How I systemize my note taking process

An experiment to streamline my note-taking system, harnessing iOS shortcuts and dead-simple tagging to turn daily insights into shared knowledge.

It's a world of endless info out there. Everywhere you turn, there's a new article, tweet, or update. For someone like me, who's always hungry for knowledge, it's not about finding stuff to read. It's about getting the most out of it. The current pace of news in AI and Tech doesn’t help and I felt like I was just scratching the surface too often.

My New System:

Instead of fancy apps or old-school notebooks, I use my phone for notes. Why? It's always with me. Plus, with iOS shortcuts, jotting down thoughts is a breeze. I've kept things simple, too. Instead of a ton of tags or categories, I use just a few. Less mess, more clarity.


I've used the ruleset from Karl Voit for my labelling system:

1. Keep It Short: I use only a few tags. This way, I don't waste time thinking about picking the right one; there’s only one or two that fit my topic.

2. Stick to the List: I have a consistent set of tags. Adding a tag spontaneously is a big no. I maintain a glossary of my tags and their meanings. This is helpful for your future self or for others.

3. No Overlap: Each tag is clearly distincitve from the others. This keeps things clear. To simplify things further, I don’t use a tag hierarchy.

4. Simple and Consistent Style: Most of my tags are in plural, lower-case, and one word (like games, books, ideas). It’s flexible, though; I use the form that best matches my topic (like emacs or society).

5. Broad Tags: I use general tags so I can categorize more under a single label. This makes it easier when I want to draw connections between notes and ideas.

If you’re interested in diving deeper, I recommend his post on the topic, it’s a gem:

Quick iOS Hacks:

I rely on two shortcuts that streamline my process:

1. Capture The Web: Spot an interesting idea? This shortcut captures my text selection, retrieves the title and link, and prompts me to note wyit stood out. I add a tag, and that’s it.

2. Quick Notes: This one's readily available on my screen for spontaneous thoughts. I jot it down, tag it, and move on.

The cherry on top? Everything I note synchronizes with my Dropbox. Every day’s notes come together in one file. It's like a diary of all the cool stuff I found.

⚠️ As a heavy emacs user, the notes generated by my system are in the org-mode format. It’s straightforward to change the shortcuts to match your preferences.

Making the Most of My Notes:

So, what's next after the notes? I review them weekly, refine them, and turn them into a newsletter. It's not just a personal endeavor. I share it with my team to ignite fresh discussions and brainstorm ideas. Then why not share it with you all as well? Who knows, cool stuff might come out of this.

Final Thoughts:

I'm really enjoying this note system right now. But, like all things, will it stand the test of time? Can it keep pace with the frenetic speed of the web and my evolving preferences? Here's a twist: while I predominantly read in English, French is my native tongue. Would switching to French make things flow better or complicate them?

Only time will tell.


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