Henrik Carlsson's Blog

I need your help with finding a system for note taking

🎧 Listened to: Cortex #33: Cortek

I’ve been taken a lot of notes lately, for my masters studies. I take notes in class and, most importantly, I highlight passages in the books I read and also take notes around the reading. Some of those notes relates directly to the highlighted passages, other notes are more general thoughts as I’m trying to work things out.

As I was reading, highlighting and writing last week I realised that over the course of two years these notes and highlights would grow to a big mess of assorted thoughts that I could never have any hope of organising in my final thesis, or any written exams either for that matter. So I need a better system.

I recalled having heard one or more podcasts where CGP Grey talked about how he handled similar tasks around his research for videos so I googled and found this old episode of Cortex. Around the 44:00 marker he describes his main workflow. Here’s the gist of it

Read ebooks -> Highlight passages -> When done, screen shot the pages with highlights -> import screenshots into Evernote -> Make notes in Evernote

I need to do something similar, but two things

  1. I prefer to read paper books for this. Not a huge problem, but a small change.
  2. Evernote seems like the wrong way to go.

Grey (and Myke) was already upset with Evernote when makes this podcast (in July 2016) and in later episodes that has been mentioned again and again, so it seems like it would be dumb to actually start taking these kind of notes in Evernote today.

So basically what I need is

I’m thinking of maybe some kind of combination of Microsoft OfficeLens for the scan and Apple Notes for everything else, or maybe just Microsoft OneNote for the whole thing. Or maybe save the notes as flat text files (preferably in Dropbox or iCloud Drive) together with PDF scans from something like OfficeLens. In this later case I might not need the OCR on the phone since instead I can use PDFPen on my Mac.

What do you think? Any suggestions?

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