Am I taking my notes the good way?

Hello,

I’ve tried to use Obsidian for 1 year, but each time I try to use it, I gave up after 1 or 2 notes because I feel I’m not taking notes the right way. I read and watched so many videos, posts, technics, workflow, etc, but everything is so complex. I’m just trying to take simple notes to learn about subjects I like. I won’t use it to publish anything, it’s just for myself, to learn and try to understand some concepts I like. But unfortunately, my current notes seem pretty useless.

For example, recently I wanted to know more about trading, and start to read this beginner guide (which is super long): A Complete Guide to Cryptocurrency Trading for Beginners | Binance Academy

I end up just having only one single note, where inside I use different levels of titles, and, when I guess I will want later to read more about a theory, concept, etc, I make a backlink (even if it points nowhere). Sometimes I notice that in paragraph XX, I write down an idea that I already wrote down in paragraph YY, so I will add the same backlink in each paragraph.

I assume what I’m doing is not good, because I feel I will never be able to find the information I will need later, or even less be able to do the connection with the future detailed information I will add in my notes.

So my question is, what I can do to improve my notes taking in Obsidian? I know there are many levels of PKM, but I’m just a super beginner, I just want to do something with the less friction possible, to let me stick to it for the long term.

PS: Don’t know if it changes something, but I have dyslexia, and sometimes I feel it doesn’t help me to take notes and organize them.

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As I was reading your post, even before reaching the PS where you mentioned that sometimes you don’t think organizing notes is helpful, I was considering suggesting just that. However, obviously your goal is not to end up with disorganized notes. But, in some cases disorganized notes can be helpful. A set of disorganized notes self contained to a single file might be a way for you to gauge where certain techniques might provide advantages as well as where they might not.

With the set of disorganized notes and a specific goal in mind, you can then try to break ideas up using the system that is most useful for you after the fact while also trying to fine tune the process to be easy enough to manage while you are in the excitement of taking the notes on an average day. Perhaps there will be a realization that certain aspects of your note taking process and creativity are stifled if you are constantly trying to stay atomic or remember to add links and tags.

At the very least this exercise might get you unstuck and become a way to check yourself and reset when you are getting overwhelmed with all the options. I can totally relate to what you have written here and wish you the best.

Good luck!

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Take some deep breaths and relax. There’s no one right way to take notes — especially in your situation.

I’m just trying to take simple notes to learn about subjects I like

Ate its most basic, Obsidian is a single folder of text files. You can complicate it, and sometimes that’s useful, but you can just make a bunch of notes, and you’ll be fine. If you forget where something is, the search box will help you find it.

I think it’s best to start simple and work out systems as you go. You can try different things. Whether you start with an elaborate system or not, it’s very likely you’re going to end up doing things differently later anyway.

What you’re doing now is fine. You may find it useful, when you’ve finished taking notes on a work, to review them and make some new notes elsewhere, copying over parts of the original notes, detailing concepts, writing thoughts, etc. (this is common even in fancier note-taking systems — notes like yours are sometimes called “reading notes”, “literature notes”, or “source notes”). But even if you never do that, the notes probably still have value.

If you worry about information getting lost, try doing things multiple ways. Sometimes I’ll use a tag and a link that are basically the same because I feel unsure. Eventually one or the other may feel more “right”. Until recently I used tags a lot (a habit carried over from before Obsidian, when I just used a plain text editor). I rarely actually used them afterward, but adding them helped to calm the fear of not being able to find things later.

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on learning. But probably neither are most of the people who have developed note-taking systems.

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Go to the Zettelkasten forum and ask for advice there. They are super helpful and very knowledgeable – and full of ideas.

But the best way to help yourself is to make short notes and link them. Learning by doing is far more useful than reading lots of material and seeking the “right” way to do it. There is no “right” way. Each of us has to find what works for us by experimenting. I’ve been experimenting since about 1990, and I expect to carry on experimenting and developing until they nail down the coffin lid over me. There are some methods that work very well for some people, but are useless for others, and vice versa. In all my years, I’ve never seen a method or system that I did not feel I needed to adapt in some way for my own uses.

Good luck!

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I think there’s much to be said for long notes and organised notes. But probably not in this case. You don’t have your own organisational system for this information.

So i would simply have the original article as a source note. I’d add tags when and where I wanted. And when I have a thought, I’d write it on its own note. At some point you would need to go through your thought notes to see if that triggers relationships or more thoughts. Going through your notes is an intrinsic and necessary part of a zettelkasten system, if that’s what you want to follow.

It might. Depends on your dyslexia and your other abilities ans preferences. If you have been diagnosed with dyslexia, you should have been given some helpful pointers; if not, it might be worth doing a bit of reading around suggestions to see if anything fits.

It’s likely that shorter notes will be easier for you to handle. You might also find some text colors easier to work with.

There are many ways of organising and creating relationships with shorter notes, but you will probably have to experiment to see which works best for you.

You might prefer a visual method:
Could be the graph. Or a kanban, or mindmap.
But you could prefer something more verbal but highly structured, such as a MOC.

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Thanks for your reply!

You pointed out something I didn’t see: being disorganized might be helpful. If I don’t try, I won’t know what works or don’t work for me. I see now that only I can find my right way.

I will definitely try to break ideas into atomic notes. Thanks!

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Thanks for your help!

