Monday, July 14, 2014

"Field Notes" note books and the art of taking notes

A friend of mine gave me two "Field Notes" note books last week. It was a two-pack with one book for science and one for art. I suppose that Field Notes has been around for a while and are probably quite famous, but for some reason I had not seen them before. The format, the paper, and the colors are just wonderful. Take a look at their shop and all the note books, pens, and other smart devices for note taking.

The Field Notes really make we want to be better at taking notes. For many years I did good job and all my research was written down in my favorite note book. Nowadays, not so much. I try to, but I do not do it frequently enough to make it a second nature of my work habits. I have realized that these days I do most of my thinking by typing and not by taking notes. One reason for this may be that I am almost always in front of a screen and a keyboard, so it feels as an unnecessary step to first write my ideas down on paper and then later type them.

Of course, I know that taking notes and typing is not all the same thing and does not require or support the same kind of thinking processes. Taking notes has some great advantages that would serve me well to go back to. I wonder what it would take to make me go back to taking notes instead of typing my ideas. The only solution I have been successful with so far is to move away from any computer, bring some readings and a note book and go to a coffee shop. Since typing is not available, the note book is soon filled with ideas. But since it is not a regular activity, the notes are forgotten in the note book and seldom used.

It is obvious that the difference between my note taking and typing is that my note taking becomes much more visual.  Typing requires words and sentences. It is equally obvious that this difference has consequences for the thinking and what ideas can be thought. Typing on the other hand has the wonderful advantage of being both precise and unforgiving. Your thoughts are 'forced' into shape. This means that the most 'productive' approach would be to use both note taking and typing as thinking tools. Anyway, maybe this little rant can persuade me to engage more in note taking again.

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