I want to share the results of a little experiment I did over the last few months using my My Big-Arse Text File. I've been using this semi-structured text file to track my consulting activities for the past two years, and it contains a mixture of things like:
- consulting activities,
- networking connections ,
- lessons learned (see Some thoughts from tracking "lessons learned" for a year),
- contact information,
- idea capture (see Pickle jars, text files, and creative idea capture),
- book notes (see How to read a lot of books in a short time),
- blog topics,
- GTD tips and holes,
- interesting news articles and reports,
- tips on blogging and writing,
- marketing and workshop ideas,
- tool tips and how-tos for clients,
Having all this information is very useful when I search for something specific, but I wondered whether it'd be helpful to get a random entry emailed to me daily. So I wrote short BASH script that sends me a random entry every night, kind of a mental "blast from the past" in my inbox. The results? After a few months of these, I have to say the results have been mixed, mostly negative.
What I liked about it: I'd occasionally get something cool I'd forgotten about, like the idea of embedding due date in names of time-sensitive projects (e.g., ending them with "DUE XX-YY"), or an equation from my self-help formuarly (e.g., Brian Tracy's success attitude formula: SA = D + D * PA + P [desire, direction, proper action, persistence]).
However, it's clear that selecting random entries isn't principled enough. What would be more useful is something that fits into a structure that's congruent with my goals/systems. Three important ones come to mind:
- book notes (so I can review the big idea, go deeper, and apply it to my life),
- lessons (so I can actually learn from them by changing behavior), and
- client/prospect contacts (so I can reconnect and be thinking of how I can help them).
(For the latter I strongly suspect I should be using a specialized tool - any recommendations?)
Final conclusion: Good idea, didn't work out, but gave me ideas for the next step.
I still pine for an integrated program that easily supports reminding like this, with structured fields (e.g., "this is a book review", "this was a client contact", etc.) yet has the flexibility to capture unstructured text, combined with the ability to link anything together, regardless of type (see Where's the IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for personal information?). I've looked at a number of them , but amazingly my text file plus simple macros remains a sweet spot for simplicity, portability, and power.
As always, your suggestions and comments are always welcome.
-  Two great books related to networking are Never Eat Alone and Love Is the Killer App. Additionally you might enjoy these posts on the topic:
- A geek "gets" networking: The strange magic of connecting with others
- A simple and useful networking gift that anyone can give for free
- My Business Networking Advice article is up, FYI
- Networking surprises - Some recent unexpected (but successful) outcomes
- The most important networking question (although I'm changing my mind on that - the most important one might be "Who are you?" or "How can I help you?")
- On the goal of meeting three new people a week - A ten week retrospective
-  E.g., Omea, Jot, and Dabble DB.