Here’s how to transform your knowledge into a content machine
That’s the number of years I’ve been taking notes. But 99% of them ended up in a virtual graveyard that I never revisited. Not to mention that they also didn’t help me create better or more content.
This sucks. I’ve spent thousands of hours consuming information, jotting it down, and then forgetting about it.
But 3 years ago, I had a revelation.
I stumbled across a forgotten note-taking system that I tweaked to empower my content creation, came up with better ideas, and pulled away a lot of stress from the equation.
I’ve distilled the most important takeaways in this article so that you don’t make the same mistakes as I did and save yourself hundreds of hours of frustration and overwhelm.
Let’s dive into it.
This article is quite long. If you’d like to get my best insights about note-taking via email, you can get my free email course here.
Why is a note-taking system mandatory if you want to create content?
As a creator, your most important asset is your ideas.
The reason? Each piece of content you create relies on ideas. If you have no library to stock them, you’re taking the risk of running out of inventory.
It still blows my mind when I see creators not taking care of their best ideas and treating them as a one-night thing.
Either they simply create what they have on top of their minds, or they use AI to do the heavy lifting for them. That might work for a few months. But at one time or another, they’ll hit rock bottom.
I know it because I’ve been playing the content creation game for over a decade. In the beginning, everything was easy. But the more you play, the harder it becomes to stay consistent and keep the flame alive.
That’s why your ideas need a safe vault where you can retrieve them on demand.
Have you ever stopped mid-sentence, racking your brain for that nugget of wisdom you read somewhere, sometime? It’s damn frustrating. It’s like trying to catch a soap bubble. It’s there. Then, poof, it’s gone. This is where a note-taking system swings in like a knight in shining armor.
There’s an uncanny equation in content creation: Your Notes = Your Knowledge = Your Content.
But, wait, isn’t your brain supposed to do that? Store information? Sure, if you’re some sort of human encyclopedia. But if you’re anything like me — an over-thinker and avid learner who often gets lost in the labyrinth of thoughts — you need a better plan.
A note-taking system isn’t just a fancy way of scribbling your thoughts.
It’s like having a dedicated hard drive for your brain. It holds all the ‘data’ you consume and makes it ready for ‘processing’, or in our case, content creation. Having your knowledge at your fingertips allows you to generate content faster, easier, and with less mental strain.
It’s like a secure vault for your thoughts, ideas, and inspirations.
Imagine the serenity of knowing that every bit of information is easily stored and accessible, like:
- books you’ve devoured
- research papers you read
- podcasts you’ve binged
- or insightful article you came across.
That’s a state of serenity even Himalayan monks would approve of.
Creating content is a mentally heavy and draining task. That’s why you need a tool that allows you to take some of that burden out of the equation.
It’s about reducing overwhelm and making the process of content creation more enjoyable and less of a hide-and-seek game.
But don’t just take my word for it. Tim Ferriss often credits his prolific output to his obsessive note-taking habit. It’s the method to the madness that is content creation.
A note-taking system isn’t a luxury.
It’s a necessity. Especially if your income relies on it.
It’s like having your own personal Wikipedia, a library of knowledge you can tap into at any time. It’s the difference between feeling like a deer in headlights every time you sit down to create content and having a clear roadmap guiding your thoughts.
That’s the power of a note-taking system. Once you’ve tasted this power, there’s no going back.
Is your note-taking system garbage?
Let’s get one thing straight.
A note-taking system isn’t about having the coolest app on the World Wide Web. It’s about how much you get done. It’s about efficiency. It’s about creating content that makes people stop and think, “Wow, I wish I’d written that!”
So, how do you judge if a note-taking system is good or not?
It boils down to a few factors:
- How quickly can you create content?
- How easy is it to generate fresh insights?
- How much do you enjoy using it?
- How much serenity does it bring to you?
Think of it this way: You don’t judge your note-taking system by how pretty it looks to others. Sometimes, it’s just like a trusty old pickup truck. It may not be the most glamorous or sleekest ride out there, but boy, can it carry a load!
And that’s exactly what you need.
You need a system that can hold all your thoughts, ideas and insights, and make them easily accessible when it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start creating content.
May it be:
- an article
- an online course
- an email newsletter
Another critical aspect is the level of tranquility it provides.
Do you feel serene knowing that your best ideas, your nuggets of wisdom, are safely stored and easily retrievable? Or do you feel like you’re constantly on the brink of forgetting something important?
A good note-taking system should feel like your own private garden. A place of calm amidst the storm of content creation.
It isn’t about the frills and the thrills. It’s about simplicity, efficiency, and the peace of mind it brings.
That’s your secret weapon for the Metaverse.
1. Stop losing your best ideas
Ever had a brilliant idea while taking a shower or while driving, only to have it evaporate into thin air before you could jot it down?
