Why People Take Fewer Notes Than They Should, and What They Can Do About It

It is often necessary to take notes about a document in order to understand, recall and act on it. Unfortunately, people face several difficulties in taking notes. Most people are not aware of the source of the difficulties. I dedicated a good part of my book, Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective, to explaining such difficulties.

Screencast and web page about how Hook can help you create, link and access notes

Yesterday, we published a new screencast on the importance of taking-notes, and how Hook can help with note-taking.

We also recently published a web page on some of the note-taking benefits of Hook.

Those resources show that Hook does not replace your note-taking apps. Instead, Hook helps you make better use of them.

Stay tuned, as we will produce more screencasts and blog posts on note-taking.

Source problems people face taking notes without Hook

Here are some of the general sources of the problems people have taking notes without Hook.

  1. Operating systems (OS’s) are not adequately designed for cognitive productivity. Instead, they are geared towards shallow processing of information (such as web browsing and surfing).
  2. K-12 teachers, and even university professors, themselves are not schooled in cognitive productivity. And even those that are do not tend to explicitly teach cognitive productivity to their students. As a result, students graduate without having been explicitly taught (a) about cognitive productivity challenges; and (b) how to solve them.
  3. Cobbling together good note-taking strategies is difficult.

The specific note-taking challenges people face without Hook

Here are some of the specific problems people face with note-taking using technology.

  1. Notes are not very helpful unless one can quickly create and access them.
  2. Creating notes that can be quickly accessed requires a strategy; if the strategy is not efficient, then acting on it drains time and energy.
  3. Without the right strategy, randomly accessing notes is difficult and unnatural. (Even with a good strategy, given current software, it is often difficult.)
  4. Notes should automatically be linked to what they are about, but macOS lacks a content-linking mechanism.

Consequences of these problems

As a result, people take fewer notes than they should.

And yet we know that without taking notes, one’s ability to understand, remember and act on information is seriously reduced. Not having access to notes is like operating with a lower IQ.

What is possible?

But let’s flip this around to speak positively about the benefits of note-taking. By taking and using notes, one can better understand, remember and act on complex documents. This is where Hook comes in.

Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman proposed some principles for deep understanding, which are known as the Feynman technique. Feynman advocated expressing ideas in one’s own words while detecting and repairing (a) one’s knowledge gaps, and (b) one’s use of jargon.

Note-taking is an important component of this technique. It has more general cognitive benefits, as discussed in Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective, and in Cognitive Productivity with macOS®: 7 Principles for Getting Smarter with Knowledge.

Enter Hook’s “Link to New”

Hook contains a handy command that addresses the challenges and opportunities discussed above. It’s called Link to New. Just issue this command in the context of any information resource about which you would like to take notes. Hook will then automatically:

  1. create a note document in the app of your choice;
  2. sensibly name it (copying the name of the resource it is about, i.e. its source);
  3. (optionally) tag it;
  4. file it in a convenient location; and
  5. link it to its source.

Thereafter, when you invoke the Hook popup window in the context of either the source or the note, you will be able to instantly navigate from one to the other.

Take notes in the app of your choice

Notice the italicized text in the first numbered item above: with Hook you can take notes in the app of your choice. People typically think of notes as text. But with Hook, notes can be any document in any app. If you’re reviewing financial information, a note could be in a spreadsheet. A complex document sometimes calls for a “graphical organizer”, diagram (e.g. in Sketch) or “mind map” (e.g. in iThoughts X). If you’re reviewing code, you might even want to write a little program. In fact, a “note” can even be a task in an app like Things or OmniFocus.

Take notes about anything.

With Hook, the source of the note can be just about anything. Hook allows you to quickly link all kinds of information to your notes: PDFs, other files, web pages, emails etc.

Associate any number of notes with the source

With Hook, you are not limited to one note or type of note for a source. You can associate several notes with one document.

Store your notes anywhere

With Hook, you can store your notes in Finder, iCloud, Dropbox, Evernote, EagleFiler, etc.

Check out screencasts about Hook and download a free copy

So, have a look at some screencasts about Hook, and download a free copy of this CogSci Apps invention for your cognitive productivity.

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