Essays/linkedin/24-01-29 note taking for entrepreneurs

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📓 One of the most underrated habits for entrepreneurs is to be good note takers. Notes shape our mental process, our worldview, and inform our future actions. It took me a while to develop a system I liked, and this is what I observed:

  • Retrieval of notes (finding the correct one at the right time) is way harder than long-term storage
  • Digital notes are useful for some things, but paper notebooks add an impossible to match dimension
  • There are different types of notes, with different intrinsic value
  • Note-taking is a habit hard to form
  • Relying on automated processes (text-to-speech, for instance) removes most of the long-term value of the note-taking process.

Something all starting entrepreneurs have in common is that they'll meet tons of people for very different reasons.

From an investor, to a mentor, customer, or future employee.

There is almost always something valuable that can be extracted from such conversations. Ideas, insights, recommendations.

I write most of my notes after a meeting, unless there's something specific (a date, a name, etc.) I think I'll forget.

I take many digital notes for the things I read. And they form the base of an expanding knowledge database (which I made public, but that's a different story).

Every time a year ends, I go through all the notes from the last 12 months. It's surprising how much I've forgotten. If something catches my attention, I re-write it and make a reference to the original one.

I don't make indices, but I use a bullet-journal approach. If I'm looking for the notes of a meeting, I can quickly find it back.

Digital notes are handy to share, but they require a degree of readability that adds to the activation threshold.

Sometimes I find ideas hidden in my notes. Mostly of things I was not able to process when I first discussed them. I discard almost all of them exactly because of the new insights I gained. But few carry on and compound.

Having good notes is also amazing when meeting people after a while.

If you discussed about a project a year ago, nothing will surprise them more than you remembering and asking about how it's going. It's a fast way to gain someone's trust and to show empathy.

Paper is king because it forces me to slow down. The concrete area of a page forces me to focus on the important.

I have some good spatial reasoning, which means I have more chances to remember where a note is regarding it's physical location. But still, it's a very imperfect retrieval system.

For digital notes, I favor Obsidian, mostly because of its offline, I am still in control, type of approach. The interface is clean and it allows me to do what I want.

For paper, I have an A6 journal for doodling and writing "low fidelity" notes. I also use a Fancy Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted notebook for my bullet journal, meeting notes, etc.

Still, the most difficult aspect of note taking is proper retrieval. I see many people writing and never looking back. I also fall into this trap more often than what I would like to admit.

What is your strategy for note taking?


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Aquiles Carattino
Aquiles Carattino
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