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How I Learned to Defrag My Brain (alexhillman.com)
271 points by alexknowshtml 985 days ago | 83 comments



I've kept a file called "ventures.rtf" since 2007. Quite simply, it has every business idea I've had that's worth writing down. Every year or so I go through and delete the stupid ideas. To say this has become the most valuable document in my life is an understatement. It is my career, in a file.

I used to keep a larger, more generic "spark file" but I found it got to be too big to navigate. So I throw away more ideas now, and only write down ones that have serious merit, placing them in specific files instead of a "kitchen sink" catchall file.

I also have "possible programmers" and "possible designers" files, which I've kept since 2007. These are just lists of great people that I've found over the years, and may wish to hire at some time. I've initiated relationships with some of these people, knowing that one day I might want to bring them in to one of my ventures.

Finally, I have a "rules to live by" file. I've kept this since November 2011, so it is much younger than the rest. So far, it's about 560 succinct adages. I work on it for 30m-1h ever day. I study life and draw conclusions, abstracting the particular instances I experienced into broader maxims.

I review this file before any major decision is made. It's sort of like a file on disk that I can load into my memory; it puts my mind in an optimal state before making a decision. It's like putting everything I've learned into my brain's electro-chemical RAM banks. The quality of personal and business decisions has increased 10000x since starting this particular file.

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I do this as well. Everything from the spark file (I call it a "ideas journal"), to the freelancers file, to the maxims file (I call it the "laws of life", inspired by a character on Star Trek TNG).

Would you be interested in putting one of your files online? Or is the information too personal/ valuable to share? Keeping the possible programmers/designers and the spark file secrets I could understand. Sharing the "maxims" file could spawn an interesting website.

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I suspect the personal effort involved in creating the file is more valuable than the file itself. Reading someone else's maxims is never going to have the impact on you that it has on them, or that creating your own list would have on you. He says it himself, "It's like putting everything I've learned into my brain's electro-chemical RAM banks." What good is the reminder of things learned to someone who hasn't learned the same things?

One of the maxims my wife and I use for decision-making is to take a step back and consider the big picture... to ask ourselves, "Is this even what we want to do in the first place?" But without having had the experience of almost making a decision that wasn't what we wanted big-picture because of focusing too much on optimizing the details, the maxim wouldn't have the same power.

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What you're saying is that the process of experiencing the maxim and internalizing its lesson is more valuable than the maxim itself. I disagree - the bible and quran's lessons for life have been shared with and digested by many millions of receptive minds. It is the sharing of knowledge and experience, accumulated over generations, that allows our species to make the incremental improvements that leads to advancement. Keeping truths to oneself may be valuable, but if you have a powerful truth, the leverage you obtain by sharing with the world is a lot more powerful.

Nevertheless, you do have a point - how do you create value for people through a maxim that they haven't experienced? I would argue that the credibility of whom the maxim originates from is very important.

For example, The Bible has tremendous credibility and respect from its believers (and many non-believers too); this significant ethos prepares people to be receptive towards the maxim. Or for a modern day example, imagine the difference between a regular joe giving you career advice on his blog (as you wonder, 'who is this guy?', vs. reading maxims from Mark Cuban's blog.

In order to solve this problem of ethos, a site would have to employ reputation or karma for each maxim, with people weighing in on how valuable / truthful each maxim has been through their personal experiences. A maxim written by an anonymous becomes more credible when Mark Cuban, PG, or other famous people publicly vouch for it.

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The following is a stream of thoughts, not a well-worked out position I'm trying to defend. I find this line of discussion very interesting and have no sure answers.

The Bible (and other holy books) often teaches maxims with stories though, which is like indirect experience.

Compare the Reddit post "Today you, tomorrow me", previously on HN here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2003515

Even if everyone I respect publicly vouched for "today you, tomorrow me" as a maxim, I don't think it would have as much impact as reading that story. And the impact of reading that story can't possibly compare to the impact the events had on the person who actually experienced them.

Why do science classes do experiments if not to add experience to facts which are already supported by almost universally recognized authority? Is there anyone on Earth who doubts f=ma? Yet the experience of it makes it more "real" somehow.

I'm not trying to say reading the maxims of others is useless. I tend to read most lists of maxims that come up on HN. But usually if one really becomes meaningful to me it's because it resonates with what I've already experienced. It puts my experiences into words in a memorable way.

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Saving a comment now for a future response.

