PoIC Manual v. 2.1

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I have been introducing my information handling method on the flickr photo set Pile of Index Cards (a.k.a. Maximizing Productivity). Here I would like to describe the detailed methodology. Through this manual, I introduce some simple method to keep stress-free accumulation of individual ideas by using 5x3 quadrille index cards and dock system. I call it simply as "PoIC (Pile of Index Cards)".

This manual is written in english, not in my mother language. Even though index cards getting popular today, I think it is still minor community. I would like to exchange information with people all around the world. I'm happy if I could provide some hints to improve your productivity and daily life.




About this manual

Path from idea to Wiki.

Writing a manual, and in English is difficult task for me. To overcome this, I use the PoIC system/method by myself. It supports fundamental part of the writing. All ideas related to this manual is captured, stored, and then reproduced through the PoIC.

The first generation of this manual (v. 1.0 and 1.5) is a set of blog articles based on only selected index cards. Each article is basically piece by piece contents, and later, they are reorganized as the "Selection". This corresponds to digital version of index cards. As increasing complexity, it is more difficult to continue this blog-based manual writing. So from version 2.0, I adopt MediaWiki to edit/write manual more freely. It enables me to incorporate all index cards about the PoIC development to this Wiki.

Wiki Editing

I have almost completed writing this manual in Japanese (v. 2.6), and it seems on orbit now. English version is, however, still far from complete. I need your help to improve English version. Grammer, vocabulary, layout, wiki bracketing, translation from Japanese to English; any productive activity is welcome!

To prevent from auto-bot editing, I have configured this system to require login to edit the contents. First create your account and then login. If you are new to Wiki editing, try it in the sandbox as first step.

Tips and Tricks

Flickr : You can find all pictures used in this manual in my flickr account with notes, and viewer's comments in larger size. If you are new to the PoIC, it is good to look through the pictures as a beginning. While reading this manual, click a picture then you will find a link to the picture on the flickr. You can see user's inplementation of the PoIC at "Pile of Index Cards group" as well.

del.icio.us : You can find reader's comments about this manual at del.icio.us. Due to moving of server, comments on this previous account is ceased. Instead, new comments after January 2007 can be seen in here.


Request, question, comment, suggestion, objection is always welcome!


This site is link free. Please point following URI in case you refer this site.

The Pile of Index Cards : http://pileofindexcards.org/wiki/


This manual introduces how to handle personal long-term task tracking using cards. In building the card system, I incorporated many ideas, hacks, tips from Japanese four productivity books written in 1960' to 1970' (Umesao, Kawakita, Watanabe, Itasaka). These books can be regarded as "classic" for digital age. There was no word such as "life hack" in those days. However, they contained much knowledge and wisdom still valid today. For processing task, my work largely relies on David Allen's "Getting Things Done (GTD)". The PoIC may be interpreted as an interpolation and extrapolation of the GTD. I respect these pioneer's great works.

A discussion about index cards with Josh DiMauro, Dave Gray, Edward Vielmetti, Jamie Parks, and RJStew at Flickr is helpful for me. I thank to Thorsten von Plotho-Kettner for advise to write the blog.

Special thanks to Erik Luden about blogging, hosting server and domain, and the PoIC as well. My blog and this Wiki wouldn't be realized without his advice. I appreciate Jeniffer, Sarah, Felix, Abdulla, Rick, and Jeevs for their comments for my blog. Their comments polish up the PoIC as well as encourage my writing blog. Robert Brook gives me a chance to step to the Creative Commons. It helps to spread index cards community. Tom and Mikail kindly corrected my English. I thank Leopard, Gregkise, John, Ayalan, David, and Alina Mikadze for reports about index cards in the world. Their reports provide information about various index cards.

Finally, I express my gratitude for all anonymous people of "情報カードについて語るスレ 2" thread, stationery board, on the 2-channel. The PoIC was born along discussions in this thread. I received many useful comments, advises, and encouragement for Japanese localization of this manual. I cannot help feeling their volunteer spirit and enthusiasm for maximizing productivity.

What is Pile of Index Cards?

So called "Index Cards" is 5 inch x 3 inch (127 mm x 76 mm) size paper. The index cards have been used in library. In digital age, it is replaced by database on computer. Recently, however, old-fashioned index cards is getting popular. I think following two events become a break-through for new era of index cards.

Even though these two example are conceptual, it is important to note they directs us to return to analog world. It is curious for me analog "paper" shows a sign of recovery in this digital high-tech era.

What is Pile of Index Cards?

Many expressions are possible to express what is Pile of Index Cards (PoIC).

  • Long-term GTD method (Get Things Done)
  • Life-long tracking system
  • Hybrid index card system
  • Maximize productivity/creativity with index cards

The keywords are Index Cards and Getting Things Done (GTD).

Essence of the PoIC

Great habit of collection.

Essence of the PoIC is extremely simple.

  1. Collect all of our thought, information around us, using index cards
  2. Store them in a box chronologically
  3. Reuse them later

System and method I introduce in this manual is nothing but to achieve these three lines. I don't know any card system simpler than this yet.

The chronological accumulation enable us to collect any individual idea/thought/information in a stress-free state. In fact, we will attempt to capture any idea. At a certain point, after enough number of cards accumulate, then we select cards from the dock, and attempt to reproduce new knowledge and accomplishments. Until the time comes, we need not think too much about classification and search that obviously become bottle-neck in personal productivity. It enable us to concentrate to capture idea and information. In fact, personal "discovery" is thought to become the most important factor in the PoIC system.

The Great Habit of Collection

David Allen (2002) frequently claims about "'the great habit of collection'",

"The longer-term results can have a significant impact on you as an individual, and they can positively affect larger organizational cultures as well"(p. 226)
"You'll feel better collecting anything that you haven't collected yet." (p. 232)
"To fully realize that more productive place, you will need to capture it all." (p. 233)
"Doing the collection process as fully as you can, and then incorporating the behaviors of capturing all the new things as they emerge, will be empowering and productive." (p. 233)

When we think how we can achieve/enhance this David Allen's suggestion, the PoIC's format, setup provides a possible solution.

Check-box is not enough

Most of people reading this manual might know what is GTD, and understand it better than me. A philosophy of the GTD is, in my understanding, divide large project into small task, and finish these task in the GTD flow. After finish the task, they are removed from list, and long term task is put into Someday/Maybe list. But if we doesn't have a way to store the Someday/Maybe tasks, we won't "Get things done" at all.

I don't think all project can be expressed in term of "task", that is check-box. For example, let's assume here is a personal project "Buy a new car". The GTD covers tasks like, "Obtain catalog", "Go to exhibition hall". But it doesn't cover personal discovery and record like, "Color of car I want", "Type of car I want", "Different between two cars". Knowing what one want is a first step of achievement of a project. I think these kind of discovery and records must be captured to get things done.

Attempt to capture all idea

Our thought in a brain seems so random. It is always happen when we think one thing, another thing completely no connection emerge soon later. My case, for example, "what shall I eat for dinner today" kind of thinking emerge just after thinking difficult topic related to my work.

Our brain cannot think two things simultaneously. There is no multi-task person who can think many things in one time. It will be inconsistent act if we follow thought as it emerge. Same time, there is a certain long-term trend behind such random thought. It means two kind of wave is superposed ; short-term (or high-frequency) wave and long-term (or low-frequency) wave. I think tracking both short- and long-wave is a key to increase our productivity. To achieve this I have tried many way, whichever digital or analog. Finally, only analog index cards survives.

On the other hand, if we start something we like, we cannot stop it easily. It is a key to connect this addictive habit to our productivity. One possible way is to make system fun. You will see many tips, tricks, hacks through this manual. They are results I make this system joyful along I use it. This system is developed for myself. But I'm happy if you take some good ideas to improve your productivity.

Keep it Simple

What you see is what you wrote. This simplicity is a merit of analog system.

PoIC is a hybrid system that incorporate many ideas from five productivity books (Umesao, Kawakita, Watanabe, Itasaka, and Allen). The system will consist a database in mid- to long-term project. Number of cards in system grows day by day. It exceed several hundred, several thousand easily. If the system is complicated, it lose control and corrupt soon. This tendency is stronger than digital system since the PoIC uses analog paper. Randomness of information (entropy) increases with time. This is unavoidable nature of natural system.

Point is how to save our effort for keeping system, and use remaining effort for true productivity. I think making system extremely simple is a solution for this issue. In fact, I rejected many incompatible features, even they works well on other system. For example, Noguchi filing type revision rule, and alias on Mac OS X is this case.

It is assumed the PoIC system is used more than a year, or perhaps, life long. To use a system in such long-term, it is the best to keep system minimum and simple.

In this reason, this manual describe a basic of card system. It makes easy to add new features, favorites, customize as you like. And it is important factor to enjoy by yourself. Also, due to such simplicity, it is possible to extend not only personal GTD, but also for education of children and research.

Make it fun

This is mental matter. Our subconscious is so honest. When we feel something wrong even in subconscious level we stop it. We should motivate ourself to keep working. For example, I have been enjoying to introduce new stationery in the system to make it fun. Stationery I show here is a result of my "trial and error".

However, they are not compeil, but recommendation. Especially, size and type of cards, color of pen are largely depends on one's taste. So you can use your favorites, though you should follow minimum rules, such as format and chronological order, for example. What is important is to enjoy yourself and keep writing.

What's new?

A quadrille card written in the PoIC Format.

Many ideas are taken from five productivity books, as well as digital experience. In order to enjoy writing index cards by myself, I introduced following new features.

Again, I assume to use this system for long time. I limit features minimum to make system rigid.

Main System

Writing environment, actually

To install the PoIC system, no computer, no printer, no templates required. It's totally analog system. All you need is,

  • 5x3 quadrille index cards
  • Pigment pen
  • Card box (dock)

You have a pen in drawer. Find a box somewhere in your house. Then all you need is index cards. Your initial investment won't cost much more than $5. And this is a cost to improve your life.

5x3 Quadrille Index Cards

Correct's Quadrille Index Cards (C-3532).

For the index cards, I recommend to use 5x3 quadrille index cards (quadrille cards, or simply cards hereafter). I usually write 10 - 20 cards per day. I finish a pack of index cards (100 papers) approximately in one week.

Why Quadrille ?

It's grid gives base writing format. Compared with usual ruled index cards, the quadrille's vertical grid give some kind of freedom. This is good when we include sketch and illustration on a card. I must emphasize the free-hand sketch is a key of analog media.

It is possible to write letters in both the quadrille and on the grid. The quadrille is flexible and robust.

