Personally I've been using Obsdian.md and creating a new file for each day that I work.
Anyone using a specific tool, or maybe even a physical notebook?
Follow up question is whether you ever reference your notes or go back and look through them again.
There's no specific format (no tags, for example). There is just a new heading for each work day: "## Sep 13, 2021 Mon". I also don't go crazy with Markdown syntax. I very rarely render the Markdown. It's mostly bullet lists, code blocks and links to other files. My text editor allows me to click the links without rendering Markdown.
The file is located in a directory called work_journal. Content that is linked from journal<year>.md is broken up into directories: diagrams, images, logs, projects.
I do have a few other files that are project or tech-specific: tech_xyz.md, project_xyz.md, but those are edited infrequently and, once created, mostly used for reference. I also have a few temporary files called scratchpad.md and commit.md. Scratchpad is for quick pastes from logs and need to be massaged between systems and commit.md is a running edit of the Git commit message for stuff I'm working on.
The major downside is that the file is really only editable on one PC. I don't trust the enterprise sync solution I have available to me, and I certainly don't want this kind of info in the cloud. Thankfully it is very rare that I have a need to edit the file from another computer.
I like the idea of a monolithic journal per year. How long have you been at it (if you don't mind me asking)?
Just one big markdown file with a heading for each day
Cool to know other people do the same
i recently moved over to mediawiki due to work, but it is a behemoth compared to org-mode.
I do this for a few reasons.
1. Taking notes on a computer during meetings is disrespectful IMO. Every time I see people do it, 80% of the time they are checking email, checking a site, looking up stuff instead of paying attention to the speaker or meeting. I get pissed when people spend the meeting looking up alternatives just to challenge the person speaking. It isn't that challenging an idea is bad (it is critical in fact), it is you need to listen to comprehend and not listen to respond.
2. The vast majority of notes are worthless after a few days. They were relevant to complete a task but not noteworthy for my career or to learn something I need to keep forever as a reference.
3. Writing something makes me personally more likely to remember it.
In the 5 subject notebook, I keep the sections as "Meeting Notes", "Active project(s)", "Design", "Personal notes" and the last one is usually open for just misc crap that I don't need to categorize right now. The design part I almost always take pictures of and put in my notes app, but I only take the pic of the final design and the notes on why. Design here is typically software architecture type design, product design, UX etc. It is faster for me to sketch it then to try and put it in an app.
I've done this for my entire career, 20+ years now and just refined over time. I also am a huge fan of note cards during the week while I am working. For example, I'll write my plan down for the day/week/month on a note card and then work through it. The time period is chosen based on what I am working on at the time, and sometimes I have one for a day, one for the week, one for a month etc. Just helps me keep myself organized, and again, writing it forces me to remember better, personally.
As for using it, I have gone back and used stuff in the past year that I wrote down 15 years ago. Typically this is more design concepts or how to solve an interesting problem, or what were issues I ran into using XYZ design or module etc.
For the typewritten stuff or things which are good references to begin with, I went digital fairly traditionally as I'll explain.
So far no one has been able to convince me there is anything better than a secretary.
As an executive needs leadership documentation, I think it's best to have a full time operator who puts their focused effort on the notes I need taken, the selection & crafting of those to be destroyed, confidential, released, or published as well as their organization, filing, retrieval and backup.
At the opposite end of the spectrum without any staff you want to minimize or eliminate all of these same efforts without fully compromising the advantage you would have if there was a specialist doing this for you.
Even when I am an executive, during a time when I'm making progress at a scientific bench the only way to get complete documentation is to spend at least half the time sitting down to document where you are, instead of making more progress at the bench.
When that sitting-down pose can not be attained for the duration of a project, that's when somebody has to sit down afterward and that's not always the most useful documentation, and never complete enough.
You can get to the point where the only reason to make notes is if you will certainly go back to look at them, or if they are an essential element of otherwise unobtainable documentation.
This may have some similarities to engineering projects where you are sitting down for both the progress-making & documentation-generating efforts. Either way what you need is someone standing there with a clipboard & audio recorder who will type it up and file & retrieve it for you. You can probably imagine how you would be able to leverage such a conventional system better every year.
Without that you are almost always going to have to settle for less-than-ideal documentation, so truly optimize for this instead. Then take a few years to get better at leveraging what you really have to work with.
Until you get a secretary, at least use your PC text editor & file manager as a substitute for their typewriter & filing cabinet.
