How Taking Smart Notes Transformed My Writing Process

Srinivas Rao
4 min readJun 12, 2023

Discovering the art of taking smart notes can be a game-changer for your writing process. This was my experience when I came across Sonkhe Ahrens’ lecture on smart note-taking. Learning that Nicholas Luhman, one of history’s most productive writers, used this method was a revelation. Applying these concepts, revolutionized my writing process.

Currently, I have an impressive collection of over 15,000 notes in Mem. These notes encompass books I’ve read, podcast interviews, insights, and spontaneous thoughts. I’ve utilized these notes to write blog posts, self-publish a book, generate course content, and much more. Tasks that previously took a month to complete can now be accomplished in less than a day.

The Power of Writing 1000 Words a Day

smart notes
martPhotographer: Aaron Burden | Source: Unsplash

Among my creative habits, writing 1000 words a day has had the most profound impact on my life.

  • Three months into this practice, I sold 1000 copies of a self-published book.
  • Six months later, my next self-published book made it to the Wall Street Journal Best-Seller list.
  • Two years later, I secured a six-figure book contract with a publisher.

Despite these impressive results, there were times when this habit led to diminishing returns. This is where the benefits of taking smart notes became apparent.

Overcoming the Limitations of Traditional Writing

Photographer: Kaleidico | Source: Unsplash

Traditional writing processes often rely heavily on inspiration and require significant time to organize information. Working linearly can also stifle creativity. However, taking smart notes can help overcome these limitations. Your writing structure may need to be linear, but your process doesn’t have to be. Smart notes allow you to leverage this concept in all your writing endeavors.

The Downfalls of Traditional Note-Taking

Traditional note-taking methods often focus on capturing information without much organization or structure. This approach can result in a disorganized collection of notes that are difficult to use later on. Many people find themselves with a plethora of notes that serve little purpose as they struggle to locate important information when needed. However, taking smart notes can help overcome these challenges.

The Advantages of Taking Smart Notes

Photographer: Alina Grubnyak | Source: Unsplash

Taking smart notes encourages you to think like a writer, not an archivist. Instead of copying and pasting quotes into a note-taking app, it forces you to distill information to its essence and turn what you read into something new. This approach offers several benefits, including idea generation, the ability to work non-linearly, atomic output, and increased productivity and efficiency in writing.

The Smart Note-Taking Process

First, capture fleeting thoughts and ideas as they arise in a notebook. Next, create literature notes by extracting key information from source materials and rewriting them in your own words. Finally, develop permanent notes, which are insights and ideas that emerge from literature notes. The two most important things are to give every note a title and limit yourself to one idea per note.

Creating Content from Smart Notes

Turning smart notes into content begins with identifying patterns and connections between your notes. By reviewing your notes and looking for recurring themes, topics, or relationships between seemingly unrelated ideas, you can generate new insights and ideas that can be developed into valuable content.

Writing a Blog Post with Smart Notes

Taking smart notes changes the way you write a blog post. Instead of starting with an idea and working top-down, you take a bottom-up approach by writing short notes about different ideas. This approach allows your ideas for what to write about to emerge organically from your notes.

In conclusion, taking smart notes transformed my writing process, allowing me to produce the same level of output with less effort by taking between 5–7 notes a day on the content I consume. Sometimes my notes add up to 1000 words. And other times, they lead to much more.

Unlock Your Creative Potential with Smart Notes

Discover the game-changing power of Smart Notes in our FREE e-course. Learn how to revolutionize your writing process, effortlessly organize your ideas, and boost your productivity. Don’t miss this opportunity to transform your workflow and unleash your creativity. Click here To Sign Up

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Srinivas Rao

Candidate Conversations with Insanely Interesting People: Listen to the @Unmistakable Creative podcast in iTunes http://apple.co/1GfkvkP