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.

Weekly Notes 03/2023


The OTT list that I promised last week is still pending.

Personal Health

The throat infection has dragged on. I am back on anti-infectives. This has affected my output this week as well.

Tinkle 10 year digital subscription

I took a 10 year digital subscription to Tinkle. I want to try and read this together with Kid 1.

Bullet Journal

I liked Hiran’s adaptation of the BuJo that he mentioned in his newsletter. I am now trying it out.

Hanif Kureishi

The writer Hanif Kureishi is in a hospital in Italy.

I enjoy reading his tweet threads. Someone on Twitter had shared it earlier this week which is when I read it cursorily. I forgot who.

I found it again in the Scroll’s daily digest. They have a nice summary of the context and his tweets so far. He has a newsletter, as well.

Many of his writing in the past have been controversial.

Links to my recent Writing

On the cusp of November, I began writing again. The last time I wrote before this was for the SSLV launch in August. I did not write on the Bullet Journal instance either.

This blog post is to link to the various pieces of writing I have done at the cusp of November:

The Wire Science – When an LVM3 flies, what does it mean for India?

I wrote this piece for The Wire Science. It was published on October 30, 2022. In the article, I argue that while the LVM3 has proven reliability, it needs to sort out production issues and needs more support from the government.

Short Story – Return to Earth

I started writing this story in 2018 for National Novel Writing Month. It started as a pentalogy. I hoped to publish one novel as a part of each NaNoWriMo in the future. I then decided to cut it down to a trilogy. In 2021, I decided to cut it down further to a single novel. This story has haunted me and the only way I could think of something else for NaNoWriMo 2022 was to limit it to a short story.

Short Story – My Life is a Diwali Gift

I wrote this story in response to a prompt. I wrote a follow-up to this story that I will publish on November 10.

Newsletter #42

I sent out the 42nd edition of the newsletter on November 3.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #10

This is #10 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

Photo by Bhavesh Jain on

It's all a play of light.
It's a reflection,
When it comes back at you.
It's a shadow, 
When it's behind where you are.

A reflection let's you think about yourself.
Yourself, in terms of how you look,
Yourself, in terms of how you feel,
But, more importantly,
Reflection confirms what you feel about yourself.

A shadow tells us about ourselves,
Ourselves, in terms of what we fear,
Ourselves, in terms of what we don't expect.
But, more importantly,
Shadow tells us that fear is just a play of light. 

NaPoWriMo 2022 #5

This is #5 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

Spices and Seasonings

She remembered a time,
When the food wasn't bland and dry,
It had spices and seasonings,
And accompaniments and fries.

She remembered a time,
When rain poured from the dark sky,
When children played in puddles,
Without a worry, nor wondering why.

Now the food was bland,
As spices were lost to a fire,
Neither were there seasonings,
Because there was no one to hire.

It was just her,
Alone on Earth,
Wondering if anyone would come to save her,
Or at least get her some spices and seasonings.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #4

This is #4 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo.

the taste of an emotion

My therapist and I, 
Had tried so many things,
We had had so many sessions,
That my wife thought we were havin' flings.

I was getting desperate,
Will there ever be any cure,
We had tried so many things,
But there wasn't anything but a lot of furore.

Finally she looked at me,
Asked me point blank,
What's the taste of your emotions,
I tasted nothing, I said, being quite frank.

But then having food at home,
Quite anxious what my wife would say,
About my session with the therapist,
I felt anxiety taste bitter for the first time that day.

NaPoWriMo 2022 #3

I missed #2 in the prompts for NaPoWriMo. The numbering scheme is the prompt number and not the poetry number.

a broken object you continue to hold onto...

I am a minimalist,
So, I don't hold on to objects.
I am a spiritualist,
So, objects don't really hold me.

But, there was this one broken object,
I held it and it held me.
It was a simple Swiss knife.

It was just loose,
Although everyone else insisted 
That it was broken

The knife was with me,
Through several highs and 
Many more lows.

It was with me when I,
Used it to uncork that wine bottle,
On our beautiful honeymoon.

It was with me when I,
Had to tear open the letters,
When I was separated from my lover.

It was with me when I,
Wanted to fix my daughter's,
Broken toys and odds and ends.

It was with me when I,
Had forgotten to clean my nails,
Jus' before a work meeting.

It was with me when I,
Had to open a bottle,
Of jam for my daughter.

But now, when it is broken,
It is they, who ask me to throw it away,
They know not all that it has taken.
While I hold it and it holds me!

NaPoWriMo 2022 #1

April is celebrated as National Poetry Writing Month. An Instagram user I follow, @literarychills helped with a daily prompt for each of the thirty days. These are just my practice off-the-cuff efforts.

An Overrated Adjective

Do not use adjectives,
That was the simple directive,
I used the word overrated,
Realized too late that it's an adjective.

I was taken to a Remedial Room,
Where a machine went zip-zap-zoom,
The next thing that I realized,
Was that I had forgotten all adjectives.

Writing a Novel

November is celebrated as National Novel Writing Month in America. It’s called NaNoWriMo for short. Although it began as a US phenomenon, it has turned into a global movement. There is growing global participation each year of authors writing every day in the month of November. They hope to write about 50,000 words in the month of November. Consistent daily writing with global accountability.

My tryst with NaNoWriMo began in 2012. I do not have any public record of this. I had emailed a bunch of people in 2012 asking if they would be my beta readers. There is no record of this novel on my private storage or on Google Drive. I seem to also not have informed these people about the status of this novel.

In 2018, I started writing chapters of a science fiction novel. I had called it One in Malayalam – Onu. I had published the chapters on Medium. Although I call them Chapters, the number of words in each was very low. I don’t think the whole thing together would qualify as a short story. I was also not sure where the story was going after Chapter 8. Hence, I abandoned that effort.

In 2019, I took to a physical notebook and started writing a nation-state fiction. The first book in the series was called William Horsborg – Life and Times. I wrote about 1200 words before I gave up on that. I will take this up again. It is a story I used to tell myself as I drew maps in a notebook as a 11 year old child. I have the stories in my head and they will not leave me in peace until I have told them.

I gave 2020 a hard pass and did not attempt NaNoWriMo.

In 2021, I had mixed feelings about writing a novel. I see-sawed between wanting to write and not wanting to write. An opportunity to write for about an hour a day opened up for me yesterday. I took the time to read the story I had written in 2018.

Although, I started writing it in the month of November, I am not counting it as an entry for NaNoWriMo 2021. But, I would like to acknowledge the part that NaNoWriMo played in remembering about writing the novel.

I am calling the novel, Return to Earth, tentatively. It is not a final title and it may change. Once each chapter is over, I will share it here and on my About page. I finished writing about 1000 words of the first chapter today morning.