This tutorial will talk about the book “How to Take Smart Notes” and then show you how you can use the ideas in this book with Mem to maximize your creative output, increase your productivity and dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to create new content. 

“How to Take Smart Notes” is a book that will completely transform how you read and write.  It's based on the work of a German social scientist named Niklas Luuhmann who wrote 58 books and 500 papers in his lifetime.

The methods in this book are incredibly powerful because they force you to take notes by rewriting what you've learned in your own words. Unlike the typical note-taking method of underlining, highlighting, and copying, and pasting things into your note-taking app, the principles of smart notes are contingent on two ideas: (1) elaboration is critical and (2) elaboration enhances your understanding and your ability to remember what you've learned as you start to use the smart note system.

One of the things you'll begin to notice is the principle of compound interest taking effect. What does it mean? The more notes that you add, the more valuable your collection of notes will start to become. Eventually, it will lead to an exponential increase in your ability to create new knowledge. 

Types of Notes

There are three main types of notes that make up the smart note system: fleeting notes, literature notes, and permanent notes.

Fleeting notes

Fleeting notes are the notes you're going to take while you're reading.  You're going to capture ideas, insights, and thoughts that occur to you. You can use a notebook for your fleeting notes and on each note, you'll write down a page number and whatever that insight was in a very brief sentence. You will want to review your fleeting notes once a day or you're likely to forget what they're actually about. 

Literature notes

So then, based on those fleeting notes, you're going to create literature notes. Anytime you come across an idea or insight that you want to remember, create a mem for it and rewrite it in your own words, and include the quote or passage that led to the literature note and link it to the original source.

So how to do it in Mem? First, get your original source and every idea or insight tagged as a literature note. One way to do this inside of Mem is to use a template. You can create a template for your literature notes so that way rather than having to type out the tag every single time you create a new literature note, you can then automatically bring up the literature note template just with a backslash. It will automatically add the tag to your literature notes. 

Some people just add related notes based on whatever the tags are and based on the tags you'll have certain related notes that show up. But one of the things that Sonkha Ahrens says is that making good cross-references is a matter of serious thinking and a crucial part of the development of your thoughts. The best way to do that is to link notes within the sentences that you write of all your other notes. 

For example, when you have a literature note based on a quote, say, from the book “Power for All,” you can link several other relevant notes and use them in the sentences.  That makes your cross references much more effective because instead of a disconnected collection of notes, you end up with a connected collection of ideas.

Permanent note

The third type of note inside of the smart note system is a permanent note. This note is your primary insight –it's something that you can understand without context. It's an original insight that you got from your reading and you'd know what it was referring to in the future without knowing where it came from. 

One of the things that you'll find is that while you're writing literature notes, you'll actually end up coming up with permanent notes that are original insights based on your reading. The beauty of the smart note system is that it allows you to have insight without taking immediate action because you can create links within your literature notes. 

Hence, a lot of these notes here don't actually have anything in them. They were just linked inside of other literature notes. So, you may have an idea and aren't ready to take action on it, but because of the fact that you can link those original ideas to your literature notes, it becomes a note-taking system that basically ensures that you never forget any idea you have.

Now, where this really starts to become powerful is not with each individual note, but the combination of all of your notes. So let's say, for example, you wanted to write an article titled “Becoming a Master Bullshit Detector” which is something that you came up with after reading a book called the “Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit.” Now you can tag all of your various literature notes from that book with the tag “detecting bullshit"  

There are a couple of different ways that you could do this. You can actually just cut and paste this or bring up Mem Spotlight and start assembling all of this together in a matter of minutes. If you choose the latter, you can have the foundation for the first draft of an article that you want to write in a matter of a few minutes. 

The real work begins in editing and putting the pieces of the puzzle together in an order that makes sense.  That's why taking smart notes is such an effective system. It allows you to exponentially increase your ability to create new knowledge because of the fact that you have all of these notes you're never starting from scratch. 

Final Thoughts

The best way to take smart notes is by using Mem note-taking app. This app allows you to keep all of your notes in one place, and it makes it easy to find and connect related information. With a little practice, you can start taking smarter notes that will help you remember more and improve your productivity.