Note-taking tips

How to Take Notes, the Smart Way

5 simple principles to take better notes

We have a (serious) problem.
Most of us take notes the wrong way.

No harsh feelings — I’ve been one of them for years.

By understanding what you’re going to read today,
you’ll be ahead of the curve,
because most content creators will continue taking notes the wrong way.

And do you know why?
For the simple reason that the wrong way is comfy.
It’s easy.
It’s intuitive.

And by default?
We humans LOVE that.

But if you really want to make progress and stand out in your niche,
you’ll have to do things differently.

And this post will show you how.

So what do conventional note-taking look like?
Probably close to this:
1. You encounter a valuable idea
2. You record it into your note-taking app
3. You classify it (tag/folder)

And… that’s it.

After months (or even years), you’ll find yourself having a lot of notes…
But without real value.

Truth is, by acting like that, you’re just collecting ideas.

Collecting ideas does not move the needle

But here’s the thing:
Nobody pays you for collecting ideas.

People consume your content and ultimately buy your products (or services) for other reasons than collecting.

They pay you for finding solutions to their problems.
They pay you for doing the heavy lifting for them.
And the heavy lifting in today’s 45-second-TikTok-video-brainless society is… thinking.

Thinking allows you to find the real problems (and their solutions) your audience cares about.

Thinking is a rare virtue that requires attention, focus, and deep work.

Resources, that are scarce then ever in our new Attention Economy.

I told you that it wouldn’t be easy.
And if you’re still reading, congrats — you’re on the right track.

It’s counter intuitive:
Because you’re going to tell me that a creator is intended to.. create, right?

True.
But there’s no value in creating and pushing more garbage out there.

Internet is flooded with “fast low quality entertainment” as the oceans with plastic.

Internet is full of garbage content like our oceans with plastic
Internet is full of garbage content like our oceans with plastic

If you want to create something meaningful,
you have your content has to stand out.

You have to start nourishing your audience with organic and real food…
Not for their bellies but for their brains.

In other words, to create meaningful content, you have to think.

As a creator, your job is to think first — and create second.

At no point your job is just “collecting” (i.e.: taking notes the conventional way)

Collecting has its place.
No doubt about that.
But only to serve a bigger purpose: thinking.

Makes sense?
Cool.
Then let’s see how we can turn the tables and flip your notes from “dumb” to smart.

Quality vs. Quantity

The first thing to understand is that quality out beats quantity.

Our goal is not to brag or feel good about “how many” notes we have.
No.
It’s about the quality of the notes and the connections between them.

As you might eat fries, and 3 hamburgers to feel sated.
1 broccoli with an organic feed chicken leg could do the job…

You have to be picky in what you’re going to allow into your note-taking app.

As you won’t allow junkies into your house,
don’t allow junk ideas in it, too.

Rethink how you classify your notes

Instead of trying to find the right folder or hashtag to classify your notes, start thinking relationships.

Start asking: To what other notes can this specific note relate to?

As an example:
I could take a note about the recycling process of a plastic bottle.
It’s the process of taking a used bottle, chopping it into small parts, and then using the same material to create something new of value.

All of a sudden, this note reminds me of creativity.
Because the whole process of creativity is isolating ideas and combine them together to create new ideas.

As Steve Jobs puts it:

“Creativity is just connecting things.”

What if I’d tagged the note about “Water Bottle Recycling” with #environment or something similar?
It would have never been able to emerge within my creativity note, and prevent me from making meaningful connections.

Break down your notes

The last big concept to take smart notes is to break down your notes to meet the criteria: 1 note = 1 idea.

Like the plastic bottle which finishes in small plastic balls…
Make your notes tiny enough hold only one concept.

Remember:
It’s in by combining small plastic balls that we can create a new bottle.

To recap:
1. Stop using the conventional note-taking process
2. As a content creator, you have to think more than you create
3. Be selective in what you let into your note-taking app
4. Link between your notes instead of classifying them with tags or folders
5. Isolate your notes to match the criteria 1 idea = 1 note

Now you may be asking yourself what using note-taking app to choose?
You may want to know more about the “ideal” note-taking workflow?

Here are other resources I’ve wrote to feed your curiosity:

– Matt Giaro

If you appreciate this post here are 3 things you can do to support my work:
1- Give this story a CLAP 👏
2- SUBSCRIBE to my upcoming stories.
3- 👉 GET my FREE 7-Day Note Taking Course here (safe link to my website)

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Helping Content Creators Monetize Their Ideas. Entrepreneur for 12+ years. Crafted 100+ Hours In Online Courses. Want help? Go here 👉 https://mattgiaro.com

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Matt Giaro

Matt Giaro

Helping Content Creators Monetize Their Ideas. Entrepreneur for 12+ years. Crafted 100+ Hours In Online Courses. Want help? Go here 👉 https://mattgiaro.com

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