These are two of the business machine essentials that IBM wanted all offices to be able to use an early IBM PC for instead, as a high-tech alternative. So they offered printers and hard drives, and you should probably still hang out in your file manager yourself if there's no one else doing it for you.
Make yourself a storage partition on a HDD and create your own folder for each subject manually as needed, giving the subject a short meaningful name like a secretary would do on the tab of a real manila folder. Then take notes right into text editors no differently than DOS, and file them into your desired folders manually. There will be a creation date, modification date & access date associated with the files & folders and the text can be some of the most rapidly searchable.
It's OK to make a folder for a single worthwhile text file, since you will sometimes want to search by folder, other times by filename or contained text. Try to stay organized and don't make too many subject folders though in case you want to be able to search them easily manually sometimes. In real filing cabinets there was usually only one layer of subfolders, which are supposed to be much more familiar today but sometimes I wonder.
With 4 primary partitions addressable by DOS, these were supposed to represent the four drawers of a filing cabinet. A common arrangement would have been one drawer with a main folder for each product, one drawer with a main folder for each customer, one containing each month's invoices, and one with each month's correspondence.
Storage for one's personal notes is not usually a large requirement, and you may not need a database to be helpful.
Comprehensive snapshot/backup can be made by easily copying the entire organized partition contents of small universal text files, uncompressed.
Tagging and word processing can always be done after initial note-taking.
If all the notes even turn out to be worth it.
Make it easy on your secretary.
Most notes go in the ticket, but for file management and private notes I create a folder on the desktop with the ticket title. Notes go in "notebook.txt", and usually consists of organizing my thoughts on how to attack the problem, maybe some draft editing of comments I want to post on JIRA, maybe a SQL query, the raw data of any big, important result I find. (e.g. "You can see here this data could not proceed further because X was invalid.")
Most sql queries end up in queries.sql or something in the same folder, along with screenshots when troubleshooting, datasets, etc. If the number of interior folders starts getting disorganized / out of hand / long-running, usually I'll start creating daily folders inside the main folder (e.g. Desktop/prevent-salem-witch-trial-mode/2021-09-13_prevent_moldy_bread )
Rarely do I need to refer back to it, but about once a year when I have a long-running problem that gets passed off to someone else, I'll organize notebook.txt for them, write down a summary of my thoughts, and send a zip file of the folder to them with my summary and recommendations on how to proceed.
After my desktop fills up a bit I'll move them to archive them to an archive folder e.g. Archive/2021/prevent-salem-witch-trial-mode
Nice in that I generally only need just the few places where my data is going to be, and grepWin lets me search for keywords anywhere in the folder.
The "blog" notes are one page per task, linearly organized. It could be a Jira issue, or something that needs to be done but is not in Jira. The note contains anything relevant to the task: the specification, what I found, what I plan to try, what I did. After the task is completed, I leave the page and usually don't edit it again. If later there is a problem or someone asks something related to the task, I will look it up.
The "wiki" notes are hierarchically organized, and contain e.g. company processes, contact list within the company, individual projects, frequently used software or frameworks. The notes are my extended memory, I refactor them as needed. The idea is that I need some information repeatedly but in long intervals, and it is more convenient to quickly find it in my notes than try to remember, try to find, or ask people.
Technically, I use either OneNote or CherryTree, depending on what the company allows.
I mostly use paper to sketch database relational diagrams. If my task requires me to write a join across several tables, I will design it on paper, write the code, then throw the paper away.
- Vim-like bindings that don't suck
- Growing and fantastic set of community plugins, including a presently-in-alpha plugin offering Jupyter support (!)
- Markdown-based wiki-type thing, with mobile, sync, and publish support
- Wide range of pleasing themes
- Development is active and is proceeding relatively swiftly; there are new versions available quite often (it's self-updating)
- Electron UI, which I know raises some eyebrows, but in my experience it's comparable to e.g. VSCode in zippiness (so: not terrible, good enough)
Disclosure: I'm working on obsidian plugins, and I paid for a commercial license, but I'm not in any other way associated with the project, i.e. I don't see myself as plugging myself here.
While not FOSS, it's an impressive indie project that I'm enamored with.
Obsidian's community plugins are awesome!
In those cases where the matter is private (maybe 1/4 of all), I attempt to document it in company's knowledge base or at least share it in the company chat.
All other things go to my personal Obsidian.
