3 min
October 16, 2022

The Magic Of Note-Taking

There’s nothing like getting lost in a good book. It’s a chance to escape and be transported to another world. 

Some would argue, then, that note-taking sucks the joy out of reading. 

But the magic and enjoyment is not in the reading. It’s in what you carry with you. And the only way to carry things with you is to utilize a note-taking system. Because what’s the point of feeling the magic when you turn the pages if you’re not pausing to reflect on what made it magical in the first place? The impact of a life-changing book diminishes if you can’t remember specific insights and details.

Prior to having a note-taking system I read a lot. Here’s a typical conversation with someone after I finished a book: 

Me: Oh my God, The Untethered Soul changed my life.Person: What was it about?Me: The voice inside your head. It’s so good. You have to read it.

Wowwww. Thank you so much for your insights and takeaways, Charlie! By the way, ‘The Voice Inside Your Head’ is literally the title of Chapter 1. That is NOT what the book is about. It’s about so much more. 

So I re-read the book and took notes. Now when someone asks me what it’s about, I can say:

It starts off by explaining the difference between you and the voice in your head. I couldn’t listen to the car radio for a year because I was fascinated by this incessant voice that wouldn’t shut up. But what most resonated with me was his idea of the inner thorn. The thorn is the thing that completely runs your entire life. It affects all your decisions including where you go, whom you’re comfortable with, and who’s comfortable with you. When I read that chapter I had to put the book down because I finally realized my obsession with my weight was my inner thorn. The number on the scale was the first thing I thought about when I woke up and the last thing I thought about when my head hit the pillow each night. It had taken over my life. The Untethered Soul was the catalyst for me to start making changes.

This is not about which tool is the right tool. This is about simply writing things down. 

It doesn’t matter how you capture ideas. What matters is that you capture them. Systemization is actually what makes writing and creating magical. Because if you don’t write things down, those ah-ha moments, those epiphanies, those connections slip away like your favorite dreams. It doesn’t matter how tightly you close your eyes and try to go back to sleep, it’s impossible to get those moments back.

It’s not enough to highlight quotes and star passages. You might think, ‘Oh I’ll definitely remember why this resonates. It’s so obvious why this resonates.’ And maybe you will. But maybe you won’t. If something resonates, you need to write down why it resonates. You don’t need to necessarily write down every detail, but you have to have the awareness to realize that if you feel instantly excited and clear about something, the best thing to do is act immediately. 

Sometimes when I’m reading a book or listening to a podcast I suddenly realize I’ve stopped reading or listening and I’m just thinking. My mind has wandered. It’s gone down a sort of rabbit hole because of something I read or heard. Something has resonated with me or reminded me of something. What is that something? Why is it important? What is my insight or perspective? Digging deeper, how was it written or said that made it resonate with me? Is there a way to mimic this in my own writing? 

Or I could do what I used to do and get lost in my thoughts, realize it, and berate myself for not paying attention. But the mind wandering is the mind thinking. It is paying attention. It’s making its own unique connections. They need to be written down.

For a writer, there’s nothing worse than a blank page. But if you pay attention to the things you consume, whether it be a book or a podcast or a television show or a conversation or something you observe on your daily walk, and write them down as they happen, your blank page will never feel like a blank page. Like the Marauder’s Map, words will begin to appear. But instead of a flick of the wand, it will be with a simple copy and paste. 

That’s the magic of reading. Note-taking.