So you wanna start a commonplace–but you’re not sure about how to do it?
I have been commonplacing for 5 years–as of writing this–and I think it’s the singular most important thing I did for my work and studies. Why? Because it gives you a “skeleton structure” to place everything you do; instead of having to invent the wheel from scratch every time (like most people do).
It also lets you save time and keep trivial info out of your head.
This, in turn, leaves more room for creative thought and having ideas.
And, that, compounds over time.
The more time you save by eliminating B.S from your life, the more time you can allocate for studies, creative work, and “working on your life”.
The earlier you start, the better. Like rolling a snowball, or saving up money.
Now, let me answer the question I started with: “Should you keep a physical or a digital commonplace?”
You should most likely keep a digital commonplace. (90% certainty).
- It’s faster to use
- It’s easier to find the info you need (once you have a large archive)
- It can sync to your phone (at least for Evernote’s app)
- It’s easier to re-arrange (this is important if you have +1000 notes and you suddenly come up with a better structure for organization, or you invent new systems to make your life more effective)
- The technology/software for information storage is improving at a rapid rate. I think we will have quite sophisticated means for externalizing our thoughts and storing info (as a commonplace allows you to do) in the future. Migration of info will be guaranteed.
As for physical:
The benefit of physical is that it feels more meaningful.
The drawbacks of physical = all of the benefits of digital.
My own situation: Over past 5-6 years.
I have a massive digital commonplace–with over 7000 notes.
At the same time, I have physically summarized more than 200 books I’ve read (filled out in 4 large, blank-page books).
I’ve also filled out more than 10 empty notebooks with random thoughts, journals, and ideas.
I do this because I think it’s good variation for the brain and because I have a habit of writing things down (I do not trust short-term memory).
Still, the big problem is this: It’s very hard for me to find what I’m looking for if I want to go back and give it a review.
It’s harder to be systematic and consistent with it in physical format I think.
In summary: You want to formulate a framework of learning early in life.
If you want to learn how to build a robust commonplace system that scales over time — to become a valuable archive over your work… then check out TUCS.