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MyPersonalProductivity

 

little red hen needs help

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Posted by andyjim
Feb 2, 2014 at 07:02 PM

 

Thanks everyone. I owe you a decent response, and at some length, I’m afraid. This’ll teach you to get me started!

iPad has been suggested to me before, and I considered that before buying an iPhone. I dictate into my iPhone as needed when away from my desk. This works okay for me. At home, I’m not sure I can see reasons to use iPad instead of the desktop computer.

Yes looking for software can be a distraction. Actually I consider that I’m looking for systems that work for me. More and more I see that the foundation of my system is me. My own mindset and discipline are the machine language and drive of my system. Any system, be it cards, the computer or notebooks is ultimately an extension of me. For me it’s a bit ironic to enter a forum dedicated to software, to talk about software on that forum and then to be told I’m fixated on software! :) 

Gary, I never stop writing. Wrote over 300,000 words last year, not much less the year before. And I’m far from a full time writer. I have other things going on in life. But journaling is engrained in me, and nothing is going to block that. In fact I’m so prone to write fresh thoughts that I rarely go back and review and organize what I have written. That’s a problem, and a prime reason I need a system to organize as I go. And why I need it to work with me instead of the other way.

As far as writing by hand, I have lately been obeying an impulse to get back to more writing by hand, and I like doing it. I’ve used binders and tabs. I definitely like getting away from the computer and expressing creativity manually. I’ve quested for a better pen/pencil too, so thank you for mentioning the Blackwing 602 (I remember it, but didn’t know its name!). I carry a small notebook. I draw some too (not well, but it’s another form of expression), and love playing guitar. The computer maintains its useful place though, as it does things these other modes don’t do, and does them fast. I can type faster than I can write, for example. I’ve worked with dictation at the computer as well (I can talk faster than I can type). Editing is easy. And despite my complaints about disorganization, I can find and work with files on the computer more easily, I am certain, than if everything were in notebooks. I agree with you though, that the inherently minimalist environment of writing manually brings good focus to the business of writing instead of playing with toolbars, menus, etc. That’s why I want to create a minimalist interface.

Gary said, “The search for perfect tools is endless, but eventually it becomes just another distraction.” I have to agree with the first part, disagree with the second. Have you stopped searching on that basis? Maybe so. My own search has led me to better systems and better discipline. Eventually it will lead me to a system that works for me, whether I find it out there, chain it together Dr. Andus style, or build it myself. And that system will be adaptable and extensible as my needs evolve.

I really don’t waste hours on the internet. When I’m on the internet I’m purposefully researching, corresponding, etc; when I’m off line I’m writing. I’m off line more than I’m on. I don’t do games, music, etc on the computer. Now TV, that’s a bad thing for me to have in the house. And we don’t have one.

I’ll tell you what I’ve done for years and keep coming back to. I use MS Word. I open a new file each Jan 1. I do all free flow writing in this one file, for the year. I call it the ‘freeboard’ method. My discipline and method within this file has evolved, but one rule remains: no constraints in this file. Any thought, any subject at any moment is fair game. Writings with constrained focus (which usually spring from the freeboard) I move to separate files. Every time I write a fresh thought in the freeboard file I try to give it a quick heading in bold (usually after it’s written because often I don’t know where the thought is going when I start writing). As a discipline I sometimes make myself give a heading of some sort to each paragraph. Interesting how that sharpens you. I’ve been surprised how often a worthwhile idea can be expressed in a page, often much less. Of course full development of a complex idea with supporting context, extensions, etc. takes more space.

My proposed software design builds on this ‘freeboard’ principle. In starting a new thought item, it will be as quick as starting a new paragraph. In classing items within the system, it needs to be almost as easy as writing a heading for the paragraph you just wrote. All past work is integrated and quickly accessible within the system. Manipulation of groups of items is simple. And all in a minimalist environment.

Now I feel a book tugging at me. It will encompass ideas I’ve written over the past 20+ years, but especially the last five. I need organization, classing of these thousands of items (at least the pertinent ones), and I need a system to class the new stuff that comes along, so it doesn’t just become part of the backlog, but becomes accessible, and to give some organizing structure to writing projects. The accumulation and organization of all past thoughts I would call a ThoughtBase. Feeding, care and interacting with the ThoughtBase will simply be a seamless extension of my ongoing freeboard journaling (if the system is good).

Thanks, Alexander, for the reference to CRPA. I like concept mapping (I think that’s the general term), and what I envision as a ThoughtBase would (at least in theory) be expressible in concept maps and would have the clarifying effect Weijze talks about. There are hidden concept maps, waiting to be brought forth, in all databases of thoughts, whether in CT, IQ or whatever. The content of Luhman’s card system could have been expressed in concept maps. And I too have, as Weijze puts it, “naturally arrived at a point of inescapable necessity” where I must put my house in order. I must integrate the accumulation of my past, present and future thoughts. To attempt this in the paper medium, Gary, would be overwhelming, imo. I need to take advantage of the incredible capabilities of the computer to organize and make accessible 20+ years of thoughts. 

As far as software currently available that might fill the bill, I think I need to try CT, IQ, Scrivener, Zkn, CRPA, ThinkComposer and likely others. I think probably what I should do is move my freeboard journaling into one of these (I’ll have to try all to see which works best). For now I’ll continue to pursue the path of writing my own software as well. At some point in that pursuit I’ll have to make the decision whether to continue or abandon it.

Alexander, I believe (and hope) that you are incorrect that a database system cannot allow tables to have fields added by the user. I am talking through my hat since I am not a programmer, but it seems to me a table (at least on the scale I’m talking about, though probably impractical with large tables) could be built on the fly, out of a procedure, rather than the table being itself an inflexible structure. Same for maps. I want the user to be able to select categories from a (customized) table, and then a map can be generated on the fly (from a procedure). Let not the user not be constrained by built in and inflexible structure! I hope not to find myself wrong, but I think such user-customized, on-the-fly tables and maps should not be hard to do. In fact all in all I believe my overall concept is much more primitive and less complicated than say, Scrivener (and I think I’m going to love Scrivener for certain things).

Yes, the minimalist objects of my design will have to be built from the ground up. But once a basic (and extendible) object is built (and I won’t need many different types of primitive objects), it is done, and you merely apply it over and over. My overall system is (or perhaps it only seems so to me) really quite simple.

Whew! I do apologize for length. It’s a characteristic of mine, once you get me going. Don’t let me discourage more comments though. I will try to be more brief next time. But I must say that this dialog with you knowledgeable and helpful folks refreshes me, sharpens my focus and gives me specific ideas to chew on! Thanks for at least listening, and for the suggestions, out of which I hope to come up with a sensible game plan going forward.
All the Best,
Andy