Well, that’s the problem with great ideas.
Richard Branson is known for his incessant note-taking habit:
“If you don’t write your ideas down, they could leave your head before you even leave the room.”
This is where a quick capturing system comes into play. A brain dump, if you will. It’s a way to save your thoughts and ideas for the moment they strike. Because, let’s face it, inspiration is not a 9-to-5 employee. It shows up when it damn well pleases!
Now, you’re probably wondering how this works?
All you need to do is pick an app that works across all your devices. For me, that app is Bear. I love this tool because of its design and speed.
With Apple Shortcuts, I’ve created a series of quick capturing shortcuts that allow me to instantly jot down my ideas, no matter where I am or what I’m doing.
Here’s what it looks like:
And here’s a classic example: Say I’m taking my daily walk when suddenly an idea for a post like this pops up. Instead of promising myself I’ll remember it, I whip out my phone, open Bear, and capture the idea. Boom.
Quick and painless.
The beauty of a capturing system is its simplicity. It’s not about creating perfect notes or well-structured outlines. Nope. It’s about preserving your thoughts before they slip away. The refining and organizing? That comes later when you’re in your content creation mode.
So when I’m sitting down to create content, I have a ready-to-go list of ideas. No staring at a blank screen, no pulling your hair out in frustration.
I dive straight into typewriter mode.
2. Retrieve anything on demand (in 10 minutes or less!)
What’s the point of jotting down ideas when you can’t retrieve them when you need them the most?
Have you ever tried finding a specific note among the chaos of disorganized ideas, like trying to find a needle in a haystack? I’m sure you know the pain.
The key to solving this problem lies in one word: organization.
Sounds boring? You’re right.
It’s damn boring when you have to do it yourself. But the right system allows you to get organized without even lifting a finger.
Having a simple organizational methodology can turn your chaotic pile of notes into a well-curated library. The goal here is to automatically resurface the right content at the right time. No more frantic searching, no more wasting precious time.
But how do you achieve this level of organization?
Organize your notes based on 4 things:
- the source (book name, for example)
- the author
- the content you’ve created with it
- the status
For example, if you’re reading “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferris and then created a piece of content that talks about a specific idea… Then each note you pulled out of the book should tie back to all of these parameters in a way or another.
The reason? You don’t know how your brain will recall the information. This is what I’ve noticed after taking notes to create content for over a decade.
So the best bet is to create a safety net with multiple doors to access your ideas and make sure you’ll never lose them again.
The way I’m doing it is by using backlinks. It’s the fastest and easiest way to make sure to never lose an idea and retrieve it in 10 seconds or less.
An organized note-taking system is like your personal search engine. You enter the keywords, and it retrieves the exact content you need, sifting through millions of entries. The time you save by not rummaging around for lost notes can be invested back into thinking and creating content.
Once you experience this level of efficiency, there’s no going back.
The essence of a good note-taking system lies not just in capturing. But in blazing-fast retrieval.
3. Spark fresh insights & stand out in your niche
Great creators are great thinkers.
And you might think that using tags or folders to organize your notes is the ultimate solution. It seems like the perfect way to tame the chaotic beast of ideas, right?
But imagine trying to make a delicious soup with ingredients kept in separate containers and never allowed to mingle. That’s exactly what happens when you classify your notes into rigid categories. It restricts serendipity, which is the chance discovery of unexpected connections between your thoughts.
The common methods like folders and tags used by many to organize notes actually kill creativity rather than empower it. They’re like prison cells for your ideas, keeping them isolated and unable to interact.
If you want to spark new ideas, you need to let them roam free and collide, not confine them.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you have a folder for ‘marketing strategies’ and another for ‘consumer psychology’. Both contain valuable information, but they’re isolated from each other. There’s no opportunity for these ideas to collide, interact, and create something unique.
That’s why using rigid systems based on folders and tags (like PARA) doesn’t work if you want to be more creative.
Instead, you should mimic how your brain processes information. The solution: using links.
But how does linking improve your thinking?
Consider each note a guest at a party, mingling, conversing, and sparking interesting discussions.
For instance, a note about the ‘reciprocity principle’ from psychology might just hobnob with ‘email marketing strategies’.
The outcome? A fascinating article on how leveraging the principle of reciprocity can skyrocket your email marketing campaign’s success. It’s these unique perspectives that make your content stand out in the sea of commoditized information.
When I shifted from using traditional folders to linking my notes, I was blown away:
The best part?
It also allows you to quickly brainstorm content ideas on the fly by visualizing your links.
A great note-taking system should be more than just a storage vault for your captured ideas. It should be a bustling metropolis where your thoughts wander, collide, and give birth to unique insights.
Content creation is not about fitting in. It’s about standing out.
