You have now captured some notes into your note-taking system, organized them, and are ready for the next step. The next step can be as simple as I have saved my notes, and I will retrieve them using the search function if you don’t intend to use the notes to create new writings or another creative output format.
Tiago Forte’s Methodology
If you want to use your notes for a creative activity, the next step is harder- you must summarize the ideas into your own words. Otherwise, you would be plagiarizing from the other author. He owns his words, but ideas are free to all.
In Tiago Forte’s building a second brain, he applies a process to get from the raw notes you have captured to your summarization of the ideas called “Progressive Summarization.” This is a multistep process that results in summarizing the note’s ideas into your own words. First, you write your understanding of each of the notes you highlighted in the book or article and move through each of the steps below until you have written a summary in your own words.
- Start with the highlighted section from a book or article.
- Bold the key idea
- Do a mini summary of this note
- Do a final summary of all the mini-summarys from the book or article
So as you can see, this is a lot of work. If you took notes on three books a week, the time spent summarizing would quickly add up. Tiago’s solution to this problem is only to summarize notes you will use in an immediate project- so delay the work until you use it. The beauty of this is that you can gather many notes, not knowing when you will need them, and then only summarize them as needed.
My implementation of this works like this.
- Place the new notes in my inbox in ROAM. So as I read book the notes from that day go into my Inbox as highlights.
- When I review the contents of my Inbox, I bold the ideas and add keywords to list for the article or book so it will come up in a search using the keyword.
- If I decide to use the notes from a book or article then I do the summarization at this point. Tiago’s idea of Just-in-Time.
The Zettlekasten Methodology
In his book “How to take Smart Notes,” Sonke Ahrens discusses a different methodology for note-taking. His book is note-taking focused on writers and researchers. It is a fascinating book to read and conceptually different from the progressive summarization of Tiago Forte. His concept starts with:
- When you get a new insight write down a fleeting note- your thoughts on the insight.
- Then late in the day he would write a permanent note about each fleeting note and then store it in his note-taking app
- He would connect this permanent note to any other similar ideas that he had previously saved building a network of related ideas.
His idea is to summarize upfront. Stating everything in his own words as he finds them important and then connecting them. The benefit of this when you sit down to write is that you already have a network of ideas linked together in your own words to facilitate your writing. However, using this method takes a longer time to build a network of ideas. But if you found there a day at the end of year 1, you would have over a thousand related ideas, then two thousand and so on.
There is an intriguing promise to this method for those just starting out taking notes with a long life ahead. However, at 76 and counting, I think I will continue to use the PARA methodology myself. But if you are starting college, the Zettlekasten methodology has a great deal of merit. So I think if I were in college and just starting building a PKM System, I would go this way.
Which is right for me?
If you are 20-30 and want to write for others, then I would choose Zettlekasten. If older, I would go with PARA and Just-in-time summarization. But it is up to you. It is your Personal Knowledge Management System.
Need help getting your system set up and running? Contact me by filling out and sending the form from my website. The first hour is free, and if you want more help, we can agree on the fee.