There has been a glut of note-making books in the last few years, some are decent, and some are thinly veiled attempts at generating intellectual property so the author can sell you on more courses. I’m happy to say that How to Make Notes and Write by Dan Alloso and SF Allosso is one of the former, a decent book about taking notes. Let’s look at a few takeaways I have from the book.
Work Your Notes
One of the consistent issues I see when I talk to people about their note-taking process is that they don’t use their time to reprocess and revisit their notes. Dan highlights this issue a number of times1 in the book as he reminds us that we should be reworking our notes, and that this may be as important as reading new materials.
My best self would spend a scheduled reading session or two working on notes after each book I finish. I’m not always my best self, yet I still manage to work on my notes at least a bit every week.
Read More than Once
Another fallacy that Allosso debunks is that if you take perfect notes you won’t have to read research material a second time2. I’ve always thought this was folly. When you have a specific project in mind you will have specific questions that need answering. These questions were not top of mind in your first reading. In this case, your notes serve as an index of all the material you’ve consumed so you can go back and revisit the pertinent content.
Don’t try to take notes so that you never have to read again to verify the material. It’s a fool’s errand of note perfection.
If it’s not interesting you’re being lazy
Allosso also reminds us of our own intellectual laziness when the tells us that if you can’t latch onto something interesting in a topic, it’s your fault3. There is always some angle you can take or some niche to explore that can make a topic interesting.
If you’re bored it’s almost always your fault because you’re not putting in the work to find the interesting bit. Stop being lazy.
Should You Read How to Make Notes and Write?
Overall, I found the book to have some good insights. If you’re looking for writing advice then the last number of chapters of the book talk about the overall structure, paragraphs, sentences and revision of your writing. I skimmed this section as it’s not the content I’m most interested in currently, but there is lots to offer if you’re looking for writing advice.
So yes, I think this book is a decent entry into the note-making book space.
Getting Started with Zettelkasten
If you’ve been wondering about what Zettelkasten is and how to start organizing your notes with this excellent system then this course is for you. I’ll walk you through how I use this system to develop my reading research for posts like this one here. You can also become a member to get all my courses.
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