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There are two kinds of notes

Reference and action.

Reference are notes that you can find when you think of them. You come to think of some old friend; can you find her number in your address book? Your account numbers, passport, passwords, recipes, ideas, facts, research notes. If you think of it and you want to retrieve it, it’s reference. Common attempts to organize reference include tags, trees, indexing, date-sorting, search, alphabetical folders, and links and graphs.

Action are notes that find you when you don’t think of them. That tells you to get lemons in the grocery store, to get to the dentist when you have an appointment, and what to work on when you have spoons and a desk. If it’s there for you when you would’ve forgotten it, it’s action. Common attempts to organize action include alarms, calendars, reminders, TODO lists, check lists, shopping lists, putting it in your bag ahead of time, leaning it against the door. I have a note in the bag where I keep fresh dishwashing brushes that tells me to use the old one to clean out my dustpan before I throw it out.

Knowing how to sift action from reference and vice versa, and organizing them accordingly is awesome.