How to take notes while reading a book - Deepstash
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Taking notes requires a balance

Taking notes requires a balance

It’s easier to take notes when we’re listening to content because our hands are free. But when reading a book, taking notes interrupts our reading flow.

There is a balance between taking too many notes - and reading too slowly- and too few notes which prevent us from capturing enough knowledge from the book.

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Consider why you want to take notes

Before you start taking notes, ask yourself what your goal is.

  • Paper versus digital. If your goal is to study the content of a book, paper is better. But if your goal is to be able to reference certain parts of the book easily, an ebook may be better suited.
  • Serendipity versus control. When you want to take notes to read them for pleasure afterwards, highlighting and marginalia could be more suited. But if rediscovery is your desire, a structured system, such as an index of the key ideas, may be better.
  • Learning versus creating. If you want to learn from a book, your notes will be factual, but if you're going to create your own content, your notes will be more original.

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Capture key ideas without interrupting your reading flow

Taking notes should not become a tedious process, but it should be made as seamless as possible.

  • If you are reading a physical book, write down main ideas or questions in the margins. Try to keep it very short. If you are reading an ebook, highlight the essential parts and write a few words to add contextual information.
  • If your goal is to learn or reference your notes in the future, you may want to stop at the end of each chapter and collate the ideas separately from the text. This can be done on the inside cover of the book, or on a separate index card, where you rewrite the key ideas with the corresponding page numbers.

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Import your ideas in your note-taking system

An optional step is to import your highlights and marginalia into your note-taking system.

Importing these ideas into a note-taking system is a way to create a dialogue between the authors whose work you have read while encouraging the interlinking of ideas.

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