How to Learn and Take Notes on Anything
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Anyone who wants to get started with SEO, Content Marketing, or UX design should master the art of learning.

Anyone who wants to get started with SEO, Content Marketing, or UX design should master the art of learning. When you know how to learn, you’ll find learning SEO, Content Marketing, and UX design easy.

You want to master learning.

The course and books I suggest laid the foundation for my own learning. I have read each of the books and taken the course. It takes constant practice to master the art of learning.

How to Learn Anything

Course to Take

Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects

This course of learning how to learn laid the foundation for me. Once I finished the course I started to look for books that went deeper on learning how to learn. 

Books to Read

The Art of Doing Science and Engineering. I read the ebook but would recommend the hardcover. Can appear difficult if you don’t have an engineering background. 

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. What do chess and martial arts have in common? This book breaks down how Josh learns and how you can apply these principles to your own learning. 

Earl Watson could have read this book. When coaching the Phoenix Suns he had them focus on shooting game-winners. When Josh was learning Chess from his teacher he had him start at the end and learn how to win when you have one or two pieces left.

How to Take Smart Notes. This is my favorite book. Later I will share with you a template for creating your own zettelkasten in Notion. The zettelkasten and how to take smart notes transformed the way I think about note taking.

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Sönke Ahrens, author of How to take smart notes did a talk and suggested this book at the end.

A Mind for Numbers. This book goes along with the course on how to learn.

Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career. Ultralearning is Scott Young’s strategy for aggressive, self-directed learning. It’s important to learn and with the rapid pace the world is moving, it’s important to learn and master skills fast.

The other books give you the tools and process you need. This book gives you the strategy. 

Note Taking Process

Taking notes and learning go together. Taking notes is essential to learning. When you take notes you should be elaborating on what you learn and explaining it in your own words.

Don’t copy what you learn word for word. You won’t learn anything doing that.

If you can’t explain something in your own words then you don’t understand it. 

I have notebooks full of what I’ve learned about SEO, and Content Marketing. Having a notebook is cool. But has proven to be an ineffective system for me as time goes on.

This year I made the transition to using digital products. I have a new note taking method for myself using two apps. 

Tools to use

What is readwise?

Readwise is an app that allows you to keep all your reading highlights in one place. Readwise is $7.99 a month, but you can get two months free.

Readwise also lets export your highlights to Roam Research, Evernote or Notion. 

What is Notion? 

Notion is the best app you’ve never heard of! Notion is a productivity app that allows you organize your life, and task. You can create your own note taking, project management and  knowledge management systems inside the app. 

Notion is free to use.

Automating Reading Highlights Using Readwise

If it’s a PDF, I’ll convert it to.MOBI file to make it readable, and highlight on the Kindle app.To import highlights from a PDF converted to a .MOBI file, press the notebook button and send highlights to [email protected] The highlight will then appear  in your readwise. 

For ebooks, read like normal and highlight via the highlight tool. Those highlights are automatically synced with readwise. 

For physical books, read and underline key ideas with pen and then take a picture of highlights using the readwise app. 

Readwise Daily emails 

One of the coolest things about readwise is getting daily emails. 

You can get 5 highlights emailed to you every morning. This helps keep the ideas fresh. And you might discover a new writing topic from the emails.  

Sync Highlights with Notion. 

To sync your highlights with Notion press the export to Notion on readwise. 

Readwise Dashboard

Notion is where I store most notes and use the zettelkasten method of taking notes. 

Connecting the Dots

Setting up the Zettelkasten in Notion. I found this great template by Hiran Venugopalan on Medium. His article outlines how to use the zettelkasten he created.

It’s free to download, and easy to use. Link to Notion Template. Sign in to Notion, Duplicate the template and start using it!

Taking Notes in the Zettelkasten in Notion

The zettelkasten is a note taking process created by German sociologist Niklas Luhman. Zettelkasten is German for slip box. The slip box contains two boxes.

One box houses all your reference material. And the other box contains your elaborations and own understanding of the ideas in your reference box. 

Two types of notes go into the zettelkasten.

  1. Reference notes. These notes come from our reading highlights. Use readwise and sync it with Notion to keep track of your reference notes.  
  2. Permanent notes. Represent your understanding from your reference notes.  

There is a third type of note. These notes don’t go into your zettelkasten. Fleeting notes are quick ideas you want to write down that you might turn into permanent notes later on. 

Read How to Take Smart Note to find out more about the zettelkasten. 

The Best Type of Notes

Make notes and highlight what you find important and interesting when you read. 

Linking by reading highlights to the reference box. 

  • Highlight the text you want to copy then press copy link. 
  • Go to your reference box. 
  • Find the note you want to add it to and highlight the text in the note. 
  • My note in the reference box are the book title and page number. 
  • Press command k on a mac or press the link button.
  • Command v to connect the links. 

Tagging Notes

Tagging your notes will help you find them later on. Use specific keywords to help you find your notes. If you’re reading a book about writing don’t use the tag writing.

A more appropriate tag might be non-fiction book writing or non-fiction book hooks. 

Why You Should use the Zettelkasten

Using the zettelkasten has made it easier to shift through my reading notes and find topics I want to write about. Before the process was long and drawn out.

Research keywords, then research the topics around those keywords, take notes on my reading, draft an outline, then write a first draft, review, and edit, then publish. 

With the zettelkasten the process has become more circular than linear. I’ll read and add notes to my zettelkasten in Notion. I tag my notes with keywords. When I’m ready to write on a keyword, I’ll go to zettelkasten and look at the tags.

I’ll take the notes from my zettelkasten and structure them in an outline that makes sense. These notes pretty much create my first draft. I’ll look for gaps in my work and do additional research if needed. Then I’ll clean up and edit my notes and it’s ready to publish. 

Master The Art of Learning and Note Taking

The process might seem long and lengthy but once you get everything up and running you’ll see it really easy. If you’re interested in learning, take the course on how to learn. If you’re interested in the zettelkasten read How to Take Smart Notes.

You’ll have a deeper understanding of SEO and content marketing when you’ve mastered learning and note taking.

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