How do you guys do it?
Step 1 is using the method of loci (MoL) to memorize up to 30 things throughout the day. For context, MoL is a strategy where you visualize things you want to remember in a room. I have one "room" for each day of the month, with 10 spots in a room, and will often visualize up to 3 things in a spot (so 10 x 3 = 30 a day). I have 4 paths that each lead between 7 rooms, one path per week.
Step 2 is just keeping a page of notes per day in a planner. This is really helpful for jotting miscellaneous things down (like future things to read, possible connections).
Step 3 is that often as I'm thinking back over notes from step 1, or reading new things, I'll want to sort of "put it all together", or write up something that cuts across multiple days. There, I'll often refer to my planner, and might start a spreadsheet to keep references on.
I think the problem before was that I'd wanted to write useful longterm notes when first learning / studying something. But that's probably when I'm least qualified to take really insightful notes. It's been nice to let things marinade, and focus on keeping the "building blocks" around!
Then it's trivial to open any note (with alfred) from my wiki (https://github.com/nikitavoloboev/knowledge) & edit it under appropriate topic.
On the go, I usually note things down in Telegram saved messages and later transfer it to wiki or turn it into articles. Have macro to open saved messages instantly (https://github.com/nikitavoloboev/my-ios#widgets). Or I just pass it via share sheet.
https://excalidraw.com & Figma is also great for visual thinking (tying concepts together).
After I read a book, I review it in goodreads and recently realized that more useful reviews aren't just thoughts on the book but are summaries. So I try summarize my learnings from a book there.
For fiction books, I usually listen to it & Audible has nice highlighting feature but mostly the same applies. Important stuff gets noted in Telegram.
And as for apps I use PDF Expert to read PDFs on mac (love multi tab support), the Files app to read PDFs on iOS. And epub I read via Books app on mac/ios.
I'm quite excited for http://holloway.com because all books should be online by default. PDFs/Epub is archaic and lose ability to link to specific parts of a book instantly. i.e. just looks at this (https://www.holloway.com/g/alice-in-wonderland), so much nicer to read.
What would be even more amazing is when you can take ability to note under any line in a book (as Holloway already lets you), and see everyone's notes for any line/chapter of the book/paper you are reading. Similar to what https://fermatslibrary.com is doing.
On the go I'll add a task to taskwarrior and get reminded when I sync it from the PC.
>What would be even more amazing is when you can take ability to note under any line in a book (as Holloway already lets you), and see everyone's notes for any line/chapter of the book/paper you are reading.
I haven't used it but sounds similar to what https://web.hypothes.is/ is trying to do.
Not criticizing note-taking; just offering another perspective.
One key strategy to avoid this kind of note graveyard forming is to interlink notes. That way seeing a note can essentially lead you to wiki-binging through old ideas, trains of thought or re-stumbling on reference you thought was interesting once upon a time.
The value of interlinked notes is showcased by the late German sociologist Niklas Luhmann's notetaking system which he used to rediscover things he'd forgotten. His knowledge base consisted of ~90,000 index cards that were apparently worth referring to because of the wiki binge type effect his hyperlinking system allowed.
It's a bit like touch typing - it takes substantial active effort at first.
Have you ever found yourself looping over a few pages too many times, or that a book is too difficult to digest? Or did you have to move a few chapters ahead to understand an early part of the book? This is where notes are extra useful. This is especially the case for math, science, technical books, or journals.
Some books are not suitable for note taking. Anything where the content can be summarized into powerpoint slides. Self-help or anything that's a best seller are often simplified enough for anyone to read. Story books are designed to be read without notes, and that often include historical and biographical.
I wonder if part of it might be because I write slowly and tend to focus on my penmanship (unknowingly).
Interesting in seeing what others do!
I highly recommend this book for that reason:
Then on the page to the right of that I jot down the things I want to learn more about and the ideas I come up with.
org-mode. With org-noter when the reading material is compatible (most PDFs and EPUBs), otherwise manually written (copied, lightly edited if needed) headings. Manual notes follow the same hierarchy as the material (part, chapter, section etc.).
If the notes are few and small, and the source material supports annotations (PDFs and other documents), then in-document annotations. Otherwise I make a separate document that can be rendered into its own PDF/HTML/EPUB forms and edited and maintained by others. This can be in the form of an office document, an org-mode file, a Sphinx or AsciiDoc project, whatever suits my collaborators.
My note taking process used to be either whatever I could fit in the margin (not much) or require a separate note book.
Switching to my phone has been seriously transformative. Not only is voice dictation way faster than my handwriting, but I can do it in many more contexts because I always have my phone with me. I can also take much more detailed notes in context where handwriting isn't ideal (like a jerky bus ride).
My tech research mostly collects snippets of information. Not terribly worried about attribution of any given phrase, fact or passage as paraphrase or quote from the author
(though I am always careful to note the source, mostly so I can find it again ;)
For academic and thought research I am extremely careful. I take notes, riff on what I read , and take care to quote accurately.
Throughout all of this productivity, my reading is surprisingly the same. I filter every text with a narrow set of categories , and if it doesn't fit into one of these categories, then the text should be quoted (see?) or I'm not interested in the text (yet).
