Reminder Cards

Habits, Thinking Tools

I advocate a lot of simple tools. Here’s one for remembering good advice: Make a pack of reminder cards. By reminder cards, I literally mean 3″x5″ index cards with handwriting on them.

So, for example, over the years, I developed a pack of about 30 blue index cards with writing advice. Several cards consisted of editing checklists. Others listed questions to ask before or during writing. Several listed steps to take in the writing process. I read probably 50 books on writing over a 10 year period, and whenever found a great new idea, I summarized it on a card. For years, whenever I had problems writing, I shuffled through that card deck to find a critical tip. (Eventually, I organized this into my Nonfiction Writing Handbook.)

Similarly, I developed a pack of about 15 purple index cards with exercises. Some are stretching sequences, some are breathing or Alexander Technique exercises, some are physical therapy exercises. I would use a card regularly for a while, then it would stay in the pack. If I needed a refresher, I’d go back and find the appropriate purple card.

I also have stacks of cards for motivational quotes (which can give a little boost of encouragement), warmup questions for thinking, procedures for planning, and a few other miscellaneous categories.

I keep them all together in a little bin on my desk, and I add to them whenever I see a gem I want to remember. Sorting through the physical cards is a pleasurable experience. As I read each one, I remember why I thought the advice was so good, and how that idea could help me at present.

Some of you may think this is old fashioned. Why not use a notes program instead of cards? I say, if a file works for you, great. Cards are better for me. I can spread them out and look at them all at once. Plus, the need to write out the advice on a physical card helps me be selective about what I include. If I just had to cut and paste into a file, I would be indiscriminate. Soon I’d have an unwieldy mess–too much information to be helpful.

My little pack of cards keeps useful ideas at my finger tips. If you are finding some of the tips I send out helpful, why not start your pack of cards with some of them now?


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