The benefits and disadvantages of “Official Notes”


I’ve been annoyed for quite some time with my system of “Official Notes” – my title for Word docs containing plans and ideas about some or other way of making money. Such an “official note” is always filled with page after page of thoughts on the subject, bullet points, lists, tables and explanations.

I have become annoyed because it’s become abundantly clear that I spend precious hours filling these documents with notes that are supposed to facilitate a process, to find answers to questions, so I can finally advance – without actually advancing on any front.

My new approach is to just start with a basic idea of what I want to do and some elementary planning, but without wasting too much time on “official” paperwork.

Just do, let the notes be, is my advice these days.

Then, just now, I realized something: Most of my literary material over the years has been “official notes” about my life. Instead of just doing, I withdrew, and made notes about what I think I needed to do, why, why maybe not, what the alternatives might be, what makes more sense, what will have more value for me, and even for others.

In a piece from June 2003 I asked, “Where is my place in the Greater Hierarchy?” If I had to apply the advice then that I give myself these days, I wouldn’t have wasted my time. I would have simply walked in a direction and took up the first place that felt more or less right at that moment.

Would I have been right to do so?

What I did by making notes was indeed to take a position. To seek my place in the so-called Greater Hierarchy and to ask hundreds of other related questions, I actually did take a position.

I collect information. I take notes. I compile lists. I come up with ideas – some of them a waste of time, others quite decent (as far as these things go) and potentially profitable. And, as I can easily prove, I do take action; I apply in practice once I’ve decided on something in the course of my sometimes obsessive note-taking.

It is true that I have spent a lot of time on making notes – on topics ranging from ways to make money to the process of sorting out who and what you are and what the possible meaning is of your existence. It is also true that in some cases I have not applied that much in practice. Is that necessarily bad, though?

If you spread open on a table before you a roll of cloth in order to make yourself a pair of trousers and a shirt, or a dress, I believe it’s better to measure twice and cut once.

I also believe if you continue measuring and never get to the cutting part, you’d better be happy appearing to the world naked, with no fruits of your labour, no garment to show for your time.