Index cards are a special kind of container. There are a limited number of sizes, but an unlimited number of ways to use them. Besides, I just have a thing for index cards. I can’t go into an office supply store without checking out the index cards and attending paraphernalia. I like them lined and unlined; white, pastel, bold, and florescent. I like 4 x 6 and 5 x 7, but I will always have a special affection for the 3 x 5 size. Then there are file boxes in colors and patterns, as well as open containers for filing the little treasures.
As I move into a series of posts about the organization of time, space, and activities, I will be sharing some of the ways I use index cards. But for today, I thought I’d share just a few of the many excuses I have for stocking up on these little gems. And you won’t be surprised when I mention index cards as I go through my organizing and containerizing stories. For example, I use them for:
1. Note-taking. All purpose note cards for any purpose that comes up throughout the day. I try to always carry a few index cards in my purse or my bag for whenever I need to take notes or give information to others.
2. Daily to-do lists. Using an index card for the list keeps it more manageable (hence my preference for 3 x 5’s).
3. Weekly to-do lists. This challenges me to really focus on what’s important for the week within the space limitation of the card. It contains my activity somewhat. Keeps me from getting too carried away. In theory, anyway.
4. Menu planning. There was a period of time when I used index cards to plan a week’s menu. Each week I created a plan for that week. And after several weeks, I was able to start recycling a card here and there, until I eventually had quite a repertoire to choose from. Saved a lot of headache when thinking about what should we have for dinner. Saved and recycled the shopping lists as well.
5. Shopping lists. The cards work well for companion lists for the meal plans. Also good for other shopping lists. Or errands in general.
6. Project ideas. I like to keep track of ideas for creative projects on cards. One idea to a card allows me to add notes about the project to the card. After the ideas outgrow the index card, the project can be moved to its own file or incubation box. This provides not only incubation time, but provides a source of ideas when I’m not quite sure what I want to do next. It’s fun just to go through the ideas.
7. Research topics. Similar to project ideas, I can keep track of the different ideas I have for research, recording notes about ideas for exploring each one.
8. Organizing Book Chapters. In my current project, there are lots of ideas that have to be determined in terms of layout and which activities are going to be included. By putting the ideas for each section on index cards, I can shuffle things around and consider the most effective arrangement. (Works for organizing notes for research papers as well.)
9. Lesson plans. I like to plan out my syllabus on index cards, one week per card. Topics, assignments, group activities. Then they can be arranged by week, shuffled around, adding notes and details as I go. On the backs of the cards, I can write notes about what worked, what adjustments can be made.
10. Concise journaling. A quick and easy way to keep at least minimal notes about the thoughts and events of the day. Not as a replacement for other journaling practice, but as a helpful way to keep things going when time is short, or when all I have is the stash of note cards.
Watch for more index card fun in the weeks ahead.
- Writing Tip: #23 The Notecard System (jakevanderark.com)
- The Versatility of Index Card Outlining (blackanddarknight.wordpress.com)
- Intentions (facilitationflashcards.com)