4. Creating your own school of thought
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Turns out, it’s also mightier than AI when it comes to note-taking.
Sure, it sounds tempting to just hit the ‘generate’ button and let an AI churn out notes for you: summarize, enhance, link…
But what you gain in time, you lose in understanding. Because the real magic of note-taking lies not in the notes themselves but in the act of writing them on your own.
You see, writing is thinking.
When you pen down your thoughts, you wrestle with them. You chew on them. You distill them. In this process, something amazing happens. Your understanding deepens, and the knowledge becomes a part of you. It’s not just stored in a note; it’s ingrained in your thought process.
In this era of information overload, deep expertise is the currency of the future.
People are tired of rehashed content (and ideas.) They starve for depth, authenticity, and originality. It’s about diving deep, not just skimming the surface.
Your note-taking system should be a tool that empowers this deep dive.
For instance, when I’m reading a book, I don’t just highlight the key points. No, I wrestle with them. I write them down in my own words, adding my interpretations and insights. This process transforms a simple note-taking activity into an enriching learning experience.
Sure, letting AI resume it would be easier. But that ease won’t pay long-term dividends.
This might sound like a lot of work. And honestly, it is.
But that’s the price to pay if you want to stand out, make money, and get recognized for your ideas.
Your note-taking system isn’t just a storehouse; it’s your personal thinking space.
Stop outsourcing your thinking.
5. Building a future-proof system
Many note-taking systems start off great.
You’re all excited, capturing everything that sparks your interest. But over time, as your notes pile up, the system starts to creak under the pressure.
Searches become a wild goose chase, spewing out hundreds of irrelevant results. The app slows down and crashes. Before you know it, you’re trapped in a digital labyrinth of your own making.
A good note-taking system isn’t just about handling today’s information load. It needs to be future-proof. It must be agile enough to grow with you as your knowledge expands and your wisdom deepens.
Because, let’s face it: learning is a lifelong journey. The more you know, the more you realize there’s so much more to know. Your note-taking system needs to keep pace with this intellectual evolution instead of slowing you down.
That’s why a self-organizing note-taking workspace is a game-changer. It’s like having a personal assistant who knows exactly what you need, when you need it. It automatically sifts through your sea of notes and surfaces the most relevant ones for your current focus.
All the other notes? They’re safely tucked away, out of sight but not out of reach.
For example, when I’m working on a blog post about productivity hacks, my self-organizing workspace shows only the notes relevant to what I’m currently working on.
Even with dozens of notes around the subject, it’s not overwhelming because I’ve distilled all this information into my note-taking system. So it acts as a refresher, not like getting hammered down by tons of irrelevant information.
Irrelevant information is hidden. Keeping my workspace clutter-free and my focus razor-sharp.
A great note-taking system is about just absorbing the vast amount of information you feed it and organizing it in a way that makes sense to you.
It’s a tool that mirrors your intellectual growth, never letting you feel overwhelmed, no matter how vast your sea of knowledge becomes.
6. Become smarter without efforts
Ever looked at a puzzle with a missing piece? It’s unsettling, right? The same holds true for knowledge.
It’s not enough to just hoard information like a junkie.
You need to identify the gaps in your understanding. Because the path to expertise isn’t just about learning more; it’s about learning better.
A great note-taking system doesn’t just store what you know; it also highlights what you don’t. It’s like a mirror that reflects not only your intellectual treasures but also the gaps waiting to be filled.
But how does a note-taking system help you find these gaps?
The answer: links, again.
When you link your notes, you create a web of interconnected ideas. It’s like a cognitive map that reveals not just the islands of your knowledge but also the uncharted waters in between.
Let’s say I’m interested in human psychology. I have a range of notes on the subject. As I start linking my notes, a pattern emerges. I realize that while I have plenty of notes on cognitive biases, there’s a gaping hole when it comes to developmental psychology.
That’s my missing puzzle piece.
So instead of doom-scrolling through my newsfeed or randomly picking books based on Uncle Bezos’ suggestions, I now have a clear learning goal: fill the gap in my understanding of developmental psychology.
This directed learning approach is like a GPS guiding your intellectual journey.
It’s not about hoarding more information. It’s about curating a comprehensive knowledge base.
Spotting these knowledge gaps has another benefit. It pushes you to learn more. It keeps the flame of curiosity alive. And this is important if you want to keep playing the infinite content creation game. It’s not about the one who makes more. It’s about those who play the game longer.
It’s not just about knowing more. It’s about knowing better.
Time to take it seriously
I wish I knew what I shared with you ten years ago.
It would have made learning, creating content, and sparking new insights so much easier.
When you know how to take notes effectively, creating content becomes an easy (and profitable) byproduct.
Want to turn your notes into valuable online content?
Sign up for my FREE note-taking email course below