This is going to be some true magic-nerd type shit. Well, not even "magic" nerd, but "organizational" nerd. I'm a queeny little fusspot when it comes to organization. I don't like clutter. And magic produces two types of clutter: actual physical junk and then a kind of clutter of the mind. And I find that both of these things get in the way of me ever actually performing. 

Watching how other people organize has always been motivational to me to get my own shit together. So perhaps seeing my system will inspire you or encourage you to come up with your own system if you don't already have one.

Organizing Ideas

I have too many ideas, and if I don't track them in some way, I forget them. I used to think that was a good enough system itself: don't write anything down and if the idea is good enough, you'll remember it. Like survival of the fittest for ideas. But then I found myself having good ideas, not writing them down, and forgetting them. The only remnant of the idea that remained was the vivid memory of thinking, "Oh, this is a great idea, I'll never forget this." So I decided to establish a very basic system.

The system I use has three components:

  1. A notes app on my phone. (I use Vesper)
  2. A small physical notebook. (I use something like this.)
  3. A documents folder on my computer

The only "goal" here is to get the idea into the physical notebook. But I don't want to always carry around a notebook and a pen. I'll bring it with me if I'm carrying a messenger bag or something, but if I'm just going out, I don't bother taking it with me.

So, if I get an idea and my notebook is with me, I'll write it in there. If my notebook isn't with me I'll write it on my phone in as few words as possible without forgetting what the idea is later. 

Once a week, I douche out the notes app on my phone and write those ideas in the notebook.

I read through the notebooks every now and then, on no set schedule, and when an idea seems worth pursuing I will open a new document for it in Google Docs. Simple.

That's the basics of it. For me it is a system that captures everything, but isn't overwhelming.

Organizing Your Repertoire

Tracking the tricks I know in a spreadsheet may have had the greatest impact on me actually performing for people on a regular basis. If you're like me, you have a ton of effects that you've worked on casually. And you remember them for a little bit, but then you forget the actual workings, and soon you forget the effect even exists. This is why a lot of amateurs end up performing the same three tricks all the time; they're the only ones they remember. Or they don't perform at all. 

I use Google Docs a lot, as you'll see in this post. The reason is because I can access it from anywhere and on any device.

In my Google Docs I have a spreadsheet called "Repertoire." These are the effects I've learned that I want to remember. There are a bunch of different tabs in the spreadsheet. Each tab represents a broad category of performing condition/necessary requirements.

Here are the tabs I have in my spreadsheet:

FASDIU - "From A Shuffled Deck In Use" - These are the effects in my repertoire that require just an ungimmicked, unprepared deck of cards.

Carry On - These are tricks that require me to carry something with me. For example, Double Deception by Mark Mason requires me to have two gimmicked coins on me. Now, I'm not someone who loads up his pockets with shit before going outside. But I may take one thing with me before I leave the house in the morning, especially if I know I'll be hanging out with people that day. And then I kind of rotate my way through this list. I'll continue to take the same item until I perform it, then the next day I'll take the next item on the list.

FASLIU - "From A Shuffled Life In Use" - This is just my way of referring to impromptu effects with normal items that I don't carry with me. Things that don't use cards and that I can get into at any moment.

Wallet - A list of tricks that would make sense to carry in my wallet (e.g., tricks with bills, business cards, etc.). I don't cram a bunch of stuff in my wallet, but I will keep one or two gimmicked items in there and rotate them out as I perform them.

Phone - A list of tricks on your phone or using your phone. There's no reason not to have a couple of tricks you can do with your phone. People used to carry handkerchiefs and we did tricks with them, now we carry phones. And that's why my phone is c

Stacked - Tricks with a stacked deck. Not necessarily a full-stack, but any effect requiring a stack that I can't get into in the moment of the effect.

MAD - (Marker and Deck) - Tricks that use just a deck and a marker. 

Gimmicked - Tricks that require a gimmick of some sort and aren't the sort of thing I would carry around with me on a regular basis. (Tricks with gimmicked decks, for example.) 

Special - Tricks, like many of the ones I've written for this site, that are for special occasions. Meaning they require a large investment of time or set-up.

Missing Parts - Tricks I want to work on but I can't at the moment because I'm missing something I need to perform them.

New Ones - Tricks I've identified as ones I want to add to my repertoire but have not worked on yet.

Stage - Effects that I think are good stage effects (for myself or, more likely, other performers I'm working with).

Perfect - Tricks that I think are perfect methodologically, that I can perform flawlessly, and that I have a perfect presentation for. The purpose of this section is two-fold. It allows me to identify tricks that are at the heart of my repertoire and that I would use if I was only going to interact with a person one time and wanted to have a particularly profound effect on them. And by having a section for "perfect" tricks it reminds me to make note of, and work on, the flaws in the other tricks in my repertoire.

Consider - Tricks I haven't decided I want to add to my repertoire but something about them intrigued me and I might want to reconsider them in the future.

If you do something like this, you will end up with different categories than I have because what I think is important to keep track of won't be what you think is important to keep track of. 

I try to practice the tricks in my repertoire once a week. This is just to keep the set-ups and the moves in mind. I don't rehearse a script. I remember the gist of what I will say with each effect. The less my scripting sounds rehearsed the better for my style. To go through everything takes me maybe three hours, but I don't do it in one chunk, I do it throughout the week while I'm watching Dr. Phil or some other garbage. Yes, yes, I know, you need to have dedicated practice sessions to perfect a trick. Fine, I'll give you that. But just to keep the procedures fresh in your mind I find it's enough to just spend a minute or two thinking about the trick or working through it with the props in hand once a week.

Organizing the tricks like this allows me to practice them very rapidly. For the FASDIU ones I just need a deck in front of me. For the ones with a marker and a deck, I just need those two things. The effects that comprise the list of "Carry On" and "Gimmicked" are not only on the same spreadsheet but they're stored together in real life. That way I can work through those effects one right after the other without having to hunt down the props. 

Another spreadsheet I keep has a list of effects I perform across the top and friends I perform for frequently along the side. Then I fill in the field at the intersection of the two if I've performed that trick for that person. Then, if I need to, I can quickly check this spreadsheet on my phone earlier in the evening before launching into that trick later that night and determine if I've done that effect for that person before. You don't want to be like, "You know, the time is right for a once in a lifetime miracle," and have them say, "Oh, you've shown this to me before."

(I don't only perform for women. I just have different spreadsheets for men and women.)

One final bit of organizational porn for you -- both in real life and on a spreadsheet -- is how I keep track of my decks. The first thing I did was get a couple of cassette tape holders. What I have found is that people are more than happy to give you anything related to cassette tapes. Just ask around. Cassette tape storage is not a big concern for people these days, yet they often have these large organizers taking up space in their homes. Most people are happy to get rid of them. And if someone does say, "But where will I put my cassettes?" You say, "In the trash." Because that's the only right answer. 

Anywho, I have a couple of these under my bed. Then, on a spreadsheet in Google Docs, I have the same grid layout and each cell is filled out with what deck is in that slot. So if I need to find a blank deck, I just search "blank" on the spreadsheet, see that it's in the third column, fourth deck down, and then pluck it out of the holder. This may all seem very persnickety, but it has saved me time from opening and closing 50 different card cases to find the ones I want, and I've found it to be faster than labelling the outside of the box and then searching through them.

The purpose of this organization is not just to be a little twat about "everything having a place" or something like that. If you've ever had a perpetually messy room in your house -- a garage, kitchen, or basement -- and then finally cleaned it up and realized you could actually use that space for something, that's the same as this. Getting your shit in order is the first step in doing something productive with it.