Ode to the 3×5 by R Mandanah Stockton


Nearly thirty years ago when I was a senior in college juggling my last semester, an accounting job at an oil firm and a new marriage a friend of mine recommended a home/lifestyle management system outlined in a book called Side-Tracked Home Executives.  She knew I was domestically challenged and thought it would help me keep the detritus of my life afloat.  The book was written by two disorganized sisters who came up with a home management system utilizing 3×5 index cards; their motto was “We change lives with 3x5s.”

Since reading that book, I’ve always had an abundance of index cards at my disposal.  I’ve used them to jot down writing ideas, reminders, to-do lists, you name it; if it’s worth remembering, it lands on a 3×5.

It’s not that I’m technologically challenged – I have an ipad I work to death every day.  I use evernote daily and I use my ipad calendar, having foregone printed calendars several years ago.  But there’s something about the conciseness of the 3×5 that I’ve always found appealing.  They’re perfect for jotting down bullet points and outlines; when I wrote for a health blog a couple of years ago, I often published essays on the latest health research.  The 3×5 was perfect for jotting down the lead author of a particular study, the professional journal the study was published in, the University or non-profit that funded the research, and a bullet list of their findings.  Those little cards contained the skeleton what I would ultimately write and post.

I thought I was kind of a rare breed when it comes to my 3×5 fetish, but the little jewels got an endorsement from (at least to me) a surprising source.  In an article on writing an effective to do list for Psych Central, writer Divya Pahwa  suggests keeping our to-do lists brief and realistic by using 3×5 note cards to jot them down.  She further goes into the psychology of why it’s a good idea to keep to-do lists concise; she gives an interesting history of their origin and evolution.

She also made me realize why I find them so beneficial — I have just enough room to “keep it simple, stupid”.  Those little note cards keep me focused and prevent me from veering off into irrelevant territory, regardless of the subject.

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