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How Do You Take Notes?

xoshly profile image Ashley Randall ・1 min read

When I started my self-learning boot camp experience, I lived for Google Docs. That was my go-to for note-taking. I have so many documents for every course and I even used Google Sheets to create spreadsheets of terms, definitions, and examples.

So here is what I would do. I would copy and paste all of the information into the Google Docs editor and that was my note-taking. I did this method from the beginning of HTML to JavaScript.

I thought that I was soooo smart. I thought that by doing this, I would have access to these notes digitally, anywhere and everywhere I could go. Which is true!

But here is where I messed up.

Since I copy and pasted all of my notes, I wasn't retaining any of that information. I was literally skating through the courses, not applying what I had just learned, and now I am facing the consequences of doing so.

I am relearning JavaScript because I did not comprehend it the first time. And if I am really honest, I am reviewing some CSS coursework as well, due to copy and pasting notes.

So now, I am taking notes the old fashioned way: Pen and Paper.

Almost as good as peanut butter and jelly. LOL
Yeah, it takes more time writing out all of that information, but it is paying off now. I am actually retaining more information writing it out than I was before.

Either if you are using Pen and Paper, or digital software, I think the main takeaway is to Never Copy and Paste. PERIODT! :)

Discussion (24)

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vonheikemen profile image
Heiker

I write them in markdown files and upload them to github. They are basically drafts for future blog post. For me the "magic" comes when I actually turn them into blog posts, because I want to make sure everything I say is accurate, I search for multiple sources (and include the links). I mention edge cases that may arise. I try my best to explain things in a simple way. Make sure every code snippet actually runs and gives the expected result. For me, all that effort help the information stay in my brain.

After I'm done creating the blog post I usually upload it to github pages (with some fancy tools) where it can live as a static website anyone can visit. Also share the content here on dev.to.

Personally, I'm a fan of Samantha Ming. She has a lot of content on her site of the things she has learned. And the cool thing is, the site has a search bar, so it's easy to look for specific content.

Quick update: dev.to has a handy filter that allows you to search a term in your own posts.

https://dev.to/search?filters=MY_POSTS&q={a search query}
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Ashley Randall Author

You know, I am guilty of not utilizing Github that often and I think that your way is a great way of using it. Thanks for mentioning Samantha, I am going to check her out! :)

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Michael Caveney

I keep a "cheatsheets" folder on my desktop full of markdown files on various subjects. I know that physically wrotong things down is better for retention, but the tradeoff in favor of editability and organization works very well for me.

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Ashley Randall Author

That was exactly what I was going for. I wanted something that I could edit and that would be as organized as possible. I got it, but I wasn't retaining anything. Maybe I could start physically typing out my notes instead.

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Guilherme_Konan

I encourage you to try and see if it works out for you, its much better to organize it and for me is pretty good to retain the information too. But you need to type it the same way you would write with pen and paper

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dylanesque profile image
Michael Caveney

Yeah, you definitely have the right idea in NOT copy-pasting, I always try to paraphrase things as much as possible to force me to think about the concept more.

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Ashley Randall Author

Yep! Paraphrasing is key because I don't have time to write down every little word LOL!

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Allan Jacquet-Cretides

You totally right about trying to not copy-paste and to rewrite it ourselves.

On last October, someone mentioned Digital garden and Zettelkasten keywords in a dev.to comment.

That just blow my mind and change my life.
It takes me some time doing research, and trying things but finally, I have the system that fit me totally and that's precisely based on the fact that you should not copy and paste information but rewrite it with your own words.

Really, if you never heard about Zettelkasten, you should really take a look into it.

I had been a long journey to have my own implementation that fit my needs and my personal tastes, but finally I've got it (vim/markdown/git/gocryptfs).

If interested don't hesitate to ask questions, I could have some notes I could share to you on this 😅

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Ashley Randall Author

Omg! Thank you for mentioning this! I can’t wait to check them out! 😁

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Karla Dampilag

I can personally vouch for this. I attribute a lot of my learning and progress to taking down notes - at least in the beginning. I can't help but write down my own experience in response to your post. You're the inspiration! I hope you don't mind me sharing here: dev.to/karladampilag/dear-code-new...

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Ashley Randall Author

Hey Karla! That is so awesome that you can relate. And no, I do not mind at all! I was hoping to inspire someone with this post. :)

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Juwdohr

Honestly I never took notes. I always followed along on the tutorials and then tried doing it my self and refactoring it and made it my own. I guess I am paying for it that way cause know I don't have notes to create the articles/blog posts.

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Ashley Randall Author

I think when we start out teaching ourselves to code, we are in the trial and error phase. And as we keep going, we figure out what works for us and what does not. It sucks, but at least we now know what to do going forward lol.

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sajad abasi

Yeah I do, It's really useful. I use Joplin app.

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Ashley Randall Author

I am going to check out that app! Thanks Sajad!! :)

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sajad abasi

It's opensource and using end to end encryption and you can backup on dropbox, also has mobile and desktop app, It's the perfect app!

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downtothirdgear profile image
B.

I switched to handwritten notes, but on an iPad with Apple Pencil. I use an app called GoodNotes, where I keep folders and notebooks. One of the app's features is that it has global search, even for handwritten notes. So, I get to handwrite them still and retain them better, but since the app has global search, I can just search for something, update it and all is well.

I moved my to-do list out of apps and used this for those as well. I find that handwriting them and then marking them as done by highlighting gave me better satisfaction than just simply ticking them off as checkboxes :)

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Ashley Randall Author

Hey B., that is an awesome idea! Now, I have another reason to invest in the Apple Pencil for my iPad. I am going to download this app because it sounds awesome. Thanks for your comment!!

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Jeanine H.

I went through so many apps and methods of note taking in school and at work. I finally settled on keep txt files in my IDE. ex: for work I have a file marked QA. Within that directory, I have files for each project I'm working on with meeting notes from each project person within their projects. I summarize from those notes into a TODO list at the root of QA for my tasks with time frames and use the notes within each section to guide each task. Since I generally have VSCode open anyway, one more window isn't a big deal. I also keep various SE scripts in a folder there as well and can grab and past into terminal to run reports or do minor support work.

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Médéric Burlet

I have a folder with a lot of cheatsheets of the problems I encounter or processes that were a bit annoying and lengthy. All this is in MD usually using MarkText or Typora or Macdown.

As for when I'm in meeting with clients or planning development I use the good old pen and paper or whiteboard. It's very practical to make things visuals. If I need to draw while on call to show the client I usually use excalidraw.com/

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Shaiju T

Nice 😄 , Pen and Paper is best and fast way to take notes. But digital software like Google docs, notepad etc are best when you want to turn your notes into a polished article or blog post.

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Ashley Randall Author

I agree. And I think that that's an awesome idea. I have a ton of digital notes that I can turn into blog posts. Thanks Shaiju :)

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CPrz21

Cool 😃 I think this is the best way to learn 😁

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Ashley Randall Author

Sometimes, going old school is the best school LOL! *corny joke, I know :D