Why I treasure note-taking

Albus Dumbledore

Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it. #quote

What's the point of taking notes? Many people view the practice as a waste of time, and indeed there are some who are against writing notes.

Even so, I treasure note taking for a long and growing list of reasons.

It connects me deeply to people

Just a few moments before writing this note, I found a note that I had watched Donnie Darko with my friends, which gave me an excuse to message them and gossip.

At Christmas, I'm able to draw upon months or even years of notes I've taken about people to choose thoughtful gifts that no social media algorithm could ever choose.

These are just a few examples from thousands of times I've thought to interact with people, all because of something I had written in the past.

It blocks distractions, allowing active listening

If I attend a meeting, I will tend to zone out, even more than many people as I likely have Inattentive ADHD. Zoning out means I'm unable to effectively contribute to the meeting, or derive useful information from the meeting.

Taking notes is my impervious armour against the daydream demon. It forces me to focus, directing my extrasensory attention to one place, or what ADHD people know as hyperfocus. This often results in too many words - I'll note even minor non-words, a facial expression, a glance someone might have wanted forgotten. But it is much easier to have too many words and cut back than it is to have too little and add what's missing.

It protects me from rumination

All too often I begin a thought that turns into a doom spiral. Scribbling notes of this thought reveals to me all the merit and silliness of the thought. Then I can let the silliness go, and keep the merit if there was any.


Notes accumulate, memory fades

I often encounter information that I will perceive only once, but I must remember it a long time. The most common example is the name and number of someone I've just met. Would you really trust just your memory for something so important?

Zoom recordings are unsearchable and slow

The experience of seeing a video, hearing a voice cannot be reproduced by notes. Even so, for your future self who is in hurry for key information, rewatching a recording is excruciatingly slow.

Ask HN: Why the obsession with note taking?

Browsing notes means our own interest instead of an algorithm

Writing is thinking

Leslie Lamport

If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking. #quote


Richard Feynman

Original creations are a legacy My dead dad's journal

Human memory is unreliable

Who can remember their grocery list perfectly?

Google isn't good enough

Googling every answer is slow

Google Search is getting worse, because the public internet is getting worse.

Notes compound in value

Note writing creates durable cumulative knowledge

Gains from my second brain