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How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking

Sönke Ahrens · 1 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking" by Sönke Ahrens.
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Amazon Summary
This is the second, revised and expanded edition. The first edition was published under the slightly longer title "How to Take Smart Notes. One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking - for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers".The key to good and efficient writing lies in the intelligent organisation of ideas and notes. This book helps students, academics and other knowledge workers to get more done, write intelligent texts and learn for the long run. It teaches you how to take smart notes and ensure they bring you and your projects forward.The Take Smart Notes principle is based on established psychological insight and draws from a tried and tested note-taking technique: the Zettelkasten. This is the first comprehensive guide and description of this system in English, and not only does it explain how it works, but also why. It suits students and academics in the social sciences and humanities, nonfiction writers and others who are in the business of reading, thinking and writing.Instead of wasting your time searching for your notes, quotes or references, you can focus on what really counts: thinking, understanding and developing new ideas in writing.Dr. Sönke Ahrens is a writer and researcher in the field of education and social science. He is the author of the award-winning book “Experiment and Exploration: Forms of World Disclosure” (Springer).Since its first publication, How to Take Smart Notes has sold more than 100,000 copies and has been translated into seven languages.
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

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I'm a software engineer, but these have been instrumental in my success in a way no coding book can compare to(though John Ousterhout's "A Philosophy of Software Design" would have, if it came out earlier in my life).

Personal time/task management- The classic, Getting Things Done( The power this has on people cannot be understated. Turns out that most of how life is conducted is rife with forgetfulness, decision paralysis, prioritization mistakes, and massive motivation issues. This book gives you specific workflows to cut through these in a magical way.

Personal Knowledge Management- The equally classic, How to Take Smart Notes( Where GTD(above) does this for well-defined tasks/work, this book does it for open-ended work, giving you an amazing workflow for introducing "Thinking by Writing", which is frankly a superpower. This lets you see things your friends/colleagues simply won't, lets you deconstruct your feelings better, learn new/deeper subjects faster, and connect thoughts in a way to produce real insight.

For Product/Business Management, Gojko Adzic's "Impact Mapping"( feels like it could make nearly every software team/business 10x better by just reading this book. I've personally watched as enormous portions of my life were spent on things that barely moved the needle for companies, or merely didn't keep the metric from rising. So many projects taken on faith that if you work on X, X will improve, without ever measuring, or asking if you could have accomplished that with less. The world looks insane afterward.

I second "A Philosophy of Software Design" as a great set of loose principles. Just some really good stuff to keep in mind in a succinct book. Would love for Ousterhout to write some more.
Thirded, I'm reading it now and it's a lovely book. Dense with good ideas.
Sir, I have started reading The Art of Getting Things Done and boy that book is pure gold!

I've been missing it all my life! I'm on my way on getting wealthy and rich!

Thank you for your super practical list! Going to go through all of those books over the next few months.
What do you use for your getting things done workflow? I just started using neovim and found the neorg ( package which has a GTD module.
ATM I use Todoist, but I'm wildly unhappy in using it. The only reason I do is that since it's a web-based UI, I can use it from my Windows box. Most of the halfway good GTD tools are Mac-only.

I've had a project going to build my own but admittedly have been somewhat dumb/lazy about it.

Keep it simple. My inbox only contains mails that require an action at some time. If I have done this action, I immediately archive the mail. I often mail todo's to myself so I have only one place for todo's. If I have to do something on a specific time, I put it in my online agenda. I have a separate setup for work and private, that's it. This works great.
I adopted GTD right before I left college, and I sometimes wonder how I ever would have managed to adapt to the explosion of tiny, attention-grabbing tasks that adult life supplies without it. Admittedly, it feels a little clunky and "enterprise-grade" in places, but the underlying principles are so rock-solid and obvious-in-hindsight it feels magical.

Plus, org-mode really helps to make the over-engineered parts more frictionless--I run my life off of org-agenda now, where creating a new project, capturing tasks for it, and refiling them as needed are only a few keystrokes away. Keeping with the theme of hyped productivity books, I also take inspiration from Deep Work to tag certain actions as being ":deep:", so that after clocking into those tasks, I can look at a clock report at the end of the day/week to understand how many hours I actually spent working on "important" stuff. It's very motivating to make that number go up!

I know not everyone feels the need to be so intentional about their productivity landscape--indeed, a lot of very naturally productive people I know explicitly /don't/. But for those of us who aren't one of those magicians, I highly recommend putting some thought into at least a bare-bones system.

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