The grid at top edge plays an important role for tagging procedure. It is difficult to put tag without grid. Sequence of tag shows certain pattern in a box. My blog]'s sub title "cultural genetic code" is after this pattern. A beauty of the tag sometimes motivate and stimulate us to keep continue to use this system.

Correct's Quadrille Cards

According to comparison table, the Correct's quadrill cards have quadrille card with 5 mm grid spacing. A color of the grid is light blue. A size of card is slightly smaller than ordinary 5x3 index cards (125 mm x 75 mm v.s. 5" x 3" = 127 mm x 76 mm). A paper used for the Correct's card is not a recycled paper. The surface is smooth enough. Ink won't soak through paper. It reduces physical effort of writing many cards.

I think this is a state-of-the-art quadrille cards. Perhaps, it is great I can buy it in ordinary stationery store. I always appreciate the Correct's craftsmanship.

About stock

Stock for next 6 months.

I usually buy a lot of card at once. Then we won't worry about how many cards remains. This kind of starving feeling is not good for productivity. Worrying about card stock is something like worrying battery of laptop PC.

Buying a lot of card stock is suggested by Tadao Umesao (梅棹忠夫) who introduced usage of cards for personal productivity improvement. In his book he suggested to buy 10,000 cards (!) in one time (p. 64). If one pile 10,000 cards, it will be 1.8 m height. This surprising suggestion is frequently quoted by other productivity books, such as Chou Seiri Hou (超整理法) by Yukio Noguchi (野口悠紀夫). For personal system, however, Umesao's suggestion is difficult to actually do. So I usually buy 2,000 cards (20 packs) for next six months.

Anyway, large stock is good for personal productivity. I applied Umesao's suggestion for other stationery goods, like field note, pen, clear file, project paper etc. Feel rich about stationery. They won't cost much than digital toys.

Pigment Pen

Pilot's Pigment Drawing Pen 0.5 mm (top, S-15DR5-L)

I have tried several type of pen for cards. That includes, pencil, ball-point pen, oil-based pen, and pigment pen. Our requirements are,

  1. high visibility
  2. un-erasability
  3. low pressure for writing

In the PoIC, cards are keep in a box called Dock. The high visibility is important when flipping cards in the Dock. This analog system is assumed basically for long-term. It can be say a copy of our life. If it is easy to erase, it means we lost record. The third factor is important because we write a lot of cards. Our physical efforts must be reduced to keep writing.

Pilot Pigment Drawing Pen

The pencil is erasable, ball-point pen requires high pressure for writing, and oil-based pen is too thick and soak into a cards.

Finally, pigment pen survive. I use Pilot's Pigment Drawing Pen 0.5 mm (S-15DR5-L). It's reasonable, tough pen-head, and water resistant. I use blue ink because it is most comfortable for my eyes. This is just my personal favorite. So you are free to change color as you like.


Correct's card box (C-153DF).

As a start, you can use any kind of box for stacking cards. You may find a box made from paper, plastic, wood. In fact, I used to use plastic kitchen tray for temporal card holder.

When you used to the PoIC, it is good to use larger and better box. In the PoIC, this kind of box is called "Dock". All cards gathers to the Dock as small ships gathers. It will be more important when number of cards grow large. A card is piece by piece. It is easy to lost. The dock prevents the cards from dissipation.

I have been using two docks system, one at my office (dock@office), and another at my home (dock@home). At office, I put the dock in a drawer of my desk. Because I don't want someone to peep the cards. At home, I put the dock on the desktop.

One pocket rule

The Dock functions as storage. Gathering all cards in the dock habit makes us to avoid "where did I put that index card?" kind of problem. All we need is look the Dock, then we'll find it.

Yukio Noguchi mentions a concept of "one pocket rule". If we put somethings in a single pocket, we can find them in the pocket. On the other hand, if the pocket is two or more, we have to look all the pockets. It is clever to limit a number of pocket.

However, it is difficult to achieve the one pocket rule in analog system. It is impossible for us to take all cards/files all time. In fact, Noguchi noted that he had never taken full advantage of the one pocket rule with his filing system, because he own two filing systems, one in his office and another in home. Anyway, a number of pockets (here, the dock system) should be less.

Correct's card box

A picture above is my dock@home. I use the Correct's card box. This is made from Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF). Three wooden partition is included. It holds up to 1,500 cards (officially, 1,000 cards). I usually don't use box cover. Because if I don't see the cards, I know I don't access. So the dock is always open-roof.

Whole life

We try to track our life by using cards. The dock will be filled by what we see, feel, think, discover, do, hear, and read. I think this is much more than just a diary. Almost complete record of our life itself.


Transfer of cards in the PoIC

I use other things to enhance this system. The main contributer is a 'field note'. This is used as temporal memory. The another is 'Moleskine Memo Pocket' (icPod). It is modified to carry an 5x3 index cards around.

Kokuyo Field Note

Kokuyo field note with elastic band addition hack.

測量野帳 (Sokuryo Yacho, field note) is used among surveying engineer, field scientist for long time. コクヨ (Kokuyo), a Japanese largest stationery company, sells field note in several format ; sketch book (quadrille), level book, etc. Of course, I use quadrille. It seems the Kokuyo's fieldnote is the only solution in Japan.

梅棹忠夫 (Umesao, Tadao) and 川喜田二郎 (Kawakita, Jiro) both wrote productivity book related to index cards in 1960' to 1970'. According to their books, they use this kind of field note since they are field scientist. I have been using the field note on my job, too. Through my experience, I found I can use it not only for field work, but also personal idea capturing media.

I hack the field note by adding elastic band as you see in the picture. It enables to bind a pencil between current pages. I use a pencil itself as bookmark. I open page in a second.

Why Field Note?

8 mm thickness, 80 pages, 80 g, 3 mm quadrille.

Toughness : It is designed for outdoor use, as it's nature. It's thick hard cover enable to take a note in any posture. As you start to use index cards, you will find many situation you cannot write index card. Ideas emerge in anytime/anywhere, in a train, in a bed, in a darkness. The field note is the best as idea capturing media in such situation.

Reasonable : Surprisingly, the quality is enough good even such a reasonable price. I use the field note as temporal memory in metaphor of "virtual memory" on computer. It works well if it won't cost too much. Imagine if a note costs $20, like Moleskine actually does, one surely hesitate to write small ideas on it. A high price makes us feel that we have to write something "important". However, it doesn't make sense if we don't use a note in daily base. A note should not be a "souvenir". The low price (but high quality) of the field note makes me feel free to write anything.

Why not hipster PDA ?

It might be a simple and natural question. Because the hipster PDA (hPDA) uses 5x3 index cards, too.

I used to try hPDA prior to the fieldnote. But it is not compatible with this system in several reason.

  • it uses 5x3 index cards in portrait (vertical). This is troublesome not only for writing format in this system, but also when storing in the Dock. Conversely, it is difficult to use hPDA in landscape (horizontal) because It doesn't fit for hand.
  • it is impossible to write better letter on hPDA. In this system, an index card is data which consists a database. It means we should write in better letter for good visibility.
  • it is dissipative. It hold just with a single clip. But I really don't want lost my cards. Also, I used to wash hPDA together with shirts.

It is somewhat paradoxical but the field note is more compatible with this system than hPDA.

Moleskine Memo Pockets (icPod)

Introducing icPod

I use Moleskine Memo Pocket as mobile card box. In the PoIC, we collect not only GTD stuff, but all thoughts including Records, Discovery, and Reference by using index cards. It is quite possible a number of cards exceed 30 per day. A clip-holded hipster PDA is not compatible with the PoIC. All we need here is not something like portable RAM, but a portable storage like iPod.

Taking 5x3 index cards around using Moleskine is originally rewl's idea. But the Moleskine's pockets are just-fit for 5x3 size and inconvenient to put/pick index cards inside. Another problem is the accordion is too high. It prevent us to see what cards inside. In order to overcome these problem, I hack the Memo Pockets as following,

  1. Fold all accordions in reverse,
  2. Cut away half length of the pockets, then
  3. Put dividers for each pockets.

There are 6 pockets in the Memo Pockets. The dividers are Monday through Friday, plus Someday/Maybe and Next Action comes front end. I put all cards in front of each divider in order to see the title and time tag.

I show the detailed modification procedure on the flickr.

Dock and Pod

Since I have called a card box as “Dock”, it is natural to name this modified Memo Pockets as “Pod”. It resemble to a concept of the iPod, too : A thousand songs in your pocket. It resemble to space vehicle in Sci-Fi and animation like “Gundam” as well. This pod is for index cards, so I call it icPod. :)

If we settle it just in front of the Dock, the meaning of name Pod is clear ; stable dock and mobile pod. A spacial sequence corresponds to temporal one, "here to there" equal "now to past".

What is inside the icPod?

Since I use the field note for mobile idea capturer, I don't need to take blank index cards with icPod. The Cards in the icPod are all I have written.

External Links

Other Tools

Here is some more things I actually use.

Blank Card Tray

Card Tray, Cutting Mat, Index Cards, and Pen.

We write a lot of cards in the PoIC. A blank cards must be always on a desktop. And the access is a key for rapid writing. I used to use a box, as comparison, as card holder. But it was difficult to pick up blank cards. Keep cards horizontal seems better to pick up new cards.

I couldn't find any tray that fits my requirements in stationery store. I found it quite different place : Kitchen materials coner. Now I use white plastic kitchen tray as blank card holder.

Cutting Mat

I use cutting mat instead of plastic sheet. I have used this mat for taking a picture of index cards. The side are double of 5x3 index cards, that is 4 times larger area. A softness of the green color is good for my eyes.


A watch or clock is needed since we put date and time stamp on all index cards. Any kind of watch/clock is possible. Wall clock, alarm clock, wrist watch, clock in menu bar on computer, or even your stomach.

As a tip it is better to put the clock/watch as close as possible to the writing space. It is good for our neck. Further, digital clock is more straightforward than analog clock because we put time stamp in 24h format like 21:05.

Rubber Stamp

Rubber Stamp

This is to put date on what we write, card/field note. For cards, however, hand write date is always faster than stamp. In my case, I use the rubber stamp only for the field note. We will see it in Writing_Rules.


Labeler (or Label Printer) is used to make label for monthly divider in the dock and weekly divider in the icPod. The divider attracts our attention in the card box. So it is always good to make it little beautiful. And the beautiful letter gives considerable persuasive power. It makes fun to access cards in the dock.

I have been using labeler from King Jim.This is entry model TEPRA SR220. I use 9 mm transparent tape for the divider.