You've just inspired a new part of my brain. I need to write-up a new idea for a website.

btw I agree with everything you said. The reason I used the bible as an example is that it is didactic through stories. Not just lists of laws. The website idea I was thinking of would have, for example, PG, Cuban, et al weigh in with their own stories, corroborating or contradicting the 'maxim'.

I agree completely that the proliferation of all the "rules of success" lists on the web proves ineffective in actually making a difference in the readers' lives.

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Inspired by our discussion:

see http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4508273

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I would be very interested to read your "rules to live by" document, if you are comfortable with sharing.

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Thank you for the kind words! I am actually in the process of preparing it for publication. Will be sure to let HN know when it ships...

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You should post a link to a mailing list! I'd join.

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See above...

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I would definitely sign up for a mailing list, +1

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Get an email when the book is published: http://eepurl.com/pon-T

Like on Facebook Here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maxims/205350249545949

Follow on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MaximsTheBook

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+1 the idea for creating a mailing list!

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Heh. I call my two files "foundation" and "empire".

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Mine is called "A little bit of background" and "Biz Ideas"

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Do you have a file called "mule" for bad ideas?

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>I used to keep a larger, more generic "spark file" but I found it got to be too big to navigate. So I throw away more ideas now, and only write down ones that have serious merit, placing them in specific files instead of a "kitchen sink" catchall file.

You could also use Devonthink Pro, as described here: http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/movabletype/archives/0002... as a placae for all this material, including the "rule to live by" file. DTP might help you find connections between ideas that you didn't realize existed.

EDIT: Mental note: Read article before commenting. You already know about DTP! Sorry.

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Interesting.

With the exception of the contact list, I've been doing all the same things off and on for a while now.

It started with a generic idea file, simple titles and as much description as is necessary. More recently, I've started something like your "rules to live by" which I think of as "you learn something new every day". Quick adages and rules that I felt were worth noting.

You've inspired me get back in the habit of dedicating at least 30 minutes to my files each day.

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I was watching the film "things to do when you're dead in denver" the other night and right at the end, the main character, Jimmy "the saint" Tosnia says to write down the ten most important things to you.

I thought that was a pretty good list to have.

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I have a lot of these.

philosophy.txt

{book/lecture/topic-name}.txt

tweets.txt

happiness.txt

Does anybody remember that website which can automatically notify you on these ideas periodically? I think it was on Show HN the other day? I was hoping to hack my brain in this way.

"I study life and draw conclusions, abstracting the particular instances I experienced into broader maxims."

This is part of one of my maxims. A lot are methods of thinking which I use out-of-the-box to take an idea to the next level. A few are just basic ideas in life and architecture/development/nature which are fundamental building blocks.

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My spark file is a google doc titled 'ideas'. Google docs or similar (jotit etc) are great for accessibility almost anywhere and anywhen, and you don't have to worry about backup.

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Thanks for your comments; brings other useful aspects of application to light.

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One of the biggest issues I've found is that many developers say they are uncreative -- they have the talent, but they say they can never think of ideas that are useful to build.

So, for those of you wondering how you can even start building a "sparkfile", I'll give you my secret: whenever I'm annoyed with something I'm doing, I'll analyze why I am annoyed, and out of that usually comes an idea. A few months ago, I was annoyed that Hacker News was the first place I learned about password leaks, sometimes weeks before the companies emailed me -- leaving me insecure for quite a while. If only a computer could scan headlines across different tech websites looking for the latest companies to have password leaks, and would email you the second it saw anything.

48 hours later, I built leaknotifier.com to do just that.

For me, I crave simplicity. Whenever something that I think should be simple to do takes much longer than necessary, I start brainstorming how I would simplify it. If I ever feel like I'm on autopilot because I'm doing the same thing over and over, I figure out ways to automate it. If you ever feel frustrated and start to think "if only they just _____", start actually figuring out why they don't just do X, and if there is no good reason, start developing it.

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>whenever I'm annoyed with something I'm doing, I'll analyze why I am annoyed, and out of that usually comes an idea.

In other words, you're curing Schlep Blindness: http://paulgraham.com/schlep.html through greater awareness.

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Why is google not avaliable in the list of services at leaknotifier? That is something many of us use.

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To be honest, it was because Google kept being a false positive whenever I ran the analysis on RSS feeds, and since Google hadn't had any large password leaks (outside of China targeting a few protestors), along with Google's emphasis on security with IP monitoring and 2-factor, I considered them immune. Still, though, I'll add it in and fix my parsing to get rid of the false positives.

