How To Take Smart Notes

One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning, and Thinking - for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers

Author: Sonke Ahrens

Personal Score: 8.6/10

Goodreads Score: 4.3/5

Get it here on Amazon.


An introduction to a wonderful method of organizing ideas and knowledge into a framework that optimizes both quality of thought and creative output that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life. How To Take Smart Notes introduces a system of note taking by Niklas Luhmann in Germany in the 1960s and is presented by Soren Ahrens. Luhmann is not the original creator of the system however he implemented it in a way nobody had up to that point, developing a index of 90,000 notes and using it to write publish over 70 books and over 400 scholarly articles.  The note taking system has been used by hundreds of prolific artists since and inspired me to not only start my own, but begin writing summaries like this. It provides a framework to structure thoughts into ideas and recall them quickly.

The practicality of this system isn't bounded to scholarly professors or academics, it will help anyone looking to accumulate a framework of knowledge in any subject. The coolest thing about it is it's customizability, I can visualize a Physio having an index rooted in the body, muscles and treatments/exercises while a Teacher having an index around learning, communication, and child psychology. The extent of it's customization is only limited by what your interest want to be. The potential to develop your second brain and see the knowledge framework grow before your eyes is so exciting!

🚀This Book in 3 Bullets

  1. If you're only reading and not engaging with the material whatsoever you're going to forget everything you've learned. Think about a book you read 2 years ago and try to remember it's lessons. Lessons and concepts learned depreciate too quickly to be useful over the long term.
  2. The Zettelkasten (Slip Box) Method of Knowledge Management made popular by Niklas Luhmann is a solution for this problem because it forces you 1) re write the primary idea(s) of the book, 2) elaborate on the learned concepts and 3) engage with the material you're learning while creating notes that you store for long term use.
  3. It's completed in 5 simple steps:

🕵️‍♀️Who Should Read It?

📜Book Summary & Lessons

Slip Box Method - Best Practices

Example from one of my current index cards.

Useful Terms & Anecdotes

  1. They cease to see meaning in what they were suppose to learn (of. Balduf 2009)
  2. Are unable to make connections to their personal goals (Glynn et. al. 2009)
  3. Lack the ability to control their own studies autonomously and on their onw terms (Reeve, 2009)(Reeve and Jon 2006)

🎴Top Quotes

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