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Taking notes, a real superpower


2024-05-17 | 1 views

lifestyle productivity

The human brain is very good at being creative, but not as good at remembering things. I have personally experienced this many times, when forgetting you should have done something or when not being able to recollect something important someone has told you. There is a solution however! Making notes. Writing things down on paper or in a note taking software permanently stores what you want. This can be very useful when learning new things or when there is a lot of things that you have to keep track off.

Not only does writing stuff down store what you write down on paper or in storage of a device, but it also helps you remember things better. My personal favourite way is to summarise what I have learnt or have to remember in my own words since when reading them I do not only remember what I wrote down but also what I was thinking when I wrote things down.

Never forgetting anything

The most obvious but still very valuable advantage of taking a lot of notes is that you will not be able to forget anything. When someone tells you something and you write it down, you will not forget it. We have all experienced that we forgot something someone asked us to do earlier in the day or that someone who we asked to do something forget about it, if everyone would take notes this would happen a lot less. All this while taking notes is quite easy and non time consuming.

Managing thoughts

Taking notes about creative thoughts is also a great way to not lose ideas. I think we all have experienced that great idea when lying in bed at night, just to wake up next morning and not being able to recollect it. Or knowning that you still have to do something but can't remember what exactly.

This can all be helped by writing down what you need to do in a nice to do list. This also counts for things you do not necessarily have to do today, tomorrow or this week. It might be an idea you want to pursue somewhere down the line, like a course you want to follow once you have the time, a person you want to reconnect with after your busy period at work is over or a new skill you want to attain.

Writing these things down is a great way to get more out of your time since in the time spent doing nothing you can take a look at your to do list and find something that you still wanted to do. This however only works when you also write down fun things you want to pursue like researching a new technology you have read about.

Summarising knowledge

With all this storage space available, what to write down? In my other blog post I wrote about learning consistently throughout a career. Taking notes is a very important part of this.

Learning new skills is great but there is not much to gain if the new knowledge is lost over time. Writing down small summaries of knowledge not only helps remembering stuff but also gives a nice overview of all the knowledge that your brain contains. It's like creating an amazing library of your own mind it's contents, all with an easy search filter.

Note taking applications

After my university was done I used to write a lot of things down on paper. The big advantage of writing things down is that your brain remembers things better than when typing. However in the longterm the amount of notes start stacking up and becoming a big mess. That is why I recommend using a note taking app that fits your style.

Computers are a lot better at storing massive amounts of data especially text. A single flash drive of 128GB can store a live time of notes in text format, even free cloud storage you can get with most notetaking applications is more than enough for extensive note taking. Another big advantage of a note taking application is that your notes are stored in the cloud. You can access them anywhere and write notes to your library on any device and share them easily with other people.

Challenges when taking notes

The biggest challenge when taking notes is to keep your notes organised. This is why I am a fan of using software to take notes and not paper, while paper can be very organised with the right system, software makes it easier for me, this however is just an opinion and paper has it's own advantages as described before.

I have personally encountered this challenge after I started using the notetaking application Notion and after a while running into the problem that organising my notes was harder and harder to achieve. In Notion you can order notes hierarchically which is amazing to start with, but after a while I started encountering that I had notes which would fit in multiple hierarchies. I started creating shared hierarchies and choosing the best of the two instead of being able to connect them to both.

After a while this mess became bigger and bigger. I am not saying Notion is not good, for other use cases it is great and I still use it for taking notes for my university, but for writing down my knowledge about programming it did not work well for me.

After this I got the advice to start using Amplenote which organises notes based on tags which can be provided to a note which makes the notes work more as a big collection with easily searchable tags. This worked perfectly for my usecase and keeps my notes very well organised.

Everytime I want to find a note I can just search for the category where this note falls into and easily find it back.

What I am trying to say with this story is not to choose Amplenote over Notion but that the concept of organising ones notes is very important and that finding a way that suits your note taking style is very important or it can get very messy after a wihle.

What to use

In the end writing notes is the most important part not how it is done. If paper is your preferred way of writing notes, do that! Find a way that is convenient to use for you and that you enjoy using. It's no use if you stop using this amazing superpower after some time because of inconveniencies. As long as you are writing notes you can unlock the superpower of never forgetting anything!

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