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How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers
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How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  958 ratings  ·  148 reviews
The key to good and efficient writing lies in the intelligent organisation of ideas and notes. This book helps students, academics and nonfiction writers 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 psyc
Kindle Edition, 178 pages
Published February 21st 2017 (first published 2017)
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☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ✺❂❤❣
Really love this. Instead of making us turn our willpowers into crutches for doing stuff we dislike, it instead takes a pleasant take on our experiences.

Food for thought:
- Slip-box method
- Virtuitous circle workflow
- Undivided attention to each task (as opposed to vaunted, flaunted, dreaded, attention-span destructive multitasking)
- Ego depletion

Transferring these ideas into the network of our own thoughts, our latticework of theories, concepts and mental models in the slip-box brings our thi
Simon Eskildsen
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Note-taking game-changer. Ahrens' is a professor in systematic education at Hamburg University—and he really knows his shit. This book tells the story of the remarkable Luhmann note-taking system. Luhmann was a revered sociology professor who collected over 90,000 index cards over the course of his life to support his 30-year-project: "A Theory of Society." The book goes over how Luhmann organized his note-taking in a scalable way that allowed him an unprecedented level of productivity with 30+ ...more
Jamie Coleiro
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: productivity, writing
This book is GOLD.

'How to Write Smart Notes' tragically undersells itself by implying it's wholly focused on note-taking. It's not.

There's a bunch of relevant psychological concepts here too—including:

- Mere-exposure Effect
- Miller's Law
- Survivorship Bias
- Parkinson's Law
- The Tunnel Effect
- And more...

As the title suggests, if you're into taking 'smarter' notes (and therefore getting more out of your creative endeavours), you'll love this. 😎

I vouch candidly that Sönke (and Luhmann—a top
Jan 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-research
6th book for 2020.

Niklas Luhmann, the 20th Century sociologist, was productive by any standard; publishing more than seventy books and hundreds of articles in his lifetime. He accredited his success to an idiosyncratic note-taking technique he developed, which he called the Zettlekästen—literally "notes box"—in which he place A6-sized cards with short atomised ideas generated while reading, each note being linked to other related notes, essentially creating a hyperlinked database of ideas long b
Andrei Stepanov
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I express a very big gratitude to the author. This book is a "must-read" manual for all researchers. This book is quite different from other "help-self" manuals. It was written by a scientist, and is based on a huge number other science books, and resources. Reference bibliography is amazing. Your productivity will gain tremendously in your daily-workflow. Highly recommend!
Liu Jianqing
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really eye-opening for me. I would recommend this book to anyone I know. It is obvious that I do have some of the conventional wisdom mentioned in the book, thinking writing is just a transfer of knowledge/ideas/insight from my head onto blank papers. Now I realize I should use writing to collect, to connect, and get all notes ready all along the way.

But, it is just a little disappointing that the book has not shown us an example of how someone actually making those bibliography notes, and then
Scott Wozniak
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Title Is Inadequate

This is a book about MUCH more than a way to take smart notes. Oh, sure, you’ll learn all about a super cool (and super simple) system for taking notes. But that is covered in the first 20% of the book. The rest of the book is about deep and critical topics related to smart note taking, like thinking well, reading well, the writing process and even how to set up habits of success. I almost didn’t read it because it looked too basic. I’m so glad I did.
David Laing
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Parts of it read a bit like a dump of every pop-psych meme of the past ten years, but at its heart, it's a thorough and well-argued deep dive into a note-taking system from the future. I wouldn't be surprised if, twenty years from now, the slip-box method were taught to everyone in schools, especially at the university level.

I would have liked to see a few more examples of the slip-box in action. I don't feel like I have a clear picture in my mind of what a literature note actually *is*: is it a
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
A surprising little gem.

The book describes Luhmann's note taking system.
The interesting thing is that this paper-only system was translated into software - but it still deeply *under*leverages what could be done with a digital system.
But by being under-leveraged it highlights the actually important *manual* steps of the method.

The book is very worth the reading. There is an excellent passage which clearly demonstrates the connections springing from the application of the method - highly unlikely
Hady Osman
Jul 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I was looking me up a good fiction read to get into, when somehow, the algorithms of Amazon decided to put forward this book on Note taking right in front of me.

The title immediately peeked my interest and then some more after I read the synopsis. I have been taking notes all my life using all sort of methods and tools. The fact that I keep switching every year to a different method and medium has me very conscious that I am still very hopeless at taking notes for myself.

I must admit... the book
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
When I was writing my thesis (approximately one million years ago), I accidentally built about 50% of the workflow described here. Had I known how to use the slip-box part, I think the whole thing would have been a lot better. Maybe I had an incredible memory back then - probably not, but it's not better now. I've now implemented the free tool chain of Zettelkasten: Zkn3 and the reference tool Zotero (I know there are lots of reference tools around but I like this one and its Chrome plug-in). So ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow ...

... and a double wow, wow.

This is definitely my greatest read for 2019 so far and I can't see anything surpassing it.

It has had the same impact as David Allen's "Getting Things Done" and Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits Of Highly Successful People" before then in that it has already caused a fundamental change in the way I see, understand and take action on things.

Wyatt Woodsmall hammers in the point that learning IS behaviour change. I can honestly say I have learnt from Sonke Ahr
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: learning

One of those books I wished I have read 10 years ago.

I will highly recommend this book to learner who are avid reader, who want to use note-taking as a tool for thinking critically and learn better. Although book is written with publish-or-perish academics as main audience, but it really applies to learner in all walk of life.

