A few weeks ago I came across this post from Ryan Holiday – a media strategist and Director of Marketing at American Apparel. I wanted to share it with you because it has changed my life.


I know. I know. That term gets thrown around like a hot potato these days but I can honestly say that for me, in this instance, it’s the truth.

So, let me explain (as quickly as I can) the system he talks about in that blog post and how I use it. In a nutshell I write down my thoughts and things I want to remember on index cards and file them in a box under categories – “Deciding What to Sell/Create”, “Mindset”, “Marketing”, “Productivity”, “Motivation”, “Sales & Persuasion”, “Things My Clients Say”, “Business Ideas”, “Systematization”, “Blogging”, “Quotes”, “Customer Experience”…

I then can use this however I want – to write sales pages, when I’m figuring out what I want to create, to help my clients get even more awesome results, to write blog posts, to work less… Really, there are so many benefits to using this system it’s mind bottling (“You know, when things are so crazy it gets your thoughts all trapped. Like in a bottle?”)

How I actually use this system…

Let me give you some examples of how I’ve used (or plan to use) this for my business.

Say I read a book and after reading it I have stuff highlighted, maybe I’ve even written some notes in the margins, and I know I want to make sure I remember that stuff later. So, I’ll jot each idea down on an index card and put it in the category that makes the most sense.

The nice thing is that some books share good tidbits on all kinds of things like marketing, productivity, goals, persuasion and other things so, while I could just write a big long summary of the book, using this system I’m able to put different parts of the book under different categories. That way I don’t have to skim through every part of the book summary to get to the productivity stuff – if that’s what I’m looking for. I can just hop into my “Productivity” section in my index card box and have a whole whack-load of goodness to use.

Or, maybe I’m doing some research for a product I want to create. I’ll have a totally separate box that’s dedicated to that project, with categories that make sense. So, anytime I think of something or come across something that I want to remember during my “research phase” I’ll jot it down and file it in the box. Then, when it’s time to actually create something I have my research all nicely organized and in an easy to find and understand format. Genius, right?

Or I might be writing a blog post on say, “How to Stay Motivated”. To get the ideas flowing I can just hop into my “Motivation” section and poke around. I’ll get inspired and have an easier time writing that blog post. I’ll probably also save time because I won’t have to start my research from scratch. I’ll already have something I can work with.

Or perhaps I’m chatting with a potential client and they say something that I want to remember so I jot it down. (You might have noticed in the video I shared last week that I was reading off of index cards when I was giving you some examples of things my clients have said. Those index cards came from my “Things My Clients Say” section). I know this will be super valuable for when I’m deciding what to create and writing sales pages.

I’ll be able to easily go through my index cards and get a feel for what my clients are going through. I’ll know there hopes, fears, and dreams. They’re all there. In their own words. That’s gold because in order to get as many clients as you want you need to know your target market better than even they know themselves.

Can’t I just use something like Evernote?

Sure! If it works for you, have at ‘er!

In fact, when I shared this in a Facebook group I’m a part of some people said, “Why don’t you just use Evernote?” And I get it. We’re living in a digi-world. But for me, I’m such a visual/kinaesthetic learner that I need to write out things by hand and be able to touch them and physically move them around. This is why I know I’ll never stop buying physical books (instead of ebooks). I love and need to touch things and write things out by hand. That’s how I learn.

So use whatever format works for you – Evernote, index cards, or something else.

Why I think you should use this system, too… 

Since starting to use this system I feel more organized, less overwhelmed and I have an easier time getting my thoughts together in a logical way so I can waste less time thinking about things and spend more time just doing things. It makes writing blog posts and creating other content easier, it helps me remember research I’ve read, it makes writing sales pages easier, and I know it’ll help me grow my business in all sorts of ways over the next few years.

And I know it’ll improve my life, as well.

I even started a section called “For Adam” so that whenever I have an idea for a gift I could get my hubby, or I have something I want to remember about him I jot it down on an index card. I have a feeling this will make birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries less stressful and more fun because I won’t be thinking, “What the heck should I get him?!” or, “I hope he likes it”. I’ll just know!

