Learning about note-taking

| blogging, life, notetaking, productivity

Extra value comes from taking notes when learning. Exponential value? From sharing those notes.

When you take notes, you understand things better. You express ideas in your own words. You condense thoughts and expand tangents. You reflect on how to integrate concepts into your life.

When you share your notes, you create value. You build relationships. You learn from what others share.

Someday, I would like to be able to share everything I learn.

Other people are working on this too. There’s even a free e-book on how to make a complete map of every thought you think. The main challenges are: How can I capture the essence of what I’m learning? How can I organize what I’ve shared to make it easy to find? Maybe some of the things I’ve learned about capturing and organizing learning can help you share more effectively, too.

Capturing thoughts

There is no shortage of things to share. In a typical week, I may skim 10 books from the library, looking for key insights. I read countless blog posts. I listen to podcasts and participate in conversations. I experiment. I experience. What I learn provides me with material. The interconnections among things I’ve learned provide me with even more. People’s questions and ideas yield even more.

Capturing the essence is easier than most people think. I scribble a few keywords into a notebook, sketch an idea, type in staccato sentences or mental shorthand. My task list is infinite, although my priorities are few. Then I publish without polishing. Better to have something out there than to have drafts cluttering my head. I’ll learn more about a topic when I write about it again, anyway.

The mechanics of how? A laptop if the words are already in my head, open to a blog editor, a drawing program, or an outliner/mind mapper. A tablet for drawing ideas. Pen and paper if I need to explore. On the go: a notebook and fountain pen. A voice recorder when I need my hands free. An outliner on my iPod Touch.

I think about how I capture what I’m learning, like my book workflow.

Find whatever works for you. Publish early. Publish often. Get something out there. You’ll learn from the questions people will ask you if you’re unclear. Just get enough of your thoughts down so that you can use it for recall.

Organizing notes

I want to build a map of what I know so that people can find things. I used to publish a personal wiki. Maybe it’s time to do that again.

I use search engines and tags to find my old notes. I keep an index in the back of my paper notebooks. I take advantage of similarity and randomness on my blog.

Links and memories from other people help me rediscover myself. They find things I’ve long forgotten.

Every so often, I review what I’ve written and summarize what I’ve learned. The more links there are, the easier something will be to find later on.

I don’t have an index or a table of contents yet. I want to build one. Do you have any role models you can point me to?

Thanks to Dror Engel for the question!

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