how often you revisit the link that you saved because it’s so good that you think you might want to read it again in the future? how many times do you forget to buy the most important things that make you go to the grocery store? do you ever wonder if you are getting smarter? do you ever wonder where your time goes when going to bed?

well, if the thought ever cross your mind, this piece of writing is your cup of tea. this piece will be heavily biased towards “taking notes is crazily underrated”. it’s funny how many software out there intended helping us to save information. tons of software to save the links, screenshot the articles, and download the files but we’re not taught of taking notes.

who will find taking notes useful?

  • you who want to capture your thought process without the impulse to tweet it.
  • you who think words work as strong as images to spark a memory.
  • you who want to learn how to write.
  • you who want life pace to be slower and retain more on what’s going in your life.
  • you who want to see your growth in terms of thinking more explicitly.

if any of this rings a bell, please continue this way.

reason notetaking is essential, at least for me.

so many information, yet nothing remains.

i often annoyed being unable to recall what content i just consume. so much information, yet nothing remains. my browsing history is there. the movie/video history is intact. the podcast history is listed. and yet, my brain needs to see the title before i can remember how i spent my time.

this is even more prevalent during thesis work where my work mostly the same for several days and thus, it felt the same day in day out. having notes remind me that i have new silly ideas in some days. in some days, it points out that i learn something from youtube. other days, the notes were about my new opinion on a certain topic.

yes, we can visit again the link that we saved but how many links that we have revisited in the last six months. If there’s a note about it, maybe we can visit it again. just maybe. the notes serve as a catalog in our heads to retrieve the memory.

also, being able to see how i write in the past gives me a sense of progress, a sense of growth that my current understanding has improved compared to the past version of me. it even becomes more interesting when we see the change gradually happen instead of one day waking up and realized that we’ve changed a lot.

okay, i get it. how do i start?

well, have a pen and paper. record what we have learned or the thought that pass through our head. use our own understanding. if it’s hard to rewrite in our own word, symbolize them and then translate them back into words. my experience told me that it helps. might be not suitable for you and that’s okay.

if you have trauma because of schools, it’s even more important to make the activity as simple as possible. make it fun. make it easy.

notes don’t have to follow any structure at first. the format can follow after we found our comfortable style. it doesn’t have to be in complete sentences. can be formed as a poem, a phrase, a sketch, or a spiraling outward words collection.

disclaimer: i don’t think taking notes is a game-changer. it helps in the long run. notes wouldn’t solve the problem but a well-stated problem is a half-solved problem. notes help us to state the problem that we face.

relation development with notetaking habit

not sure when i am officially obsessed with taking notes. this will be the rough timeline based on my memory.

i learn about blogging in 2015 and it’s my first time intentionally learn about writing and capturing ideas. since then, i pick up a weekly writing habit; spending twenty minutes uninterrupted writing down anything. the habit somewhat evolves into me writing down how do i feel about the previous week. sometimes, it includes the upcoming week.

around 2017, i picked up gratitude journaling. almost every night, i come up with three things to be grateful for or things that i want to be grateful for but not feeling grateful yet.

last year, 2020, i read a book titled how to take smart notes. it helps me writing my thesis now. along those years, i picked up daily weekly monthly, and annual – planning and review. all of them contribute to my taking notes habit that helps me to navigate my life.

notes are really fluid in my opinion. i will use the definition of note as “a brief record, especially one written down to aid the memory.” [1]

It ranges from the common that some of us already use, such as grocery list, recipe, and meeting notes. some of us knew but tend to be lazy about it, lecture notes, personal reflection, and organization review. personal experience of using notes such as crazy random thoughts, brain farts or rapid-fire questionable commentary, aimless writing, self-affirmation, and sketchy meaningless phrases.

notes give me the freedom that i need.

a closing statement about note-taking.

There’s a chines proverb that says,

好记性不如烂笔头. The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.

the journey doesn’t have to be physical. growth doesn’t have to happen visually. notes allow us to capture those other moments.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash