Forget Forgetting. Build a Zettelkasten.

A networked note-taking method to help you remember more and write better

🔓 This is a free preview of a Premium Members only post! 🔓

Forgetting what you read?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve experienced a progression of reading that looks something like this. 

After experiencing the joy of learning for the first time — when I learned something on my own — I got addicted to knowledge. I read a bunch of books. Everything I could get my hands on. 

After several weeks and several books, I looked back on the first one I read. What was it about again? I couldn’t remember anything other than the title and one or two central ideas. 

“Sapiens? I loved that book. Great history of, uh, humans. Agricultural revolution was 12,000 years ago and it changed everything. I know, I know —it’s crazy.”

What to do about this? My first solution was active reading.

Active Reading

Active reading allows you to engage with the material you’re consuming at a higher level. A few common techniques: 

  • Annotate in the margin to summarize points or raise questions
  • Highlight or underline important passages
  • Compare what the author is saying to other ideas

There’s a difference between knowing about something and actually knowing something, and active reading encourages the latter. Playing with the material like this not only improves retention, but it also helps you evaluate claims better.

As Superorganizers readers, many of you already participate in some form of active reading. And you might even go one step further by keeping all of the notes you take in a database like Evernote or Notion. 

This is great! But I want to challenge you: could your note-taking system be even better? 

If you’re anything like me, Notion and Evernote leave something to be desired. They aren’t ineffective, but they don’t feel magical either. 

First, it’s hard to find what you are looking for. Thoughts in our brain are associative and it can be hard to find what you are looking for with a keyword search. Search engines aren’t advanced enough yet to detect intention, so we have to make connections on our own. 

Additionally, Notion or Evernote archives become littered with clutter pretty quickly. While writing everything down does improve your thinking, you probably don’t want to keep every miscellaneous note and clarification in your long-term notes.

Finally, it’s just hard to make connections between notes. Searching in Evernote and Notion might return all the articles that mention the word “decision making”, but that’s only partially useful. What else were you thinking about when you read that article from two years ago? Do concepts from that article connect to a different article you read a year ago? How do you nurture those connections?

Enter: Zettelkasten.

Read this next:

Superorganizers

How to Make Yourself Into a Learning Machine

Shopify’s Director of Production Engineering explains how reading broadly helps him get to the bottom of things

159 Mar 3, 2020

Superorganizers

The CEO of No

How entrepreneur Andrew Wilkinson turns emails into opportunities

432 Sep 11, 2020 by Dan Shipper

Superorganizers

How Josh Kaufman Does Research 

The author of The Personal MBA shares his process for finding answers hiding in plain sight

184 🔒 Aug 20, 2020

Cybernaut

On Twitch, You Can Never Log Off

The demands of daily livestreaming are driving creators to rethink the benefits of Twitch fame

22 Dec 6, 2022 by Fadeke Adegbuyi

Divinations

My Philosophy of Product Building (Part III)

On launching and learning

15 Dec 7, 2022 by Nathan Baschez

Comments

You need to login before you can comment.
Don't have an account? Sign up!

Thanks for reading Every!

Sign up for our daily email featuring the most interesting thinking (and thinkers) in tech.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Login