The Best Note-Taking System (Whatever Works for You)

Photo by Prophsee Journals on Unsplash

The talk around note-taking systems is similar to politics- divisive.

Someone swears by one system. Others swears by a different one. Who is right?

And what’s a noob to do? How do you navigate around the noise and choose a system when there are tons of systems out there? Hopefully after reading, you’ll be more informed about choosing and developing a system that works for you.

The first step is understanding the different types of note-taking systems and what they offer. There are three main types- Analog, Digital, and Hybrid.

Analog systems are paper based. You use a notebook and pen to take notes. This system has been around for centuries and is still popular today. Some people like the feel of writing on a piece of paper. There are studies that link knowledge retention to the act of writing. I can confirm that I have a better grasp of knowledge when I have written it down. The slowness of this process may have something to do with it.

The second type is the digital form. This is where is takes off. There are endless amounts of note-taking programs out there. New programs seem to come at an alarming rate. These are your Evernotes, Notions, RoamResearch, OneNotes, etc… Which one is right for you? Personally, I started out with Evernote and have evolved organically as the need for other features outgrew the application’s capability.

The third type is the hybrid form. This is the combination of analog and digital. I believe there is still value in analog systems. I personally use analog stuff for work and personal information. The “Trust No One (TNO)” concept definitely applies to the personal stuff I write in analog form. Some things are just not to be made permanent in digital form.

So how do you choose? I recommend trying all of it until you figure out what works for you. Like anything else worthwhile, note-taking develops over time. Just start. Experiment. Be willing to change.

The next step is understanding how to use your chosen system. Different systems lend themselves to different note-taking methods. Analog and hybrid systems usually require you to be more hands-on in order to take good notes. You have to be more deliberate about what you’re writing and make sure everything is neat and tidy.

Start a system. Give it about a month and assess. Commit to it for a month. Do not think about another system while you are working through the current system. Are you more productive? Unfortunately, one size does not fit all and you’ll just have to figure out what works. Give yourself at least a month. Maybe two. Do not succumb to the FOMO mentality.

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