Note-writing practices provide weak feedback

One reason why Note-writing practices are generally ineffective may be that note systems generally offer poor feedback.

If one starts a spaced repetition practice, they’ll get strong feedback every day: if they write a bad question, it’ll bother them immediately and regularly thereafter; they’ll feel (to some extent) their growing retention of a given topic.

By contrast, in note-taking the feedback is very delayed: in typical practice, when you write a note, you may not see it again for weeks. The feedback is also ambiguous: if a note helps you distill some insight (or fail to), that usually won’t be especially evident.

In general, people don’t have a clear picture of what a note should be, so it’s not clear when a given note fails to conform to that standard.

Evergreen notes offer tighter and higher-signal feedback loops because you’re constantly revising and consulting past notes. It’s somewhat easier to notice if a prior note is difficult to revise. The Executable strategy for writing also creates stronger feedback on one’s note-taking practices.


Ahrens, S. (2017). How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers.

There is another reason that note-taking flies mostly under the radar: We don’t experience any immediate negative feedback if we do it badly.

Last updated 2023-07-13.