There is a post on HackerNews asking for note-taking skills. Below are some good points made:

  • 80% of value of notes is to write them. The act of writing them keeps you from distracting. It doesn’t matter if you never read it again
    • A research 1 suggest typing it out might be more effective
    • an issue of discipline vs distraction
    • writing by hand force you to have more structure and summaries
  • Two step process: Write during class and make Anki deck from nots the next day for the material committed to memory
  • Cornell notes system?
    • questions, notes, summary
  • No note in class system: (shorten the study time)
    1. Pre-read, attempt a few problems, and make preliminary notes
    2. Prepare list of questions for the class
    3. Annotate questions during class
    4. After class, revise preliminary notes into proper notes
  • “How to take smart notes” by Sönke Ahrens – highly recommended
  • Cambridge Jotter A5 Card Cover Wirebound Notebook Ruled 200 Pages / Date each page / Write everything / Multicolor pen
  • Feynman technique: Write the subject, skip a few lines, go through the steps to understand the subject, then summary on how I understand it
  • Rewrite notes as a revision cycle and help stay engaged
  • Shorthand notes in text file
    • first line = subject and meeting date
    • second line = attendees, etc
    • every other line prefixed by symbols: * = someone to do something, X = I am to do something, - = things to remember, ? = questions to answer
  • Use colored pens, and color code the notes
    • e.g., red = problems/WTF, green = questions, blue = fact/reference, black = thoughts/misc
    • disadvantage: switching pens slows down writing
  • Note taking system for Emacs
    • org-mode
  • Sketchbook and a box of uni-ball ONYX rollerball pens
  • For college level class
    • before lecture: read the topic and highlight key points, transcribe highlight into handwritten notes (leave room for comments and more notes)
    • bring notes to class
    • before exam: transcribe handwritten notes into index cards, and quiz on them
  • Books:
    • “How to be a straight A student” by Cal Newport – tips in note taking and how to process the notes
    • The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde
  • Bullet journals:
  • Quadrant method (Bill Gates): Notes, Questions, To-dos (actions taken by other), Assignments (for me)
  • Smart notes (Niklas Luhmann)
    • ideas: write on index cards
    • only one side of each card is used to avoid the need to flip over
    • limit to one idea per card, but each card has a sequential number (1,2,3…)
    • supplementary idea goes with suffix (1a, 1b, 1c,…)
    • Save contradictory ideas
    • Organize notes by context (like a writer) not topic (like a librarian)
    • Note-taking system implemented by Twinkle app
  • vimwiki
  • Scratchpad note to ease the cognitive load for quick brainstorming without caring which folder/category/project to place it
  • Two pass process
    1. Dump everything into notes
    2. Capture each note as a short chunk of information, then reorganize by adding tags to categorize and reorder
  • Tree-based note-taking app:
  • mindmaps
  • PARA
    • Projects, Areas, Resources, Archives
    • Project = series of tasks linked to a goal
    • Areas of responsibility = activities to maintain, e.g., health, finance, travel, friends, direct reports, product development
    • Resource = topic of ongoing interest, e.g., habit formation, project management, coffee, SEO
    • Archive = inactive items from the three above, e.g., projects completed, area no longer committed to maintain, resources no longer interested in
  1. Bui, D. C., Myerson, J., & Hale, S. (2012, October 8). Note-Taking With Computers: Exploring Alternative Strategies for Improved Recall. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030367