Alexander Zeitler

Alexander Zeitler

Writing is thinking - and more

Published on Monday, May 30, 2022

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

Recently I came across this tweet:

This resonates very much with my experience and I want to share it here.

This weekend I did nothing but read and write, with writing predominating. I wrote concepts, ideas and strategies for @klientoapp.

Writing, in my opinion, is even more important when you are a founder on your own. It gives you the opportunity to talk to yourself and reflect on thoughts without having to keep them in your head. This relieves the brain and reduces the cognitive load and avoids multitasking with thoughts.

This, in turn, creates capacity for more thoughts and gets you into flow faster because you can immediately "dump" the brain again with each new thought since you already have all the tools at your disposal (pen and paper or a note-taking app).

When working and developing alone, it's easy to fall into the trap of immediately starting to write code. This leads neither to structured code nor to well thought-out features. You quickly produce a ball of mud and have no clear structure. Indicators are unclear commit messages, no releasable artifacts, and so on.

You work away and never come to a defined end, because without a concept you often overlook and forget important things.

Writing also helps with prioritization. If you write down the features, you know on the one hand the scope and on the other hand you recognize whether this is a USP, commodity or nice to have. You can prioritize accordingly.

When you write, thoughts arise that are not only related to the features. You think more strategically, e.g. also in the direction of investors, hiring etc.

Writing is also helpful when you take a break from a task, e.g. writing code, without losing the context, because you can always pick up the task again when reading what you have written.

I've also gotten into the habit of creating a "TIL" document for each day. This is where notes go in about things I've learned. This can be personal, about the domain or code related on a project. If there are learnings that I can use in other contexts, I store them outside the project and only reference them in the TIL document.

As you may have noticed, I'm Zotero and Zettlr for this.

In Zotero I put everything I want to reference, while in Zettlr I write down information in my own words to understand the thought behind it later. I don't make copies of external information in Zettlr - such things are stored in Zotero.

All notes and highlights I make in books and on my kindle I also put in Zotero. That way I avoid having to deal with different media and formats in the long run. Notes and highlights I made in a book or kindle I can delete afterwards, since everything is in Zotero. This also means I'm not dependent on a platform like kindle and when I search I only have to search in one place: for things I've read, listened to or watched it's Zotero, for my own thoughts it's Zettlr. So again, I avoid unnecessary strain on the brain.

Another habit it got into is summarizing inquiries from prospects in my own words after the initial conversation (this can be quite detailed). At the end, I have a list of questions that I can discuss with the prospect and that they can distribute at their company as well. If I receive feedback on the questions, I expand my document. The questions remain, the answers are then also with the questions and so I can reference questions and answers again at the appropriate place. Thus, I have a living documentation of the inquiry process. Of course, this can also be maintained after I got the job...

How do you organize your thoughts and learnings?

What are your thoughts about "Writing is thinking - and more"?
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