Managing notes

Hello everybody,

I am mostly a lurker around here but I am a bona fide member of the Circa Society. :)

How do you all handle note-taking? Here's what I'm faced with.

I am puzzled about the management of my notetaking. I am just finishing my PhD and moving into a new phase of my life which I expect (hope!) to be quite different from the last 10-12 years of my life, during which I have worked in research as a student and professionally. I'm trying to come up with a new system better adapted to a more diverse life in order to keep track of things I write down.

I take lots of notes. As [who?] said, not to be reminded later but to remember now. My brain cannot seem to function unless I have a pen in hand. I don't always review them, but sometimes I do.

For planning: I use a combination of a Circa junior-sized planner I built with weekly and daily pages and (computer-based) ThinkingRock for GTD-style project/action management. (Great little piece of software for those who don't know of it.) I also use a Circa compact as a capture tool.

Currently my notes are too scattered for my taste: I have some in notebooks (project based or not), some go in a notes section of my planner, some go into my bibliographic database on my computer, some have been going into EverNote (another nice piece of software). I also write daily in a freewriting notebook (stuff related to research) and I copiously journal.

I'm trying to simplify and consolidate. I'm still brainstorming but I'd like to know what you all do with your notes, how you take them, how you review them and how you store them, for inspiration.

Many thanks,


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notes advice in the articles

Hi Brigitte,

I'm not a particularly organised notetaker but there are some people here who have marvellous ideas.

It’s worth having a look at the articles for inspiration. Especially in the 'notebooks and notetaking' section.

For example, some that may help you are

- The advantages of keeping an analog work journal (this is a very useful article for anyone wanting to index notes simply and sensibly)

- Take a Note, which includes comments on note storage

- The Value of Tagging (Part 2)


Thank you Katrina! I'll have

Thank you Katrina! I'll have a look at those to begin with!

What I've tried

I don't know what bibliographic software you use, but I can add keywords in mine, and I now use that software to help me keep track of my notes. If I have short notes from some source, I'll just add them to the bibliographic record. But for longer notes, I'll add a note as to what I have where. I'll sometimes enter a dummy bibliographic record for an "unpublished manuscript," if I have extensive notes I've taken from archives at research institutions, rather than from published sources, and leave myself a reminder as to where those notes are. This helps, too, if I'm working on another project that is, on the surface, unrelated to my archival research, but a keyword reminds me that there is something in my notes that would assist in the second project.

I'm an academic, and I always have multiple long-term projects ongoing, so this seems to help. I also have a central research/writing Circa notebook that I use to keep record of my project status and next actions. I use this, too, to keep track of the status of my doctoral/MA students' progress and deadlines.