Emanuel Sprosec

Analog Notes


I have stopped using note-taking software to jot down personal thoughts and other things. Instead, I have started writing them on paper index cards and "saving" them in a small plastic box, creating my own Zettelkasten. The interesting thing is that I haven't used pen and paper in over 20 years. I have always relied on computers for this purpose and accumulated an enormous amount of text files, although today I have only a small number of them left. I also have an affinity for text files, and the reality is that I am faster on the keyboard than with a pen, and my handwriting is quite messy.


I have been trying this analog method for months now, and I have already written more than 250 notes on index cards. These notes encompass thoughts about writing, dreams, ideas, concepts and even computer-related topics. And what can I say? I love it. It feels good—much better than digital. I have also created index cards with keywords to quickly find my notes again and the important thing is that it takes time. This time investment is helpful because it fosters a stronger connection to the content. I find, that I remember things better and I think twice before writing them down. I have also stopped worrying about my handwriting and have come to accept the messy letters, because in the end it doesn't matter. I am the only one who (can) reads this stuff. It's my analog second brain and somehow it feels more efficient than my digital notes.

The truth

I now understand all the complaints about digital note-taking solutions finally, which I used to dismiss as merely a modern trend. But it's more than that: I consider it a fact. Writing something down by hand is not easy. It not only takes time, sometimes it's challenging too. You have to accept spelling mistakes and sometimes you want to change everything on the cards, but can't. You may also wonder, "How can I share this stuff then?" However, it still feels much more valuable and after a while, you start asking yourself "WHY should I share it?"

So now I consider myself an analog notetaker. It doesn't stop me from writing things online here, but the main content goes into my second paper brain.

Yes, I had the same questions

If you're thinking about things like, "What happens if everything burns down? Can someone steal it? How do you access it on the go?" and other similar questions... believe me, I have around ~50 notes in my box dedicated precisely to these topics. They were my first notes and they explore the pros and cons and provide guidance on how to handle such situations. I had many, many concerns about this initially (for weeks and months and read an awful amount of opinions about that online), but the result is that staying analog is worthwhile.

Next steps

In the past few days I have also started using a small pocket notebook and will be incorporating index cards as a personal organizer in my office too. Let's see if this method works better for gaining a clearer overview than dealing with my daily digital barrage of ~100 emails, team messages, meetings, projects and other matters.

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Last update: 21.05.2023