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Reflections on three months of note rafting

May 10, 2021

I’ve been writing three literature notes per day for the last three months. This has been the biggest lesson: quantity is not important. What matters most is thinking better and everything should serve that goal.

However, writing three literature notes not only doesn’t help in that regard, but actually prevents thinking from happening. The point of note taking is not in writing a huge amount of notes, but in improving one’s thinking. If an activity prevents that from happening, one should abandon it.

Adding literature notes and making connections between them means that ideas from other people start having conversations. This adds no value to your notes, as these are not your ideas. You end up having conversations at the wrong level.

In addition to that, committing to writing a particular number of notes misses the point. It’s a vanity metric. It doesn’t really increase the value of your notes and doesn’t ensure your notes are good.

But how do you know your note taking system is good? What makes it good?

What matters is how much value you get from it. Which brings me to a next question.

How do you know you are getting value from it? Does a number of connections tell you how valuable your notes are?

I used to think so, but it has become obvious that it doesn’t. Number of connections is another vanity metric. I think the best way to determine how much value you get from your notes is asking two things: how well do your notes answer questions, and how well do they ask them.

I think the best way of thinking about notes is imagining you are building your own communication partner. A good one answers questions. A great one asks them. Spending time on building your notes so that becomes the case is a much better activity than striving for a daily quota.

That’s why I’m abandoning the habit of writing three notes per day.

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