HOW TO TAKE BETTER NOTES
Why I Stopped Classifying My Notes (And Why You Should Do the Same)
Does your typical note-workflow look like that?
1.You find a valuable idea.
2.You open your note app.
3.You write it down and classify it (with a tag or by placing it into a folder).
4.You go ahead with your day.
Well, I’ve been doing that for years.
And after collecting more and more notes,
I had the strange feeling that I wasn’t really learning from them.
It also did not make me more creative.
This was counterintuitive — because the more note I had, the more I was supposed to progress.
Was it me having a problem?
Or was the problem in the system that I was using?
This frustrated me for years until I finally found the solution I’m going to share with you today.
Classifying is the most logical thing to do
We’re used to classifying everything.
Because if not, our life would be a mess.
We know that if we want to find our toothbrush, we’re going to find it in the bathroom.
Our socks? In the bedrooms drawer.
And the coffee, in the kitchen.
We have been classifying things since we were children.
After all, we all had to put back the toys after playing with them.
Classifying makes us interact with the world and make sense of it.
And this is why when it comes to note-taking, classifying seems the smartest thing to do.
We encounter an idea that we want don’t want to lose.
So we try to put it in the drawer to which it belongs to so that we can find it next time we’re searching for something around the same topic.
Sounds smart, but is it really the right thing to do?
If we think about it, classifying it is helpful if we want to retrieve something.
We want to be able to find what we’re looking for.
It helps us to prevent chaos.
Defining the real purpose of ideas and notes
But is this the real purpose of ideas?
Are we really looking only to retrieve ideas?
Or are we using a note system to sparkle creativity?
This is a tough question you have to answer for yourself before continuing reading.
Here’s my answer:
I am a content creator.
I trade ideas.
My main goal is to take notes to sparkle creativity.
And when it comes to creativity, here’s the thing:
Creativity is nothing else than connecting the dots.
Great Ideas are a combination of different ideas.
It’s a patchwork.
You don’t create ideas from thin air.
You combine ideas between them.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” (Steve Jobs)
So given this assumption, the role of an idea is not to be retrieved.
It’s not to be discovered.
It’s to be combined.
Because this is where the value of an idea lies in.
Does that mean I can not use my note-taking system to retrieve ideas?
But it does not have to be the main focus.
Connecting, not just collecting
If you focus on simply classifying your notes to be retrieved,
you’ll end up collecting.
Collecting alone does not make us smarter.
When you’re simply collecting,
you’ll not be able to reap the rewards of connecting.
Because putting an idea in a box prevents it from being discovered outside its box.
Some argue that you could add multiple tags and thus put your idea into multiple boxes… but the problems remains the same:
Your idea will be limited to the number of boxes you put it in.
The solution to that?
Linking instead of classifying.
By letting all your ideas float around, you’ll be able to create more collisions between them.
It may give you a sense of chaos.
But this is exactly how the neurons in our brain work.
Our neurons are all contained in a big box: Our brain.
And the connections between our neurons are nothing else the links between them.
Think of your note-taking app as your brain.
Think of your every note as a neuron.
Use links to connect between your notes.
This is why today,
I care less about categorizing but more about associating.
How to link between your notes
Linking is easy. Linking is fun.
When I take a note, I simply ask myself:
What can I associate this idea with?
This is how to give birth to creative ideas.
Leaving your notes in an “open space” allows you to let them connect between them.
It’s like working in an open space.
People are more likely to connect in an open space rather than everyone being locked down in their office.
And collaboration is key to productivity.
So let your Ideas collaborate between them and get rid of the unnecessary boundaries of folders and tags!