If you want to start using this system, here’s how I recommend you do it:

Step 1: Buy a ton of index cards. Seriously. Buy a ton. You’ll fill ’em up faster than you think.

I use 4X6 index cards that I picked up from Staples. I also grabbed some blank dividers.

You can use whatever works for you and whatever size works for you. I simply knew that most of my scribbles would be able to fit on smaller cards so I went with the 4X6 instead of the 5X7 version.

I have a few different index card boxes that I use, too. My plan is to continue to use some of them in a more general way – whenever I want to remember something I just jot it down and put it in a random box under whatever category makes sense. Other boxes will be dedicated to certain things – books I’m writing, products I’m creating, courses I’m taking.

Here’s a glimpse of one of my card boxes. This is a general one that I recently started (the cards in the front are all blank so I can just quickly grab a card and jot something down whenever I like.)

photo 1

Step 2: Decide what your categories will be (don’t worry, you can always add more later).

I tried not to overthink the categories I wanted to have. I just wrote down what I felt made sense for me and I’m always adding new categories.

You can feel free to use some or all of the categories I’ve created so far (or adjust them to fit what you want/need):

  • Deciding What to Sell/Create
  • Mindset
  • Marketing
  • Goals
  • Motivation
  • Confidence
  • Sales & Persuasion
  • Business Ideas
  • Life (I use this for random things that I want to remember – like life hacks, great websites, interesting places I want to visit…)
  • Productivity
  • Pricing
  • Blogging
  • Copywriting
  • Quotes (I’m such a nerd for a good quote!)
  • Systematizing
  • Things My Clients Say (I separate this into 4 different sections – Hopes & Dreams, Pains & Fears, Wants & Needs and Obstacles)
  • Positioning
  • Branding
  • For Adam (I also plan on adding categories for all my other family members and friends)

Whenever I jot down a note I give it a category and write that category in the top right-hand corner of the index card (that way when I have a bunch of them laying out I know where they belong when I want to put them away). I’ve even color-coded my categories by picking a Sharpie marker color for each category.

You can see what I mean in this pic – each of the cards has the category written in the right-hand corner and a different color squiggle underneath the category name.

photo 2

Step 3: Throw out all the “rules” and just use it how it makes sense for you.

After learning about this I followed Ryan’s framework but made it my own. I suggest you do the same. Don’t worry about doing it “right”. This is a creative thing and there’s really no right way to do something that’s creative.

Just create categories that make sense for you and what you want to get out of this system – both for your life and your business. Then, whenever you think of something or come across something you want to remember, jot it down, file it away, and go back to it whenever you like.

Like I said, you can use this system for all sorts of different things. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • When writing sales pages – you can use your “Things My Clients Say” section to write some great copy that’ll truly catch your ideal clients’ eye because you’re using their own words. When you start to do this you’ll hear this a lot, “You totally read my mind!” – which is a very good thing! Just remember, this is about using your potential ideal clients’ words for good (not evil). You want to do your research and create something they actually want and need, offer a premium experience (whatever that means to you and them), and then sell it like hotcakes by putting yourself in their shoes and using their language.
  • When you’re stuck and you don’t know how to move forward – say you’re having a tough time pricing an offering. Flip through the index cards in your “Pricing” section and get yourself sorted out.
  • To work less – if you’re overwhelmed and stressed out by your workload, perhaps it’s time you check out your “Productivity” and “Systematizing” sections to get some tips on how to work less without making less.
  • When you don’t know what to create – say you want to create a new product or program but you don’t know what it should be. Thumb through your “Deciding What to Sell/Create”, “Business Ideas” and “Things My Clients Say” sections to get inspired.
  • If you’re writing a blog post and you want to include a cool quote – flip through your “Quotes” section and pick one that stands out to you.

Can you see how limitless the uses of this really are? Now you probably see why I wasn’t kidding when I said this is a life-changing system!

I’ve loved using it and I know it’ll serve me well for years to come – both for my business and personal life.

I’d love to hear what you think of this.

Tell me in the comments below…

  • Have you ever tried using a system like this?
  • What categories would you add for your business/life?
  • Do you think you’ll do this with the index cards or use something like Evernote?

I can’t wait to hear what you think about this in the comments below!


Lots of love,

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