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Why is a good strategy to take written notes

When it comes to taking notes, every one of us, as coders, we use different techniques. As usual, if you have read before any article of mine, I don’t like long introductions, and if this is the first time you are here I would like to present myself: Hi 👋 I am Luc, a fresh web developer in his early 40’s.

Why taking notes

You can call me old-school (oh well I am 🙂), but I like to write things down as my memory needs to boost up with Magnesium. So after a month, when I start to learn how to code, back in February 2019, I decided to take notes. Especially for JavaScript. I have a visual memory, so when I want a concept to be memorized I am drawing it according to my understanding. Even that taking notes for some it looks old, for me, it works as I am seeing my advancement into grasping the main core of JavaScript. So, in this case, taking notes brings a deeper understanding of the concepts that need to be memorized as it is translated to your perception. Bellow, I added how I understood the concept of a variable. I used the image of a bucket that stores values for later use. If you ask me “What is a variable?” I will answer that is a bucket that has values for later use.

a bucket of variables

this are actual real photos from my notes

How do you remember where is which?

I had this question asked by many people, either on Twitter or in person, when I tell them that I use this technique. My friend Adrian showed me, for instance, how an EventListener – Bubbling vs Capture works. If you are interested to see the picture, I posted it here. After I posted that picture on social media, I’ve been asked how do I know where to look in my notebook where I can find something specific. I used the technique that I called it “bent corner”. Instead of explaining in detail, I would like to show what I mean, take a look at the picture below.

bent corners

What I did, was to bend the corner of the page with the Information on the page. Each of every page that changes the notes, it has its own “bent corner”, so that it’ll be easier to find what I wrote when I need to revisit the concepts.


Whether you have a visual memory and you translate the Information into images for better understanding, or you comment your code for your later use and understanding, you must get comfortable with the concepts so that you can implement them in a future project.

I hope this tip will help you to improve your coding journey, until next time, Happy Coding 🤓

You can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram as well.

Top comments (9)

mlimonczenko profile image

There is science to back up the hand-taking notes helps you learn better. Hand writing is slower and requires more effort than typing, and somehow using a part of your mind for a more effortful task (like shaping a letter or a drawing) helps your retention immensely.

It should not be considered old school. It's just good study practice.

tobiaswhetton profile image
Τobias Whetton • Edited

Very true Miranda! This hit the headlines in 2014, with Muller & Oppenheimer’s paper, 'The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard…'. Laptop note-takers could take notes faster so had the ability to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than the longhand notetakers who had to think about the information they are given and rephrasing it in a shorter more concise form.

However, all these studies focused on traditional long form note-taking applications, which made it easy to quickly regurgitate what you are learning without thinking about it. One thing that excites me at the moment is the wave of new note-taking / knowledge based applications which are applying the science and behaviour of learning to a digital environment. I'm building one of these such applications and we have done a lot of research into creating a format suited to knowledge retention – our platform is based around short-form note-cards rather than long-form documents. This helps our users to break down their information into more thoughtful pieces – not dissimilar to a Zettelkästen system.

Having said this, I definitely recognise that studying is a very personal experience and not always a science – some methods work for some and not others. Whatever works best for you, is the one you should continue to use.

ksaaskil profile image
Kimmo Sääskilahti • Edited

Great article. I started taking notes on paper at work after reading Pragmatic Programmer and that they recommend keeping an engineering daybook. I always took notes on paper at the university and now I don't understand anymore why I dropped that when I started my development career.

tobiaswhetton profile image
Τobias Whetton • Edited

Hi @Luc_C, you have a pretty neat workflow for note-taking. I particularly like how you bend the corners on the pages so you can quickly revisit the topics! How do you find that stacks up once you start having 20+ topics in a notebook?

If you are at all interested in trying a digital note-taking app for quickly gathering your thoughts, I am building one called Supernotes. It's a bit different than conventional note-taking tools, as everything is a markdown note-card, and works really well for code. Would love to hear what you think!

bizzibody profile image
Ian bradbury

@accolades_dev - I 110% agree with you.

I have note books going back many years. For a while I tried scanning notebook pages in to Evernote professional but quickly gave up as it was too time consuming.

About 9 months ago I invested in a Moleskine Smart Pen - my life has been changed. Even with my terrible hand writing I am able to search through my notes using the app. Yes the pen was expensive and yes the notebooks are crazy expensive - but the time and effort that has been given back to me makes it worth every penny.

functional_js profile image
Functional Javascript

Thanks for sharing Luc.
It's always interesting to hear how people organize their thoughts and learnings.

As for myself, I'm purely digital.
I have over 2M lines of notes.

They are all in one grand file, but there is structure to it so I can find anything instantly.
There are about 1000 sections, which are organized categories of notes.
There is also a misc section at the top of the file for newly-entered uncategorized material that will later be categorized.

The system scales; so I could have 20M or 100M lines of notes and I'd still be able to find anything nearly instantly.

incrementis profile image
Akin C.

Hello Luc_C,

thank you for your article.
I like the "...bend the corner of the page with the Information on the page..." idea very much :).

accolades_dev profile image

Thank you Akin. I really hope it helps.

king11 profile image
Lakshya Singh

I also write notes for everything new I learn :). It really helps as whenever i want to review i can grab my notebook and find what i want to see quickly.