In the PoIC, the label printer is used just for divider at this moment. But it is quite convenient tool in office. Plus, it is quite fun to make labels with labeler. David Allen (2002) also recommends this as one of the basic processing tool. In his words, "The labeler is a surprisingly critical tool in our work. (p. 93)"

Trash box

The PoIC is personal system. Most of time, the cards contains quite personal contents. I use separated trash box from general trash. I pay some attention when I empty the trash box. A shredder would be nice, too.

External Links

PoIC Four Cards

Essence of David Allen's GTD (2002) is to sweep out stuffs from our brain, and divide them into individual small tasks. In reality, however, our life is not always expressed as such To-Do check-boxes. Here I introduce four classification to track our life. That is, Record, Discovery, GTD, and Reference.

Record Card

The Record Card (See large size)
  • Icon : Circle
  • Tag  : 2nd block

We don't use left-most block for tagging. The tag always starts from second block.

The Record Card is any kind of records around us. We use this card for, diary, note, account, health (body temperature, blood pressure, weight, diet), weather (temperature, humidity) etc. They are classified into this first kind.

Start from diary

To implement the PoIC in your life, an easiest way is to use it for diary. Diary belongs to this Record Card. Soon after, you will find some "discovery" is included in a diary. Then you can extend the topics to individual "Discovery Card" introduced in next. In fact, I start writing from diary every day, because it is always easiest way to trigger writing even in daily unit.

Find long-term pattern

Apparently each individual Record cards don't contain so many information. Perhaps the records are only a number sometimes. This is a reason the icon of the Record cards is just a simple "circle". But later, when we graph the number, for example, we see a pattern. So the Record cards will play a key role in pattern finding from long-term view point. This time it generates new knowledge based on our own records. A big advantage here is we use piece-by-piece small cards rather than notebook. It enable us to compare spatialy/temporaly distant cards. It is good to avoid our preconception, and makes pattern finding much easier.

Besides this kind of long-term discovery, we find patterns in a moment sometime (or most of time). Like a moment of "I see it!" and "I find it!". This kind of inspiration is classified into following "Discovery Card".

Discovery Card

The Discovery Card (See large size)
  • Icon : Electric Bulb (lightning)
  • Tag  : 3rd block

Things comes from our brain, mind, spirit, everything emerge from inside us are classified into this "Discovery Cards". Our discovery, inspiration, finding, understanding, cognition, detection, joke, poem, haiku, good idea in our life and work are in all this second kind.

Enhance your discovery

Through my own PoIC experience, I must emphasize this Discovery cards is the most interesting and hence important among four kind of cards. It seems our brain is possible to enhance finding discovery along a certain training. You will enjoy a number of the Discovery cards grows in your dock and becomes dominant. Because it is your own idea, finding, and discovery based on your own life. At same time, you will see how many discoveries had sunk into oblivion when you don't have a certain idea capturing system.

Why this is so fun?

In recent research, Ken'ichiro Mogi (茂木健一郎), a brain physiologist, claims that a human brain feels some kind of "happiness" when we discover or moment "I see it!". This time a neuron in a brain is all activated in time scale of 0.1 second. If we find more discovery, our neuron is more activated, that is, become clever. He call this phenomena as A-ha experience. Shoichi Watanabe (渡部昇一, 1976) also claims this kind of happiness. When a not-understandable thing turn out to be understandable we feels indescribable happiness. Most of time, intellectual problem is difficult to understand and it takes long time to be understandable. But it gives us huge happiness. He express this happiness as intellectual orgasm.

If we try to find discovery, our brain feels happiness, and try to find more discovery. By introducing this Discovery cards, our brain will be optimized to find discovery. And it is our own discovery. And all discovery are keep in a trustful system.

GTD Card

The GTD Card (See large size)
  • Icon : Square (check box)
  • Tag  : 4th block Squared as open-loop

The GTD is advanced To-Do system proposed by David Allen (2002). A project is divided into small tasks (two minutes tasks), and processed through GTD flow. This kind of GTD cards is classified into 3rd kind. For detail of GTD processing, see David Allen's "Getting Things DONE".


The icon of the GTD cards is check box, and tag is unfilled for the first time. That is, in David Allen's words, "open-loop", that means unfinished task. When we finish a task, the check box is checked, and the tag is filled (closed-loop). It means accomplishment of the task, and we "Get Thing Done".

Multiple tasks in a single card

A single GTD card can include several small tasks such as shopping items. It is convenient to bundle multiple tasks, and helps to reduce GTD cards in the system.

Each individual small tasks have own small check box in a GTD cards. When all tasks are finished, the check box of the card is checked, and the tag is filled.

Hipster PDA and icPod

A number of GTD cards will be less than 5 % of all cards in a dock. This is a reason why the Hipster PDA works well with GTD : GTD Card is not so many, say 2 to 3 cards per day. Extremely speaking, index cards can be trashed and no need to save after things done in previous GTD + index cards methods.

In case of the PoIC, however, we try to capture any idea, thought, task using cards. The cards is difficult to bundle with single clip. Rather,a portable card folder like Moleskine Memo Pockets is more convenient and compatible with the PoIC. This situation is something like a difference between PDA and iPod. I already introduced modified Moleskine in the chapter "icPod".

Reference Card

The Reference Card (See large size)
  • Icon : Hat (something above you)
  • Tag  : 5th block

Quotation, cooking recipe, from a book, web, and TV, anything about someone else's idea, are classified into 4th kind. The title must reflect the contents, but we should express it with our own words.

Who's idea?

What is important here is to divide the Reference card from Record/Discovery card. The Record/Discovery cards emerge from our "inside". The Reference cards is someone else's idea that comes from "outside". We cannot say someone's idea as our's. We don't need to pretend someone else at all in a personal system like the PoIC. Let's be honest.

Source of the reference

It is important to record a source of information. Reference Cards without source is useless. For a book, author, year, page(s) must be recorded as miniumum. In case we take many Reference Cards from a single book, it is convenient to make alias of the source book. Make a Record Card with information of the book, and use only author, year, page as the source in individual Reference Cards.

Timing to take Reference Card

In my case, most of Reference Cards are taken while reading. A problem is it interrupt reading. I think there is two ways of taking Reference Cards.

  • While reading : It interrupts reading, but gives some time to think about a topic. This is good for reading like a technical book or textbook.
  • After reading : It doesn’t interrupt reading. This is good for book like hobby and self-help.

Intermediate is quite possible as well. For example, taking card while reading, but after finish a chapter. You can adjust as you like. In case take Reference Cards after reading, it is convenient to leave comments directly on the book. Then we can use the comments as a title of Reference Cards.

PoIC Format

The Record Card (See large size)

We always start from fresh blank card. There is format, but not printable template. Our thought is non-linear. We cannot predict what idea/thought/infomation comes next. No PC, no printer required in this system. The blank card is, in David Allen's words, "mind like water" and "ready for anything". Let's look how to write cards in detail.


We stack all cards in chronologically in dock. It is convenient to include compressed information in the top part of each cards. Let's define top three quadrilles space as a Header of card. We write Icon, Tag, Title, and Time Stamp in the header part. While flipping cards in the dock, all we need is to concentrate this header.

Icon and Tag

As we see, the index cards are classified into four kinds according to the contents. That is, Record, Discovery, GTD, and Reference. I found all thought/idea in ourselves and information around us are represented by only four kinds. It is necessary and sufficient.

Four Icons. Left to right : Record, Discovery, GTD, and Reference

Proper icon and tag are added to head of title and top of the card, respectively. The icon helps to identify the contents visually. You can customize these icons as you like.

Design of Icon

In my case, icons for Record, Discovery, and Reference are designed based on a "circle". There is a practical reason. These three kinds are little difficult to distinguish sometimes. For example, a discovery based on a record, or a discovery based on someone else's idea. By making these icon based on a circle, it enable to put circle first, then few seconds to think which kind it belongs to.

Tag as an indicator of our thought

When we look at cards inside dock, we see what kind is dominant visually. This is resemble to tag cloud of the flickr or tagrolls of the del.icio.us.

Again, I emphasize that the tag is not for classification. All cards are keep in chronologically in the Dock. When we write cards, no need to mind their order and kind.

Finding Open-loop Easy

Can you see where is Open-Loop?

The tag is important especially for GTD cards. Unfinished task is "opened loop" as it means in PoIC tagging method. This simplicity makes possible to find open-loop much easier, even in the chronological sequence.

If we find two-separated dots in the sequence of cards, it is open-loop. After accomplishment of the task, the open-loop is closed (filled). Then it looks like a bar similar to other three cards.

Why only four kinds?

There is 25 square on top edge of the Correct's quadrille card. It is quite possible to put more than four tags on a card. Or perhaps a combination of two tags. Then why the number of tag is limited only four in the PoIC method?

One reason is a matter of human recognition. Yukio Noguchi (野口悠紀雄) claims "magic number of three" concept. There is a limit of kinds human can handle unconsciously, and the number is "three". If the kinds over three, it will be difficult to handle. Ideally speaking, three tag is the best for the PoIC.

In fact, at the beginning, I adopted only three kind of tag (Record, Discovery, and GTD). It is, however, difficult to distinguish "my record" and "someone else's record" with single Record cards. It is more convenient if I can see how many other people's idea is in the Dock. In this way, Reference cards, the 4th kind, is born to separate "someone else's record".

Another reason is more practical. If a number of tags increase, more difficult to count the blocks from left edge. It makes difficult to put tag. For three tags, we can do put tag in flush of light without counting blocks. For 4th kind (5th block), we have to count. For 10th kind, for example, it takes 5 seconds to put tag. Even if we introduce many tags, some day most of tags are not in use because of a resistance in subconscious level.

I must say the four kinds is minumum but maximum.

Title and Contents

The Discovery Card (See large size)

The title should be short and exact as possible. The shorter title makes review process easy and speedy. The title is written in third quadrille from top edge. We can concentrate to see only few lines when we flip cards in dock.

Keep title dynamic to grab attention. For Reference cards, title is left free for ourselves. We should think our own title for a quote. Then we can express how we think, what we feel, our interpretation in the title. And it reflects how we understand the quote.

Contents is about 120 letters in Japanese. Keep one card for one topic, and don't put too much contents. Soon you will establish your own way to write short and exact contents.

The title is summary of the contents. I usually write contents first, and title last. After writing contents, I have some time to think what icon and title of the card should be. It avoid discrepancy between title and contents.

Not use back side

Most of time a contents can be included in one side of card. In case its hard to put contents in one card, and do not use the other side. This time, we use two or more cards. In the title, put number/total like 1/2 or 2/2. Then all we need is to see one side.

