Initially, I threw myself into this kind of associative note-taking. I gathered links around concepts I wanted to explore (“the internet enables information to travel too quickly,” for example, or social networks and polarization). When I had an interesting conversation with a person, I would add notes to a personal page I had created for them. A few times a week, I would revisit those notes.

I waited for the insights to come.

And waited. And waited.

My gusto for concept-based, link-heavy note-taking diminished.

Why note-taking apps don’t make us smarter

Throwing notes into a system is all well and good but it’s not going to do the thinking for you. You can have the largest collection of notes with back-links and tags and immaculate organization. But at the end of the day, you still need to do the work and review those notes and find those connections to write about or to learn from.