The Power of Note Taking

Do you take notes? Do you read a lot of articles, watch talks or listen to podcasts on a daily basis? Do you forget most of it after a few days or weeks? Well so did I until I started taking notes and created my personal knowledge system or so called second brain.

The Power of Note Taking

I think it started with the article How to take Smart Notes by Tiago Forte a few months back. It's quite a long read and among other things, it taught me about the 20th-century German sociologist Niklas Luhmann and his knowledge system called “Zettelkasten”.

Learnings from the article reinforced an idea I already had growing on myself. I felt that a lot of knowledge from reading articles or watching talks was lost. Given the time investment it takes to consume all this content, only to forget about it a few days later, was a terrible ROI. I had to do something about this. I thought about summarizing articles but didn’t really know where to start, until now.

So I started writing summaries of articles I read. Around the same time, I heard about a new note-taking app called Roam. Roam has the ability to link notes together and form a knowledge graph, similar to that of a Zettelkasten.

Fast forward to earlier this week. I was watching a talk about bootstrapping a SaaS and something special happened. I noticed that I was watching it differently from before: I was keeping a mental list of items that I thought were important enough to summarize later on. Then it hit me:

When you start taking notes and make it into a habit, you will read/watch differently. You will constantly be thinking about how to summarize it while reading an article or listening to a talk.

This has some great benefits. Making mental lists boosts your ability to remember it later, but it also helps you to connect different concepts together. The latter is a vital part of learning. So instead of just consuming the content, you'll start to actually learn something new.

These days I take notes on about anything. Articles, talks, meetings, etc. I also link these notes together based on related concepts. Roam is a big help here, as it can suggest related notes. Working with your notes on a daily bases also acts as a form of spaced repetition, reinforcing the knowledge in your memory.

I found that the more notes I take and connect to each other, the more powerful it becomes.

Do you have any feedback? Feel free to send me a tweet.