Flipping card takes time and effort than we imagine. Plus, most of time we forget to see the other side. Another reason is physical. We only see one side when we review the cards in dock, or we spread the cards on desk top for brain storming. If we allow to use the other side, then we have to be always suspicious while these process.

Include Free-hand drawing


I think the most important benefit of using analog media is free-hand drawing. It enable us to express our thought in simple and rapid way. And this is one of big reason I return to analog paper. Especially, it is important for idea capturing process. By expressing our thought visually, our understanding become deeper. The drawing works good for review process, too. We can retrieve the contents visually in shorter time.

Here, I would like to introduce a character who frequentlly appear in my cards. His (Her?) name is Medama-chan (めだまちゃん, Dear Eyeball). Medama-chan is alias of myself, and think, write, and sleep in a bed in cards. Medama-chan likes Discovery cards, and doesn't like GTD cards. Usually, Medama-chan facing sides, and hands appear sometimes. The most attractive feature is long eyelashes. It is much fun if you have such character on your cards.

Other possible contents

Besides usual sentence, following would be possible,

  • item (shipping list, two minutes tasks etc.)
  • equation
  • figure
  • number (temperature etc.)

Date and Time Stamp

David Allen (2003) emphasis a great habit to date everything we hand-write. Such time stamp trigger our memory, and gives contexts between cards.

Further more, a date and Time are very important in the PoIC method. The time stamp defines the absolute name of the card. This absolute name is used to for cross reference.

The time stamp appears at top-right of each cards like,

2007.01.20 Sun

Include week infomation

An information about "the day of the week" is important. Because our life is based on the week system. It is easier to remember what I did on last sunday, than just a sequence of number like "2006.11.19". It is quite possible to use rubber stamp for putting time stamp. Unfortunately, I can't find rubber stamp with the day of the week. Also using rubber stamp interrupt sequential writing of cards. A hand write is more quick than rubber stamp.

Absolute name

In the PoIC, the time stamp has another important meaning. Date and time stamp defines "absolute name" of card. The absolute name is used for cross reference between cards.

Time stamp must be unique, but not necessary to be accurate. This is like URL of WWW. We can define a name of the html file as we like, but the name must be unique if these files are in same directory. This absolute name technique was first introduced in "情報カードについて語るスレ" thread, stationery board, on the 2-channel.

Cross Reference

The absolute name provides us to span link between cards in consistent way. In a following example, card in bottom spans link to card in top. This method can be extended to any kind of documents easily. Actually, I put time stamp for any document I write/copy/printout.

Example of spanning link using absolute name (time stamp).

Omission Rule

In my case, the cross reference is frequently used between sequencial cards. It is convenient to define omission rule,

  • If one spans link from a card written in same day, one can omit year, month, day, and week.

Then all we need is only time stamp. It looks like,

Ref. : 18:02

It corresponds to relative link of HTML, or, ./ and ../ of Unix.


A "Trackback" is one of feature of weblog. It is useful to know one article refer to another. We can take advantage of this feature into index cards. This idea is originally from a comment by riclav @ flickr.

Trackback is easy to implement. Just reverse of the link. I use a red pen for emphasis. If there is many trackbacks on a card, it indicates the card is useful.

Link to digital file

This is experimental. I name digital files using absolute name as I do for cards. In a picture, I show how to make time stamp with Unix command. Kevinmarsh kindly introduced me an application TextExpander which enable to expand a text "ymd" to the time stamp format. Absolute name of digital file enable to link to cards, like,

Ref. : @PDF 2006.11.02 Thu 18:02

To find a digital file on computer, which referenced in a card, search file with "20061102Thu1802" in name.

I usually link only from digital file to card, and not reverse. It is enough for me because the card system is center of information in my system.


It is convenient to include file type information when link.

  • Analog
    • Card (default. no prefix)
    • @Proj. Pap. : Report Pad (I use Okina's Project Paper)
    • @Pr. : Print out material
    • @Cp. : Copy material
  • Digital
    • @mail : E-mail
    • @PDF : PDF file
    • @Word : Word file
  • Web

External Link

Stacking in Chronological Order

The Cards in the Dock are keep in chronological order.

We keep all cards in a box called "dock" in chronological order. Here I call it as "chronostacking" (=Chronological Stacking). The newest card always comes at front end of the dock. Blog and flickr, for example, adopt this kind of chronological order ; newer contents come at top of the page. It's natural and comfortable for us.

No classification

I introduced tag and icon for cards at PoIC Four Cards and PoIC Format. Again, they are not for classification of cards in a dock. Because this kind of classification become bottle-neck in personal card system.

Noguchi (1993) gives clear criteria for classification. Chronological accumulation for personal system, and Classification for public system. Public system is, for example, library and museum. We can imagine library system will easily corrupt if it adopt not classification but chronological accumulation. Conversely, it is not necessary to keep strict classification for personal system.

Classification v.s. Chronostacking

I own two dock system in my home and office. I call them dock@home and dock@office, respectively.

I had experimented on which is better classification or chronostacking by using these two dock system. For one dock, dock@home, I keep simple chronological order. For another dock, dock@office, I classified cards by project, and then in each projects keeps chronological order. I had believed classification is better for productivity.

After several months, difference of the two system become obvious. On one hand, cards in dock@home increased successfully, but not for dock@office. This difference is dramatic. The only difference is classification or not. And it become bottle neck. And someday, it become mental resistance in subconscious level.

Gray zone doesn't exist

There is always "gray zone" exist on classification. It makes situation difficult. There is always cards exist belongs to both project A and B. It makes us troubled to decide a card belongs to which project. Soon, one give up to be troubled with strict classification, and put a card to one of the project without think. This kind of compromise accumulated along growth of cards in a system. As a result, it will become untrustful even though own personal system.

What I found through this experiments is that what is important in personal card system is not a convenience comes from classification, but keep capturing idea sequentially with simple chronological order. I understand people have obsession with classification. But this is the most harmful for personal card system. Index cards should not be "indexed" in the PoIC.

Ordinary index cards system is based on classification. It is 2-dimensional with space (x and y). On the other hand, chronological order is 1-dimensional with time (t). A matter of concern is only one. There is no gray zone exist. I think it keeps the PoIC system simple, trustful, and comfort.

No search

An issue of analog system is how to search. It become more difficult with system growth. Only one search key in the PoIC's chronostacking is time axis, that is one's memory and history.

Besides this concern, All I can say through my experience is, practically speaking, there is not many occasion to search whole cards in a dock. There is some reasons for this statement.

  • We always try to concentrate to capture new ideas
  • If we completely forget about a topic in past, we don’t need search at all. In other words, no way to search what we completely forget.
  • If we partly remember a topic in past, we write it on a new card rather than search card in past. This is much faster.
  • Search area is quite limited, say 3 days to a week past, relying on one's memory.

Anyway, in fact, only few time I scan all card in a dock in a year. As a result of no-search, we will have similar but slightly different cards. It is good to express a topic in different ways. It is a measure of how we understand well about the topic. In addition, it is frequently happen for me, but while searching a certain card, I already forget what I’ve thinking. When I find the card, I already lost an idea.

A computer is good at classification and search, but only human brain can generate new ideas.

No revision

One may imagine Noguchi Filing for chronological management of file (card, in the PoIC). In Noguchi Filing, first stack all files in chronological order, then picked file from the sequence will be returned always at one side of shelf. It keeps system active and dynamic. Frequently used file, that is useful file, is naturally selected in this way.

It is, however, not purpose of the PoIC to make system active with introducing this kind of revision. It looks like the chronological management of the Noguchi Filing and the PoIC is same, but in fact, they are completely different in character, in size of information, and how to regulate the system. We will see this difference in detail in "What I see from the PoIC", it is enough to understand in this moment that we keep all cards in chronological order, and no need to revise it.

Partitioning of Dock

Partitioning of the Dock

A partition is made by time rather than kind in the PoIC. It makes easy to access to the cards in the dock. Three partitions made from wood are attached to the Correct's Dock.

I used to keep a big single sequence in the dock without the partition. I use index (separator made from paper) as indicator of a month, though. As a number of card increase, I skipped review process. Perhaps I felt difficult to break the big single lump of cards.

I realized a "partitioning" become more important along with system growth. It gives high accessibility to the system. Different from HDD on computer, a partitioning of the dock is easy even after constructing the system.

At this moment, I have two docks at home. The most frequently accessed card should be close to me according to law of accessibility. I made partitions like in the picture. From front of left dock to the end of right dock,

  • Left Dock : Today / This week / Last week + Last 3 months
  • Right Dock : Older than Last 3 months / Older than Last 3 months

If the number of the cards keep growing, I just prepare a new dock, and slide the contents.

Seach and Classification as ultimate weapon

Entropy is a randomness of information in a system. The entropy in a dock shows one-way growth along accumulation of cards with chronostacking. It may look card system will corrupt some day.

In nature, entropy increases with time. To prevent this order, we need our "effort". It is realized in library, by paying efforts for classification of books. As I wrote, however, we won't search and classify positively in this card system.

Then how we prevent the system from corruption. The answer is simple. We search and classify after all. Big difference from previous card system is, they comes at the last stage of a project. A purpose of writing cards in the PoIC is to construct personal knowledge database. But this is still preparation stage. Our destination is to reproduce new knowledge and accomplishments using the database. And then, we can say "Get Things Done!".

Organizing Task Force

Organize Task Force. Dock in right keeps chronostacking. Dock in left is the Task Force.

When we accumulate enough cards about a project, we extract all cards related to the project from dock. Let's call this process as "Organizing Task Force" after Watanabe (1976). This time, we search and classify cards until we satisfy. That is, search and classification comes just before accomplishment of a project. And it is enough. Previous card system corrupts because they use this ultimate weapon at the beginning.

After final destination, all cards chosen for the Task Force won't need to return to chronological sequence. Watanabe (1976) express this as "retirement". When we need to refer to a contents of card, all we need is to use the accomplishments. In this way, number of cards in a dock decrease along our reproduction. All remaining cards are left in a dock, and will be used some day.

So now, we can concentrate for gathering information and reproduction, without consuming our effort for search and classification.



I keep track of words I would like to better understand to improve my vocabulary.

Every time I hear/read/see a word that I either don't know or would like to know better, I write it on an index card. If I am occupied at the time I create the card, I do not add the definition to the card. Instead, I put the card in my "Next Action" section, as a way of ensuring that I add the definition as soon as I can.

