Notes have to be re-discovered to be useful to your future self

Reading time: 3-4 min

Writing is a way for us to retain our memories, for our brain forgets while our notes do not. My daily note / journal entries and this blog serves as my way of recording my daily happenings, priorities, tasks, movement towards goals, concerns, interesting things, what I'm grateful for, and a knowledge bank for use in my future.

However, while inputting my thoughts into this memory repository can benefit my present self by clearing my head of my thoughts and putting things down in a written medium in front of me for organisation and connecting, the pure act of inputting does not benefit my future self. Purely inputting our notes in a database and never opening it or never finding the right note(s) means that none of our writing can be used in the future.

What does benefit my future self is the ability to retrieve my notes, to find and right ones and the right time. Similar to how our brains work, retrieval is the important part of memory, not necessarily just the initial encoding into our brains. (More on this in the future.)

Effective retrieval of the right notes at the right time can be achieved through search to find the right ones, and looking through related and connected notes to find other relevant notes at the right time.

My current Standard Notes (SN) system has daily notes / journal entries going. However, SN doesn't have a good way for you to rediscover notes. I originally felt like I didn't have a need for this- It's unlikely for me to regularly revisit my journal entries (consisting of some events that day, to-do lists, goals and achievements, notable events, interesting things talked about, interesting things to look up in the future, resources, etc.... everything, really). I would likely search through my entries by approximate date. That is true to an extent, but I would still like for my entries to be more discoverable.

SN allows for arranging notes by date added and has a simple search function. I can discover notes written at a similar date to the one I'm looking for and notes with similar words to the one I'm looking for. I find this good for a 'write and forget' style of ongoing notes (i.e. daily notes). However, cross-topic connections are difficult to make purely by looking at the SN interface. Many connections I make in this blog are by memory- the topic acts as a hook for me to retrieve topics I've written about previously. SN has poor note discoverability unless you have a specific thing (set of words) or date range you are searching for.

SN could benefit from adding bi-directional linking, or even uni-directional linking. I would be able to place notes within a network of other notes, allowing for relevant notes from different topics and dates written to be easily connected by my current self and re-discovered by my future self. A 'random note' button would also help with re-discovering old notes. There are times where I by random look through an old note and go "ahhh" at the ideas and inspiration written there, and feel delighted when I read about past pleasant happenings.

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