I guess I can make a case for this being an akrasia question: this is something I want to do better, and I’m sure I can, but I don’t, yet. I guess on that basis I could say questions about anything I don’t know how to do yet are akrasia questions… all I can say in my defence is that it was too tempting not to ask this, with the expertise and shared mindset of people here: maybe somebody here has some wisdom on this?
I’ve been journalling things more often over the past few years. I find it useful, not least just because you don’t have to think about how to organize it: it’s “append-only”. Really I’m talking here about organizing my thinking and incoming information about a subject over a long period of time (weeks / months).
But I’m sure I’ve not nailed yet how to balance time-based append-only journals with records that I keep on updating.
Some other good things about journal-structured notes:
- It makes things easy to find if you have a vague sense when they happened – which is often the case.
- It makes it easy to see how out-of-date something is likely to be.
- It lets you see what you think are current problems as of right now, rather than things you thought were important some time ago.
- It brings those things back into active memory and lets you think them through in the current context with your current understanding.
- You don’t build up an enormous backlog that you won’t work through.
- You don’t end up laboriously maintaining reference material that you’ll never use: if something becomes irrelevant, it just stays there in the history.
- There’s no tendency to invent an increasingly-elaborate-over-time (and increasingly-failing) hierarchy of categories in which to file things
- You don’t lose the record of your earlier understanding as it was: can work well with episodic memory to bring back that understanding and to understand why it was you came to a conclusion in the past
- It lets you motivate yourself by seeing your progress
Some bad things:
- When you need to frequently refer to some particular aspect of knowledge that has evolved over time, you end up with messy duplicate information
- If you don’t associate something with an approximate date, it’s harder to find things
- When you need to make sure something gets done eventually or before other event happens, it can get lost – but often with big projects, a lot of what you’re doing is working out exactly what DOES need to get done, and that’s a thing where your understanding evolves over time – so I find this a tricky choice
Right now I feel like it’s not bad as a default for long-running projects, but that I need a more consistent ways of identifying and pulling out select parts that do need to be maintained as reference material.
Is that how other people see this? How do you choose what to pull out? When you spot something like that, how do you do that? Tagging? Separate file/note/page/whatever of some kind? Links to/from journal entries?