Once the card has been completed, I move it to my "Vocabulary" section. I review new cards in this section (there are subcategories) each day. This subsystem is still under active development, but it is already very useful to me.

by Erik, 2007.02.05, in personal communication

26 Tags for Alphabet

The way I organise my cards is by date like you, plus I use the 13 blocks on the top right hand side in half-block increments to denote the 26 letters of the alphabet.

I use the same mark as i use for record, discovery, next action, and reference to show whether the name (keyword/title) for the card is A, B, C, etc.

That way I can search the cards looking for someone’s phone number (eg Mark is under M) or a note about snow would be under S, etc. I don’t know what phonetics are used in japanese and whether they could be sorted along similar lines.

When the cards are viewed in a pack from above you can’t instinctively jump to a single letter, but in a second you can work out what what mark equates to the letter you are looking for, and soon after you can find those cards with that letter, even easier if you have a rough idea of the period in which it was written.

by Robert, 2007.02.09, in personal communication

Stamp for Reference Card

Have you thought about using a customisable rubber stamp, such as one here where you can make up your own text.

Enough space for all the details, and then you can stamp the BACK of the index card with it, so it takes up no space on the front of the card, but you will KNOW that the ref detail will be there as it is a reference card :)

Yes it would take a little time to do the letters, so this would be more suitable if you are writing a good number of cards for one book.

by Akiyo, 2007.02.09

Ref. : Comments at Blog

Writing cards in daily life

The late Dr. Pye Smith, when apprenticed to his father as a bookbinder, was accustomed to make copious memoranda of all the books he read, with extracts and criticisms. This indomitable industry in collecting materials distinguished him through life, his biographer describing him as “always at work, always in advance, always accumulating.

Samuel Smiles, Self Help, 1900.

Start from diary

Great habit of collection.

A first step of the PoIC is to write down all of our thought on index cards and collect them in the dock.

I used to feel difficulty with start writing every single morning. Consciously or subconsciously, whatever. I used to spent long time to start writing with thinking "what I should write...". In terrible case, I couldn't write anything.

One day, I found there is a tip to overcome it. The answer is simple : just start writing. Anything is o.k. All I need is just pick up a pen and card, and start.

But same time, if I say "let's start writing", I feel a certain resistance. Rather, I say for myself "let's start from diary". More precisely, I start from a weather of the day, like "Fine", "Cloudy" etc. In Japanese, it is just two or three letters (晴れ or くもり). Then record what happen in the morning, say "got up 7:00" "arrive at office 8:30", on the same card. It's not difficult, too. Just describe without thinking. This card should be classified Record Card. This way, I fill a first card of the day.

Avalanche writing

In fact, a 5x3 index cards is too small to write all about the morning. So the diary is quite short, really just a record. My case I write the first card of the day at office. I get some ideas on a way office. While writing the diary, it triggers what I've been thinking. So just after the Record Card, I write the ideas on individual Discovery Cards. Sometime I take 15 - 30 minutes to do this. The idea is not only about work, but also about life. Because discovery generates new discovery. I call this as avalanche writing. An important thing is what trigger the avalanche is just a tiny record, diary.

I keep this habit on week day. Now I can say I'm a state of "Pavlov’s dog". When I sit down at office, I immediately pick up an index card, and write a diary. No effort, no resistance. A single Record Card + average five Discovery Cards. Over hundred index cards per month only with this. Now you won't surprise why my dock is filled by many index cards.

Note taking

Line and memo on the book.

We use Reference Card to extract a contents of a book. There are several merit to take note of the book.

  • Enhance memory by hand write
  • Enhance memory by reviewing the cards later
  • Store the complete record of the contents in the dock

A way of taking note might largely depend on a person and situation. In my case, reading book is something like "eating". I don't hesitate to put memo, line on the book. To do this I buy all book I want to read. I read this attitude for reading in 渡部昇一 (Watanabe, Shoichi, 1976). I use pencil and darmatograph for this. As I wrote in four cards, there are two style of note taking. We can choose one of them, or combination of them. When I take note from technical book, it sometimes exceed 20 - 30 cards per day. According to my own experience, output without input is impossible. The Reference Cards are the input. It is a seeds someday blooms.

Taking Reference Card needs much effort than other three cards. Sometimes this is good because we try to select valuable contents enough good to take note.

When we understand what author says, we can express it by our own words. I recommend to use it for a title of the Reference Card. Expressing one thing in two way, that is authors words and our words, helps our understanding. And the title is nothing about what we thought.

Capture ideas using field note

The practice of writing down thoughts and facts for the purpose of holding them fast and preventing their escape into the dim region of forgetfulness, has been much resorted to by thoughtful and studious men. Lord Bacon left behind him many manuscripts entitled “Sudden thoughts set down for use.”

Samuel Smiles, Self Help, 1900.

Take field note everywhere

Many self-help books, productivity books points out a walking is good for thinking (e.g. 渡部 1976, 野口 1993). Also we find many discoveries, questions while walking.

We use field note to capture them all. We capture any tiny ideas, discoveries, and findings. It is a radar of our interest. I take memo on the field note when it emerge, when I saw it. Then I can forget about them for a while. And use remaining energy to another think, another discovery.

When I go out, I always wear the field note. I slip it in a pocket of a shirt. Perhaps it sounds weired, I take note anytime, anywhere, even in a crowded train, even in a crowded street. I don't hesitate to take note.

How to use field note

Same writing rules are applied for a field note as well.

  • Chronological order : Write everything in order it emerges. Life, work, complicated idea, simple idea.
  • Four Icons : Record, Discovery, GTD, and Reference.
  • Time stamp : I put date stamp on top of every page with rubber stamp. Time stamp is made sometimes. I interpolate time when I copy to index cards. Again, accuracy is not so important. Rather, uniqueness is a key to define absolute name.
Writing format of the field note. Same writing rule as for index cards. See also note @ flickr

The field note is temporal. Later, I copy almost all topics to index card. A check-mark beside topics with pigment pen means "copied to index card". Simple GTDs (to-dos) are processed in the field note without copying to index card.

The picture above was taken five months ago according to the date stamp. After five months later, now, I still use exactly same writing format. It may be comfort to me.

The four icons are useful for anything. I use them for memo on reading book, too.

Graffiti on the field note

As you see in the picture above, my letter on the field note is quite dirty. But it's o.k. A press man or stenographer has a special manner of rapid writing. This graffiti is something like that.

By allowing graffiti on the field note we can capture idea more rapidly. Also the field note is temporal, virtual memory in the PoIC. We don't need to pay attention to write better letter.

As a metphor of "Virtual Memory"

Division of an index cards and field note can be easily understood through a metaphor on computer.

brain = CPU / field note = Virtual Memory (HDD) / index cards+Dock = HDD

Main use of the field note in the PoIC method is temporal idea capturer. Almost all topics on the field note will be copied to index cards and stored in the dock later. Simple to-dos, buying toilet paper for example, are processed on field note without copying to index cards.

The field note reduce an effort to remember/remind stuffs. It helps to increase one's brain usage as Central Processing Unit (CPU). Our brain could work as vaporous, if we have reliable virtual memory and HDD behind.

Review and Search

Daily review

Dock and Pod ; the docking on week review

In the PoIC system, number of card increase with 10 - 20, sometimes exceed 30 cards per day. If we review cards of the week at weekend, we have to review 70 - 140 cards in one time. It is hard to do every week for lazy person like me. Rather, daily review become much important and easier. Following is what I have been trying.

  1. All cards I write in office are keep in the icPod.
  2. When I leave office, I take out all cards.
  3. Just before sleep, I pick them up, and remind what I wrote that day.
  4. In a bed, I try to remember the cards, morning through night as possible.

It helps me to remember the event of the day.

Weekly Review

Main purpose of week review is interpolation and extrapolation of cards.

On friday I take all cards I wrote throuth the week to home. Sometimes the cards is nearly a hundred, and the icPod is full bunch :)

On saturday morning, I review all cards, life, work, together. If I have comments on a card, I write it using red pen. If I have something to do, I put the GTD card in the Next Action pocket of the icPod. All cards related to life goes to dock@home. I put all cards related to work in the Monday pocket of the icPod, and store in the dock@office on monday morning.

Use cards as flag

Use cards as flag

The picked up cards are returned in a original position of a chronological order. This becomes hard if I pick up a lot of card at once. If it is too hard, I hesitate to pick up cards from the dock.

An easiest way to overcome this problem is to mark the positions of picked up cards. If I use post-it, however, I have to mark, say 30, every time.

I invent a a trick to use indexcard itself as position marker (picture above). When I pick up a card, raise a card just behind. The right-hand side is exposed to know the date stamp of raised card. When return the picked up cards, see the compare the timestamps, and return. This trick reduces effort to find a certain time from the sequence of card in the dock.

If this process is fun enough, it increase a chance to review cards in the dock. :)


We should not expect too much for searching a certain card. Because this is the most difficult part for analog system like PoIC.

One of important search key is own "history". To search a certain indexcard, we must remember "when" we wrote the card or an event was happened. This is something like Rob did in the movie High Fidelity.

I can't remember all of the cards' contents, of course. Rather, I write card to forget. To enhance memory in time axis, following may help,

  • Daily review. Try to remember events
  • Week review.
  • Event Calender to trigger memory

From my experience, we have not so many time to search cards in the dock. So I think It is better to concentrate how to reproduce new idea.

Knowledge Discovery and Database

Number of indexcards I had written is over 4,000 now. I had never imagined it when I started using indexcard. It sounds great number, but in reality, I usually write 10 to 20 indexcards per day. Just a power of stress-free accumulation of chronological order rule.

I feel the system possess a different meaning than the beginning. Now it works as a "database". The feeling is enhanced because of the Dock where all of your indexcard gathers. Now I can use/reuse and organize/reorganize the indexcards. Preparation for presentation is an example. It was possible because I have the database. Roughly speaking, the PoI system change into database when the number of indexcard exceed 1,000. Knowledge in one's brain is also database. For me, however, it was difficult to understand I have my own knowledge database, because it is invisible. After introducing the PoI system, my knowledge database appear in real world. No doubt I have my own knowledge database now.

378188030 43de03efe4.jpg

Mixture of stone and gem

I call a state of my Dock like this title. I have never think my Dock as gem box. There are gems, but not all. And it's totally o.k.

See a Pyramid in Egypt. It is constructed by pile of stones. The stones is useless if it is divided one by one. But if a stone is uniform block and well organized, even though single block is useless, it is possible to become such a great construction.

Even group of several stones, it is possible to metamorphose into a gem. We are trying to find pattern between our individual thoughts, events around us. If we could find a pattern from several "stone" cards, the knowledge generate new "gem" card.

