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  • Book notes

    Sorry if this thread is a little off topic it isnít directly GTD related, but the thread about book reading inspired me to ask this question. A few weeks ago I decided to start taking notes on the books that Iím reading. I realized that Iíve read many books, but after a certain period of time I sometimes only remember the title and maybe the author, which is kind of depressing, considering all the time I spent reading them. I thought that if I start taking notes that I could refer to them when enough time goes by instead of having to read the whole book over again.

    I read somewhere (canít remember where of course!) that a good way to take notes is to wait until you get to the end of the chapter and then take notes on the just finished chapter. I started doing this, but I realize that Iím now behind in my note taking. The book Iím currently reading is long (800+ pages) and each chapter sometimes takes a few days for me to get through. I often find myself away from my computer (where Iím taking the notes) and just start the next chapter, promising myself to take notes on the previous chapter when Iím in front of the computer again. This doesnít seem to be happening any more. One thing I was thinking of changing was instead of taking notes after every chapter, taking notes every weekend on what I read during the week. I have more free time on the weekend and I can use the more precious weekday free time just for reading.

    Does anyone have advice on a good system of taking notes?

  • #2
    Taking Notes

    I often feel the same way. I am horrible at keeping this kind of commitment. When I do take notes, which is not often enough, I try to end my reading time a few minutes early and journal what I just finished. If something is striking and I want to make sure it will get captured, I capture it immediately. If I am somewhere where I cannot make good notes, I will create a Task in iPaq with the book, page, and a reference note, so I can quickly find it again later.

    Vince

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    • #3
      Index Card Book Notes

      I try to take notes on 3x5 cards, which also serve as book-mark. I find that I don't refer to them much. It does serve to consolidate my thoughts. Much of what I read (non-fiction) just seems to enter into my brain and then pop out unexpectedly during small talk. Often it makes me a crashing bore. Sometimes it makes me seem erudite.

      You might read "On Intelligence" by Jeff (Grafiti, Palm, Handspring, Treo) Hawkins to see how he thinks such learning is used by the unaided brain.
      Last edited by ProfDD; 08-01-2005, 11:37 AM. Reason: Improved Title

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      • #4
        Index Card Book Notes

        I try to take notes on 3x5 cards, which also serve as book-mark. I find that I don't refer to them much. It does serve to consolidate my thoughts. Much of what I read (non-fiction) just seems to enter into my brain and then pop out unexpectedly during small talk. Often it makes me a crashing bore. Sometimes it makes me seem erudite.

        You might read "On Intelligence" by Jeff (Grafiti, Palm, Handspring, Treo) Hawkins to see how he thinks such learning is used by the unaided brain.

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        • #5
          How about Post-it notes or some Levenger products?

          Whatever "aha" thought you have while reading could dissipate if you don't record it at the time it occurs to you. So if that bothers you, maybe instead of taking notes at the end of a chapter you could do it as they occur--basically applying the GTD principles to your book reading.

          For the actual note-taking, besides 3 x 5 cards which others have suggested (and which seems like a good idea), I read on www.43folders.com about a great "hack" where you stick Post-It notes in the back of a book that you are reading...

          Or, if you want to keep things really light--what about using tape flags. You could mark relevant passages and write down a few key words on the tape flag itself, so as not to mar the book. Maybe that info would be enough to jog your memory for recall if you choose to make more comprehensive notes at the end of the chapter.

          Whatever "input device" you choose (and my personal bias is that it should be a paper device as I don't think these kinds of notes lend themselves to electronic input), I think that they key is to have that input device at the ready.

          Another tool you may enjoy is the Bookography from Levenger. I am sorry that I am having trouble adding the direct link here, but if you go to www.levenger.com and type in Bookography into the search, you will find it (and also a lot of other cool tools for reading!)

          Hope this helps a bit!

          Cindy

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          • #6
            Post-It Flags and Notes work for me

            I always have both a Post-It Note pad and a Flag dispenser handy when I'm reading (on my desk at work and home, on my nightstand, and in my laptop bag. I use flags most often to precisely mark the position on the page where the interesting idea or topic is located. When the idea I want to highlight isn't self-evident (as pointed out above), I'll add a note with some framing thoughts to jog my memory at a later date.

            If, like me, you hate writing on books, this is a great way to annotate.

            I rarely put information from books into my digital system but I have, on occasion, created a highlight list that simply references the page and paragraph number I've flagged for future reference.

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            • #7
              Using Mind Maps to take notes on Books

              I agree with you on how frustrating it can be to read a book and not retain the good stuff you've just found between the pages.

