Lessons from My Attempt at an Analog Knowledge System
Well, I tried.
I tried to implement a fully analog knowledge management system (an Antinet). I even went all out with the tools- a bunch of index cards and the boxes to place them in.
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned in my month-long attempt at this analog system.
- Digital Notes are accessible on any of your devices (depending on your app of choice). I loved the fact that I was writing more (handwriting, that is). But I couldn’t access my notes when I wasn’t home. I had gotten used to being able to pull information from my phone when the need arose. One specific example is when I had to support an argument with some credible source. In my fully digital system, it was a simple search for the note I had already written. I missed that.
- Real estate not required. Before trying the analog system, I had already invested a lot of time and accumulated a lot of notes in the digital world. I’d estimate the total real estate required for the amount of notes I have would be a couple of shoe boxes. The relatively few notes I did have on the analog system took up a pretty good amount of desk space. The best thinkers who’ve used this system s would need a small office to house their notes. There is nothing wrong with technology. I’ve found out that I could get the best of both worlds.
- The Analog Index. I’m implementing this into the digital world. The biggest lesson I’ve learned was one of organization. The analog system forced me to develop, or at least understand, the importance of keeping things organized. Before the analog approach, I was relegated to the digital search function. This was great, but was also inefficient. There is still a ton of value in keeping things organized. This attempt at an analog system helped me truly understand the Zettelkasten system that Niklas Luhmann used to great success.
- Writing by hand helped me remember what I’ve written. I read that the act of handwriting helped you remember what you’ve written. It could be the fact that the slowness of the act forces you to be fully present. And being fully present helps slow things down and helps you remember. I can confirm that it did just that for me.
- It doesn’t matter what environment works when considering all the note-takers in the world. What matters is your comfort level in familiar chaos. There is no perfect note-taking system. The best approach is to develop, or implement, a method that works for you. It could be completely inefficient for one person. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find comfort in the system; you find comfort in the chaos.
Keep writing. When overwhelmed by the flood of information, remember to just write about one thing. You’ll figure it out from there. Action is the antidote.