Thursday, September 26, 2019

What you call chaos I call a method

This tongue-in-cheek tweet got a lot of attention the other day. It's true: I still take my notes by hand, quite often on the margins of papers and books, although if I deem them important I transfer them to notebooks I keep at my home office.

It's a kludgy system. For a while I followed the advice of much experienced—and much more organized—authors such as Steven Johnson, and tried DevonThink, EverNote, and other tools. But I gave up.

There's something about handwritten notes and imperfect node diagrams with tons of scribbled arrows connecting concepts and ideas that has always worked for me. I think it's somehow related to the fact that I remember better what I read on print than what that I read on screens.

In some past talks I've explained that I inherited this idiosyncratic way of studying from my father, who told me to always keep a pen and some paper handy when reading. My dad also taught me to draw mnemonic diagrams, although he didn't call them that; there's one in The Functional Art that still makes sense to me as a memory aid but that is probably incomprehensible to everyone else. I can't think if I don't draw.