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A friend recently told me he never takes notes (!). I was surprised. I don't expect everyone to take notes, but this particular friend is also a member of the likes-to-study-things camp. If you study things you take notes, right?
The case for note taking
- You can refer to your notes later and jog your memory.
- You will retain more of what you study.
That's it. Two points. Want more detail? Here we go.
Refer back to past information
This one is pretty obvious so I'll just point out one particular nuance I've found beneficial—notes created by your past self are extremely well tailored to your way of thinking.
Reviewing old notes can be like having the worlds best tutor, because the author new your brain better than anyone else.
Your own notes work much than reviewing whatever material helped you create your notes in the past.
Retain more information
This is the big on. The primary reason I advocate note taking. I myself don't go back and read past notes very often, but the fact that I took them adds to my retention of any topic.
- Reading non-fiction? 👉Take some notes.
- Learning a new subject? 👉Take some notes.
- Just met a new person and want to remember what you talked about? 👉Take some notes.
If you don't believe me just try it for yourself. In some area you're currently studying try taking notes for a week.
A note taking workflow
So that covers the "why," now let's get into "how."
Disclaimer. There are a million note-taking apps for a reason. People work in different ways. The specifics here are all subjective.
The types of notes
- Reference material.
- Spontaneous musings.
It's important to distinguish different types of note taking. In my life there are currently these two kinds.
This is classic note taking. You learn something and write something down about it.
Reference material is anything you might want to reference in the future. Examples:
- Quotes from books your reading
- Momentous thoughts
- Business ideas
These can be anything, but what separates spontaneous musings from reference material is that they aren't meant to be referenced. You write something down and forget about it. Maybe you review it, maybe you don't.
I'll repeat that since "musings" might not be clear on its own: This type of note is not meant to be reviewed later. It can be, but there's no expectation.
- Thoughts on books or podcasts
- This is an important one. Most likely no one wants to hear your rants, but dumping a rant into a note and forgetting about it can be therapeutic.
- Anything else
So how do I personally put this into practice? I use two apps:
- Notion: For reference material.
- When studying something I take notes on it. Books, programming languages, business ideas, etc.
- Day One: For spontaneous musings.
- I really like this one. It supports ver long audio snippets which is extremely useful for note taking while walking. I listen to a lot of books / podcasts so this is super handy.
- The journal functionality is good, although there are a million options for journaling. I just like their UI and feature set for my personal use case.
That's all. Go take some notes!