Collection Pools

How do you store your notes and reference information in a way that’s low overhead and easy to find?  The key is to created a limited set of places to look that you trust.   I use a small set of what I call Collection Pools.  I think of them as pools because they’re effectively pools of reference information I draw from.

Collection Pools
I currently use the following pools:

  • Notes

  • Quick Stuff

  • Thoughts

I create a folder in Outlook for each pool and I create posts in the folders.  It’s flat by design.  I could just as easily use a folder  on my hard drive with text files, but I like the preview pane in Outlook and sometimes the rich text helps.

Using the Pools
Here's how I use the pools:

  • Notes is where I store the majority of my reference information which is anything from a meeting recap to notes from a Web page.  It’s one long flat list of posts, ordered by time.  I can quickly sort by title or search for a keyword.  I used to use a local Wiki, but I find a flat lists of posts to be really lightweight and effective.  Scrolling through my notes is great with the preview pane in Outlook.

  • Quick Stuff is where I keep a lot of common lookup information and indexes, such as favorite links, lab machine names, distribution lists … etc.

  • Thoughts is where dump my ideas and distinctions I make throughout the day.  It’s my pool of insights.  It’s a very light-weight way to journal my ideas and distinguish my insights from the rest of my reference notes.

I actually started with my Notes and Quick Stuff folder a few years back.  I thought it would be a temporary solution while I explored options.  It turned out to be the most efficient approach of all the various ways I tried.  I always knew where to put things and I always knew where to look and it was always open.  I added the Thoughts folder in February this year.  It too turned out to be the most efficient approach I have for a scannable set of ideas and insights and I like the ability to scroll through time.

While there’s a lot of fancier things I could do, simple text notes chunked up in a few folders is a pretty efficient system.  I think the lesson here is that for a practice to stick over time, it has to be simple enough and effective enough.  Otherwise, it fails the test of time. 

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Comments (6)

  1. tuscan5 says:

    Could you display screen shots?

  2. JD Meier says:

    I haven’t made the leap yet to images, but I’ll see what I can do.  It might take me a bit.

  3. A few readers asked me to show some screens of my approach in Outlook. (I haven’t used images in my blog

  4. A few readers asked me to show some screens of my approach in Outlook. (I haven't used images in

  5. Justin says:



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