Categories of notes
I've been at this for years and I still haven't settled on a stable set of apps and workflow(s) for keeping and processing notes. Part of the reason is that different apps and workflows seem to be better suited for different kinds of notes, but I've never really sat down and rigorously analyzed what kinds of texts I deal with under the broad umbrella of "notes". I started doing that today, and I'd like to share what I've got so far in hope of sparking a discussion. Am I missing any categories? How can I (or should I) better systematize my workflows around these categories? I'm also wondering exactly where David Allen's distinction between project support material and general reference material fits in.
Probably the largest class in terms of sheer volume, this is basically anything I run across that I save because it just might conceivably come in handy someday. A lot of it is web pages I've saved using the Evernote web clipper. Notwithstanding what Christian has written about the Collector's Fallacy, I contend there's quite a lot of information that's worth storing (so it won't be lost if a web page disappears, etc.) in a place that's accessible if I ever need it but out of sight when I don't, but not necessarily worth devoting any further attention to unless and until I actually do need it.
I'll probably stick with Evernote for this, mainly because nothing else comes close to its web clipper.
Notes in process of progressive summarization
I've been using Tiago Forte's progressive summarization technique to digest texts that I want to use either as learning material for skills or projects or as source material for writing. I lean much more towards Tiago's idea of just-in-time note processing, devoting the time and attention to a particular document as and when I need it, rather than Sascha's approach of thoroughly zettelizing a text as a one-time effort so I'll never have to engage directly with the source material again.
Klib, for capturing Kindle highlights
DEVONthink for processing, but I haven't really been consistent in using it. I also use Skim for reading and annotating PDFs, and I've played around with things like MarginNote.
I think of these as atomic units of near-ready-to-publish writing, corresponding roughly to Tiago's Level 4 or 5. Some of them could potentially be published individually as tweets, others structured together at increasing levels of complexity as blog posts, articles, white papers, books, etc.
The Archive, but I'm nowhere near critical mass for "communicating" with my Zettelkasten yet.
The first three categories form a sort of linear sequence (but really more of a funnel since comparatively little material actually makes it all the way to the zettel stage, much less to the published document stage).
These are notes I jot down while working on a project that I don't expect to be of any use once the project is finished — dimensions, definitions, choice of synonyms for consistency in a translation, page references, code or API syntax, that sort of thing.
BBEdit, Agenda, or paper
Sometimes I like to keep a step-by-step record of my actions on a project, in case I need to trace errors or repeat or improve the process in the future. This category could be considered a more rigorous and permanent version of the working notes category. It also includes weekly and other periodic review logs.
BBEdit (but suspect there may be a better solution)
Info reference notes
Information that can be useful in practical terms and worth keeping but will never be incorporated as such into a project. Bus/train schedules, prices, recipes and similar instructions for closed-ended tasks.
Evernote, BBEdit, Notes.app, Paprika for recipes
Thoughts and ideas that I want to capture for incubation. Some of these may also feed into the zettelization funnel.
BBEdit, Drafts, Notes.app, paper notebook
(Wow, that came out a lot longer than I expected...)
(EDIT by Sascha: Made it a bit more appealing to the eye)
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