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The “In Case Of” files

One of the stops on my never-ending quest to hack the externalized brain (i.e. make the best note system of all time) is my “In Case Of” notes.

It’s a section hanging out in my personal OneNote (the one that acts as a repository for everything I haven’t meticulously organized yet), and it really is just called “In Case Of” at the top. I’ve then broken it down into sub-sections, mostly by whim; there’s no true rhyme or reason.

An example: the “Creativity” section.

If your first question is, “What’s demanded persuasion, anyway?” you’re not wrong to ask. In fact I myself had to click on it again to figure it out. (Demanded persuasion is, apparently, the state of being required to write something in order to sell something else. My titles could definitely use some cleaning-up.) But I did make the names of these OneNote pages kinda poetic on purpose. I wanted to be drawn in by my own curiosity at the right moment.

Have I perfected this sub-system yet? Hell no. Has it given me a little inspiration at the right moment? Once or twice, yes, and that’s more than I can say for any other system of remembering things when I need them most*.

(Quick side note: you might wonder why I advocate for OneNote over something physical. I don’t, actually. I write most of my ideas and thoughts down by hand first — and then I transcribe, cull, and organize later, giving my brain a second round of percolation. Plus, I can access my structured notes anywhere from my phone, which is often when I know what I need on the fly and therefore need to know where to find it. I definitely encourage you to keep a physical notebook that you change out every six months or so as well, for the other method of inspiration: random review stimulus.)

Alright, back to my “In Case Of” files. What’s inside the pages? The answer is: anything that can go into OneNote. (Files, images, tables, highlighted notes…mostly these.) It really depends on the topic. Some pages have a single quote or image that inspired me to create the page in the first place. Others are repositories well-laden with goodies.

As you might have imagined, the “writer’s block” section is pretty full. Writers love to write about having writer’s block, and other writers love to read it.

If you can read the above screenshot, you’ll see that I save myself a combination of things: admonishments, encouragements, strategies, even a color to associate with the problem or mindset so I can use it to make my environment more accommodating. If I find diagrams or demonstrative graphics for exercises, I’ll paste those in here, along with videos of speeches that inspire, music intended to evoke specific responses, and images that stimulate my imagination.

There’s no right or wrong way to go about making an “In Case Of” stash, but I can share a few of my techniques, in case they help you get started on your own.

I began with the first layer of organization — the segments of my life and well-being.

My list looked something like:

  • Creativity
  • Body
  • Mind
  • Relationships
  • Spirituality

Other candidates that haven’t necessitated their own section in my notebook (but might in yours) include resources, career, family, children, grief, illness, success, business, clients, housing, charity, fear…anything, really.

Next, I considered the challenges I face in each area.

My creative challenges include failed art, a missing muse, writer’s block, troubles during revision, and slow progress.

My body challenges include back pain, extreme heat, headache, ungracefulness, and general disagreement with my body.

My mind challenges include being needy, feeling lost, needing control, being forgetful, doubting myself, stress, and the blues.

My relationship challenges include conflict, dealing with enemies, doubting my relationships, and dealing with stubborn social problems.

My spirituality challenges include loss, wandering, and needing magic.

When I need new pages for new challenges, I make them.

Now, as I browse, read, watch, listen, and learn, and I react to something by thinking, “Wow, I would want to have this when I XYZ,” I add to the corresponding pages.

If you’ve got OneNote open on your PC (not the app, the full application — blegh, those terms are confusing!), you can right-click on the icon and choose “Take screen clipping” to grab whatever it is you’re looking at online and copy it directly into the OneNote page you’re currently on. Hell of a shortcut!

Here are some things I add to my “In Case Of” stash. It’s kind of like a fully-private Pinterest board.

  •  Quotes
    • Encouragement
    • Inspiration
    • Admonishment
    • Thought-provoking
    • Personally said to me
  • Text
    • Ideas (eg. “Find an unmourned soul worth a turn or two of the imagination.”)
    • Strategies (eg. “See if what you’re writing is just a situation. Now, add a complication.”)
    • Exercises (eg. instructions for The Bellows Breath)
    • Articles (eg. an article on the megastructure spotted by Kepler)
    • Journal entries
  • Images
    • Diagrams (eg. exercises for sore shoulders from computer overuse)
    • Photographs (eg. a picture of my family laughing together; photos of my favorite places in the world, at sunset)
    • Artwork (eg. a sigil for creativity; a landscape like a dream I had)
  • Videos
    • Speeches
    • How-tos
    • Inspiration
    • Music (eg. meditation music; a favorite song as a pick-me-up)
    • Funny clips (eg. the disembodied basset hound head bounding across the field)
  • Letters
    • From me
    • To me
    • To and from famous people
  • Links
    • Tutorials (eg. how to make a beaded charm for good luck)
    • Social media accounts (eg. a funny bot account for when I need a chuckle)

*When the moment of needing them is also ambiguous and flexible; for time- or location-based reminders, I use Cortana!

Published inOneNoteTools and resources