Building a Note-Taking Habit

Make it obvious: Journaling is the first thing I do in the morning after I take the dogs out. That provides the cue that it’s time to add to my notes as I reflect on the previous day. I can also look at the list of notes I took which sparks the desire to record them.

Make it attractive: Very satisfying to do with a mechanical keyboard, getting to type at full speed. Habit stacking with journaling.

Make it easy:

  • Separate the inputs from the notes, confidence they are periodically reviewed
  • Don’t need to fill in notes right away (e.g. drafts)
  • Customize the setup so that it works nicely in the environment I am most productive in (Emacs)

Make it satisfying:

  • After adding notes, pushing them to github and seeing them live on the beautiful, minimalist website makes me feel accomplished (I’ve added accumulated knowledge) and I’ve watched my accumulated knowledge visibly grow.

This follows how Atomic Habits recommends structuring a new habit.

  • How to Take Smart Notes (Literature Notes)

    A book by Sönke Ahrens about taking notes to improve productivity and writing which is incredibly convincing but extremely impractical in describing what to actually do.

  • How to Write More

    The way I write more is by doing it every day. I write first thing in the morning (journaling and note taking) and publishing my notes (like this one). For work, I write product briefs to clarify the situation, my interpretation of the facts, and what we should do about it. I write memos for the team for anything important. I write investor updates. I do it without thinking—even when drafting a tricky email I’ll write it out to understand what I’m trying to do.