I often have the problem that I take notes in Obsidian and almost immediately forget about it. Just a second later, I don’t even remember what I read and wrote down.
It is easy to fall into this trap. We take our notes. We think we know something. We think we understood something. But truly and honestly we didn’t understand it. We just blindly made a note, thinking we understood.
The principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. — Feynman
The problem might be that we often fall into the habit of reading, re-reading, listening, re-listening, watching, re-watching, and just transcribing notes in the end. We don’t take time to think about what we just consumed. We don’t take the time to understand it thoroughly.
We are just overwhelmed by all the information, insights, and ideas that we rush through the materials. We just mindlessly take one note after the other. Most of the time we just transcribe and don’t take real notes.
Instead of taking notes by transcribing, take notes by explaining, elaborating, and connecting.
Explain to yourself what you just consumed. Break it down into simple single snippets and rebuild the concept in your own words. After putting it into your own words try to elaborate a bit, for example why the insight is important, and try to connect it to concepts you already know or took notes of.
Have these three questions in mind while taking notes to remind you to explain, elaborate, and connect your notes:
- What is it? → Reframe and explain
- Why is it important? → Reflect and elaborate
- How can I use it? → Reuse and connect
These questions might help you understand, spot gaps in your understanding, and take better notes.