DEV Community

Discussion on: How to take smart notes (as a developer)

slavcoder profile image
Sławomir • Edited on

"I'd love to hear about your note-taking experiences - what does and doesn't work for you?"

I have my own system of course :)
I was reading about taking notes techniques and tested some for a while and for now Im just trying to simplify everything.
I'm using a notes stack for learning purpose. It means I write notes mostly on paper cards in modified Cornell Notes System (without summary). The process looks like this:

When I learn new thing I'm taking notes about that on paper card like this:

|    topic                    |
|  k  |     content           |                     
|  e  |                       |
|  y  |                       |
|  s  |                       |
|     |               |-------|
|     |               |       |
|     |               |  date |
|     |               |       |
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode
  1. The keys are good for repetition, I can hide content and try to bring it back from my head.
  2. Date is a place where I write next repetition date. Every note paper card is stand alone, I decide about next repetition based on how good my previous repetition was, so there is only date of next repetition and previously done. I may need more repetitions or less

    Basic repetitions after learning day:

    • tomorrow
    • after 7 days
    • after 30 days
    • after 1 year
  3. After I write a next repetition date, I place the note in notes stack (a stack of paper notes). The right place in stack is a next repetition date. So everyday I can just take the stack od notes and repeat those on top of it (up to current date) and after that write next repetition date on each note and place it in stack again. Notes wchich I learned enough goes to archive stack.

It may seem complicated, but it accually is very simple. The good part of it is that even if I stop doing my repetitions for 2 weeks because of some reason, I just need to go through my stack up to current date, no need to worry about planing repetitions and be angry on myself if I miss them.

What about fast notes, some tutorial notes etc.

For fast notes, TODO, ideas, project notes etc. Im using google sheets. So I have easy access from smartphone and computer. I have a sheet with list of things I want to learn, so when I find something interesting I just put it there to not distract myself from current work. Google sheets are pretty nice for lists.

For more like tutorial notes with a lot of code, my thoughts or post notes Im using markdown. I have one folder with cheat-sheets, snippets, and all other stuff, each file is a .md file and I'm keeping it on private github repo. I have a quick access to that kind of notes, even this comment I'm writing in this folder as a temporary .md file :)

So when Im going through 4h long tutorial what I do is I code with author (and try to experiment too) and take notes in file at same time. After that I go through my .md note and write a paper note with things to remember from that tutorial and place it in note stack.

And that's it I guess. There is no perfect system for everyone I think, but you can take a bit from many systems to create your own perfect one.


emma profile image
Emma Goto 🍙 Author

Wow thanks so much for writing that out (you could probably write a blog post on that system!). I'm really impressed you're doing handwritten notes for programming stuff.

What sort of things are you trying to memorize? Is it everything and anything or are there specific things you're focusing on?

slavcoder profile image

Things which I want to have quick reffer I try to note in .md files, but things I want to remember and understand I write also or only on my paper note cards.

For example:

  • how strict mode works in js, what are the differents?
  • what are webhooks?
  • some common methods (for example array methods in JS)
  • when I read paper books it is easier for me to take notes on paper too
  • answers for common interview questions

The benefit of it is easy repetition. You remember less if you write on keyboard and it is harder to test your knowledge. My notes stack is not only for programming related stuff, but for all kind of knowledge. I don't make categories - like I said, I simplify everything :)
I'm not sure if it is a right answer for your question.

Thread Thread
emma profile image
Emma Goto 🍙 Author

That answers it - thanks! I could definitely see myself doing this for certain JavaScript concepts.