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How to use Index Cards to Organize

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Index Cards are one of the greatest tools for organizing many aspects of our lives. The Index Card is a perfect (tried and tested) tool to capture one thought, one note or one idea. That's the reason why we love them to capture information at work, school, home - really at any place. You can organize index cards for any number of areas of your life - whether it is for capturing meeting notes, organizing your thoughts for a new project, storing your recipe cards, or tracking all the random details of all the important things in your life.

Organizing Life with Index Cards

In this article we'll talk about all the different ways to organize your information, and how you are not alone in the growing movement to go more 'analog'. Sidenote: this is what makes NoteDex the best hybrid app - since you can use your digital stylus to make virtual index cards just like the real thing. No card file box or metal card file needed ;-)

We'll discuss what you can use index cards for and we know we won't cover everything!

At NoteDex we are the biggest fans of Index Cards. A few years ago we created the #1 Index Card app on Windows and NoteDex is the next generation cross platform version of the app. A lot of new apps are released almost weekly, and like NoteDex allow you to capture notes, thoughts, and so on, but only NoteDex allows you to use Index Cards to organize your ideas and projects and more - in the only true to life app which can hold 3" x 5" digital cards in a virtual index card box!

We love to see such innovation but many apps miss out on of the key value propositions of Index Cards - as small short form notecard canvases to capture your creativity and store in your memory.

Image of Colored Index Cards
Colored Index Cards

The NoteDex canvas allows you to capture using text but also with digital handwriting using a pen stylus - just like on a real card with real pen. The beauty of the index card is the way you add just a small amount of words or a hand written sketch - this is how you capture everything quickly at any time and place - on a small size notecard.

When you focus on an index cards, this is where a lot of creativity and innovation occurs and it's what sets NoteDex apart from other note taking apps - and it's what can set you apart in creating, capturing and organizing all your notes and ideas.

Having an Index Cards System

The almost infinite usage of index cards in all areas of life mean that there is of course not 'one' perfect index cards system or process to using and organizing them. People might be wanting to organize information, or just organize daily life routines. You will also find on the internet many systems and frameworks to help you manage information with lots of options.

The great thing about index cards is that they are not specific to any one model, process or person, so you can decide depending on the situation how to use them and which information management model to use. For example, writing a book and capturing quotes and notes might be very different than using index cards for your studies and as use as flashcards.

Organize Your Life by Organizing Your Cards

Image of woman using computer and child playing
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

I think one of the reasons that they are so good at helping to organize is that they appear as visual objects which can help to represent a project, and class or something else.

You can use one stack to organize your notes and ideas about each topic, using different colors of cards. Ideally without making more sticky notes, you can create one card to hold your to dos or tasks. For example, home related cards can be one color, work another. In the case of NoteDex you can see all your cards on the screen with the different kinds of card colors based on how you decided to categorize and organize. You can also order your cards by date, name or the original order you created them.

A Virtual Index Card Holder to Organize your Day

If you are using physical cards then keep a pack of whole cards in your back pocket - yes, the hipster PDA! Whether physical or digital, they are great for taking notes, writing down an idea, and jotting down tasks. Some people use an index card binder, others use a spiral book of cards or a set of cards with holes for a ring to reduce clutter. As we mentioned earlier, there is a growing movement of being analog! Where's that Moleskine notebook?! (Seriously, we love Moleskine notebooks!)

If you are using NoteDex then you have an electronic index card holder organizer with everything stored completely digital! And you'll never lose a card and can have them anywhere you need them - and at the times you need them - you can eliminate paper systems from your workflow and create your perfect system.

Planning your Day - Essential to Balancing a Busy Life

Index Cards are a great asset to helping to plan your day - together with any planning technique you might be using - or not. For example, as a busy person you may choose to take a moment (if you have any!) to jot down things to do today or the next day. The nice thing about Index Cards for managing your to-do's is that unlike a to-do app the items can easily be edited and moved around on the card as things change and develop. Plus you can come back to it the next day and make the edits for the next day. So you can sort of use it as a rolling to-do note.

If you use a tool like NoteDex then you can write your tasks into a grid table - so that can be helpful to be more organized. Each column might be a day of the week so you can make a life plan for the week - or it might be a shopping list with each column based on a different store or need.

If you are a student you might use a table view to plan out your week - you can see in this example how one student uses it to create a weekly plan. Index cards are widely used in education, for learning and also by teachers for preparing and planning classes or training materials.

Organizing your Writing Research

There is a nice article by Thrive Research on using index cards for writing. The key point about using an index card is to help brainstorm, brain dump and outline your thoughts so that you can use them to write your article.

As a writer you might be wanting to take notes when reviewing your research books or papers. You can use one index card per idea or thought. Then when you write your paper you will take each card and go into more detail. Some people using real cards put them on a wall in their room. With NoteDex we have the virtual board feature we call 'Power Grid' where you can project all your cards onto a large TV and organize just like a real wall. This virtual workspace makes it really efficient to view and organize your cards.

