Here's the rub: The "problem" that plagued the 17th century is the same problem that plagues our current century: information overload. There's just so much information coming at us, much of it useful and much of it not.
There is a lot of advice out there about how to sift through the information deluge -- my advice on a tangent topic is right here. The problem I'd like to talk about today is how do we integrate -- e.g. retain -- the knowledge we glean from powerful blog posts, impactful books, and thoughtful conversations with friends and family?
The answer is keeping a commonplace book.
What is a Commonplace Book?
The Commonplace Book was a 17th century creation to deal with information overwhelm. Well-read folks had decided that they wanted to carry with them the lessons that were most impactful to them by writing them down -- and back then, it was thought that writing things by hand helped ingrain those teachings more deeply; the scientific proof of that hypothesis came later.
There is no rulebook or instructional tutorial for keeping a commonplace book. The idea, though, is to have a journal where you write down life lessons that you experience, as they happen (perhaps as a daily reflection in the evening).
I read a lot, so how I use a commonplace book is I write down quotes from the books that I want to really continue to reflect on and be reminded of. I also jot down other learnings and lessons. For example, I might work in the garden one day and then jot down some lessons that I learned from being out in the garden that I can bring back to the challenges in work and life.
Commonplace Book Examples & Commonplace Book Ideas
Whenever I talk about this concept, people ask me for commonplace book examples or commonplace book ideas. But everyone's book is different!
Maybe you like a small journal with tiny entries, small sentences, small nuggets of joy and guidance you can re-read over and over.
Maybe you're feeling super inspired and pull out those colored pencils and crayons for your book. Heck, watercolor!
Perhaps you have multiple books -- one with quotes, one with more freehand exercises and stories (we have plenty of journaling prompts to support you).
The only thing that I ask is that you write and that you write consistently. There is no requirement on time limit; in fact, I suggest setting a timer for 5-7 minutes for a sit-down session, or just train yourself to remember when you spot something good in a book, or hear something wise, stop and write it down (otherwise you forget!).
Make it a daily ritual; pour yourself a cup of tea, and spend a few minutes filling your commonplace book with the knowledge and wisdom you hope to fully embody. That's a powerful ritual to add to your day.