Notebooks and Index Cards

Juan Orozco
Juan Orozco

Before Field Notes became a thing in my world, I used these awesome wire bound notebooks I bought a long time ago from the community college bookstore. I loved the green tint of the paper and the thick covers. Alas, it is impossible to stack wire bound notebooks neatly.

Now, in the "Field Notes Era", the smaller page count causes me to go through notebooks faster. Also, I keep reference pages in the back that I need to copy over (or tear out) with every notebook change.

This is a problem. One that should be easily remedied either with a better process or with discipline. But, like all problems, I really need to explore the possibilities first. One thing I hear a lot about are index cards.

Ubiquity in 3 by 5 form {#ubiquityin3by5form}

Some really smart people advocate the Hipster PDA approach and rely solely on index cards.

Look... Index cards are boring to me. No, not the process, but the paper itself. The paper is usually a three by five cut of bright white paper printed with lightish blue tinted lines. Booooring.

Unlike the Field Notes, there is no joy in writing on an index card. Sure, there's not much to innovate on with an index card - it's hard to innovate on the details when index cards lack, well... details. Then again, index cards' modular and mobile characteristics are desirable. Desirable enough to give them a solid try.

Commit! {#commit}

I bought a cheap-o pack of index cards at Walmart. I suppose that was a mistake. I should have bought a nicer pack from a brand that cares about paper and the experience of writing. This is an experiment, a $3.00 experiment so far, and I can always donate them to the kids' crafting supplies.

It may not come to that, though. Well, the batch I bought will probably get donated regardless - that's how bad the paper is. But, the integration of index cards into my workflow is turning out well.

Here's what I have discovered works for me:

  • Notes that I need to shared with someone (like the wife, for example) go on an index card.
  • Reference notes (like server IP's) go on an index card.
  • Everything else goes in the notebook.

I'm experimenting with keeping To Do's on the index card as well. It feels good to be able to trash the index card once the list is complete. Although, sometimes, the card may not be completed for several months - that's just how that list will go.

This whole modification, though, is going well. We'll see how it continues.