How I Take Notes

grayscale photography of woman writing
Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

I promised myself that I’d do a deeper dive on my note-taking and study habits, so here’s a very quick brain dump on how I make sense of what I read.

Very large caveat: lately I have been seriously struggling. I get so bogged down in tools and methods (thanks, ADD brain 😒) that I find it difficult to focus on anything else. Ironically, this impacts my ability to finish reading anything lately, so be wary of that. With that out of the way, behold:

My Note-Taking Workflow

  1. Take notes on everything you read. (More on this later)
  2. Take notes in your own words. Don’t just copy & paste from the text.
  3. Take the time to process your notes. A weekly review is a good strategy.
  4. Work toward building connections between concepts. This builds depth of knowledge.
  5. Once you feel that you have a good understanding of a concept, publish it someplace. It’s okay if you’re wrong, or if your thoughts change over time. Documenting your thoughts and ideas in this way helps you trace the development of your ideas, and helps you refine your ideas which furthers your understanding.
  6. Relax. Just start writing. Don’t worry so much about your tools or which platform(s) to use. A pen and a stack of index cards is how the Zettelkasten method got started, and it works just fine if that’s all you have access to. Ryder Carroll’s indexing and threading methods that he developed for his Bullet Journal system might also work well for this purpose, but I failed at keeping a bullet journal, so…

Is this helpful to you? Would you like more content like this? Please let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.

By Cecily Walker

Cecily is a mid-career library professional. She is an internationally recognized speaker in library and information studies, user experience, equity and social justice. When she's not being a humourless feminist, you can find her holding court on Twitter or riding a Vespa around town where she entertains fantasies of being Batgirl. The ideas and thoughts expressed on this blog are her own: Cecily does not now, nor has she ever, spoken for her employer.