This has consistently been incredibly useful; for my own recall, for quarterly and annual performance review time (easy to scan through and capture my "significant accomplishments") as well as every. single. time. a colleague asks "do you remember X years ago when we ...?"
I tend to break it down by month, with a bullet-point list of tasks. I've migrated from plain text files, to a wiki, to I don't remember what tool my employer at the time provided, to currently OneNote, with a Notebook for "work-tracking" and a page per month. I don't love OneNote, but it is automatically backed up in our corporate environment.
I like the idea of switching to VSCode, as I do most of my work in that, but need to figure out the best way to back it up.
I also try to do document most tasks I work on. I need to because my memory is poor and I would not have much to say in my daily standups.
At the end of the week I review the notes and if it's important enough I rewrite the notes on a personal wiki.
For notes I have a(n) (paper) agenda with on the left the week overview and on the right notes. Best agenda ever. https://www.bol.com/nl/nl/p/castelli-agenda-h83-2020-2021-18.... All remaining notes I write on empty A4 paper.
I KISS with just a text file. I've tried other methods but only this one stuck. I like Sublime and VS Code b/c hyperlinks can be command+clicked to open. They've also never lost a single character of information, which I cannot say for any other editor, even vim.
Here's how it's formatted:
one line per item
try to keep this small
once they're done, move to end of file (cut line, cmd+down, paste)
short reference, stuff you would normally put in a sticky note on your monitor. keep this very small.
Reverse order log
Think "captain's log" from star trek"
What's a TODO vs a LOG varies.
If a topic gets large enough, it gets put in its own txt file, like interview questions or collected notes for a single project.
[So here is where you would add stuff]
This would yesterday's notes.
09-09 Some days only deserve one line
09-08 and that's totally fine
[and here would be all your notes. This can be thousands of lines]
Intentionally put this down here, if you run out of TODOs, then come down here
Tasks are moved down here once they're done. In case they need to be pulled back or at performance evaluation to remember what you've done!
Mind you that the notebooks seem to be actually "categories".
One notebook can be dragged into another to create trees.
The format is an H2 for every day, named after the day's date, followed by an outline that covers what I worked on, including details that stood out, links to tickets and slack discussions, etc.
If I ever need to embellish upon a point, I add an H3 as the subheader and write up whatever needs embellishment. Same goes for useful queries I might want to reference later and other daily scratches. This makes for a useful [TOC] for apps that support it (I'm using typora)
In slack we have a room we post low-detail lists of what we worked on for the day. I generally just copy and paste my daily outline to it. It's TMI for the team, but the ease of doing so ensures I post consistently, and since a lot of my work tends to affect a lot of the team, I think those concerned tend to appreciate the extra detail.
Also, like @OnACoffeeBreak, I use a full sized notebook and a fancy pen to help keep me focused during meetings or when I need to sketch out an idea.
Still haven't really settled on anything for more permanent notes, on a subject or something. Everything is frustrating in some sort of way. I'm liking the idea of privately hosting mediawiki. Mediawiki has extensions for music scores (using lilypond) which is quite important to me.
The only 'unknown' remaining is an easy way of creating editable diagrams/drawings on the computer. Either they're hand-drawn on the remarkable, where they're hard to change; or they're drawn on a computer, which is painful. I wish I could create a 'symlink' from a page on the remarkable to an image.
The code is on GitHub: https://github.com/jcubic/notes
The app is simple on left there are notes, in the middle there is simple text and on the right are navigation into sections, that are created using special markers. This type of makers I always use in source code and text files as separators.
I will write markdown files in the repo for a project with some big picture things.
For learning stuff will do a test.c/cc/py/go/sh/Java file in ~
I use paper for very formless thought about more complex stuff that I am wrestling with.
With org mode I keep maintaining the file (lot of stuff is todos). The markdown files keep getting edited and linked to during the life of the project. Paper notebooks I have about five from 25 years of work and stack them in a drawer or so on. When I want to reminisce about some old cool thing I will leaf thru them, impressed at my cleverness and naïveté.
Before I got into org mode i would use Mac yellow stickies app, and delete when they went out of scope.
