Note-taking In The Digital Era

Everyone knows that making notes while reading is good.

It helps us structure and better absorb the information. You know, you can slight it in pieces so that you can eat it.

The “divide and conquer” of learning is “structure and repeat.”

Usually, I force myself to do this too, because I read a lot of non-fiction. And I really care about both understanding and remembering it after some time passed.

What are the ways of doing that effectively in our modern world?

A pencil

No doubt, the most basic and the most efficient way is to simply take a pencil and write notes on the margins.

There are numerous benefits in it:

  1. When you physically write something with your hand and pencil, it activates your brain, your motion memory and your visual memory work together. There’s a research from 2010 reporting that kids who had handwritten the words were able to learn much more words than the ones who only heard them.
  2. It helps you to focus on a particular piece of text. I used this method when I was walking through the brilliant book called “Why Nations Fail?”. What I did is I wrote a one sentence overview for every paragraph in the book. It really helped me focus and understand the essence of it.
  3. After you finish a book, you can put it on a shelf, and get back to it later. If you need to refresh it in your brain, you can just quickly flip through the page and read your notes.
  4. It is also possible to highlight and underline some of the text. Which is also good but probably not as effective as to write notes (it’s not your words, so you’re not really passing it through yourself).

The problem with this method for me is that I have most of my books on my Kindle. Just because it’s hard to get the books I want in physical format where I live.

Going digital

Kindle has the ability to highlight and save citations from the books. But I don’t find it very useful. Leave alone ability to leave own notes. Typing anything on a kindle is a disastrous experience.

I would like to be able to build a personal database with my books and notes. The one I can easily filter and search. What’s more, I wanted an ability to share with the world (and have a gradual control of what notes are public and what are not).

This is how Candl has been born.

Candl app

I was trying to solve this very problem. How to read and learn effectively in a digital world.

I imagine, that sometime in the future Candl will be the perfect tool for anyone who’s trying to learn. It will be seamless and effective, as well as completely invisible. Just like paper and pencil.

This future is still far away. But I’m trying to make steps into it. My notes are smarter than just text on a paper.

I can make kinda TODO lists with markdown and track the progress of books I read.

Citations are distinguished from regular notes.

I can even control which of the notes are public and which are not.

So there it is, this little tool I built for myself, and now many other people use it as well.

You can try it too.

Links

  1. Taking Note: How Note-taking Improves Reading — An Interview with Shane Parrish
  2. Lot’s of handy advices on note-taking from Quora users
  3. How to Better Remember and Make Use of What You Read
  4. The Top 3 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes While Reading