Conversely, if my Dock is full bunch of gems, it means I try to write and select only gem all time. It will be stressful. And the system doesn't succeed to function as capturing "any" idea.

There are tons of stone card, tiny and apparently useless ideas, in my Dock. But I don't know their true worth at the time I write them. As Steve Jobs said, all we can do is to connect dots (cards) backward. So I don't trash any single card. Rather, I keep all of them for future use.

Finding pattern in our daily life

This is a story I actually generate gem from stones.

I had had terrible headache for long time. It squeezed my brain. I couldn't concentrate to my work with it. But my health had no problem. I talked to a doctor, colleague, and supervisors ; and they gave same answer ; it is mental reason.

I had started reading book about brain and mental. Also I go to gym and begin swimming to overcome physically. But nothing had changed about the headache. Only progress I got was knowledge about brain and swimming skill. One day, I try to track record of the headache with my system. I had recorded about my health as daily (i.e. Record card). In terrible case, I record the condition on independent Record card. I search my Life Dock, and pick them up all.

Between the Record cards, I found interesting pattern. I had never had headache on Saturday and Sunday. Then what is different between week day and week end. It's simple : Go to office or not. Then It is really due to mental or human relationship? Nope. It seems opposite, the headache cause mental depression. Mentally, o.k., physically, o.k. ; what is the source? Then what about food and drink. A food won't be so different. I drink coffee and tea frequently both in my room, and office. Then the problem is coffee or tea itself?. Negative ; I drink same brand in both place. Then what about water? Water? But I couldn't believe a quality is so different.

Next day, I tried it anyway. Simply, just didn't drink coffee in my office. And the results is obvious. I didn't have the headache. I tried it next couple of days to confirm repeatability. And again, I didn't have headache. I finally found a solution : Source of my headache is the water in my office. But I still couldn't believe this result. A water is too usual. But it was biased by common sense. Long time I was blind due to the common sense. And only my card system knew the truth. Now I'm free from the terrible headache.

KJ Method

KJ method is a brain storming method using card developed by Jiro Kawakita. The KJ method is useful for reproduction process. The PoIC adopted no classification, no search, no revision in collection process. They appears in this process at last.

Here I show a reproduction process of this manual as an example of simplified KJ method. What we need is post-it, red pen, rubber band, and broad workspace.


As a beginning of the KJ method, we collect all idea and information about a certain theme as possible. In the PoIC, this process is automatically done by writing cards in daily life. We capture all ideas when it emerge and write down on individual cards. In general KJ method, it is possible to do this process as group brain storming.

378188030 43de03efe4.jpg


Selection Process. Dock in left is the Task Force for the PoIC manual.

At certain point, when we think cards accumulates enough, we proceeds to next step.

Extract all cards related to the project, and put into a box. We express this extracted cards as Task Force. Almost all chapter is already defined for the PoIC manual, I partition an empty dock with the chapters. Flip cards in dock, pick up related cards, and put into appropriate chapter. In this process, we don't need worry too much about context between cards.

Right picture shows about 600 cards related to the manual extracted from dock@home that contains about 2,000 cards. In next step, we organize groups of cards. It is difficult to do grouping with all 600 cards in one time. So we should divide rough group (chapter) in this process.

From time to space

This is first we classify cards in dock. We treat cards in chronological order, that is, 1-dimensional time axis, until this process. We treat and handle cards in space, that is, 2-dimensional spacial axis, from now.


Grouping process. It's fun to do this process with 100-200 cards in one time.

There is large group of chapters in dock after organizing Task Force. We divide each large groups into small groups in this process.

In this grouping process, we try to find a pattern between cards in a chapter. We examine cards one by one, and put on desktop. If we find similar, resemble cards, pile them together. If not, put card on a blank space.

We not need to be nervous about date and time stamp. All we need is to concentrate to contents of cards. As I mention, there are some cards with resemble contents each other, since we do not search cards in dock. All these cards gathers in a same pile in this process. It helps to express one topic in different expression for writing manual.

Through this grouping process, new ideas emerge in our mind some times. In this case, we add memo on cards with red pen, or write new cards.

As you see in the picture, we need broad desk space to do this grouping. It is good to do large desktop, or perhaps, on a floor. This process is fun when number of cards is 100 - 200.


Naming Process. Use post-it and red pen.

After grouping process, there are many pile of cards on a desktop. In this process, we name for each groups to make following process easier.

First, put post-it on top of each groups. Larger post-it, say 75 mm x 75 mm, is convenient for this process. The 75 mm is exactly same size with height of Correct's index cards. Next, examine cards that consist a group, and define name of the group. It is enough with plain, simple, and short name, because it is for personal convenience in next step. Write down the name on the post-it. Each small groups named here corresponds to sections in a chapter.

When process of KJ method is all done, we bundle all chapter with rubber band. The post-it makes easy to recognize end of sections.

Spatial distribution of each group is still random in order in this process. In the next step, we try to find patterns between groups according to the name.


Arrangement process.

In the grouping process, we find pattern between cards. In this process, we try to find larger pattern between groups.

Gather resemble groups according to their name in a place. Arrange them so that stream of the name makes sense.

Chaos turn into cosmos. The random pile of cards are arranged in order. We clearly see a randomness of information, an entropy, decrease due to our effort.

In selection process, we named chapter roughly already. Here we name exact chapter's title. Put post-it on a desktop and name chapter more appropriate than the beginning.

I cannot work with full of pile of cards on my desktop. So I make large pile from a group that consists a chapter. Put post-it of a name of chapter on top of the pile, and bundle with using rubber band.



At last, preparation to write a manual is done. All we do is writing from each groups. In each groups, arrange cards in order.

In this process, a computer appears on a stage at last. I use MediaWiki to write this manual. Make illustration using Adobe Illustrator, for example.

After finish writing a chapter, bundle cards of the chapter by rubber band, and return to a box of the Task Force. Thanks to post-it, it is easy to recognize the end of section in the chapter. We can always extend the groups on desktop if necessary.

The project is finish when I writing all cards to the manual. Then I can say "Get Things Done!". The cards selected for the Task Force retire their work. We can keep these cards somewhere else, and won't need to return them to the dock with chronological order.

Writing based on the PoIC

The PoIC manual v. 1.0 and 1.5

I'm interested in the similarity of your system to a blog. We wouldn't normally change the posting date of an old post in order to change its location in the blog archives. But we might well refer to it in a newer post by linking to it. This is how we keep a blog "alive" as a personal archive.

It's worth noting that, at least on a blog, this, while effective, does take some effort. And I would suggest that few of us actually remember the dates we posted specific entries. So it might be worth discussing what purposes the current style of blog archives serves.
Comment from Rick

As Rick mentions above, the PoIC manual v. 1.0 and 1.5 adopted blog-based writing.

Each article of the blog corresponds to a single indexcard. Same as analog system, I use title, small number of tags (3 = Record, Discovery, Reference, without GTD), timestamp, link, and piece by piece contents. Their contents are random, but keep in chronological order as in the analog Dock. Thanks to HTML and blog, the idea of analog system is relatively easily connected to the digital system.

The chronological order is good to track what's new article is added in the manual. For sharing, however, it is more convenient if the articles are reorganized and classified. This is a purpose of the Selection page. The articles are reorganized to construct a manual of the PoIC. Even after such classification, it is easier to insert new article sort existing articles thanks to piece by piece contents. It's like LEGO brick :)

The PoIC manual v. 2.0

Organizing Taks Force for the PoIC manual

Since manual v. 2.0, I introduce MediaWiki, which is a Wiki system used on Wikipedia.

The MediaWiki gives me a new freedom of editing contents. At the end of blog-based v. 1.5, I feel some hesitation to add an article about fundamental part of the PoIC system. I had many things I want to add, but it is more difficult after the manual grows. For manual v. 1.0 and 1.5, I wrote article from index cards which I select from the dock. Because it is physically impossible to write all cards in the blog.

Now I organize a Task Force for writing manual v. 2.0 (a left dock in the picture). First, I empty one of the docks @ home. I make dividers corresponds to sections of v. 2.0. Then I pick up all cards related to the PoIC, and drop to the appropriate section. I found I wrote approximately 700 cards related to the PoIC development, which is 35 % of total cards in the dock@home. For v. 1.5, I only use 10 %. Now I can incorporate all of them with the MediaWiki, and take full advantage of the PoIC system. I can say it is much better than blog-based writing.

One important fact is I organize the Task Force after one year accumulation, of course, in chronological order. I wrote ideas about the PoIC, and just drop the cards in the dock. The idea appears totally random. And the chronological order don't mind such randomness. This is a stress-free accumulation. After the accumulation grows a certain amount, in this case 700, this is a time for classification. And it seems enough. I think it is impossible to write 700 cards about the PoIC if I do conventional classification every time I write a card.

After I finish writing manual v. 2.0, the Task Force also finish their work. They don't need to return to the main dock. I can keep them somewhere else. Because that time I have a fruit, the manual. If I need an information about the PoIC, all I do is not search index cards, but just refer this manual. And this way, a number of the cards in the dock is reduced.

Statistics and Analysis

From a curiosity, I wonder how many cards I wrote this year. Here I use indexcards in the "life" dock as a sample for simplicity. The card system for "work" is extended PoI and more complicated than "life".

Since it takes some time to count them one by one, I used trick to count easily.

  1. Measure a weight of the cards of each month, by using a scale.
  2. Divide the weight by 1.5, that is a weight of single card in gram (150g for 100 papers).

That's all. This is another advantage of using indexcard :)

I measured a weight of cards of each month. The figure above is a number of card per month, since February 2006. It was when I start using 5x3 quadrille card.

Number of cards I wrote

Total and mean are summarized in a table below.

Total (life dock) [cards]Mean [cards/month]Mean [cards/day]


According to the statistics of my system, at the beginning this year, it was only 20 cards per month. But in March, it jumps to 400 cards, which records the maximum through this year.

The differences in February and March are,

Most of key features of the PoI system was established in March. Thanks to the chronological order, nothing is stop my writing indexcards. I found the PoI method is really effective and fun for me. It is clear the PoI system/method dramatically improved my output (20 -> 400, 20 times).

It followed by minimum in May (besides February) when my job had been busy. Then it gradually increased until August. In the beginning of July, I introduced Flickr, and in late August, I started start this blog. The number of cards reflects my mental state as well. Main reason of decrease in September was, according to my Record Card, I was mentally depressed. After that, the number gradually recovered.

It seems the number converge and approaches to equilibrium now. The equilibrium point is about 10 cards/day (300 cards/month). If I include cards for "work", then the number is doubled, 20 cards/day. Perhaps it is comfort number for me.