: Marginalia: Sign-posting a text
Yes you have to write it out but this cost:
1. forces you to only save what matters
2. encourages you to compress the info which requires you to understand its essential parts
I record the notes as I encounter noteworthy things. At the end of a book the trello list is effectively a compressed book and index to the actual text.
One of the best univ classes I went to allowed a single handwritten page "cheat sheet" at the exam -- in reality, the only one cheated was yourself because if you actually put in the work of condensing the semester into a single sheet then you usually learned the material during the process... sneaky.
a lot of the notes i take on papers boil down to “underline absurd claim, write WTF in the margin”.
Sometimes I'll take notes to help me process and remember things. These can literally be throwaway, as in the piece of paper gets thrown away at the end of the day, or the TextEdit window gets closed without saving. So I focus on the material rather than organization on the page, or even legibility/grammar.
Sometimes I'll be very focused on one thing and whenever I encounter a tangent/sidequest, I'll scribble it down so I can feel comfortable ignoring it until I've finished reading.
Sometimes I'll take notes for my own future reference. Sometimes I'll take notes I'd like to share with other people. Those are different goals and I'll do different things.
At the end of a chapter, I go back and make long-form notes in markdown, then commit to a git repo.
Here is a demo, one of the most famous Japanese books ever: Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki.
You can select a word to capture it, it gets translated for you, and then you can build Anki cards to review your notes.
It's still under development, but you can see the concept.
The goal is first and foremost: mobile-first so no browser plugins.
If you have thoughts, I would be happy to hear them: firstname.lastname@example.org
If I’m reading an eBook, I use the highlighter feature and review my previous chapter highlights before starting a new chapter.
For paper books I usually have a stack of plain paper bookmarks that I cut from blank index cards (1.5” x 5”). I write keywords on the bookmark as I read so I normally have a tersely annotated bookmark for each finished book that I staple to my printed summary page.
But I have to say I feel like that is only worth doing if you're reseraching a topic that is important to you. Little value to take notes on the articles we read day to day here in HN and Reddit IMO.
Step 2: batch export all the highlights and comments out and paste them into my notes app as a new note
Step 3: go through that note and highlight the ones that are the most valuable (i.e., progressive summarization)
Step 4: summarize and re-state those points as notes in my zettelkasten
I find this process really helps me keep track of the things that I find valuable without clogging up my notes with all the fluff. And the last step helps me build connections to other unrelated thoughts.
Sometimes I will grab a highlighter and mark the edges of pages to make it easier to find sections in a reference work. Possibly with short versions of the section names written next to them, possibly with several colors denoting different kinds of information and a color key written on the flyleaf.
Notes also contains questions so that reviewing the content become better(recalling).
For permanent storage, I almost always use a personal, public blog, just in case someone else could find the notes useful...
I write a blog post. How?
I split the book by the headings section (not whole chapter), this is usually one or two pages. Then I try to explain what I understood in my own words. If the author used an example, then I come up with my example.
If the book is about programming, I put code on public GitHub.
After I finish a chapter, I reread my blog posts.
From Sutton and Barton - Reinforcement Learning:
Do you take notes for every book you read or just some?
I'll split it into three parts. First, you want to know what the book is about and whether it's worth reading. Second, your notes should summarize the core of it, so that as soon as you glance your notes, you understand what it's about. Third, and optionally, you want to criticize the book and compare it to similar books on the topic.
Before reading: Outline the book
Find out what kind of book it is - scientific, practical, philosophical, or historical. Some books, like Flow, are usually read by people for practical reasons, but it's philosophical in writing. The difference between scientific and philosophical is that philosophy expects no prerequisite knowledge, whereas scientific is unreadable without knowledge.
If it's a practical book, your notes should be focused around what to do. If it hasn't clearly explained what to do, then it's useless.
Get an overview of the book. Reading reviews or online summaries helps. Intro is great. Simplify it into one line what it really teaches you.
Skim the table of contents. Most books summarize a chapter at the end of each chapter or beginning. Get a feel of the skeleton of the book.
By now, you've skimmed the whole book, congratulations.
If it's a good book, it will tempt you read it in detail. If it's not, don't waste any more time on it. There are lots of books worth reading.
While reading: Terms and propositions
Put aside a section of your notes as a glossary of terms. This is extra useful for scientific books, where a term is often repeated, and philosophy, where different books use the same term to mean different things. Business books can be especially frustrating without defining terms.
Every time you see a new term, write it down in the glossary. You'll know a term is important when several paragraphs and figures are written to define it. The term might act as a pillar, supporting a whole chapter at times.
Next, write down propositions. What is the book trying to explain? A good book will be extremely dense - several propositions in just a few paragraphs. Some bad self-help books might only have one per chapter. The harder books will usually be most information dense and hardest to read, and this identifies them. Read them slowly.
After reading: What's the point of the book?
If you have properly read the book, it should elevate your knowledge to the same level as the author. Now you should criticize the book. If you have nothing to criticize, it either said little, or your understanding is not good enough.
Is the book true?
Check if the book is understood properly and dispute is not contentious. If criticizing, show where the author is uninformed, misinformed, or illogical. Otherwise what she says is not false, but incomplete.
What now? How does this change you? What do you do? If the book is practical, it must be acted upon. Otherwise, it is incorrect. Ask yourself why you don't act upon it.
This last part is actually quite exhausting to do and I recommend you skip it if you're still new or if the book just wasn't that good.