Learn the key ideas of the book by Sönke Ahrens

How to Take Smart Notes

Taking notes that are really useful

We shouldn’t only make a note of the things we are afraid we might forget; what we really ought to do, is take down anything that we think might be important, or of use to us in the future: every intellectual effort we make begins with a note. How to Take Smart Notesby Sönke Ahrens aims to teach us how to turn our knowledge into a rich and vast archive which is easy to consult whenever we need it. It all begins when we start taking efficient notes, so that everything we need to use them for is simple and highly effective.

How to Take Smart Notes
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Listen in 18 min.

Having a structure in your mind is essential for you to be able to immerse yourself in your workflow and keep an open mind to new ideas

When it comes to activities of the mind (such as thinking, reading, learning, and generating ideas), a good structure is more than a project or a goal: it allows you to move smoothly from one activity to another, without jeopardising your concentration, and without losing sight of the whole project. A good structure - one you can really trust - takes the pain out of remembering and keeping track of everything. If you don't have to work to keep everything together in your head, you can start focusing on what's really important: the content, the topic and the ideas. Once you have set yourself up, you are free to immerse yourself in the flow, that is, the state in which you lose track of time, and simply go on with your work without having to make any effort.

But be careful: giving yourself a work structure does not mean "making a plan" that you have to force yourself to stick to. The aim is to create a workflow that unforeseen problems will not get in the way of, but actually help it move forward. Depending on a plan that can be undermined by the arrival of a new idea, or an exciting discovery, is obviously destructive. On the contrary, we need to be able to create a flexible structure capable of "welcoming" any innovations that we might come across along the way.


The key ideas of "How to Take Smart Notes"

Having a structure in your mind is essential for you to be able to immerse yourself in your workflow and keep an open mind to new ideas
The slip box: the perfect instrument to help the flow of innovative ideas: it allows you to coordinate different topics and create quick connections between different types of skills
To make the most of Luhmann’s slip box, it is important to follow his note-categorising system, based on numbers and letters: in this way, every fragment of information can keep track of the connections between the notes
The first rule to create your own slip-box is to get used to constantly taking notes, every, single day
The most effective knowledge organisation system is free from any sophisticated tools and strategies. The brain needs as much free space as possible to think
Your notes should be organised using a simple system to allow your brain to make connections easily
Not only does writing support our learning, it also offers valid auto-feedback that helps to make sure we have really understood
Confirmation bias is more dangerous than we might think, and it puts us at risk of getting stuck in a “bubble” of fixed ideas
Forgetting in order to learn: it is important to allow our brain to “let go” of memories so that we can lighten our long term memory and create space for growth
Take-home message

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