Skip to main content

Research is fun!

My journey becoming a researcher



Notetaking system setup

  | #notetaking#notes#research#system

Posted by Maurice

I’ve been fooling around with different note taking systems for years: I don’t think I have magically found the one system to rule them all. But, for (maybe) the first time, I feel pretty comfortable with the system described in this blog. I don’t want to perfect it, it has to be useable and flexible. Using and adjusting the system for a while is needed to find and implement improvements. I will update this post with any improvements and expand with new parts in the setup.

Goal

Create a structured, searchable and sustainable digital note taking system. I want it to be fast, customizable and most important, not dependent to internet or third party software and/or companies.

Setup

Structure

I have a really annoying habit where I want to have my information to be accessible to me until the end of times. Using tools like Evernote, Onenote or whatever tool you prefer, it automatically binds me to that tool. And what if the tool suddenly isn’t supported anymore? Stupid thought I know, but using plain text makes the thought bearable.

So, I’m collecting notes and thoughts in plain text files, with markdown for styling. I use one note per subject. A note contains the following metadata

  • date (format: m/dd/yyyy hh:mm)
  • source (where is the information from?)

I keep the files in a directory on my pc with a sync to my personal cloud. That way I can access my notes from every device. The directory structure is pretty straight forward:

  • notes
    • YEAR (2021)
      • notes on subjects or events
    • index.md
    • readme.md

To maintain a transparent and structured system I use a yearly category system. So every subject has a yearly note. I don’t want to fragment the notes to much, but I also don’t want them to be to large. It is plain text, so size is not really important, but still, to be efficiently searchable, it cannot be to large.

One of my largest problems is connecting thoughts in different notes. There are several tools online that connect files and or pieces of text. With this setup I can also link to files. In the markup I make a link to the text file with the subject I want to link. Todo is finding a way to link to specific pieces of text in the same or another file.

To keep an overview have a index.md file in the root directory with links to the different notes.

Tools

  • For writing and editing I use Typora, a markdown editor for mac, Linux and windows. This is a fast and clean markdown editor with one very important feature for me. When writing in markdown, it automatically presents a preview so I see my writing in the formatting I want.

  • To make use of shortcuts, like insert date, I use Autohotkey on my Microsoft setup. I have one(1) shortcut configured to insert the date and time. I use this this script in Autohotkey:

^!d::
     FormatTime, CurrentDateTime,, hh:mm tt M/dd/yyyy
     SendInput, %CurrentDateTime%
return

source: winhelponline

  • I believe that in order to remember information, writing is essential. That’s why I usually do note taking on my Remarkable 2. Downside is I have to convert those handwritten notes to my digital system, but that has an advantage. This extra action in my workflow makes me extremely critical in what information I want to transfer to my digital system.