I was sitting in Andala Cafe eating amazing hummus while watching the sky turn from blue to white and I had an idea. I know, you’re stunned. This doesn’t happen often, and even less frequently outside the thinking room. So I grabbed an index card and just when I was about to write it down, I looked at the humble index card and thought, where have you been all my life, and promptly forgot the idea.

Where have index cards been all of our lives? Mostly, they’ve been right here and we are better off for it. I can’t believe I’ve only recently rediscovered what’s been around for ages. Over at 43 Folders, Merlin Mann praises his “Hipster PDA” and links it to all kinds of GTD (Getting Things Done) systems of organization.

The Hipster PDA (Parietal Disgorgement Aid) is a fully extensible system for coordinating incoming and outgoing data for any aspect of your life and work. It scales brilliantly, degrades gracefully, supports optional categories and “beaming,” and is configurable to an unlimited number of options. …

  1. get a bunch of 3″x5″ file cards
  2. clip them together with a binder clip
  3. there is no step 3

Actually, step 3 is where things get challenging, but at least you’ve built your PDA and you’re ready to start getting things done. And by “beaming” I suppose you mean “flinging”? For the less frugal and more stylish, there’s Levenger‘s cult of 3×5 cards for about $26 for 500 truly deluxue cards, described by the company as delivering these benefits:

  • Convenient vertical format
  • Easier to write on than standard 3 x 5 cards
  • Cards come in ruled, plain, grid and window styles
  • Printed on both sides
  • Made from the highest grade of white card stock
  • Made in the USA

It’s easy to make fun, but the cards – and the snazzy leather wallets and wooden “bleachers” – are truly premium quality and make writing on the cards a joy and tearing them in half a somewhat guilty luxury. And there must be something to it, since Staples has been seen hawking Levengeresque 3×5 card wallets under the “M” brand at a rate somewhat above the usual Staples price points.


One of the great benefits to index cards for organizing your thoughts is that you can stack them to focus on just one or array them to prioritize or sequence them. And there’s great satisfaction to just throwing a card away when the task is done. Although I have mixed feelings about Agile Development, I can say (and did – in this Ipswitch blog post) that the use of cork and cards has yet to be eclipsed by fancy computer technology. I’ve been a huge fan of the whiteboard, but I’m starting to wonder if the cork board – or at least the pile of index cards – isn’t starting to win me over. I might even crack and make a visit to the Levenger store.

One more note on index cards – if you haven’t already discovered the off-center geeky humor of Jessica Hagy and her blog Indexed – available soon in book form, oddly enough – you should check it out.