📚 How I remember everything I read.
I consume a lot of stuff.
Between paperbacks, podcasts, kindle books, online articles, tweets and YouTube videos, I'm constantly drowned in information that ranges from life-changing to an annoying "I might need this at some point".
In the good old days, before phones and the internet, all I would use were notepads and books. I'd write in the paper margins, or copy out full paragraphs onto notepads, adding my comments and thoughts.
Today, that's impossible and most importantly, inefficient.
After reading Sonke Ahrens How To Take Smart Notes (a life changing book), a switch flipped in my mind and I went crazy over note-taking. A few years later, I have a full Second Brain (to use Tiago Forte's term) or MUSE (to use my own) made of notes I've gathered from various sources.
I don't think these systems are for everyone. But their first step, capture, I do strongly believe is valuable to us all.
If you consume things, you might want to trust something more reliable than your short-term memory to hold onto some of them. And that's where capture comes in.
This is the collection of methods I use to capture and remember everything I consume.
Principles of Capture
Needs to be as frictionless as possible. I open twitter on the bus, in bed at 3:45am when I can't sleep. I'm often seeing things when I'm not in the mood to read them, but I don't want to miss out on potentially very valuable information.
Needs to be siloed into as few places as possible. If I'm saving information on 10,000 apps and places, I'll never be able to find it fast, I'm much more likely to forget I even saved it, and very unlikely to ever use it.
Needs to have levels of processing. Not everything I think is valuable in the moment actually ends up being so. I like having very low standards for what to capture, but then being able to only collect and further use the things I need. Sometimes I filter through things 6 months or a year after I've first seen them, but I'm always sleeping well because I know they're there.
Need to have resources I always want to know where the information came from, but the less I get to do this step manually, the better.
Needs to have a why While finding "my own why" is proving impossible, finding a "why" for what I capture is much easier. Although things seem obvious at the time, it's a complex set of emotions, priming, context that creates the state in which what we're thinking of makes sense, once that is stripped away, we just have a piece of information that doesn't say the same thing to us anymore. I hate looking at something and wondering what the hell I was thinking when I captured it, especially if the only thing I can remember is that it was important. So every time I capture something, I almost always write why I thought this was worth keeping.
Books - Digital
Readwise - you have to pay for this, but it is the best thing on earth. You connect it to the books you're reading (Apple Notes, Kindle etc) and everything you highlight or you make notes of, automatically goes to Readwise and then to Notion.
So all my book notes are in one place, organised by book and time of reading, in a permanent library. I do end up heavily processing this later, but as a first step, it's brilliant.
If you don't want to pay for Readwise for some reason (if you're buying digital books, it's quite reasonable in comparison), you can export the notes onto Notion too. Apps like Apple Books will allow you to export all notes onto your email, and you can copy and paste them all into a new Notion page (I used to do this pre-Readwise).
Books - Audiobooks
This is slightly harder. I feel like audiobooks + written books should just come with each other once you buy one of them, because it's so hard to take notes of books when you're listening to them.
My policies on audiobooks depends on how good they are.
If I'm reading something and I realise within a few paragraphs it's incredible (just felt this with 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think), then I'll pause, buy the digital book too, and listen to the audiobook while following on my kindle, highlighting the physical book which then integrates with Readwise.
If I don't feel the book is worth double-buying (sorry), then I'll just pause and type out the notes manually, or if I can afford to, while the audiobook is still playing. I love taking these notes on Apple Notes (which is one of my favourite apps) and then copy-pasting them all into a Notion page. Usually, this doesn't take too long, and I really don't mind doing the manual work. If you see me typing on my phone in public, there's a 7/10 chance that I'm actually taking notes rather than texting someone.
Books - Physical Books
This is so love-hate it's actually painful. Reading physical books is the best, taking notes from physical books is the worst.For that reason (and also because they're heavy and painful to move houses with), I've been breaking my heart by no longer building my physical-books-library. However, when I do have the luxury of reading from a physical book, this is what I do:
I underline the highlights in the book and make my notes in the margins (I challenge you to name a more therapeutic activity) and depending on the book (if there's not too many notes to make), I might even fold down the pages where I'm taking notes (I've grown into this, I used to treats books as sacred until my early twenties).
I then download the book (legally or as a pdf somewhere - sorry) and look up the highlights I made. I find searching for the first 4-5 words in a highlighted segment finds the part in the book very easily, and then I highlight it and it goes straight back to Readwise (told you this app is the best).
I recommend doing this very brain-dead-manual activity with a lot of music playing in the background. It can take 10-60 mins depending on the length of the book.
I've just found out that Readwise has an integration which lets you take pictures of the book and it imports highlights for you. I haven't tried this yet, but it sounds brilliant an will probably save quite a bit of time too.
I usually find articles on Twitter, or Ali will share them with me. I don't really read a lot of these myself, I do prefer books. If an article is short and sweet, I'll clip it straight to Notion, and I'll summarise it really fast.
If an article is long (In Praise of Idleness comes to mind here, a must-read), it'll have to go through proper processing first. Now that I apparently don't care about my reading-money, I will send it to Instapaper, which is an app where I can highlight and annotate things to later go to Notion through Readwise.
In the past, I used to copy-paste the important parts of the article onto Notion, with notes on why I keep them. This really isn't too painful, especially if you're reading things on a computer, but when it comes to mobile, Instapaper really is the way forward.
I love Twitter. I used to think it was just for petty arguments, and all though it doesn't disappoint in that department, it has SO many incredible resources. I particularly enjoy twitter threads, a highly efficient way to get curated content on any topic.
I usually browse Twitter at very antisocial times. It's my "can't sleep at 3am" app of choice. So I need a VERY easy way to quickly capture things.
The first step is Twitter in-app Bookmarks. This is where I'll mostly save things I'm not sure are worth it, and funny things to send people the next day, so they're not worried about why I'm awake at that hour.
Because I mainly use twitter on my phone, I share the tweets to Notion automatically. Everything I share from the internet (videos, tweets, articles) all come together in one page I call "Links" where they can be processed later.