Before You Try Out That New Note-Taking System, Make Sure You Have This One Thing
Note-taking is going through a renaissance.
Or maybe it’s just me.
It’s not enough now to just have a notebook, or just type little stickies on your desktop (yes, I’m aware nobody actually does that anymore). Now we have battles over which app is the best for notes: do you use the simplicity of mem.io? The academic caché of Roam Research? The independence of Obsidian? Or did you buy one of the gazillion Notion templates that replicate some form of Building a Second Brain, Getting Things Done, or a Zettelkasten?
Or maybe you’re a purist and you “simply” have notebook and pen. “Simply” in quotes, because that’s just another rabbit hole, choosing not just the right notebook and pen (and ink!) but also the right note-taking system: Cornell notes? Bullet journal? GTD started out as a notebook-based system, though I personally prefer the GSD system myself.
And if you’re an environmentally minded person, you can even convince yourself that you’re somehow saving the world by going “paperless” and using lithium batteries and fossil-fuel generated electricity instead of killing a tree.
Oh, you use sustainably-grown hand-made bamboo paper notebooks? My bad, you are a true eco-warrior.
The one thing everybody seems to agree on is that How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens is pretty damn cool, possibly because it’s just fun to say “zettelkasten”.
It’s like “Everlasting Gobstopper”; even if you don’t know what it is, it’s a tasty treat.
All of these systems require one key component that is often overlooked.
Most of the systems focus on the first two steps of note-taking: capture and categorization.
The promise is that if you take notes on the things you consume — books, meetings, social media, tweets, TED talks — and put them into a good system of PKM (that’s personal…