I still need to do a lot of stuff for the app (SSL default, tweaking feeds and parsing), I was more just trying to show how my frustration led to an idea.

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To log bits of information quickly I added this to my .bashrc:

log(){ date >> ~/log/$* ; cat >> ~/log/$* ; }

I try to keep it simple but I keep several files. There is one for general ideas which is called "projects", another one to log new words I've learnt called "voc.en" (English is a second language for me) and so on.

For example:

log projects <enter>

write something cool... <enter> <ctrl+c>

--------------------

cat log/projects

Mo 10. Sep 07:16:02 CEST 2012

write something cool...

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This is a great idea! I've been using text docs like this for a while, but the problem that keeps happening to me is I go open the file to add something to it, and get distracted by reading the stuff in the file and forget what I was about to add!

I'm going to try this CLI method since it'll be impossible to read old stuff and get distracted while trying to add something.

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Here's my entry in my bash profile:

    log() {
      echo >> ~/Dropbox/NotationalVelocity/$*.txt ;
      date >> ~/Dropbox/NotationalVelocity/$*.txt ;
      cat >> ~/Dropbox/NotationalVelocity/$*.txt ;
    }
We'll see how this goes!

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And if you have the log folder on dropbox, it is accessible everywhere.

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Accessible everywhere, indeed. Doubly so for nosey Dropbox employees!

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Why the downvote?

Just going from memory, their biggest security-breach PR disasters have been caused more often by sloppy employee security than by outside actors.

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I also read the Where Good Ideas Come From book, and I especially like his commonplacing idea. However, I didn't compile them into a sparkfile. Instead, I compile my notes into this personal web page: http://kibabase.com/articles/notes-and-thoughts

It's full of random ideas like fear inoculation, legoization, animated qr code, and some half completed essay like self quantification, synthetic blood vessel, and why choose prosthesis. I am constantly rewriting them as well as adding ideas and citations. I also reread it everyday.

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I think a lot of us entrepreneur types have files, Moleskins, txt documents, blogs, etc. that are similar to 'The Spark File.' It's an excellent tool, and keeping track of ideas, inspiration, projects, and more is a vital part of organizing your thoughts.

One thing that differentiates this particular implementation is the consistent (but not constant) review of ideas, as well as the consolidation of ideas that seem to go well together. The creation of "full" ideas vs. "half baked" ideas is a really interesting concept, and I feel that I learned a lot about idea formation, even from just a four minute video.

While ByWord seems great for offline editing (and I'm certainly going to give it a shot), I've had a really great experience using Trello for my "spark file." The separate "cards" that Trello supports allow me to have different categories of ideas that I can then individually consolidate. For example, I currently have cards for:

- Startup (ideas for ventures I'm considering.)

- Posts (blog posts I'd like to write; either expanded versions of HN comments, or stories in and of themselves. This comment will likely go right in there as well!)

- Research (security & appsec research I'd like to conduct, as well as particular technologies I'm interested in. My to-learn queue.)

- Software (non-startup related software I'm building or would like to build.)

In the end, I can't help but agree and evangelize Alex's post -- the human brain can only keep track of so much on its own, but with help and organization, we can be much more productive!

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Creative types have cool new ideas all the time.

Some have an idea and think "it would be cool if someone did that", others do it.

The problem most doers have when they get a new idea is they are already working on a cool idea.

These new ideas will distract the driven, unless they write them down in a trusted system.

I always wrote ideas down in notebooks, but I don't like paper's distributed, non-indexed characteristics as a persistent storage medium. Also, being in my 20s I like to move to a new city every couple years by plane and staying completely digital makes this lifestyle easy.

I wrote an app called IdeaList to solve this problem for myself, I was almost finished with it and about to ship when a consulting project with an urgent deadline came by that was too good to refuse.

I've been using it myself and its increased my peace of mind considerably to know all my Awesome Ideas are there.

This post reminded me that IdeaList is something worth releasing because its a slick solution to a critical problem.

I'm going to charge a very small amount to keep the service viable, but anyone from hacker news that might be interested gets a free lifetime subscription if they email me today at will@willholloway.net

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I think doing this as a single document works well...but I like to do this with text files in a dropbox folder. The file name serves as the description of the idea, and the textfile contains any details/updates I have in mind. Ordering by date-created or updated seems to work fine. A little more overhead but allows for "overflow", when some ideas have more meat to begin with.

