Tired of an overstructured system for note-taking? Try heuristics instead

An alternative to complex methods for taking notes

Adolfo Ramírez Corona
5 min readJan 28, 2022

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Let me ask you something.

Which application do you use for note-taking and note-writing?

The Notes app on your phone? Google Keep? Bear, Evernote, Notion, Ulysses, Roam Research…

Is this the same application you were using one year ago? What about two years ago?

Are you finally using one app for all your notes and writing or are you still jumping from one to another every time and then?

And the most relevant question, are you using the same note-taking or note-writing method you were using six months ago? What about one year ago?

Let me tell you something that may be obvious but we take time to accept.

Sooner or later you always lose control of any over structured method or complex system to take notes.

Why? You know why. You change your phone or computer, you like to try another note-taking app, your stop following the method during the weekend, a new project demanded a different note-taking approach, something big changed at work or in life, and after interrupting your routines you didn’t retake the method, system, app, or whatever.

Simple. We all are humans.

Buddhist call it impermanence, everything changes, eventually.

Or in a more modern way to see it, uncertainty reigns even in our note-taking and writing.

So, what to do?

Let’s begin by understanding why we were looking for a method or system for note-taking in the first place.

Why a method, why a system?

Note-taking is highly entropic. The more you write, the more disorder you’ll find in your notes. But also, the more you write the more probability to find surprises and uncertainty.

All note-taking systems or methods try to reduce the disorder produced for the generation of information.

The common way to accomplish this is to predefine a note-taking structure and try to keep all new information into it.

Adolfo Ramírez Corona

Author, psychotherapist, coach—Human behavior, UX, media & audiences—Father, husband, meditator—Courses & coaching: antifragilewriting.com—More adolforismos.com