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Dr. Sönke Ahrens, author, How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning, and Thinking – for Students, Academics, and Nonfiction Book Writers, provides valuable information that we can all use to help us take better notes and be more productive.

Dr. Ahrens is a noted writer and researcher in education and social science. He regularly publishes, and his book titled, Experiment and Exploration: Forms of World-Disclosure: From Epistemology to Bildung is an award winner and continues to be a talked-about piece. In addition to being a prolific author, Dr. Ahrens still finds time to teach at university in the area of philosophy of education.

Dr. Ahrens talks about his background and how it was his own Ph.D. education experience that inspired him to later write his book on taking notes. He states, as students, we are constantly taking notes, but Dr. Ahrens was interested in how we could more efficiently retain the data and information that we are given—how do we take notes? Dr. Ahrens discusses his interest in the work of Niklas Luhmann​, the​ German sociologist​ , and ​philosopher of social science​ who was a major voice in the field of systems theory​. ​He explains the theoretical studies of Luhmann and his discoveries about the man and how Luhmann was incredibly efficient and productive in the taking off and producing notes that allowed him to spark new ideas. Luhmann essentially mastered productivity, and his technique is at the center of Dr. Ahrens’ keen interest and study.

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Zettelkasten is the German word for ‘slip box,’ and the slip box technique was Niklas Luhmann’s major contribution to modern-day note taking and information gathering. The German sociologist used index cards for all of his notes and thus developed a systematic method of cross-referencing and connecting all of his many notes. Luhmann assigned each card a specific number, which positioned the card in a certain place within his filing system. This technique allowed Luhmann to have it referenced on other cards.

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Dr. Ahrens elaborates on some of the techniques and processes that make for more efficiency in learning and note-taking. Dr. Ahrens explains how certain organizational techniques can be standardized and thus become a daily routine, which increases productivity. He discusses how the everyday person can utilize steps, such as collecting, then processing, and writing information that makes connections to other data that you’ve collected, etc. Dr. Ahrens states that the key is to get into a topic at the content level where we last left it, and pick up our research or study again as quickly as possible.

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