This is tricky. Plan to experiment and eventually discover what works for you. Your basic options are:
Analog (paper and pen)
Digital (software for your computer, tablet, or smartphone)
Both of the above
This is the classic medium for a commonplace book—anything from a cheap spiral-bound notebook to a fancy hardcover journal.
Some people prefer a three-ring notebook, which allows you to add, delete, and rearrange pages.
Ryan Holiday, on the other hand, uses index cards. And Twyla Tharp—dancer and author of The Creative Habit—grabs a big empty box when she starts to choreograph a piece. She fills the box with handwritten notes, CDs, books, article clippings, and other physical objects that are relevant to her project.
Digital tools offer a dizzying number of options. Some examples are:
- Journaling apps such as Day One and Moleskine’s iPhone app
- Note-taking apps such as Microsoft OneNote, Notes for the Apple devices, and Evernote.
- Blogging platforms such as WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace, and Tumblr
- Writing apps—anything from Microsoft Word or Pages to plain text editors such as TextEdit, TextPad, iA Writer, and nvALT.
Analog plus digital
This is what Ben Casnocha does. He has a three-step workflow:
- I take notes in meetings in paper moleskine notebooks.
- I go back through the notes with a different color pen and circle the key sentences and in effect annotate my own annotations.
- I transfer the highlighted notes to Evernote files on my computer (if they’re private) or directly onto my blog or twitter feed (if they’re public). Probably 5% of what I write down with pen and paper ever makes it into an electronic system, but the act of writing and then re-typing and publishing those 5% of thoughts really solidifies them into my memory.
Bottom line: Plan to experiment until you create a system that you’ll actually use.