              I'm trying something new at the moment which is to mind map a book after I've finished reading it. I've just finished reading Julie Morgenstern's "Time Management from the Inside Out" and so far the mind maps are having the desired results. I'm using Mind Manager X5 Pro and allocate 30 minutes each day to go through each chapter and mind map the main points. I read all of the book first and am now revising it while it's fresh in my mind. This book is only @ 200 pages long, so it was easy for me to wait until the end of the book to revise. I can see how it might be challenging to do this after reading a long book over a longer time.

              The mind map also allows me to quickly reference the right chapter of the book if I want to revise or clarify a particular point.

              Btw: Julie's book is an excellent read! I like how it deals with strategies for estimating the duration of tasks and determining your best rythm and timing to do certain things in your day.

              Hope this helps!
              Warren

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              • #8
                Mark up that book

                Mark up the book. Put notes in the margins. Underline. Circle. Write questions about passages where you want more understanding. Write cross-references to other books on similar topics. Summarize in the white space. In other words, don't worry about taking notes as much as engaging in a dialog with the author by marking up the text. This results in increased understanding and facilitates remembering beyond just memorization.

                A great resource on this is "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer J. Adler. This book is required reading for the Principals' Executive Program (PEP), which is at the Center for School Leadership Development at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

                Here is a link to the book at Amazon...

                http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...415022-9893744

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                • #9
                  Update

                  Iíve always had a problem writing in my books. Maybe it sounds silly, but my handwriting is very big and sloppy and I hate to turn the book into an illegible mess. This is one reason I like to take notes on my computer. I can type much faster than I can handwrite and it is much easier to organize and deal with once it is in the computer. I sometimes sell my books when Iím done and I donít think anyone wants to see my notes all over the thing.

                  One thing I did was to buy a small 5x3 ďmemoĒ book which fits in my shirt pocket for taking notes when Iím reading away from the computer. Then I can later type them in when I have some time. Iím also going to buy some post-it flags and give that a try too.

                  One problem with the book Iím currently reading is that the chapters are very long (around 60 pages) so several days can go by before I actually finish one chapter and start taking notes. Perhaps I should read as much as I can in one day and take notes at the end of the day. Iím still struggling with this point though.

                  Thanks for all the suggestions.

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                  • #10
                    I'm one who hates writing in books so that doesn't work for me.

                    I have adopted a fairly simple attitude about remembering what I read: if it applies to my life now, I apply it. Otherwise I'm sure it will be there if I come back to it and I will see different insights than I did the first time. That probably contributes to my disdain of marking in books - I want to approach a book as though I've never read it before, even if I've read it ten times.

                    You can take notes if you want, which may help reinforce what you learned. But then you either have to read your notes or they are one more thing that's in your way cluttering your life. Is it really worth that?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pageta
                      You can take notes if you want, which may help reinforce what you learned. But then you either have to read your notes or they are one more thing that's in your way cluttering your life.
                      That's not actually true. I find that the act of taking notes helps me remember and integrate what I'm reading, even if I never look at the notes again.

                      Katherine

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                      • #12
                        I'm from the school of marking up books - I bought them, so why not?

                        Mostly I use a highlighter, or a pen/pencil if one is not around, to highlight key passages. If the book is memorable enough, I can later quickly create a mindmap of the book for later review. I do tend to map out books and then never go back to them however.

                        Using note cards or stickies would then double my work, as I would then have to make the electronic version later.

                        I also listen to audiobooks in my car - that's the tricky part for me - finding a way to take notes before I forget about it completely.

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                        • #13
                          I'm in the "don't write in 'em" school. I love the look of a clean page, and as pageta mentioned earlier, when I read a book again, different things stand out to me. I have highlighted, made notes, etc. in a book that "spoke" to me in the past, and when I went back to read it again, I was so distracted by the previous marking that it was difficult to read. And even worse, those passages no longer meant so much to me. It was non-highlighted things that had more meaning. I ended up trashing the marked up book and buying another copy. Any book I have really enjoyed in the past does merit reading again. There are some that I have read several times. The only times I ever wanted to remember a lot of material in a book was in college. LOL. Then I forgot much of it after the test.

                          The same is true when I read the Bible. A passage that was so very meaningful to me a few years ago may not be the passage I want to read over and over now. As I pass through different life stages or different life circumstances, what sustains me changes.

                          I love books, and the wonderful stories kept me from being overly lonely in childhood. I grew up in a rural area, and there just weren't any girls around for companionship. Like Dave, I have trouble letting my books go. Thus I have way, way too many books in my house, but I go digging through them on a regular basis to renew acquaintances. As I've said here before, I sometimes find I have more than one copy. Those I let go to friends.

                          Carolyn
                          Last edited by ceehjay; 08-02-2005, 06:43 PM.

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