The book debunks the following myths for me:

- Writing starts with staring at a blank page
- Highlighting, underlining passage, copying quote is effective learning
- Sortin
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Academics
I definitely enjoyed it, but if you are looking for something that offers you concrete examples about how to implement the Zettelkasten method of note-taking, also known as the slip-box method, then keep looking because this is not the book for you. The author assumes you are using a specific online application and does little to explain how you could apply the system in different contexts if this is not the case for you. Even the analog method is given sparse coverage and little to no examples ...more
León XIV
Jan 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
A useless book

This book does not explain how to use Luhmann’s method precisely. It is just a compilation of over-explained ideas (nothing new under the sun, by the way) that are not even useful for applying that method. There are other resources in the web, so please, avoid buying this book.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you're debating, you should read this book.

Here's some longer thinking I did about it while reading it:
Lars-Christian Elvenes
This is a solid book.

Zettelkasten, or the slip-box, as it is also called in the book, was a new concept to me. This is about having an effective system for taking and using notes. It is not about layouts (divide the page in such and such a way, etc). It certainly makes suggestions on what to add, but it is the idea of the system, the Zettelkasten, that is the main point.

Zettelkasten is based on how the German academic, Niklas Luhmann, took notes. He would make short notes and store them in his
Sandy Maguire
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am giving this book 5 stars not because I liked it, but because it has significantly improved my scholarship --- at least, in the last few days since I started reading it. We'll see if it continues!

The crux of the book is "write down insights you have, as you're having them, and then regularly reconcile these into a single place, and track insights you have while writing THOSE down. Rinse and repeat." It's been a very helpful framework for thinking about big thoughts; rather than trying to kee
Bruno Arine
This book has become a watershed in the way I consume information. According to the author, acquired knowledge is useless if not incorporated into your own context; it becomes just an island of pointless trivia lost in the ocean of your memory. If you read a book, for instance, and try to memorize all the important facts without thinking in advance how you might use it in your projects, you're prone to either forget it in a while -- or, at best, become a walking encyclopedia of isolated facts. T ...more
Will Simpson
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I loved this book. If you are a reader and want to recall and connect ideas I read about, this is what you should read next. It shows the path to upping your game where it comes to reading, writing and timing together what you read and what you think. Writing is the glue. I want to try this style of thinking and writing into my life.

Not just a simple note-taking scheme. Not the usual academic advice. Instead of a refreshing look at smart note taking as an external system in which to think.
Helene Uppin
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aime
I was looking for a system for the literature notes. To be honest, I feel liberated now :D the things I was intuitively drawn to proved to be right and I will definitely employ a system of permanent note-taking (probably on paper though). I feel as if I should have read it years ago but then again - I probably wouldnt have appreciated the system and the tips as much as I do now after some experience with writing academic articles.
P.S. The book contains a lot about learning and thinking in genera
Cuong Nguyen Michael
Dropped at 40%. This book is not for me - I should have paid attention to the title "for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers"
Josh Taylor
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has been another one of those books, very much like The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT , where the length of the book is super short but the content is very dense. As such it's taken me months to make it through this thing and understand all of the messages it's conveying. Overall I'm stunned. This book has changed the entire way that I approach non-fiction writing, how I read books, take notes and perhaps even changed my entire strategy around le ...more
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nice, short and practical book. It describes in detail the approach Niklas Luhman took in order to become one of the most prolific writers in Sociology. It is concise, provides a useful set of practical advice and reads very well.
Worth the time.
Adilson Candundo
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books
This book is about the craft of modern research as it is conducted with the aid of mental models, systems, and tools like the zettlekasten; the books organizing topic of discussion. The zettlekasten is in essence a filing system that allows for seemless storage and retrieval of notes one has reasearched and then linked with what one has previously researched and has placed within the zettlekasten. This form of filing enables a researcher to experiment with retrieval practice, interleaving, and e ...more
Mohammed Ridwanul Islam
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent book, was my introduction to the Zettelkasten method.

Missing a star, because the book could have been condensed down significantly.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-improvement
Ahrens is a persuasive advocate for the Zettelkasten (slip-box) philosophy of note taking. At its core, it's a non-linear system of notes where observations, questions and insights generated by reading texts are connected not through tags or through chronological order, but instead end up linked through sequences that tie them to other notes. The end result is that these notes are linked in 'conversation' with one another, and this naturally creates what some may call 'serendipity'- unexpected i ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the great experiences in life is thinking you invented something and then discovering, years into using the discovery, that someone else invented it first.
This book is about a technique that works best for non-fiction and fiction writers, researchers, and those who need to read a lot of background.
Here's the basic idea: while you are reading or researching, write down each main idea on one piece of paper (I use index cards), note the source on the back, and toss the idea in a box. At th
Kasujja Xavier
The book is revolutionary in the area of note-taking. The authors uses multiple examples to turn conventional note-taking wisdom on its head. The material should apply not only to those who end up getting sold to the idea of a slip-box but also to all those in the creative arts and sciences, especially researchers. My only misgiving is in the minimal focus on the zettelkasten software. Most of the material I came across was in German which makes it inaccessible to those of us who can't speak the ...more
Oliver Shetler
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thorough and well crafted book

I've read books by rhetoraticians whose sentences prove the author's expertise. I have never once found an analogue in the area of notes and organization. Not until now. Mr Ahrens is truly a credit to his method. I aspire to copy him.
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