Google Keep - on mobile, used features like checkbox, voice recording, take photo
Evernote - archival for searching in the future, content like snippets and tips
I use text files employing simple markdown within them. I use one text file per project/product...however i'm thinking of going back to a single monolithic text file regardless of project/product...since it might make grokking things a little easier (good ol' CTRL F is fine)...also, sometimes some efforts span more than a single product...so i get slightly paralyzed trying to think if this effort belongs in text file for product A or B, etc. So a single file would resolve that. In any case, the text file approach makes selection of tools much easier (and with lots more choice). For work/dayjob, i use NotePad++ (99.9% of my jobs simply issue me a Windows machine with no choice in the matter), and for personal matters, since i use linux, i use Geany for working with the text files (though have been playing with Kate/KWrite). Over the last 6 months, i moved away from dropbox to NextCloud to synch all the text files. Here again, by using simple text files, i have flexibility for the authoring tools as well as synching tools. As far as referencing/looking back at my notes, yes i do and quite often (hence why i think going back to a single big text file might ease my searching a tad). Also, i have very slightly started to take work notes on paper when in person - a little for diplomacy but also because when i go back to my machine to type them into my text files, i find that it helps with recall/memorization.
Personally working on it... so many options (I prefer making my own) just talking about approaches to data store.
I've already made an encrypted at rest url-based web notepad and also a cross-platform app (desktop/mobile) with the API hosted by a local RPi.
I'm in the process of making a Chrome extension one just because I'm always in Chrome.
- [ ] walk dog
- [ ] catch up on email
- [x] meal planning
- [x] fix bug
- [x] recreate locally
- [x] write tests
- [x] submit PR
"Backups are for wimps. Real men upload their data to an FTP site and have everyone else mirror it." has stuck with me for a long time. Linus Torvalds. open source is a philosophy, a religion, and one i wish to practice.
Typically, the notes these days are hand written. If I want, I can use OCR to convert hand written notes to tired text, but search finds my hand written entries so I don't bother.
Notes are generally bulleted lists. I go back later and make TODO items from them. I can also clean them up and send meeting notes out to the group.
I like OneNote because I can embed images, screen clips, use hand written notes, access them anywhere, link to files (directly or embedded) and organize how I like. I don't like the newer "non desktop" versions of OneNote so I use the old 2016 desktop version.
Forward sends me an email tomorrow, next week, with all of the notes I tag for that day. Takes it off my mind until I need to think about it.
Top of the file has all zoom/ mobile numbers of people i need to contact during emergency or support in production.
EoD marked by 20-30 hyphens next line start with date.
I wish i had learnt mark down 10yrs back. Thinking again what's the point. This serves the purpose.
I like how it is so easy to copy and paste images. Also, I like how What You See Is What You Get with such a simple approach.
I also use odtgrep to search through my old daily logs:
with org-crypt for the private stuff.
i mix my todos with my notes.
though I don't mostly find taking notes that useful at work. if something is involved enough, i'll update our wiki, or right a tutorial. most of my real note-taking is in my code itself. much of the other stuff has a trail of communications that can be searched.
Started to look at a few modern takes on the problem including Roam Research. A few months ago I found https://logseq.com/ Still in beta but progressing quickly. So far I think I have finally found my happy place.
I'm a fan of Omni over plain text tools like Obsidian because it makes the sub-nesting and drag and drop hierarchy very pleasant (almost Roam-like) but is also a fast native Mac app.
Here is the link: https://github.com/rochus-keller/CrossLine/
I immediately thought of Jack Nicholson jeering, “no tickey, no laundry!”
I’m also currently giving FSNotes a try and I actually like it, it might become my go to notes app.
No system is perfect but I currently feel that it works better than what I had before. (A jumble of text files scattered across loads of different folders, which was much harder to work with.)
I'm talking here about things I need to do - tickets will still be written with full specs, PRs will still be opened, things will still get asked, but at least I have an index of all of those things I need to do.
System designs or notes I want to refer back to go into an actual notebook. Ideas that get fleshed out from the scratch pad land here, as well as meeting minutes and weekly todo items.
One section for each year, one page for each week.
Copy unfinished todos from the last week at the being of every new week.
Remarkable replaces paper, which is what I used when writing to think. It does a great job.
At first glance it's ugly as hell but after a while you will realize it's perfect
I wish I could TAG things in it to give me a quick way to group things...
I use Todoist for everything. I like the txt mentioned here but proper apps like todoist will remind and ping on various things as they come up or remind me which I find insanely helpful.
Siri (ugh pixel was so much better w calendar sync etc until it just died one day and I gave up on the Android vision) to help w on the go reminders and stuff I don’t want to forget.
digital notes: keeping track of what's happening that might be important. meeting notes, reminders, etc
physical notes: what i'm learning about. trying this new zettelkasten notetaking system