Note Taking 2023


I’ve been keeping a Bullet Journal consistently since 2018. I followed Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal YouTube channel for learning how to keep one and new additions Ryder would make to the system.

A challenge with the analog system has been the about the ability to search analog notes for something specific I may be looking for. Another challenge has been the inability to embed multimedia from various sources.

On his channel, in a recent video, Ryder was answering a question posed to him on how he integrates a digital calendar into his workflow. He confessed that he uses a digital calendar but uses a Bullet Journal notebook as his source of truth. He further elaborates that he captures any task, event or note first in his notebook before transferring it to a digital tool he may use for the same purpose.

Tiago Forte recently launched an interview series following the launch of his book, Building A Second Brain. I’ve enjoyed watching this series because he captures people’s entire productivity system very well. One of his recent interviews is with Ryder Carroll.

Ryder has always been open about the fact that his process evolved. But, this video shows the extent up to which his process has evolved. Here, it did not seem to me that the Bullet Journal was as fundamental to his system as he seems to claim in the video above (the one about the digital calendar).

This left me disenchanted about what systems people share about their note-taking system online. It was silly on my part to believe what was shared. But, I assumed good-faith, that what they were sharing was the system they were following.

My Note Taking Journey

I was interested in note taking since about 2018 when the Bullet Journal gave me a framework to take notes. I was not deliberate with my note-taking till 2020. That is when I took Saurabh’s course on Notes for Growth Notetaking 101:

I think his announcement about this session in July 2020 is what helped me get on Roam Research early on, as one of it’s early adopters. It was this session that told me about Zettelkasten. It was at this session that I seriously followed Tiago Forte and Nat Eliason. But, it was also here that I started going into the world of note-taking. Roam Research, Notion, Obsidian, etc. Through it all, I’m happy that I kept my Bullet Journal.

I did not enjoy Notion because it was very structured for me. With Roam Research, I always worried that they would suddenly ask me to pay $15 a month that I would not be able to afford. With Obsidian, I wasn’t able to give it more time but I spend time browsing and enjoying other people’s note gardens. There are many more but I thought it was time to double down and settle for something.

Text-based Productivity System

I’ve reached plain-text for my productivity system. I use Notepad++ for my home productivity system management and OneNote for work productivity system management.

This blog post by Derek Sivers opened my mind to the possibility of a text based productivity system. Cal Newport wrote about it in 2009! When I posted it on Twitter, I got a reply from @tshrinivas which opened up many more possibilites:

I’ve now moved my bullet journal from dotted to square grid paper for my bullet journal. With text based tools, I’ve been more confident with portability and not afraid to capture my notes in email, Google Keep, chits, notes, etc. I am confident that I will move the most important of these into my text based productivity system.


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