How to Take Smart Notes

I started reading How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens yesterday. I picked it up months ago because it promised to help me better use a notecard system that I heard of last year.

how to take smart notes

You guys, I have to admit something. Choosing a new book to read off a very full set of TBR shelves is hard. What do you do if none of those books sound interesting at the moment you need to choose? They’re great books, all of them. At some point I wanted to read them so badly that I bought them and set them there like soldiers ready for battle.

I promised myself that I would not buy a book this month, and I’m hoping to not buy a book next month. My thinking is, if I restrict myself, maybe I’ll be forced to read the ones I have and begin emptying those shelves. I don’t like that many unread books sitting there. It makes me sad to see them waiting like that. Passed over and abandoned for no other reason than my capriciousness.

But then…what if I die next month?! Then I’ll be laying on my deathbed wondering why I wasted my last reading days on books I didn’t really want to read. I’ll be headed to the other side with regrets on my heart, books unpurchased and unread. It’s a conundrum for sure.

Don’t worry too much. I did choose one and started reading it yesterday morning. It’s called “How to Take Smart Notes” by Sönke Ahrens. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? I doubt I’ll be sending out many inspirational quotes from this one. What will I even come up with to comment on?

Hold on a moment. Is that why I read anything? Do I pick books in the hopes of getting your attention and admiration? I haven’t in the past. I usually read the books that grab my attention, the ones that move me closer to understanding the world or help me to learn new skills and ideas. THAT’S why it has been harder to pick a book from the TBR shelf lately. I’m choosing what might be interesting to YOU instead of me.

Like Mickey Mouse says in Fantasmic, “This is MY dream!”

I bought this little self-published book because it promised to help me better understand a note taking method that I had heard of and had been trying to use. I haven’t been very successful at it, but it looks like a brilliant way to organize all these seemingly random thoughts and I ideas I have while I read and listen to podcasts. It should help me write better articles in the future.

I feel bad saying this but…I’m not liking it. Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t a bad book. There is useful information in it. It is encouraging me to refine and continue using the note card system, but the writing isn’t grabbing me. I feel like they are repeating themselves and rambling too much. It could have been a nice long article, but as a book it feels stretched out.

I hate to give up on a book. There may be gems buried inside. Sometimes reading can be like hard rock mining, there is a cost to keep going. Will it be worth my time and effort? Will the resources I spend to get deeper result in finding the motherlode? I’ve decided to skim it instead of reading it too deeply. I’ll keep my eye out for gems and minimize my energy and time output.

I’m halfway through How to Take Smart Notes right now. Even if I don’t get what I came for, I’m sure I’ll find some small spark of inspiration. Let’s see what happens.

Want to read more posts inspired by this book? Check out,
Real Learning is Connecting Dots Yourself


  1. I feel you on the reading of books. I made that very same decision – to read what I have and not spend on more books. Lordy. What a decision! Plus, I have been having trouble getting into really thick books (something that I never even worried about once upon a time). I decided that i would close my eyes and select. So I ended up reading “Five for Sorrow, Ten for Love” by Rumer Godden. A book I had taken out of my mother’s bookshelf as she was going to throw it out. Can I say it was in MY bookshelf for, oh, I don’t know… fifteen? twenty? years? I ended up enjoying it.
    As for your book. I, too, have trouble not finishing a book. But life is short. And the number of books unlimited. Why would we waste our time on a book that does not grab us?
    Since this is under the “How to” category, I think you’re smart to skim before simply putting it aside forever. Or not. No lightening bolts will come down upon you if you choose another 🙂

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