Note taking iteration 2019

For note taking, I optimize for 3 things

  1. Being able to quickly create a document and worry about categorization later.
  2. Having access to the notes on any of my 3 machines, and phone
  3. Being able to find my notes later

To do this, I’ve tried the following. Evernote, Google Docs, Google Keep, One Note. Several drawbacks with all of these systems are:

  1. Once the number of notes gets very high (~2,000) when trying to find records and grouping them is hard, and I have to learn the way each of the tools group notes.
  2. If I wanted to add related things to the note (images, presentations), I’m at the mercy of one of these tools (whether they handle it well)
  3. Finding the records again, it’s a hit or miss with these tools

I was recently inspired by the creator of Wolfram, where he creates all his artifacts right in his Unix file system, and he maintains 3 major versions of how he layout his folder structure as he learns to get better.

So, here is my new method:

  1. I created a directory structure that matches my life + work. So starts with 3 directories at the high level `Personal,` , `Work` ,`To Organize`
  2. I have this directory synced via Google Drive
  3. When I need to take a note, I create a file in VSCode and start taking notes (mostly look like Markdown, but not 100%)
  4. When I’m done, I’ll do some cleanup and maybe format it in Markdown and put it into a folder under `Personal`, `Work`, `To Organize`, I try to keep the depth of folders to be under 3
  5. If I have pdf, images presentations, I add them into the folder with the notes. Each note, try to name it `0 README.md` so the file would appear first (edited)

Some other notes

I do not tag, I did that a lot in Evernote, but I find it not very useful 1-2 years later.
Lastly, I don’t know how this will work once I have 2,000 notes. I’m relying on the fact that I can use Unix search as well as VSCode search.

VSCode is optional, any text editor would work fine in this scheme.
I can also rely on Google Drive search if needed.

I’m assuming I can optimize search via many other on disk/folder searching tool

Tony Tam

Senior Principal Engineer @ Splunk, ImpactfulEngineer.org & SFBadminton.org