Finally I CAN take notes while reading

I’ve lamented how much I’ve struggled taking notes while reading. This summer, in part due to injury downtime, I’ve been reading more. A couple of the books really prompted note taking. I now separate reading from note taking and it’s all good.

Ironically, I began rereading Ryan Carroll’s Bullet Journal Method and was moved to buy a notebook with pre-numbered pages. I’ve adopted many of Ryan’s principles in the past, but indexing never reaaly worked since my notebooks have generally been dated, not page numbered. I decided to take some summary notes of the Bullet Journal Method in my new Bullet Journal.

It was a fortunate turn of events because it brought together two factors that unlocked a new approach. First, I had read the book before. Second, I had a notebook and a text. So instead of reading and interrupting to note, it was a pretty quick process to work at a desk and take bullet journal style notes in the style that Ryan calls “rapid logging”. It was a review, not a re-read and served to see the book at a higher level than the first read through and reaction.

So now I’ve done the same with two more books. The first read is a no notes read. I can sit in a chair, stand on line at the store, lay on the couch- no matter, it’s just reading. Now of course I’ll capture an important thought now and then in my usual capture method, but it’s a process completely independent from the notes I’ll take later.

Note taking is then a fast, focused activity once I’ve made a first pass through the book. Then I have a better idea of what I’m after in taking notes. That is if I’ve decided I want to record anything from the reading experience at all. Some books provide a page of brief notes, others many pages with notations.

At this point, I’m making a digital copy of the notes to store in my DEVONthink database. If it’s going to be the subject of analysis or writing, I’ve then been typing up some notes that are searchable on the computer. I’ve been using Genius Scan for many years and agree with this nice summary Paper to Paperless: A Guide to Digitalizing Your Journals with a Scanner App | Mark Koester:

Genius Scan does a great job of automatically detecting document edges while you take photos using the camera or while directly editing static images. The app then resizes and positions the images accordingly to create a flat, document view. You can apply appropriate filters so docs are high contrast and black and white (or alternatively leave them as colored photos). You can also manually edit scans to correct misapplied edge detection, use an alternative color filter, or make other corrections.

The nice thing is that whether the scan is in Apple’s or in DEVONthink, the OCR of those apps generally provides good searching capabilities and so the notes are archived and available for future use.

So, now I’ve can take notes on books. My breakthrough was to separate the reading from the note taking summary. More efficient, focused and more useful.

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