How to carry 'private' information on index cards

Yes, yet more about how index cards rule my world. ;)

One sometimes problem with using index cards is that whatever is written on them can be accidentally viewed by those around you. This can be anything from embarrassing to potentially harmful. For example, while you're shuffling through your card deck to find your note about the next training session the card where you've written "Project: Murder Boss. Next Step: Buy rat poison" might be exposed.

So my latest innovation for my stack-o-index cards planner is using 'trifold' cards. (And, wow, is 'innovation' a massive overstatement.)

All I do is adapt a 5 X 8" card. Measure in from each end 2.5", draw a line, then fold on those lines. (Hint: scoring along the lines with dull knife will help you fold them neatly.)

The result is a card exactly the same side as all the 3X5" cards in your stack, but it has a 'public' side and a 'private' side. Notes written on the private side (inside) of the card are kept out of sight unless you deliberately unfold it.

As a secondary benefit, you've rougly tripled how much info you can carry on a single card but the card remains small enough to tuck into a pocket. Lately I've been carrying a trifold that has my Christmas shopping list. It holds the name, budgeted amounts, gift ideas, sizes, color preferences and the like for all my giftees on a single card.

Always at hand, and yet there's no danger of Santa's secrets being revealed. :)

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good idea


A trifold card is a good idea. Doing the same with a piece of nice paper would probably work with less bulk, but would not be as durable.

I handle some things with encoding. For example, my password list. I have encoded the usernames and passwords so I know what they mean but someone who doesn't know the key wouldn't be able to decipher them. To be more specific, I use substitution. If I have a particular set of letters that I use frequently in my passwords, I replace those letters with another word that describes those letters without using them.

It works for repetitive things very well. And since most of the passwords are encoded with words and numbers and symbols, the very few that I leave in the clear are not going to leap out and say 'this one isn't encoded'. Encoding the usernames also helps in the cases where the password is in the clear.

So in your example for santa's list or the murder boss project, you can decide what sort of encoding you might like to use, whether that's writing down the opposite of what you plan to do (kiss the boss), or subbing someone else's name (murder barry), or something else instead (kitchen knife sharpening) just has to be something you'll remember long enough to get the task done.


I can see that would work well

for people with good memories.

In my case, poor Barry might be a goner. :D

patterns are the key


My memory has gone sadly south in the last 6 years (since my kids were born). I require very strong patterns to remember stuff, personally. It's much easier to use descriptive words and phrases than an arbitrary substitution.

Example: Let's say I have six cats, one of which is fluffy, and the fluffy cat's name is Powder Puff. I might use that for a password, as P0wd3rPvff, and in my password list I write down 'FlvffyC@t'. The symbols in the hint remind me to trade out the vowels for symbols in the actual password, and the description reminds me which cat's name I use as the password for this instance. Meanwhile, it looks like an actual strong password, which would probably muddy the waters if anyone grabbed my password book and tried to get into my bank account.

If my boss had a penchant for nose hair, then I might use "Trim! Nose Hair" instead of "Murder Boss", since the association between nose hair and my boss is strong for me but completely opaque to anyone but my teammates. :) Same for Xmas lists--the gift name might be in the clear, but the recipient would be obscured.

The only way it works is if the association is strong and memorable. If you just decide one day you're going to use "fiddlesticks" instead of your uncle's name on the gift list, you'll forget later who fiddlesticks is...unless he actually plays the fiddle. :)

And just in case anyone was wondering, I have no cats anymore (never did have six at a time), none of my cats were ever named PowderPuff, and my boss has no overgrown nose hair. :) No secrets being given away here.


Solutions: 2 4 1: 5x8card 2 3x5 card

Good idea-- it resolves the problem of a 3x5 card being too small for what I might want to write and also solve the problem of my carrying a bunch of 5x8 cards around when I don't have my backpack with me. thanks for the 2 solutions with 1 tip. (I apologize for the use of all the numbers in the subject line, but I could not resist the numerical puns.