Arumoy Shome


June 3, 2021


Productivity to me comes from proper information management. Information can come in many forms: email, thoughts/ideas, deadlines, events, project planning, online links, and many more.

Productivity to me comes from proper information management. Information can come in many forms: email, thoughts/ideas, deadlines, events, project planning, online links, and many more.

Categories of Information

I categorise information into two broad categories:

  • Soft: These are bits of information which have a temporary life span. They simply serve as a reminder to do something at a later time or perhaps a scratch list for what groceries to buy. Soft information does not require to be stored permanently and can be discarded once they serve their purpose. Soft information does however require that they be captured quickly so that they do not take up space in the limited capacity of our brains. The ability to capture them should also be available to us at all times, under any circumstances, provided we have access to pen+paper or an electronic device such as a smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Hard: These are long forms of writing such as notes on matters of interest, project updates and planning, thoughts and ideas worth investigating. Hard information must be searchable (and thus digital) and link-able to one another (so that we can form connections). Hard information should be preserved and must contribute to an ever growing body of knowledge. Finally, hard information should be shareable (in pdf or html) with others (another reason why they should be digital).

First capture then review

I have used many productivity tips, techniques, applications and other forms of nonsense over the years. The one thing which has stuck with me and has proven to work time and time again is the simple, two phase act of:

  1. Capturing information as quickly as possible, and
  2. Reviewing and progressive summarization of the information later at a designated time.

I think this works for several reasons, first being that it is utterly simple. second, it enforces deliberate practise of sitting down and reflecting, and writing which enriches and exercises the ultimate productivity tool which we possess: our brain.


I find that absolutely nothing can beat a pen and a paper for this job (see the section on the benefits of writing on paper below).

For the rare occasions when pen and paper cannot do the job (such as saving a link to an online article to be read later or when we are on the move), a digital solution is required. Any app will do, as long as it has a “quick capture” mechanism (most todo apps do these days). You can also simply email yourself if you prefer not to have another dependency, another moving part, another “cog” in your system.


Now that I have captured information, what do we do with it? 90% of it is just noise and there is a fine line between expanding knowledge and hoarding knowledge. Here, I find it important to maintain a reference of sort to determine what is important and what is not.

I find that writing on paper acts as a natural buffer to ‘noise’.

I review my notes on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. The goal of each review is to progressively summarise the captured ideas. So, weekly reviews summarize daily logs, monthly reviews summarize the weekly reviews, and so on and so forth. This progressive summarization is a deliberate practise of writing that allows me to develop my ideas.

Benefits of writing on paper

When I am studying or trying to understand a concept, I want free flow, I want independence to sketch, to write text or a mathematical equation. Digital mediums will not work here because they enforce a structure, but at this stage I do not have any structure! I simply have many ideas which I must assimilate and process, arrangement comes later when I review my notes.

Capturing thoughts and ideas on paper also has benefits. It adds the perfect quantity of resistance and acts as a natural buffer to ‘noise’.

The migration of an analog note to digital system enforces deliberate progressive summarization of the note.

Fitness and Diet

In my experience, the body has a direct influence on the mind. I have noticed vast improvements in my sleep, focus and mental clarity when I have a balanced diet and a regular fitness routine.

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