As a summary of this year, as well as a sample of introducing the PoI system/method ;)

Noguchi Filing System v.s. PoIC

Strict chronological order

Two type of chronological order

I really appreciate that recently Edward Vielmetti introduced the PoI system on his blog. But I must say one thing to correct and avoid further misunderstanding. Strictly speaking, a chronological order in the PoI system is different from the one of Noguchi filing system (see also introduction by Dave Gray).

I must say that a chronological order in Noguchi filing system is not a simple one. For example, in Noguchi filing system, if one pick up a file from a shelf, it is returned to the one side, right end for example, of the shelf. If you use certain file frequently, it stays at the right end. Same time, a file you don't use will slide to the other side of the shelf. The system is always revised. File you uses frequently only survive in the shelf. A chronological order plus this revision rule is the key point of Noguchi filing system. The chronological order is relatively loose. It is possible because a number of files in the system may not exceed a thousand ; it is in control even if with such a revision rule.

On the other hand, a chronological order in the PoI system is more strict one. For example, when I pick up a certain card from the dock, I must return it where it was originally. You see there is no revision rule in the Indexcardins system. This is why I can't say that this system adopts exactly same chronological order as Noguchi's file system. In fact, it is difficult to change an order of cards in the system because a number of cards easily exceed 1,000 ; a unit of information is smaller than file. If I introduce same revision rule, the system will be totally out of control and easily corrupt. In other words, only the "strict" chronological order can keep a consistency and rigidity of the PoI system.

Noguchi filing system and PoIC, again

A reason Noguchi Filing doen't work with PoIC.

It is frequently asked "what about introduce Noguchi Filing to your system?". Noguchi filing system works well to keep filing sytem dynamic. It is, however, obviously doesn't work with the PoI system, at least for me. I knew this fact empilically. I had struggled how to explain this for people, and even for myself.

After jeevs gave me constructive comments at flickr, I clearly realized why it doesn't work.

In the Noguchi filing system, number of file added in the system is, though it is largely depends on a person, couple of files per day, or even lesser. Plus, several piece of files are compiled in an envelope. It reduces number of file in the system. A review is more frequent than file addition. It can be expressed following simple equation.

Noguchi : Frequency of adding files < Frequency of review

In the PoI system, number of cards increase with the order of ten, much more faster than filing system everyday. In addition, there is nothing to compile each card ; information is naked. For review process, I do it not in constant like "week review" but when I need or just want it. The frequency is once per two weeks or even lesser. If I introduced Noguchi type review rules to the PoI system, the revised cards are easily buried by new cards (seen picture above). This situation is expressed as,

PoI : Frequency of adding card >> Frequency of review

The only difference of the two equations is the sign of inequality. But it makes huge difference between the two system. Noguchi filing system works well for the sign "<" (or "=") and not for ">>".

Human recognition

Accessibility law

I have been thinking that my experience about information management can be expressed in a single equation. My experience about information (or a stuff) is,

  • If a stuff is far from me, I don't access (dependency on spacial distance)
  • I easily forget about a stuff (dependency on elapsed time)
  • Frequency of access drastically decrease with space and time
  • If I don't see a stuff, I forget it (dependency on visibility)

I assume they are represented as following simple equation,

Accessibility law

where A is frequency of access (or just "accessibility"), V is visibility (0 <= V <= 1), x is spacial distance, and t is elapsed time.

In case you see it (V = 1)

This equation is visually understand through above two graphs. Assume you are at origin (x=0, t=0). Accessibility is maximum at the origin, and it decrease exponentially with spatial distance and elapsed time. The left graph is for V = 1, that is you see a stuff all time. Something just in front of you. Then the accessibility is the highest. The right graph is for V = 0.1, that is you don't see a stuff. For example, a stuff in a closed drawer. In this case, the accessibility is almost zero even though the stuff is spatially and temporally close to you.

In the PoIC method, this law is applied to

  • Design of writing format of card
    • Compressed information of each cards (Tag, icon, title, and time stamp) are keep in three quadrille space from top edge.
  • Partitioning in the Dock
    • A card close to "now" is kept in spatially close place to me, that is, front end of the dock.

Mushroom law

I think human brain have a 'filter'. It limits information going into brain.

For example, I put Afghanistan lag on a sofa in my room. The lag has a big hole on it. But in daily life, I don't mind it at all. If I have guest, he/she may immediately notice the big hole. In this case I have a filter about the hole, and the guest doesn't. The filter works convenient sometimes, but it filter-out something we must notice in same time.

To get rid of the filter, I started training with asking 'why?' for everything I see. Once I find a question, then, following to the law of mushroom, I find there are many questions around me. Most of time I can't answer the questions immediately. Sometimes it takes a year to answer to single question. But this is not quiz show. There is no time limit. What is important is think by my own brain. For such thinking process, Po´lya's strategy is quite useful.

Removing filter is a beginning of thinking by myself. Now I feel I got different view point of the world.

Another example is that if I go to mountain to pick up mushroom, for example, I can't see anything in a forest at the beginning. But at certain time later I find a mushroom. Then I find there are many mushrooms around me.

The forest doesn't change during the time, of cource. Just my eye used to find mushroom. I call this phenomena as law of mushroom.

Filter in a brain rejects pattern
  • If you find one thing, you find more
  • We have a certain filtering feature
  • Finding pattern

Wall of fool, by Takeshi Yoro

Takeshi Yoro, Japanese anatomist, also suggested existence of a "filter" in a human brain, in his book "バカの壁 (Baka no Kabe = wall of fool)". His explanation is expressed in a simple equation.

y = a x

where "x" is input from nerves (e.g. eyes), "y" is input to brain, and "a" is the filter ("wall of fool" in his expression). If a = 0, i.e. power of the filter is maximum, then input from the eyes won't go to brain at all. Because any number multiplied by zero equal zero even though the number is large. On the other hand, if one can reduce power of the filter (a >> 0) then input to the brain increases.

He pointed out losing curiosity and interest increase power of the filter.

Index Cards as Cultural Gene

The PoIC system as human life

I think the PoIC system resembles to human life.

0 - 1,000 (0 - teenage) : When I just started using indexcard. I just enjoy writing card day by day. I simply enjoy the Dock is filled by written card. This resembles when I was child. I enjoyed to get new information, knowledge from outside of me. Through family, friend, school, adventure, etc.

1,000 - 2,000 (20- 30 years old) : Keep up writing card. The number of card exceed a thousand. It can be reorganized/reused to find further knowledge. The system starts to function as knowledge database.

1,000 - 5,000 (30 - 40 years old) : Cards in the Dock is full. I added new Dock. Getting more and more difficult handle all cards in the Dock because of huge number. It takes an hour to flip through all cards. Same time, card and card is connected like organ. I find a pattern between card and card; which we call as "wisdom" in our life.

5,000 - (40 - years old) : A complexity of system being maximum. Difficult to handle all cards (ref. : Known issue). Now problem is how to reduce card. I should choose how to write, how not to write. How to keep, how to discard. Perhaps "forgetfulness" is an important feature of human in order to reduce information in a brain. For human, only high quality information survive by forgetting small things. Bunch of wisdom.

How to keep system alive

Keep system active is important issue. It is not easy to say the PoIC system is out-of-control because this system is multi-layer structure : As a life-long recording system, as knowledge database, as idea capture system, and as job organizing system.

In the recording layer, there is no state of out-of-control. Rather the PoIC system is quite robust and powerful as personal recording system. This time, our interest is mainly present state, temporaly narrow extent.

When we use this sytem as knowledge database, or job organizing system, then extent of interest become more broader. A problem is how to search a certain card. It is more difficult because this is totally analog system. However, as optimistic, we don't have so much time to search whole of the cards. Rather, most frequently searched is temporaly close to present.

GTD part in this system is implementation of David Allen's GTD. If it is out-of-control, it means destruction of GTD method.

If we try to keep whole system alive, then it will be out-of-control.

This system is better and comfort for me, than digital. But I have never think system is perfect. Followings are problems I understand at current state, with 4,000 of indexcard.

  • How to reduce cards : I don't know what happen if I use this system for 2 years or more without reducing cards. Discard, or I should keep everything. How to write, how not to write.
  • Time stamp for GTD card : I have been thinking ver. 2 still have problem. Which time stamp should be used, a time it was written or a time it is accomplished.
  • How to search a card quickly : As number of card increase, it become more and more difficult to search a card I want. Or I should quit search.

Cultural genetic code

  • 4 kind of cards, 4 kind of DNA
  • spiral time axis

Quotes Collection

About writing

Listen your inner voice, by Steve Jobs

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Source : Stanford University Commencement address by Steve Jobs,
CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

This is quite important when you write index cards. Listen and pick up your inner voices, write them down on the index cards. Any ideas you have in your brain, mind, heart. You don't need hesitate at all.

Inertia of writing, by Yukio Noguchi

"The most difficult part of writing is the start point. An inertia of writing is huge."(translation by Hawk)

Source : Cho Seirihou (超整理法) by Yukio Noguchi (野口悠紀雄), p. 177.

Moving from 0 to 1 takes much effort than 1 to 2. Noguchi used a metaphor of "inertia" in physics to express the difficulty of the start writing.

Always accumulating, by Samuel Smiles

"The practice of writing down thoughts and facts for the purpose of holding them fast and preventing their escape into the dim region of forgetfulness, has been much resorted to by thoughtful and studious men. Lord Bacon left behind him many manuscripts entitled “Sudden thoughts set down for use.” Erskine made great extracts from Burke; and Eldon copied Coke upon Littleton twice over with his own hand, so that the book became, as it were, part of his own mind. The late Dr. Pye Smith, when apprenticed to his father as a bookbinder, was accustomed to make copious memoranda of all the books he read, with extracts and criticisms. This indomitable industry in collecting materials distinguished him through life, his biographer describing him as “always at work, always in advance, always accumulating.” These note-books afterwards proved, like Richter’s “quarries,” the great storehouse from which he drew his illustrations.

Source : Self Help, by Samuel Smiles, (1900?)

About chronological order

Connecting dots backward, by Steve Jobs

"... Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

Source : Stanford University Commencement address by Steve Jobs,
CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

For me, the index cards I write day by day is something like the "dots" that Jobs says. And after while I see relationship between the dots. Important to note all we can do with connecting dots is only "backward".

Autobiographical order is comfortable, from High Fidelity

(Rob starts rearrangement of his record collection when he break up with his girlfriend...)

