philipp's blog

The Propeller-O System

I've been note-taking for almost a decade now. I've tried every system - PARA, zettelkasten, you name it - and I am ready to present you with my own: the Propeller-O System.

As an Engineering Manager, I write extensive notes about 1:1s with my directs, progress and updates on projects my teams are delivering upon, notes to myself about the systems my teams are responsible for, and much more.

The problem Zettelkasten solves doesn't apply to most of the notes I take. PARA is lightweight and good as a mental model to keep in mind - but my job is full of varied responsibilities which might or might not belong to an Area, or potentially paused projects which might or might not belong into the Project folders - and frankly, I don't want to waste too much time figuring out where to stick my notes. Enter Propeller-O.

I am just kidding, of course - there is no Propeller-O system. I call it Propeller-O because I can never remember what this symbol is called: - and I think it looks like a propeller. On a Mac, the shortcut ⌘-O usually opens some kind of quick open prompt, which, in my opinion, is all you should need to retrieve your files in nine out of ten cases.

This lifts the burden of properly filing my notes from me and pushes the responsibility of retrieving them onto the tool I am using. I have some very specific requirements about the quick open prompt:

That's pretty much it. In rare cases where this doesn't bring up the note I need, I defer to the proper search function.

Oh, and I forgot one thing: stay consistent in what you display. Google, Apple's Spotlight and many, many others show the following behavior: I am interested in foobar. I type foo, the result foobar is right there but my brain can't cancel my request to extend my query to foob, and for reasons I can't understand, foobar is no longer displayed, but foobleh, foobam, and fooboing, even though foobar should be right there at the top. To whoever came up with this behavior: May your sleeves eternally shift down while washing your hands, or some other mildly inconvenient (but not actually bad) thing happen to you regularly.

It's called a Looped Square, by the way.

#notes #pkm