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There is software called Notational Velocity that can be setup to use a folder of text files like this. I have mine setup like this on Dropbox and it works great.

http://notational.net/

The software presents a reverse chronological list of the files' updated timestamps, has a 'search-or-create' style of file creation, and can have links to one file within another.

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I really like Notational Velocity - or, for me, ResophNotes on Windows and Simplenote on the iPhone. Before this, I tried MobileOrg on my phone, an Org Mode app - the search in NV is just much smoother and more useful.

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I do the same as well - except that the contents are encrypted through TrueCrypt before syncing with Dropbox.

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I do the same. Most importantly, I use a Dropbox capable plaintext editor on my phone so that no matter where and when my hunches or thoughts come from, they get written down. That has gotten even easier with my phones excellent voice dictation capability (I won't mention which one to avoid a stupid platform war distraction).

I like this solution over Evernote because my notes are not trapped in a proprietary solution, but also because you want the simplest UI so that you focus on your thought. There are many great writing apps for your phone, tablet or pc that take all the distractions away for this very reason.

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I have a single OmniOutliner file with all of my ideas and random thoughts. It is much better to have tools that support ad-hoc organization than tools that limit you to a flat space. It's so easy to create outlines in OmniOutliner, that it would be silly not to. Definitely recommend it. Before that, it was emailing ideas to myself with a tag in the subject line.

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There's a whole book on this type of topic called "Making Ideas Happen" that discusses the idea of the "Backlog" for all your ideas. There's also a dedicated website called http://99u.com/ that supports the materials in the book. Check it out.

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I should add that I've been using Trello to track my personal "Spark File" (or Backlog) for awhile now. Works wonderfully. And as a bonus makes it easy to "riff" on certain ideas for a couple minutes without committing to anything.

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I use Trello for this. I have a board with a few lists, each with a different category of idea on it. When I get a new idea, I add a card for it. As I develop the idea, I add to the card.

At some point I either archive the card out, or I setup a new board/list/card elsewhere to actually pursue the idea.

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That looks like a weak version of "How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought you Think", http://www.speakeasy.org/~lion/nb/ . You don't have to dive completely into Lion Kimbro's system to find parts of it very useful. Especially the use of speeds for quick jottings and the binders for organizing things so you can find them again. No matter how much of his actual system you might end up using though, reading his book about it will open your eyes.

My initial system is similar to his, but I found transcribing everything into computer better, mainly because of easier searching, and because it made sharing information that applied to multiple projects easier.

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Interesting how many of us here mention some concept of an idea log across media such as wikis, paper notebooks, text files, the web, and others.

My own implementation is a journal, each day in its own plain text file. I track the major milestones in my day and prefix ideas with "Idea: " so that I could easily grep all ideas into one list if needed. (However, I haven't done that yet. I tend to let them sit and incubate rather than act immediately.)

I'm curious about 3 things:

(1) What motivated the start of such behavior for others?

(2) How do you react to your idea log with respect to balancing focus between current projects / work, and speculative projects?

(3) How do others account for visuals such as sketches or interface ideas which are often easier to create with analog tools?

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(1) What motivated the start of such behavior for others?

I was letting things slip and forgetting things I needed to remember; so it was more of a "hey, I need to be more organized" kind of thing, but it also came with the benefit of capturing EVERYTHING.

(2) How do you react to your idea log with respect to balancing focus between current projects / work, and speculative projects?

It's sad but true, you can do anything, but not everything. Most of what I capture are todos, maybe the occasional project or "big idea", but two things have forced me to realize I can't do everything. First, I was forgetting things again, because I'd capture them and never see them again (reviewing wouldn't help; there are simply too many to review them all). Second, to fix the first, I added a default deadline of "today" to my capture template. Then once I started going down my todo list, I would reschedule, only to come across some things again and reschedule again. After a while, I finally started forcing myself to either cancel or indefinitely defer things. I have a core set of "must dos", habits, chores and such, plus short term goals, but haven't quite gotten to the long term planning stage yet. For now, it's all logged, version controlled and archived in git, so I never truly "lose" anything, I just give up on doing everything and prioritize.

(3) How do others account for visuals such as sketches or interface ideas which are often easier to create with analog tools?

I'm mostly an auditory/textual person (code monkey by day), so I don't miss that too much. You could do ASCII art, I suppose (http://emacs-fu.blogspot.com/2009/01/drawing-pictures.html ;) Although, I would like to have some nice charts (or at least cumulative stats) for a bigger picture; this is actually yet another project idea of mine, which is very feasible with org-mode: http://orgmode.org/worg/org-contrib/babel/intro.html

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I experienced similar "panic scheduling" with (2) myself. I'm trying to forego due dates and deadlines except when completely necessary (often because of procrastination).

