Taking Smart Notes: How to Leverage the Power of Organized Chaos
Your notes do not have to be well organized
Most people take notes the old-school way.
They use tags, folders, and they spend years looking for the best way to organize everything. Despite all their efforts, they struggle to retrieve the information they saved and use it to create something meaningful in life.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
After taking notes the dumb way for over a decade, I set up a digital zettelkasten for my content creation and coaching businesses. And it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
The Zettelkasten encourages chaos. And this is exactly why it works.
Let’s dive into it.
The micro-decision drama
There’s no free lunch.
Notetaking is no exception. Why? Because decision fatigue is real. It implies that every micro-decision you make takes a toll on your productivity. This is why you see top CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg always wearing the same types of clothes.
But how does this relate to notetaking? Great question.
Using tags and folders is the conventional way of taking notes.
But what most people don’t know is that sorting and classifying your notes leads to decision fatigue.
Every time you take a note, you have to decide how to name it and in which folder you should store it.
This doesn’t seem to be a great deal. But it is.
When you eliminate all those micro-decisions, you’ll have more mental bandwidth to do the deep thinking most people never do. This is how you stand out.
Instead of using tags and folders, use backlinks. Backlinks work because they mimic how our brain processes information.
Stop classifying your notes and save your mental bandwidth for what truly matters.
Tidy desks don’t spark insights
Many notetakers are maniacs.
They want their notetaking apps to be as clean and organized as a Louis Vuitton showroom. It’s because they think that this will help them maximize their output. And you know what? That’s an ideal that doesn’t exist.
Classification makes sense on paper. But it’s a never-ending game. You can classify things to death without getting anything significant done. That’s nothing else than procrastinating in an apparently productive way.
It’s the perfect example of working ON your system and not IN your system. But as a creator, you want to work in your system and use your notes to create something out of them.
The value of your notes resides in your output, not in how messy they look from the outside.
When you understand that your notes are a constant work in progress, you remove a lot of Anxiety and stop wasting time on getting everything perfect. You simply want to get the work done.
Classification is not a purpose in itself. It’s only a means to get where you want.
Stop hiding behind classifying your notes. Focus on the output.
Embrace the mess
I hate clutter.
It causes anxiety and overwhelm. But in one way or another, I can’t help myself. My desktop always finishes clogged at the end of the week. (This is why I have a day dedicated to tidying things up digitally and physically.)
If you’re a creative person like me, you probably work in chaos, with 5 open projects at the same time. No matter how hard you try to keep things clear and tiny.
Yes, Your notes are messy simply because the creative process is messy. Structured data, like an Excel spreadsheet, is good for making decisions. But boring to death and won’t spark creative insights.
The Zettelkasten allows you to make sense of this chaos. Why? Because it’s a self-organizing structure.
It puts all the ideas from your various fields of interest into one specific container without boundaries.
This encourages idea collisions.
In other words: it’s a mess under control.
Want to improve your notetaking skills? Sign up for my free 7-day notetaking course here. (Safe link to my website)