The Sparkwood and 21 Shield logo with the words STUDIO NOTEBOOK underneath

My Note Taking Process 🌿


1. Read or research a thing
2. Write scrappy notes in my physical notebooks whilst reading or researching a thing
3. Transfer notes to a variety of atomic and concept-based posts in this commonplace book
4. Grow these notes as I add to them

Many of my notes start their life in my journal. When I hear something new, or I read something interesting, I jot down the main ideas into whatever paper journal I have near me. When I get to my computer and I have time I copy it into my Commonplace Book where I start to flesh the ideas out further. Then I try to find any other notes that are relevant and add connections to them.

One thing that I try to do is to make my notes my own. I try not to copy and  paste the interesting parts, but I actually reword them and write them down as I understood them. This helps both understanding and gives me a chance of remembering them.

As I add new notes and create connections between them, I end up revisiting old notes and updating them. Sometimes it’s with a negative update (it didn’t pan out, it was a wrong idea), but sometimes it’s a positive one (a further development or something similar someone else has done).

Inspiration to this process are:

It’s hard to write notes that are worth developing over time. These principles help:

Evergreen notes should be atomic
Evergreen notes should be concept-oriented
Evergreen notes should be densely linked
Prefer associative ontologies to hierarchical taxonomies

My workflow is inspired by (but only inspired, not fully copied from) the [Zettelkasten]( method of Niklas Luhman, which is the trending note taking framework du jour, sprinkled with ideas from [Tiago Forte]( and others. When my note-taking workflow grows up, it wants to be like [Andy Matuschak’s notes](

It might be good to write your own wiki as a learning platform, much akin to this site, put more personal.

about commonplace books

1. Historically it has been a book or notepad, but it can be any central repository.

2. The book often has some sort of crude organizational system that arranges the material.

3. Every commonplace book is unique, as it’s based on the creators interests and experiences.

4. It is not a diary or a travel log of events, but an aggregation of knowledge. It’s THE original information management tool before such a thing ever existed.

5. The purpose of the book is to synthesize knowledge into the essential wisdom that can be later used by the creator.

1. Read Far & Wide

Consume information widely & profusely: read, listen, learn, observe and explore constantly. Inspiration can come from anywhere and often strikes in the most unlikely of places, so pay attention. At the same time, don’t focus too much in any particular medium or subject – read fiction and step outside your comfort zone, the connections you find may surprise you.

2. Document What You Like

As you’re consuming all of that information, be sure to document the things that stick out to you. Whether it’s highlighting a passage, bookmarking a page, cutting out an article, or jotting down an idea – make sure you’re documenting everything that stands out. The goal is to collect wisdom, not facts. A great example of this is your marginalia, which are the notes, scribbles and comments a reader may make in the margins of a book as he/she reads. These are often a treasure trove of ideas and insights.

3. Move Tidbits To Your Commonplace Book

The next step is to transcribe all the bits of information into your commonplace book. There are two approaches here: either you collect the information and move them all at once into your book or, if you have your book handy, you can add information directly to it as you go. I prefer the latter when possible.

On the other hand, when I read on my Kindle or am on the go, its easier for me to refer back to my notes on my device and add them to my book when I get a chance. The key is to make sure they end up in your book one way or the other.

A couple of things come to mind when it comes to your book. First, don’t worry too much about the organization at the start. The system will become clear to you on its own over time. Two, don’t let the notes pile up because it’ll get harder and harder to find the time to translate them into your book. Try and stick to a daily or weekly schedule. Finally, if you’re not sure what to use as your book, I’d recommend either a Moleskine (my personal choice seen to the right) or a Field Notes notebook, but any book will do. The key is that it’s a physical representation.

4. Review them often

Finally, make sure you actually go back and review your commonplace books every so often. They will be collecting years of wisdom and knowledge and if you never review them, then you’ll miss the entire point of the practice. They are a lifetime project that get better with time, so make sure to give them the attention they command.