Dated Outlines and other Hierarchical Thoughts.

So I've been having trouble organizing my outline because I get so many ideas and have so many things to do on a daily basis and I'm starting to lose all these thoughts in this enormous outline I keep. I think in outlines. I live in outlines actually - everything is categorized in piles and groups, then stuff gets put into that pile (making other little piles). It's how I find stuff in my house. It's how I find stuff on my computer. It's how I stay (somewhat) sane. Things I want to do, things I need to do, things I wish I could do all go into my outline.

But the problem with this "big outline" is that if you want to start some new thought - or work through a thought before you decide to categorize it, sometimes it's hard to find the right spot before you begin writing. I can spend more time figuring out how to categorize my thoughts than working on them, and that trips me out. Brainstorming is a fundamentally freeform activity and organizing before you begin is a bummer.

Thus I've finally grokked the whole blog-outliner connection that Dave's been talking about since I started reading his blog. Each day you start a new top level category with the day's date. Once I have a new date then I can start fresh and begin writing my thoughts down. Once I've got things worked out, I can just copy that node into a main outline. This OBVIOUSLY how just about everyone uses their outline, since the functionality is already in my outliner (Natura Bonsai) to do this. I can just hit ctl-D in my outliner and get today's date and ctl-T for a timestamp. Duh! There needs to be a "practical outliner" class for dopes like me.

Outlining is great (for me) but there's things that I'm still trying to work out in terms of integrating it with my daily life. First, I don't WRITE in outlines. I write in long thoughtful paragraphs like this. It's a habit I picked up when I was playing journalist as a kid. I write long. It fills up the inches and lets me express not only thoughts, but feelings. However, when I'm thinking and analyzing or just organizing, I like outlines to order my mind. Otherwise things get all cluttered. I like the process of both activities and I don't want them to merge. One is "Thoughts" the other is "Language".

Also, there are many times when thoughts in different parts of an outline are connected and you either end up duplicating thoughts, or having stuff spread out all over the place before you re-org. I'd love to have an outliner system where each node I enter is uniquely and universally marked. That way I could make a link to it, then copy/paste that node to any other place in the outline or maybe in ANOTHER outline and always be able to find it.

I don't think there's been enough integration yet of Outliners and Calendars. This goes back to the blogging thoughts again. Each entry I make in a node should be automagically time stamped (maybe this could be the uniqueID I was talking about). I should be able to click a button and see a calendar of ideas on a daily, hourly basis and I should be able to mark some items as "Alarms" that would be categorized both on the day I created it AND the day it's set to go off.

Maybe I'm being silly trying to "live" in my outliner, but for 90% of the things I do, it rules. I just need to figure out what the best way to organize myself is. I'm thinking about doing an outliner for my phone too... I really need it. One that would access an outline that lived on my web server for completely transparency. We'll see...


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