life, to your work, to your grocery list. It's essentially a journal, but broken out into smaller elements that can be rearranged at will. Blogger Sugano Takayuki shares his idea via a well-organized, cross-referenced set of links that mirror what he's doing with his cards. Take a look at his site for the details if you're intrigued.

One of the commenters on Sugano's site mentions a Commonplace Book, which is something I've always had to have. It's basically a notebook where you jot down interesting quotes, facts, ideas, lists, etc. For me, the main insight of Pile of Indexcards is the idea of tearing up my Commonplace Book into separate pieces.

I've been using index cards for my task list and I love the freedom of having a separate piece of paper for everything I have to do. I can write notes on the card, think through what I have to do, and sort them into different groups. I'm no longer rewriting to do lists. When something's done, I just tear it up and throw it away.

Now, because of Pile of Indexcards, I'm tossing out the Commonplace Book. I went to Office Depot last night and bought myself an index card file. This morning on the way to work my mind was working overtime thinking of cards to write. Unfortunately, I was in the car, and couldn't find a pen, so many of them are lost to the ages. I'm convinced they were brilliant.

I'm hoping that the cards can help me get over the paralysis I feel sometimes when confronted with a blank page. Maybe rather than being overwhelmed by the idea of writing a complete, perfect document, I'll be able to muster up the courage to write an index card. Then maybe I'll be able to pile up my little cards and put them together to come up with something good.

And don't you think there's something to be said about the way blogging has changed the way we present information? No longer do you always have to write a fully formed essay or news article. Instead, you can jot down a few thoughts about a topic in a blog post (or index card). A few other people can read it and link to it and jot down a few more thoughts in the comments. You add a few tags and people all over the Web can find it for lots of different reasons. It's the hive mind, right?