Then you will organize your cards into themes - categories - perhaps as chapters or by key character themes. We will write more about using index cards for story writing in later articles. Use Groups in NoteDex like a physical divider, and tags like labels on cards.

Whichever index cards system you use you will find the use of these tried and tested tools invaluable.

What can I do with an Index Card?

There are just so many ways to use index cards to get organized but here is short list of common ways. Here goes!

  1. Jotting down ideas, concepts and knowledge

  2. Tracking tasks - like sticky notes

  3. Use as flashcards for study and memory retention

  4. Capture research notes

  5. Tracking customer meeting notes (a 'Lite' CRM or Rolodex)

  6. Maintain expense logs

  7. Tracking addresses

  8. Outlining speeches for public speaking

  9. Capturing spiritual scripture snippets

  10. Tracking recipes like a virtual recipe box

  11. Maintaining inventories of items

  12. Mapping your character attributes for writers and plot points

  13. Keeping shopping lists

  14. Taking meeting notes

  15. Organizing projects so you don't stress

  16. Organize your day

  17. Scribble notes on notecards and brainstorming a mindmap

  18. Learning a language

  19. Keeping a list of life's questions

  20. ... and so many more!

There's more what you can use Index Cards for...!

Math Flashcards

Math Flashcards are a great way to help kids learn and practice basic mathematics concepts! Flashcards can be used to review addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as fractions and decimals. For example, one can create a set of flashcards with each card having one equation written on it such as 3 2 or 5x2. Kids can then match the equation with the correct answer written on another card. This is a fun and interactive way to reinforce math facts and improve math fluency. Flashcards can also be used to help build problem solving skills by having kids come up with their own equations and answers.

A Doodle a Day Project

A Doodle a Day Project is a great way to get creative and have some fun with index cards. It's a simple concept - draw a doodle on an index card every day for 61 days! You can use any art materials you have available, and each day you'll be able to see how your skills develop. Plus, it's a great way to explore different art styles and techniques. By the end of the project, you'll have an impressive collection of beautiful pieces that showcase your creativity and development as an artist. And if you use NoteDex with a digital pen you can create lots of doodles and not waste any paper!

New Perspective

The New Perspective method is a great way to use index cards. It can be used as a creative exercise to help you look at a situation from a new angle. When faced with a problem, take an index card and write down the most obvious solution to the problem. Then, take another index card and brainstorm different ways to approach the same problem. This can help open up your thinking and allow you to come up with innovative ideas that you may have never thought of before. You can also use this technique to brainstorm new ideas for projects or tasks you're working on. Index cards provide an easy way to capture your thoughts and then organize them later.

Capture Ideas on the Go

Index cards are a great way to capture ideas on the go. Whether you're in a meeting or out and about, index cards can be used to jot down notes, record quotes, or draw sketches. They are lightweight and easily portable so you can take them with you wherever you go. Plus, the tactile nature of writing and drawing on paper can help stimulate your creative process. With index cards, you can capture ideas without worrying about running out of battery or struggling with a slow connection!

Organize Your Thoughts and Findings

Organizing your thoughts and findings can be made easier with the help of index cards. Writing down key points and related data on individual index cards allows you to easily visualize and arrange your thoughts in a meaningful way. Index cards also make it easier for you to compare, contrast, and summarize data, allowing you to draw better conclusions from your research. Furthermore, index cards can help you keep track of the sources of your information; by writing down the topic of each source on an individual card, you'll have a better overview of where your information is coming from. Finally, index cards are an easy way to take notes on the go; simply grab a few 3x5 slips of paper and jot down your thoughts whenever inspiration strikes.

Memory Games

Memory games are a great way to use index cards! Whether you're trying to memorize scripture or just have fun, index cards can provide a great platform for some friendly competition. You can create a basic memory game using two sets of cards with 10 pairs each, or make it more difficult by adding additional cards. If you're looking to review vocabulary, you can write each word on an individual card and see who remembers the most words! With NoteDex, an advanced flashcard making tool, you can take your game up a notch by using multiple languages and incorporating images. No matter what type of memory game you choose to play, index cards are the perfect way to keep track of all the information you need for hours of fun and learning.


Index Cards are a great way to organize - not only information but also your life - whether at home or at the office. Students, Professional, Hobbyists or a busy mom or dad - whoever you are you know the power of index cards and flash cards. If you are using physical index cards check out NoteDex as a virtual index card alternative to organize your life. For a one-time price you will have an unlimited cards for life!

NoteDex solves the problem of paper systems - you can store index cards electronically - completely digital - and the digital card means you have enough room for all your notes. And you won't lose that hipster PDA bound together with a rubber band or metal ring.

We are always amazed how our users use our NoteDex app to capture, organize and share their information. We look forward to seeing how you use them to be more efficient and productive as you adopt your own personal index cards system.


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