Atomic essay 23 – how I do research: part 6 (final thoughts)

What’s the point of this system? At the heart of it – and to the heart of it we must return, or it’s all just moves – are a few simple goals.

Atomic essay 23 – how I do research: part 6 (final thoughts)
Photo by Liviu C. / Unsplash

What’s the point of this system? At the heart of it – and to the heart of it we must return, or it’s all just moves – are a few simple goals:

  • To collect insights
  • To grow insights
  • To connect ideas in new ways
  • To remember what’s important.

Why this system? Why not another? There’s another simple answer: I’ve tried others. Versions of this system, other people’s systems, other systems I’ve made up, no system at all. The latter has been my default for most of my life. I’ve lost count of the time I’ve come to a juddering halt. That hasn’t happened yet.

There are, of course, no perfect systems. You, reader, might not need one beyond paper and pen, if that. It is very possible that I have overcomplicated this. Recently, I have started to be looser with by note-taking and idea-generation, now I’ve managed to instill some discipline. The walls of my office are covered in post-it notes. I’m using a notebook and pen a lot more.

There aren’t any rules, not really. I’ve self-imposed rules for my own good, for my own use case. But you can do anything.

This system helps me hold onto things I’d otherwise lose. But the fact is that we do lose track of things. We just need to do our best to keep hold of the things that really matter. That's what I do like about this system – it's about tending to the information that matters and recalling things you'd otherwise forget, to forge new connections. That way, there's always something to write about.

For evidence of the usefulness of this system, I suppose we could look at the fact that this is the 23rd blog post I've written in 23 days. That has been helped in no small way by this system. When I'm stuck for what to write, I look through my notes and see what the connections are. Not always, but sometimes.

Ideas can come from a multitude of places.