Konstantin Nazarov

On keeping notes

I often struggle to keep good notes. Over the years, I’ve read and watched a lot of stuff that could be useful to other people, and that really deserves to be written about. Problem is, even if I have it buried somewhere around my TODO lists or bookmarks, retrieving something useful on a specific topic is nearly impossible.

For instance, I remember that The School of Life or Tim Urban’s “Wait, but why?” series were tremendously useful for my self-exploration and correction of certain dysfunctional beliefs. But there were many more great pieces that I don’t recall. So even if I wanted to sum up my thoughts on the “self-help content”, I would have to go over everything from scratch, which is demotivating and thus likely won’t happen.

So I started digging further after I’ve discovered the How to take smart notes book. It describes how one can make writing a low-effort activity, by having good notes ready. It basically says that you don’t have to do all your research in one step, but instead, build your own “knowledge network” in advance, that you then can mine on any specific topic that interests you and just compose it into a finished piece.

On one hand, I already do this to certain extent by journaling every day (one of my journal records has led to this post by the way). On the other hand, I don’t see how it could be as effortless as the book describes. I often read articles on the go, where it’s just not convenient to start taking notes. Or I start reading an article to kill time waiting in the queue, and it turns out to be really interesting. But again, since I never find time to go over the articles I bookmarked, it has no chance to turn into a more developed thought or idea.

It is not clear to me how I can solve this motivation problem. Most likely I need to completely re-wire how I look at consuming content, in order to make note taking intrinsically interesting and effortless. Without it, any system I try to use will fail.

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