I'm trying to take a low-tech approach to my system as opposed to having more tech. It's easier for me to ignore the list of "random things to research someday" when it's on an index card at home than on my laptop and phone everywhere. At the same time, I rarely find myself missing lists like these.

My own sketches tend to pile up physically with the eventual goal of being scanned in and named with the date drawn.

Thanks for sharing.

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As to the easy to ignore, I can always defer or just remove the deadline (then it won't show up in the agenda); I'd rather capture and ignore than lose data. I don't get a lot of "big ideas", but I'm constantly thinking of little things that need looking after, and I will forget them if I don't record them somewhere. This even gets so bad that now I want something voice activated for when I am driving and think of something!

I've also tried scanning, to the tune of 10s of thousands of scans; then you have to manage the scans, and they aren't indexable by default (unless you have some fancy OCR type software like the Neat). It's one of the reasons I really prefer plain text: perfectly greppable, easy to slice and dice with Perl (or Python, Ruby, R, etc).

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i have notes scattered around evernote, dropbox, index cards, moleskines, iOS notes. i think it's time to compile them into a spark file!

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That was the difference for me, too. If I took notes at all it wasn't in one place (a mix of text files and iOS notes for me). Switching to Byword and a single file was faster and I was more consistent about jotting notes down no matter where I was.

More importantly, I didn't have any habit for reviewing them. Hope it helps you like it helped me!

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For me, it's org-mode in Emacs and git. Quick idea/note/todo capture combined with time logging, task management and calendar, not to mention the table features. Got it on phone and desktops/laptops.

On a slight tangent, I'm looking for something more touch screen appropriate that I can sync with git (must be text based, preferably compatible with org-mode). While I have Emacs, org-mode and git on the current phone with a hardware keyboard, that won't last forever, and I really need something that makes for very quick idea capture on a touchscreen. Bonus points for something that also tracks/logs time, manages todos and calendars (ideally, I suppose it would be org-mode optimized for a touch screen).

EDIT: Yes, I know about MobileOrg (http://orgmode.org/manual/MobileOrg.html) and while it's close (oh, so close), it's not quite close enough (notably, it's lacking logging of time spent on tasks). Although, since it is open source . . .

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Never managed to learn org-capture, so I use deft instead. Not as immediate but good enough.

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have you seen workflowy [1]? Doesn't sync with emacs AFAIK, but you might find it useful.

[1] https://workflowy.com/

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I started doing something like this in paper notebooks in the early '90s. The main difference is that my notebooks keep all of my notes. This makes the review process a lot more tedious. Maybe it is time to start a new notebook for ideas, and keep that separate from the "note" books.

Edit: one advantage of the paper process over the various software / cloud solutions is that I can still read those ancient notes. Love the cloud for business, but it is tough to beat ink and bound paper for personal records that you want to keep for a long time. An added bonus is that you can occasionally entertain visions of holding a bonfire of your old notes and starting fresh.

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Edit: one advantage of the paper process over the various software / cloud solutions is that I can still read those ancient notes.

Have you heard of this awesome thing called "ASCII"? Org-mode (among others) uses it, but adds structure, shortcuts and refiling, so you get the best of both worlds. Combined with something like Git and SSH, plus your own server (c'mon, VPS are down to what, $6/month these days?), and you've got replicated, versioned, encrypted, non-proprietary, non-lockin, forward (and backwards!) readable notes.

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You are right - I should have been running Git in 1993!

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Kindly ignoring the snide fact that, yes, git wasn't available in 1993, I'll point out that ASCII has been around since, what, the late 1960's? Of course, I will admit I was being a bit snarky too, but backups have been around forever, and text compresses really well. Of course, I can appreciate the permanence of ink, or even stone as a media (http://books.google.com/books?id=CgeHW-geducC&lpg=PA6...).

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No, you should have been running CVS or RCS in '93, for which there have been Git migration tools like git-cvsimport for years now.

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I do something very similar but with my research. Ithink Scientists have basically known about this for a while, and it is one of the primary reasons we are encouraged to keep a research journal. It is essentially a diary of all the ideas for algorithms and things to try that I randomly come up with, and it works absolute wonders. I review it completely from time to time and I am almost always guaranteed to find some brilliant idea that the old me had a while ago, and I completely forgot about since. Sometimes an old idea can combine with new context or mindset and magic happens.