Dick: It guess it looks as if you're reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?
Rob: No...
Dick: Not alphabetical...
Rob: Nope.
Dick: What?
Rob: Autobiographical.
Dick: No fuckin' way...
Rob: Yep. I can tell you how I got from Deep Purple to Howling Wolf in just 25 moves.
Dick: Oh, my god...
Rob: And, if I want to find the song "Landslide," by Fleetwood Mac, I have to remember that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 pile, but didn't give it to them for personal reasons.
Dick: That sounds...
Rob: Comforting?
Dick: Yes.
Rob: It is...

Source : Wikiquote, "High Fidelity" by Stephen Frears, 2000

Review the past, by Confucius

"Review the past, discover new knowledge"

Source : Shibusawa Eiichi, Commentary on the Analects, 2004.

孔子 (in english Cunfucius, in Japanese, Koushi) is great chinese philosopher in 2,500 years ago. This quote is one of his famous superb in "The Analects". There are many interpritation for the original golden words seen in the picture. For example, worship own ancestors, warm up old friendship, learn from history, etc. (Shibusawa, 2004). Here, I interpret and translate it according to my experience on index cards.

Strategy of problem solve

How to solve it!, by George Polya

In mathematics, solving problem become easier if one follows a certain strategy. George Po´lya showed such general strategy in his book “How to Solve It”. His strategy is especially useful when one must solve a problem which answer is unknown yet. It is like a compass in a deep dark forest. Although his strategy is originally for mathematical problem, it can be applied for problems in our daily life. Because we sometimes don't know exact answer. In his strategy, following points are quite useful.

  • Understand the problem : Ask yourself 'What are the unknowns? What are the given quantities? What are the given conditions?'
  • Draw a diagram : Picture, graph, mind map. Understand the problem visually.
  • Find similar problem : You may experience similar problem before. Most of time you don't need to start from zero.
  • Solve related problem : If you can't solve the problem, try to solve related problem.
  • Verify your answer : To increase reliability of your answer. Especially important when you don't know exact answer.

Source : G. Polya, “How to Solve It!"

PEACE method, by Lou Marinoff

  1. Problem
  2. Emotion
  3. Analysis
  4. Contemplation
  5. Equilibrium

Source : Lou Marinoff, Plato, not prozac!, 2002.

The Emotion always comes just after problem happens. You may worry or be anxious about the Problem. But it is natural for everybody. To solve problem, what is important is don't stop at the Emotion and go to third step, Analysis, and further.

Patterns everywhere, from Pi

(Maximillian Cohen is mathematician. He made the following assumption during his quest for a pattern within stock market...)

  1. Mathematics is the language of nature.
  2. Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers.
  3. If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge.
  4. Therefore, there are patterns everywhere in nature.

Source : "Pi", Darren Aronofsky, 1998 (IMDb). Aronofsky.Net


If you want then start to laugh, by Enigma

"If you want, then start to laugh
If you must, then start to cry
Be yourself don't hide
Just believe in destiny

Don't care what people say
Just follow your own way
Don't give up and use the chance
To return to innocence"

Source : Lyric of "Return to Inoccence by Enigma

This is a lyric of my favorite song 'Return to innocence' by Enigma.

Notice that there are only two kind of job : you want to do, or you must do. If you feel you want to do something, you are happy. Like when you are working on your hobby. If you must do something, on the other hand, you feel like torture.

Give the world the best you've got, by Mother Teresa

"People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, People may Accuse you of Selfish, Ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be Honest and Frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway."

Source : Mother Teresa @ Wikiquote


Pile of Index Cards. Name of the card-dock system, as well as the method itself. First it was named "Indexcarding", then Pile of Indexcards (PoI), and now the "Indexcards" is divided to "Index Cards".
A box stores index cards
An index cards folder
A customized Moleskine Memo Pockets for index cards (formerly known as KM2P)
Kaizo Moleskine Memo Pockets
index cards 
not indexcards. In Japan, it is called "情報カード (Jyoho Card)" that means "information card".

Index Cards Comparison

A 5x3 size index cards had used in library for long time. In Japan, A 6 inch x 4 inch and B6 size index cards are also available. The 6x4 and B6 had used by researcher.

Index cards in Japan

Index Cards in Sekaido

In Japan, the index cards is called "情報カード (Jyoho Card)", which means "information card". The Correct (コレクト), one of Japanese stationary maker, sells various type and size of index cards. Name card size, 5x3, 6x4, B6, bill size, with plain, ruled, section is available.

Is the index cards is popular in Japan then? I must answer "No". I think index cards is quite minor market in Japan. Actually, it is difficult to find index cards in stationery store, especially 5x3 size. Besides 5x3 size, B6 size is popular among researcher since Tadao Umesao (梅棹忠夫) introduced how he use cards for information management in research in 1960'. After his naming, the B6 size card is refered to as "京大式カード (Kyoto University style card)".

Survey at Shinjyuku, Tokyo

I went Shinjyuku, Tokyo, to survey how many index cards are sold in stationery store. I went to the Sekaido (世界堂), one of the largest stationery store in Shinjyuku. It is 5 minutes from Tokyo Metro Marunouchi line, Shinjyuku 3 chome station.

It is 5 to 6 floor building, all with stationery and art goods. The index cards are settled at the first floor. I find name card size, 5x3 size, 6x4 size, B6 size with plain, printable, section (quadrille), 6 mm ruled, and 8 mm ruled. Also, Dock, index (separator), and purse are available. I still couldn't find such a plenty of index cards goods ever in Tokyo. In fact, I only found B6 and 5x3 card, two kinds each in another larger stationery store "Loft" at Shinjyuku Mitsukoshi. I think the Sekaido is rare case even in Tokyo. Perhaps, I can say this is a "Macca" for index cards geek.

External Link

Website, Sekaido (in Japanese)
High resolution map @ Yahoo! Japan, Sekaido

Index cards in U.S.

Index Cards at Patrick & Co.

I have been to San Francisco to attend meeting at the end of 2006. I went for a walk around Moscone Convention Center in spare time. I tried to look for an index cards from my curiosity. I found a stationery store close to the SF MOMA. Perhaps it is not fare to compare with the Sekaido because of it's medium scale. Madam kindly accept me to take a photo.

The index cards occupy a corner. There are 5x3, 6x4, and larger index cards available. A stock won't be different between Japan and U.S. What is curious for me is there are a lot of colors, blue, yellow, red index cards. I could find plain and ruled index cards. I couldn't find quadrille card in the store.

I found Office Depo, 5 minutes from the stationery store. This time I found quadrille index card with "Office Depo" brand.

Quadrille card in U.S.

What is shocking about quadrille card is, as Lepard and Gregkise pointed out, the cut is not associated with the grid. As a result, the grid is totally random if I see the card's edge from top. I found this quadrille card is not compatible with the PoIC, especially for "tag".

Another difference is grid spacing. For Office Depot's : 6 mm each, and for Correct's : 5 mm each. Since I have been using 5 mm grid, the Correct's one looks more tight, tense, and compact for me. I have never imagine how different the quad card in U.S. and Japan.

5 x 3 Index Cards : Comparison table

CompanyType*Cut and Grid**Grid Spacing**
Correct (Japan)p, pp, r, rl, rv, qAssociated5 mm
L!fe (Japan)p, r, c, qAssociated6 mm
Kokuyo (Japan)p, r--
Oxford (U.S.)p, r, c, qRandom6 mm
Office Depot (U.S.)p, c, qRandom6 mm
Mead (U.S.)p, r, c--
Ampad (U.S.)p, r, c--
3M (U.S.)rs, rs+c--
Exacompta (France)q+cRandom (?)?

\* : p : plain, pp : plain printable, r : ruled, rl : ruled library, rv : ruled vertical, rs : ruled sticky, q : quadrille, c : color \*\* : For quadrille card

ref. : Reports by Leopard, Gregkise, John, Ayalan, and David. and Photo @ flickr by Alina Mikadze.

Any additional information is welcome.

Reference books

Productivity books

PoIC is mainly a hybrid method of four Japanese productivity books. These books were written in the 1960's to 1970's, which could be described as classical. I added new method from recent GTD, Hipster PDA, and ideas borrowed from WWW. Here I introduce these methods briefly.

Umesao's method

  • 梅棹忠夫 (Umesao, Tadao), 知的生産の技術 (Chiteki Seisan no Gijyutsu), 1969.
  • Use of field note in field work
  • Transition from field note to index cards
  • Use of index cards for investigation
  • Definition of size and basic writing format (so called Kyodai-shiki card)
  • A Kozane which is similar to hipster PDA
  • Chronological order already?

Kawakita's method

  • 川喜多二郎 (Kawakita, Jiro), 発想法 (Hassouhou), 1967.
  • Use of indexcard for brain storming (so called KJ method)

Watanabe's metod

渡部, 知的生活の方法(新装版), 1976.
  • 渡部昇一 (Watanabe, Shoichi), 知的生活の方法 (Chiteki Seikatsu no Houhou), 1976.
  • Use of index cards for interectural purpose
  • His own episode in Germany. His corresponding professor introduced card system.
  • Use of index cards as knowledge database
  • Episode of a chemical researcher
  • He use index cards to write English-Japanese dictionary
  • He copied whole contents of a paper into index card sentence by sentence.
  • Intellectual honesty

Itasaka's method

  • 板坂元 (Itasaka, Gen), 考える技術、書く技術 (Kangaeru Gijyutu, Kaku Gijyutu), 1973.
  • Use of index cards for capturing idea
  • Introduction of 5x3 color index cards
  • How to take reference cards

Noguchi's method

  • 野口悠紀雄 (Noguchi, Yukio), 超整理法, Japanese ed., 1993.
  • Noguchi Filing System
  • One pocket rule
  • Magic number of three

David Allen's GTD method

  • David Allen, Getting Things DONE, 2001.
  • Processing stuffs with GTD (Get things done) method
  • GTD flow (collect, process, review)
  • Great habit of collection
  • Open loop
  • Next action
  • Mine factor
  • Mind sweep
  • 2 minutes rule
  • Set free from stuff (make empty brain, and concentrate to processing)
  • Brief introduction of how to use card for GTD
  • Mind like water
  • Power of relaxed control
  • In-box

Fayyad et al., Knowledge Discovery and Database

  • Usama Fayyad, Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro, and Padhraic Smyth, From Data Mining to Knowledge Discovery in Databases (PDF File), 1996.

Eco's manner for Reference

Reference on Internet

Merlin Mann's Hipster PDA

Josh DiMauro's GTD photoset

Dave's Index cards photoset

Emory's Hipster PDA photoset

Flickr Groups

2 channel