“I’ve got a neat idea!”

Diving in when inspiration strikes can be such fun.

Write, do, act,… things are moving.

But somewhere along the way, initial inspirations spent, we can stumble into:

“Ugh, now I have work to do…”

Was it “novelty” lost? What’s going on?

An Example in Writing

Let’s look at an example. I have a sudden idea about a better way to build an Honor Guide, a method of orchestrating our days to work at our own natural pace.

I jot down my thoughts as soon as I’m free, avoiding looking at anything else I’ve written to minimize distraction.

Once drafted, I connect the note to others. Sometimes I remember related notes. Other times, I lean on an AI to find connections I hadn’t thought of.

As I find connections, I often excitedly discover new ideas along the way. Maybe they’ll become posts. Maybe they’ll become books or talks. Maybe they’ll just be a part of the stew.

But much like any organizational process, the more I add, the messier things tend to become. The work grows beyond the ideas themselves and now demands management.

In this case, when looking through connections, I discover that I’ve written about 6 versions of building an Honor Guide, each with their own perspective or nuance. Worse yet, other documents now link across these multiple copies in inconsistent patterns.

In other words, I have a mess.

Shifting with a Pause

At this point, I may give up, letting the mess accumulate. I can blame myself, saying that the momentum of novelty didn’t carry me far enough.

But truly the work only shifted. When I can pause through the frustration, often I discover a path forward.

In that pause, I recognize that there is more to note-taking than writing notes and linking them. Our thoughts are more than mere associations.


In any system, without the death and disconnects of old pathways, we inundate ourselves with overwhelming and paralyzing repetition.

In other words, we need to consolidate.

The work of consolidation is as simple as it is mysterious:

  1. Pause
  2. Hold an idea in mind
  3. Add additional ideas while still holding the first
  4. Distill commonalities and acknowledge conflicts
  5. Repeat in any order as new associations germinate, bloom, and settle[^1]

[^1]: Or until my mind blows a fuse, and I find myself staring off into the distance–often a good indicator to step away and see what my unconscious mind might come up with before a next visit.

With this in mind, the next steps may not be as “easy” as the first, but the challenge I discover can become as engaging, and oftentimes, more so.

A Step Further with DEVONthink Scripting

As lovely as this all sounds, we are still left with the practical matters of multiple links connecting to older files while the hope that a newer consolidating one would now be able to replace it.

Creating a single file and manually redirecting the links takes time. The larger the database, the more lengthy and onerous the task becomes.

And so, we can turn to our tools to automate the mundane.

As my Note-box resides in DEVONthink, I turned to their community, posting the issue to their forums.

One intrepid explorer dove in and, over a series of back and forth emails, came up with a lovely script that does exactly this. After creating a consolidating file, I can now run the script to have all old links updated to point to the new file.

– Kourosh

If you’re interested in creating your own world of notes, where you can have your thoughts, web searches, interesting web pages, PDFs and the like all connected together, consider Taking Smart Notes with DEVONthink.