Sunday, January 9, 2011

I seem to have spent my time in January tidying up my workroom (which sadly needed and still needs sprucing up) and researching topics of interest on the Internet.

The problem with the research aspect is that you can so easily get sidetracked.  You start with a specific topic in mind and all it takes is one interesting blog or website and before you know it, you're off on a tangent -- a very interesting, absorbing tangent, but off topic none the less.  Unfortunately for me, it can take hours before I am away of that fact.  Luckily, in most cases, my searching simply opens new windows and I can backtrack fairly easily and resume my original search.

My notebook, however is now filled with a new list of ideas and websites to be explored at a later date.  Sometimes my original idea or technique will be completely dropped because I've become more intrigued by something I've just discovered.  I can never tell just what I will turn up on one of these forays onto the information highway.

I think the most frustrating thing, though, is to see something interesting and not take note of it right away assuming that you will be able to backtrack to that page only to find that the usually reliable back arrow doesn't take you back to that specific page and the next time you use your search parameters you don't find that blog or website again. You know it's out there somewhere in cyberspace but you don't know how you got to it the first time because it was a hop and skip from a link to a link to a link etc. and your chances of duplicating that chain of events is .... slim .... unlikely .... highly improbable.

But how do you know that something you see today, that you've never even contemplated trying, is going to be something that you might like to do seven months from now?  I don't.  But experience has taught me that if my reaction is, "gee, that's cool", or "wow", someday I might wonder how they did that and want to go back and look again.  In that case, bookmark the site and try and give it a reasonable category name - not just ART.  Then the worst that can happen is spending time hopping through my favourite links and deleted broken ones.

I also have websites recorded in my notebooks.  They are kept in chronological order.  They came about from my work days.  At one point I was trying to squeeze a part time and full time job into one full time slot.  I was a full time teacher and a part time consultant.  The part time being one day a week.  As anyone who has done this kind of thing knows, two jobs do not stay in neat time slots.  When people want the school board consultant they aren't too concerned that the "teacher" might be on her lunch hour.  I had my "consultant notebook" to keep track of calls and I kept them dated so I would know when they came in and when I'd taken action on them so they didn't slip through the cracks.  I was soon in the habit of putting the date on everything that I recorded in the book and that habit stuck with me.

When I'm working at the computer, the first thing I do is get my little notebook (3.5 x5"), find my working page, put in the date and start what I'm doing.  Whether it's paying bills, checking email, ordering supplies or researching if I can't print off a record, I make a note in my book, that includes important phone calls from tradespeople.  If there is a problem, my documentation of what's been said is in the book with the time and date beside it, waiting to be written formally if necessary.  When one notebook is filled it gets put away and another is started.  I keep them for several years.

I know that I could organize all this material on the computer in a database.  I love working with a database yet I don't do it --- strange isn't it?  There is great software out there for logging phone calls and contact management.  I taught students how to design applications for using database software and I have several myself but I still use my notebook.  Why?  

A lot of what I note down has no specific category.  It is random facts, thoughts, queries to be followed up later, book titles, authors names, urls, technique names for research, supplier possibilities.  Most of the notes are starting points only.  The end result will be a website that I'll bookmark.

A second reason for keeping it in the notebook is that rereading the notebook or idea book is a spark to creativity itself.  I find that simply going through it, looking at the ideas and queries that I've written down over time, reawakens interest in some of these ideas.  You can't do that with a database.  You can't ask, "what's in there that I don't remember and have the database pull up an answer."

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