The method proposed in the book follows to the letter the Luhmann method, also knows as the Zettelkasten method. The note-taking process is structured in a consecutive process that eventually becomes iterative.
First, we must identify different categories of notes:
- **Transient Notes** are the initial point. They are short and hold any ideas we have. Transient notes are meant to be reviewed quickly. We must decide whether they deserve to be transformed into a permanent note or discarded.
- **Literature Notes** are based on what we read. They are an abstraction of the knowledge we can extract from a book or a paper. They are meant to hold information based on a single source, and they should be written with our own words, not a plain copy/pasting
- **Permanent Notes** hold our ideas. They are the evolution of the transient notes. Ideally, They should link to other permanent notes or literature notes to build a web of knowledge.
There is also a lot of thought put into defining how each note should look like. The core idea is that each note should express a single concept. Therefore, when we refer to one of them, we refer to a concrete concept and not to a sub-set within a longer note. Andy Matuschack puts it as “notes should be single units of knowledge.”
The second step of the note-taking process relates to the **archiving**. The Luhmann method is efficient as long as the archival and retrieval process is efficient. Therefore, instead of keeping notes in chronological order, Ahrens proposes to keep notes based on the links to each other. With paper notes, every time we store a note, we must decide where to put it. Ideally, we will place it right behind the note to which it relates the most.
If we add an intelligent numbering system, we can start referring to each note from other notes. Here is where the method’s critical aspect lies: **building links between notes every time we store a new one** is what creates value and unique insight. For digital note-taking, a link is what it sounds like. For paper-based ones, links are references, such as “see note 365ab1”. Notes can also be collections, meaning notes that link to other notes. Note that there’s no need to introduce categories into the system, which would force notes to be siloed away from each other.
The book also has a collection of references to justify why this method works *so well*. One of the things I found more interesting is the idea of low friction working. We should not fight our practices, but we should tune our way of working to serve our purposes. If we don’t like an aspect of what we do (for instance, we want to write in blue instead of black), we should be able to do it.
In this direction, Ahrens proposes that writing down is a means to understanding what we read. On the one hand, changing contexts from the book to our mind to writing down is an excellent flow to build knowledge. To achieve it, we must transform what we read given what we already know, and this is a compounding effect. Writing down makes it possible to free short-term memory and lower our stress over the possibility of losing fleeing thoughts. This is completely aligned with the ideas behind *get things done* and bullet journaling.