Steven Wolfram - Seeking the Productive Life - Literary Notes

I read about Steven Wolfram’s personal infrastructure. He develops his approach to just about everything using the tools that he built. I’m guessing this approach works great for building Wolfram as a giant feedback loop but not directly transferable to others.

Some of the ideas I liked were combining emails and notebooks as primary sources for working on various projects. The starting point and rallying point for all his work are notebooks though.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated over a hundred thousand notebooks, representing product designs, plans, research, writings, and, basically, everything I do. All these notebooks are ultimately stored in my filesystem (yes, I sync with the cloud, use cloud files, and file servers, etc.) And I take pains to keep my filesystem organized—with the result I can typically find any notebook I’m looking for just by navigating my filesystem, faster than I could formulate a search for it.

He files them all manually using a simple strategy of active vs archive laid out as projects. The filenames themselves are ordered but that’s about the extent of the filing schema.

That seems like a more useful way of organizing things (what am I trying to do? or what am I trying to answer?) rather than generic buckets of “work”, “personal”, and “refile” like I use. Maybe it’s time to start bucketing things more intentionally (though for org-roam, I’ll stick with structure notes for that) and stop worrying about cross listing.

He also talks about writing in notebooks, mixing them with screen captures and sometimes running computations in them. This reminds me of org-mode and using org-babel to evaluate code and display the results in the document (or even in-line using org-macros).

There is an extensive indexing system he uses for personal search. This includes emails and notebooks, which again, seems very useful than the disjointed experience most of us have because our digital lives are siloed. He seems to have solved that for himself and building a company to do it (half joking).

Then there is a personal dashboard that serves as a jumping off point between all of his resources that he revisits many times per day. I find that using org-agenda for work is starting to serve a similar role (for example, listing goals as well as tasks).