Your first sentence is priceless to me. To read somebody telling me that there is no right or wrong way helps me to remove a lot of pressure!

This is something I was not doing because I was too scared to do it, I don’t know why. From what I can see from your and other comments, I should just try to do what I feel could be ok, then check if it works or not. Now I realize that reviewing my notes and making new notes of my notes might make a big difference to reach my goal.

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Thanks!

I will check this forum.

Your reply and the other comments seem to tend to: just try what works for you. I made this post because I felt I was going nowhere with my notes, but thanks to your comments I see now that I need to experiment and develop my own way.

As you said, “Learning by doing is far more useful”, so I will “do”! Thanks!

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Thanks for reply!

You mean I copy past my source to a note, then during my reading I add some tags directly into the notes?

As I said in another reply, I was not doing it because I felt scared to do it. I see thanks to your comment that this is actually necessary. I will do it.

When I was a child I did go to see a specialised doctor many times, it was super helpful. At that time, people didn’t except children to keep their dyslexia for life. For the doctor I was “cured”. But it was 30 years ago. After doing some researches, I now know that dyslexia is for life, and adults face different challenges. Your comment made me want to go back to see a specialized doctor.

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Woua! First I would like to thank you all! I didn’t expect to have so many replies, especially such elaborated and helpful.

Reading all your comments help me to be much less stress about my notes. Thanks!

As all comments suggest, here what I will do and keep in mind:

  • I will step back and just relax about my notes
  • There is no right or wrong way, each people has its own
  • I need to experiment, again and again, see what work or don’t work, and develop my own method
  • What is working for me now, might not work later. It’s a constant evolution.
  • I will definitely break ideas into shorts notes …
  • … then link the notes together
  • … then review my notes to make new notes
  • I will go to see again a specialized doctor. I assume in 30 years, knowledge about dyslexia improved a lot, it can be only helpful to give a shoot to this.
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I’m glad to hear that!

Another thing that might help calm your worries is to know that you can restore prior versions of notes from Obsidian’s “file recovery” feature or from your main system backup.

(If you don’t have regular backups of your computer — start! Not having backups, unlike taking notes the wrong way, is something to worry about.)

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That’s one of the things I do. Add tags. If something prompts a thought I’ll sometimes wikilink the prompt and write the note which it then links to. Makes it easy in the future to look back at the note to understand where the thought came from.

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I don’t know if anything I can say will help, but in my experience…

Don’t worry about “systems” if and where possible. I don’t think it’s helped me do anything else than waste time and mental energy when I should’ve been typing. It will likely come into play as you work, in a natural flow.

It’s completely fine to look up other’s “systems” to get pointers or fine styles that suit your workflow better. But the only system that works for you is the one that you create unconsciously. Trying to fit yourself into a box of the “right way” probably isn’t a productive measure.

I constantly find myself kicking myself wishing I had done x note in y style in the past. But I think the better pursuit is to find ways to quickly and efficiently convert and remaster old notes retroactively to whatever current system you’re using at the moment as the occasion calls for.

Again, this is just my thoughts on the matter. I don’t expect anything I say to work for you, nor do I have any intention of you having to follow my advice. I just hope it gives you a few things to ponder on, and possibly help you in the way it suits you best.

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Like with everything else one does in life, it is important to know exactly what you want, what you are aiming for, what you want to get out of it.

You feel you want to take notes, or rather, you feel you have to take notes. What makes you feel that way? You say you want to learn about subjects, but is it necessary to take notes?

If it is necessary, why do you feel your notes are useless?
You make backlinks, but the way you describe it, it seems you are doing it for the hell of doing it. If so, why make backlinks if they don’t add any value?

You say you want to be able to find info later on but you don’t think you will be able to. Why won’t you be able to? On which basis do you want to find info? On the basis of a keyword, or a key phrase? If so, you could you use tags. Or make sure a certain word or key phrase is present where you think you’ll want it.

It is always useful to ask yourself some basic questions, to challenge yourself, as it were.

1 thing I can guarantee: whatever way you set up your notes initially will not last. Your thinking and your perceptions change with time, so you will (need to) adapt your system. Eventually it will stabilize, but not from the beginning, as you are experiencing already.

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This explains a lot actually. I teach at school and I have many brilliant students with dyslexia. They all have one thing in common. They process info differently. I didn’t know that until recently and according to the research that I’ve conducted I changed my approach.

Know instead of forcing them to do something with haste I focus their attention on processing first and do later. The only advice I can give is that to work with PKB you have to work out how do you process info, and my suggestion, start with highlighting main ideas from anything you lay your eyes on. Underline keywords and definitions, construct them briefly. My favourite approach is outlining and mindmapping. Then use it as a groundwork and as building blocks of your understanding.

Here is an example from the book Essentialism.

—-

  • As far as I can see the book puts in front of the reader two essential questions, before agreeing to any activities.
    • Can I actually fulfill this request, given the time and resources I have?
      • Second part of the question is more important than the first. But there is a tougher question.
    • Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?
  • To an essentialist, everything is noise. Every task, call, request, distraction from single the most important thing.
    • The way of reducing the noise of busyness is the relentless pursuit of the principle, the less but better.
    • The meaning of life for essentialist is handmade design, not default state, in which all happen as it happens.
    • Essentialist designs surrounding, not lives in one.
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