The Need for Simplcity in Note-Taking

Note-taking is a powerful tool that allows individuals to get a comprehensive view of their lives and retain important information for future use. I myself have been note-taking for over two years and it has literally been one of the best habits I ever picked up. The sheer amount of stuff I’ve been able to stay on top of in my life has shot up tremendously because of this simple practice.

A fun thing I realised is that Journaling is one of the most popular forms of note-taking, as it requires no specific structure or system to follow. One can simply add a date and write whatever they like on each page, making it a popular choice due to its simplicity and ease of use. It’s a great way to get started with personal note-taking, after which more complex systems can be experimented with and adopted.

With the rise of digital technology, there has been an influx of note-taking apps and services that claim to be the best way to take efficient notes and organize information. Despite their promises, most of these apps; in my opinion, fail, because they offer too many features and require significant time investment to learn and utilize effectively. They become a hindrance to note-taking instead of an aid, as the user may feel overwhelmed by the choices available and find it difficult to maintain a regular note-taking schedule. I’ve come across apps offering multiple themes but no way to ‘bold’ the text. I realize they’re targeting a user-base that doesn’t include me, but such decisions still confuse me.

Hence, I believe it’s important to emphasize the importance of simplicity in note-taking. The ideal note-taking system should prioritize ease of use and quick access to information over the number of features available. If you cannot open your app or service and start jotting down notes in under five seconds, it may not be worth using. This is one of the reasons I love Apple Notes, it’s the best example of an ideal note-taking app for beginners and professionals alike. Sure, people with more complex needs may prefer better apps, but with anyone looking to just get started with 0 learning curve, I have yet to come across an application as simple as Apple Notes. (This is not an endorsement, I’m just giving you an example. I am not an Apple shill, at least not yet.)

I love my readers, the three of you that actually read in the 21st century, so I’ve identified a couple of ways in which a simple and effective note taking system can be achieved:

  • A simple and effective note-taking system can be achieved using Markdown or TXT files and regular folders on a computer. Markdown files are universally supported, free, and have longevity as they are not tied to any specific company’s proprietary formats. The benefits of this system include ownership of your notes, easy access, and the ability to write your thoughts without friction, leading to a more liberating and organized note-taking experience. The markdown syntax gives you the ability to format text alongside writing it, which saves a ton of time over time too. However, a massive deal-breaker might be having to store and sync the notes yourself.
  • Another option is the default note-taking application on your device of choice. This may be Google Keep, Samsung Notes, Mi Notes or OneNote on Android Devices, Apple Notes on Mac or iOS devices etc. This options allows you to start with no friction. Where the markdown and TXT file route gives you the responsibility of storing notes and syncing them across multiple locations, most of the default app solutions already have that figured out. With Apple Notes, your notes will be synced across (Apple) devices by default, or with Google Keep, you can access your notes anywhere with an internet connection and a web browser. A downside to this option is lock-in. You will be shuttered into a certain eco-system by using the default apps and it may be hard to leave later down the line if you wish to do so. But if you don’t see yourself wishing for that anytime soon or in the foreseeable future, it generally shouldn’t have to be a concern.
  • A book and pen or pencil. This is by far the easiest way to get started. Everyone can find a book and a pen to get started with, there is 0 vendor lock-in and while the responsibility of storing the notes does fall to you, it’s usually just a matter of keeping track of where you left the book. The major downside to this option is the problem of portability or quick search that arises when you really start to fill more than a couple of books with notes. Referencing will be a nightmare.

These options can be expanded upon. You could look online for services that might contain more features that you personally are looking for, if you’ve got the time to search. Some apps and services claim to be more faster than others, or more private or to offer more ‘themes’, if you value these gains, explore and find the solution that suits you best.

I personally value the privacy of my notes. Because I not only keep notes on projects and ideas, I also actively use the note-taking app to write personal journal entires which I do not want anyone outside of myself having access to.

A quick note (hehe), when you see the complex note-taking systems used by YouTubers and other popular personalities, remember that their systems were developed over a long period of time, and it makes sense to nobody but themselves. They’ve experimented and found what works for them, you will too, over the course of your note-taking journey. They key is to get started.

In conclusion, note-taking is about capturing important information you come across or keeping a log of your life, and the less friction there is between thinking and capturing, the more effective the system will be. Whether it’s a physical journal or a digital file, the key is to keep it simple and prioritize ease of use. By doing so, you can create a comprehensive, organized, and easily accessible digital brain that contains experiences and information from the past that you can use to shape your future.