How to Take Smart Notes

Have you ever wondered how prolific authors like Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene produce incredible amounts of work?

They turn their reading into a writing practice using a system called a Zettelkasten, or a “Slip Box.”

Big ideas:

  • Don’t just highlight in a book, think while you read. Record your thoughts with your highlights.
  • Organize your notes by topic.
  • Look for clusters and complete arguments as clusters form. Fill the gaps with your own thoughts.
  • Compile your clusters into completed texts.

Ahrens covers a broad range of topics on thinking well, learning, constructing arguments, and developing creative habits with a system in this little gem.

Some of the software recommendations are dated or there are better alternatives, but this is a system that can be used with note cards — technology is optional.

Think more clearly, learn better. Interact with your reading. Turn into a writer by reading the best of what others have shared.

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