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I started with a couple of flat files. Then I used a notepad, then I moved to Xfce Notes (one of my favourite pieces of software), and lately I've been moving to a folder of text files.

While this is certainly an important habit, I wouldn't call it defragmenting. Sometimes I do refine or rewrite my notes, but occasionally delete them entirely, and sometimes find myself more confused, having tied together too many concepts. One thing I have learned is that my thinking changes so much over time that conveying information, even to myself, is surprisingly difficult.

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This is a very old idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonplace_book

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Johnson actually mentions this idea in his book.

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I recently read "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning", and the author recommends setting up a personal wiki for stuff like this (and for personal notes in general). A wiki is a good fit for an idea repository because it's easy to link ideas together, have them reference each other, etc. I installed Zim Wiki a few days ago and am already feeling like my mind is less fragmented.

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Org-mode for Emacs also does this (http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/manual/html_node/org/Hyper...), and doesn't require any extra software (well, if you already have Emacs).

I don't want to sound like a fanboy, but I do just love org-mode. Of course, I was already using Emacs for development, and org-mode just slips seamlessly right in. Everyone seems to suggest some other service where the data is stored in a proprietary format on someone else's server, but I do very much like keeping control of my own data.

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I concur -- org mode is fantastic. I've only started using it recently, but I think it'd be safe to say that I'll use it forever.

Just the tables feature (http://orgmode.org/manual/Tables.html) alone is worth it, but inline LaTeX comes close. Mixing math in LaTeX with a proper table editor (unlike LaTeX) and being able to export to anything that matters (HTML, PDF and LaTeX) -- bliss!

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I used org-mode before but I didn't put enough effort in learning it. Plain .txt files worked but I started missing linking between 'Notes' or 'Tasks' after a while.

I picked up org-mode again after trying a few online tools (including Google Docs and Trello), only this time spending an entire day reading the docs and a few blog posts on customisation before putting it into use.

The day ended with a "(add-hook 'after-init-hook '(lambda () (org-agenda-list 1)))" at the end of my .emacs file.

It was totally worth it. I am more organised now and as someone who gets distracted easily and may have a slight case of Adult ADHD, it has had a positive effect in my life. Just add Dropbox to the mix and it becomes all the more awesome. As you said, I love it how it just 'fits' in with Emacs when writing code.

Learning org-mode is not a wasted effort. There is just so many things that you can do with it once you know what you want.

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A desktop open-source app for this could be Tomboy (should run on all major three platforms, with OS X lagging a bit behind occasionally).

http://projects.gnome.org/tomboy/

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YMMV; I've used Zim for a few years, and I find it useful to track things to do and some work-related stuff; however I don't feel it comparable to the "spark file". I must try this one.

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I'm going to try this. Any reason for choosing Zim?

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I was trying to find something that would work on Ubuntu and Windows, and where I could keep data in Dropbox. Zim does the former and mostly does the latter; I didn't find anything else that did both.

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I've been using the awesome Notational Velocity to keep track of TODOs, my 'Spark File', expenses, confidential information, personal diary etc. etc.

The contents are encrypted through a TrueCrypt virtual volume and the volume is saved into Dropbox.

I've found this to be a great setup - the searchability and keyboard centric navigation of NV provides a friction free environment to quickly record content.

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As a songwriter I do this instinctively as part of writing songs. I'll often jot down ideas on a note book or into evernote then revisit everything later. It's a great habit to be in, the revision can be enlightening - as the author says - and can lead to much better insight.

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Better to evolve a great piece slowly over time than to force a mediocre one prematurely into the world.

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In just skimming through comments, it's interesting to note how many people already keep this habit, myself included - my spark file can be found in the back cover of my notebooks... Keepin' it analog.

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http://myide.as I builded this small app last year as a way to quickly share my "sparks" with friends anonymously or not.

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I started implementing https://thoughtstreams.io the last few weeks for very much this kind of thing.

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Separating the doing from the thinking about what to do is the one reason why the Getting Things Done approach works.

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I have found OneNote to be an excellent tool for this. One of the main apps that make it worth running a VM for me.

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After keeping a thoughts.txt diary for a year, one of the best things is that I can grep my thoughts.

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I switched my brain to linux and haven't had to defrag in years.

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Hm, I didn't expect a novelty account on HN.

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