- Toaster Fridge
- iPhone case
- New keyboard
- Macworld subscription
As the weeks go by, I build up a collection of similar notes for other party details--party invitation text, a grocery list for birthday-cake ingredients, and so on. Each of those notes is independent of the others, but together they all form a project. The key: they're all connected by metadata.
You'll notice that each of those notes contains material--often set off with punctuation such as @ and _--that isn't part of the note body. That's metadata.
For example, I add the date the note was created. The files' time-stamps may not be reliable long term, especially when syncing through an online service like Dropbox. So I insert a date of my own at the top of each note. I also include information there to establish context. For example, my birthday party notes are have _party in a Project field. That lets me search for all notes with that string and see all notes related to that project.
I also follow MultiMarkdown syntax in my notes, which provides rudimentary formatting in plain-text and makes it possible to convert such text to HTML, Microsoft Word, PDF, and other formats. MultiMarkdown defines some standard document headers; in the notes above, date: is one.
I add tags to notes, too, to identify those notes more specifically and make them easier to find. I use a limited number of tags in note titles but many more in note headers. The latter are the strings prefixed with @. Some of my common tags are @work, @home, @recipe, and @Mac.
Perhaps the most important bit of metadata for any note is its title. I have one rule when I give a note a name: The title must serve a purpose in the distant future. It should tell me something about what's in the note long after I've forgotten writing it. A title like Cake is relatively uninformative, but a note entitled Birthday Cake Recipe for Michael is easier to identify.
Never toss a note
One final comment. I rarely delete a note. If I am done with one, I move it to an archive folder. Why keep all of those old useless notes? Because I may need them someday, even if I don't need them now.
So, for example, I'll archive my notes about Michael's birthday, because it will make planning next year's party that much easier. My entire archive currently amounts to about 3MB. By moving the notes when I'm done with them, I limit the library of active notes I use every day, but I still have access to the old information at any time.