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The joy of simple bulleted lists

I’ve tried many, many systems for taking notes and keeping track of tasks over the last 20 years.

And in that time, the only one that’s worked consistently for me or actually stuck around is the humble bulleted list.

Let’s dig in!

The basics

  • In my second brain, every item gets added as a bullet.
  • If it’s a thought or thing I need to remember, I use a standard bullet.
  • If it’s a task I need to complete, I include a checkbox.

The nitty gritty

  • I have a few separate “pages” for different categories of notes, but a lot of stuff just gets dumped into an Inbox note so I don’t have to think about where to put things in-the-moment.
  • I keep my notes divided into a few broad categories like Home and Work.
  • I create a unique page for each specific category of thing. In Work, for example, I have one note with a list of daily article ideas, and another with details for a talk I’m working on.

Why bullets?

They’re short, simple, and easy to skim. Plus, I never have to think about “how” to write my notes or where to put them.

Co-mingling my ideas, important details, and todo items aligns with how my bee-filled brain naturally works already.

Digital FTW!

A digital second brain makes this style of note taking a lot more workable.

Most todo apps and digital notebooks provide a way for you to keep stuff on separate pages or lists, but pull all-of-the-things into a single view so you can scan through the whole thing at once.

A digital second brain can also be searched to quickly find stuff as your lists grow bigger and more unruly over time.

And through things like tags and stars or favorites, you can flag specific todos as “stuff to focus on today,” while keeping it in the context of its original list.

If you personally work better on paper, a bullet journal approach might bring some of the benefits of digital to a paper notebook. I personally find it too complex, but a lot of ADHD folks really like it.

In a future article, I’ll share my favorite digital second brains.

An example

Here’s an actual example from my notes for Go Make Things, my web dev education business, and some course updates I was planning…

  • Varying lengths and levels of depth, but follow the Vanilla JS Academy model, roughly.
  • Bring back office hours!
  • Pricing ladder: $97 - $197 - $597 - $795?

As you can see, it’s a mix of thoughts and todos.