How Two Simple Questions Have Changed My Note-Taking Approach
Taking my notes to the next level required help and advice
What you see in the header is my current note-taking process, something that has been cemented in Notion for the last 9–12 months now. But to understand how I got here, here’s a little more about the tools and methods of the past:
- Evernote was my first note-taking tool
- The first 7–8 years of note-taking was all inside Evernote
- From my dyslexia report at 15 to my wedding day speech
- Evernote is still active for me, just a capture base for documents
This hub for my notes was perfect, but as time grew, so did my interest in documenting my personal development and learning in a more formalised fashion, something I wasn’t doing.
Premise of Notes
Note-taking has always not always been one of my strongest points.
Even in Evernote, I never captured anything profound or massively useful for my learning — it was more in and out, when I look for something — like a British Gas bill or maybe an old price for a driving lesson, nothing impressive for my personal development at least.
Browsing my notes in Evernote would probably be an easy way to fall asleep for many folks out there.
And I was eager to change the way I presented and made notes.
Only a few months ago, I started using Notion to do “conscious streams of thoughts” — something that, according to expert Tiago Forte, is a practice recommended by therapists to help those looking to get in control of their thoughts, something I didn’t actually know.
These mini 10–15 minute sessions were useful in gaining clarity and actually became a useful crutch for planning the weeks ahead and aligning my thoughts on the smallest to largest of items.
(I may have to share my process for these soon)
I reached out to Tiago Forte regarding my note-taking as I fundamentally believed there was an issue with the way I took notes.
Sometimes you see others notes and musings and you become inspired by the way they do things, but once apply it to yourself, find less value.
Here’s what happened when I chatted to Tiago:
- Tiago put my mind to rest.
- I was doing notes correctly.
- But the issue I was having was remained with how I viewed notes
- And how I titled them
- Both two things that were on my mind
The Two Questions
In this interaction, Tiago asked me the following two questions:
- What would I like to produce from my notes?
- What don’t you currently like about the titling of your notes?
As you can see, very simple questions, but one that addressed the heart of the problem at hand.
- I wanted to produce an insightful archive of my learnings for myself — not anyone else, the end product was for my own consumption
- And I wasn’t happy with the titles as search-ability became harder
This actually addressed my concerns on how I was note-taking.
Note-taking doesn’t have to be a fixed way, and this was something that bothered me. It doesn’t have to be polished, but neither does it have to be completely rough.
The two key takeaways for me to apply were:
- Taking time to formulate clear daily and weekly learnings about life and work by keeping note of each lesson and producing summaries
- Titling each note with a more “findable” phrase rather than “EOW” or “Breakdown” — with a goal to find the result of the note before reading it
Watch the whole video here
I never approached note-taking like this, it was something that was bothering me that I had to make more formalised notes around my learning, but this tweak in itself has produced a lot more faith in my own approach.
Despite minor, this has excited me to take notes and hopefully in a few months I can share how this has impacted my work and thinking.