One of my workflows that has evolved over my time of using TheBrain is how I record information and e-mails. 


In my old workflow I would have a category that represented a grouping of information, and then documents, e-mails and related "stuff" added as separate thoughts under that. I think subconsciously I may have been trying to drive up the number of thoughts in my database, but I digress...


I noticed as I added more and more information to the cluster for that category it got unwieldy. Then I created subcategories. As an example: [Issue Name], E-mails and [Issue Name], Docs. This cleared things up, but at the same time added an opaqueness, my information became harder to see at a glance. It became harder to track things and keep on top of the item in it's entirety. It lost focus, so I lost focus.


After a few years of trying to cope with this I stepped back and asked myself two questions:

  • How should I format this so I can easily see what's pertinent?
  • How should I store this so in 5 years I can pull this up and easily see what occurred.

As a result of this, my workflow and structure has changed.


Instead of using categories that represent the grouping, the thought represents the item itself.


For smaller items, the thought is generally stand-alone. On it I attach pertinent documentation as attachments, as well as include an overview in the notes. As I get more information around the item, that is also added to the note, along with a date stamp. I generally only add summaries, so before I write them down I ask myself again "what points should I record so it still makes sense when I revisit this in 5 years?". If the item is active, I also add a currently tag for easy access.


For items that are larger, for example a project, the thought for the project itself represents the project. On it I attach any documentation that represents the project itself. In the notes I write a summary of the project as well as status updates (similar to smaller items above). In addition, at the top of the notes I add bullet points with checkboxes for tasks which need to be done for the project. This isn't to replace my separate task management system, but more to support it. Remember, I'm looking for an overview and the current status. Template thoughts also help with this, allowing me to create an outline to follow in the notes section of a thought that I can duplicate and use.

For supporting documentation those will generally be attached as separate thoughts. Instead of thoughts representing the file itself however, the thought represents the area the documentation serves. For a lot of files that's the same thing as a single thought per file. However, it doesn't always. In particular this applies to e-mails. 


To take advantage of the way TheBrain adds the e-mail text to the note I used to import every e-mail separately. I found I had to rename the thought name after a while, usually the date formatted as [yyyy-mm-dd] followed by the subject. This sorted them according to the timeline. Even then this would get convoluted, and hard to follow. Now I still do this for e-mails vital to the context of the project, but following the idea that thoughts represent the area of the project, I attach multiple e-mails to the same thought (as a side note I don't just attach a link to the e-mail but I ctrl-drag the e-mail so it adds it as an attachment).


There's a fine line between adding too many thoughts so I lose context and too few so I one huge thought where the information is too dense it gets lost. Once again I try to hold true to the 5 year rule. A trick I've found useful for areas that are very information dense is I add links in the notes of my main thought to critical supporting thoughts. That way they don't get lost. 


I've found that this takes more time as I examine both the item, the information and how to make it best work for me as I come across it. For area's of my brain that I have to work in a lot, I also find that I have to evolve them as I work in them, creating or removing additional thoughts. However, taking a little bit of extra time while adding information gives me several benefits:

  • I become more familiar with the issue at hand.
  • I retain the information in my "wet brain" for longer.
  • No matter how long it's been, I can revisit the area and refresh my memory of what occurred.


And to me, that's worth a little extra time.