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If you want to improve your writing, start by becoming a better note-taker. Here are 10 ways to do that: 1. Save only the best notes: Don't hoard information. Save your top 5-10% of ideas only. That way, you can trust that everything in your note-taking system is high-quality.
2. Create evergreen notes. Like a good investment, the benefits of your note-taking system should compound in value. Save ideas that will stay relevant for many years. Read the classics, skip the news. Note-by-note, brick-by-brick you’ll build an intellectual Coliseum.
3. Publish regularly. Writing more is the fastest way to improve your note-taking system. Without the pressure to produce, your system will become messy. The pressure to produce will turn your note-taking system into an extension of your mind.
David Perell @david_perell9. Writing online will accelerate your learning. Don't wait until you're an expert to write online. Writing online will force you to learn as much as you can and distill your best ideas for public consumption. And as you write online, you'll build authority in your niche.
4. Be Lazy. Your note-taking system doesn’t have to be perfect. There is only one way to measure the value of a note-taking system: how much does it help you produce? Lower your standards for note-taking, so you can raise your standards for creation.
5. Research happens in the background. In school, we’re taught to research before we write. Do the opposite. Compile notes over time. Then, once you have an idea, start writing immediately — right when you have an epiphany. Start researching after you've written a draft.
6. Link notes together. Organize your ideas by topic, not by source. As you browse your note-taking system, consider the serendipity you want to create for your future self. For example, if you read two books about a topic, link those notes together.
David Perell @david_perell5. Build a Shared Knowledge Base We keep all of our Standard Operating Procedures in @NotionHQ. We get everything in detailed writing whenever we meet, so we can trust a central source of truth in the future. Long-term, we save ourselves time and eliminate confusion.
7. Note-taking is a form of time-travel. You don’t just take notes to remember ideas. You also take notes to remember experiences. Reading your notes takes you back to a different state of consciousness. Note-taking is a rebellion against the entropy of memory.
8. The ultimate goal of note-taking is to improve your ideas. Too many people treat note-taking as an end in itself. But the goal of note-taking isn’t to save information. It’s to have ideas you wouldn’t have had otherwise. To be smarter, faster, and more creative.
9. Practice Instant Outlines. Build a strong foundation for your note-taking system and start collecting notes. Soon, you’ll be able to outline an essay in less than 30 minutes. Here’s what my outlining process looks like.
10. Keep things messy. Your note-taking system should encourage serendipity. If the divisions inside your system are too clean, you can’t make unexpected connections between ideas — which is the ultimate goal of a note-taking system. Ditch perfection. Embrace randomness.
If you're interested in these ideas, I just published a series of short podcasts with @fortelabs — the king of note-taking. We talked about intermediate packets, writing from abundance, and why you should keep your ideas moving.
If you're interested in note-taking, you should follow @andy_matuschak. Here's what he taught me: ∙ Outline while you research ∙ Collecting notes feels more useful than it usually is ∙ Shorter cycles of research and writing are better than long ones
Since most of my best writing ideas come while I'm reading, I developed a system to "write while I read." I read paper books, make notes for myself in the margin, highlight the best parts, and use @readwiseio to capture the best stuff. Here's my workflow.
David Perell @david_perellFor years, I did most of my reading on Kindle. But now I read physical books. I use @readwiseio to save highlights by taking a picture of the text I want to save, which automatically goes into my Second Brain. Here's what my workflow looks like.
Writing while you read sounds like a foreign concept, but great writers have always jotted down their thoughts in the marginalia of books. To them, the lines between production and consumption were often fluid. Here are David Foster Wallace’s notes.
Kendrick Lamar wouldn't have such brilliant lyrics without his obsessive note-taking process. He spends most of his time in a direction-less process of collecting interesting ideas, even though he doesn't know how he's going to use them in the future.
Instead of working in “Heavy Lifts,” you can work in “Slow Burns.” Taking notes makes you less dependent on those long blocks of creative time you need when you have to complete creative projects in a single sitting.
David Perell @david_perell2. Start taking notes early, so you can build upon the ideas over time. Kendrick was a shy middle schooler who sometimes spoke with a stutter. Frustrated, he turned to the written word. He scribbled rap lyrics on notebook paper instead of finishing assignments for other classes.

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