How I've been breaking down book notes

I’m still a relative newbie – I’ve only been with Obsidian for a few weeks – but I have thousands of notes and have been working my way through a lot of existing book notes. And I thought it might be helpful to break down my process for other newbies who are wondering where to get started and how to go from what they currently have to something more usable.

The majority of my book notes were Kindle highlights, so I’ll just use those as my use case. A whole slew of old Kindle notes were exported/imported. Some of them I already had in Evernote, then Joplin, so they were just carried over as existing notes. Others I opened in Amazon’s notebook reader, and copied/pasted, one book at a time.

So I start out with a single note for each book. The only things I did with these when first importing them was to dump them all in a folder for “book notes,” make sure the titles were correct (My titles for these read like: “Kbknotes - Title of the Book Here”), and add hashtags at the end of each note.

(I made heavy use of hashtags as I was initially going through my notes because it makes it easy for me to find “groups” of notes to start building links between them.) One of the hashtags I used, in addition to more topical kinds of things, is #lookup. This flags notes I made of vocabulary words or something else like that, that I highlighted because I wanted to remember to look it up later.

If I never touched these notes again, I’d still be able to find what I need because they’re hashtagged well.

The next “layer,” if you will, was to go back through and insert headings. I did this pretty mindlessly. In my Kindle notes, everything that said “yellow highlight: location 458” or some such, just had the “yellow highlight” bit replaced with header hashes, so I have headers that are something like: “### location 458.” At this point, the headings are pretty meaningless, but I can not only find whatever I need, I can link to specific sections. If I never get beyond this for all of the notes, they’re functional.

For some of the more meaningful notes, or the ones I find myself interacting with, I’m moving on to the next “layer” of refinement: taking the time to ask myself what each note-within-the-note is about and converting my headings to something meaningful. So now I have headers that say things like “### lymphatic congestion can create inflammation (loc. 250)” instead of “### location 250.” I’ve also been rewriting some of those notes in my own words, partially for practice (because most of this is old reading at this point), but you can do that or not.

At this point, the notes are processed enough that they can be atomized if I want, by extracting one of the notes-within-the-note to a separate note using the Note Composer.

Related:
Keeping notes on books