It is important to Write permanent notes about what you read to test understanding. However, it is distracting to switch back and forth between reading a book and writing evergreens.

Applying the getting things done approach it is best to separate capturing Loose ends and processing them (see Barbell method of reading). Then, follow this process:

  • For physical books, write notes directly on a note in Zotero or draw a dot or line in the margin of interesting passages. You will have to set a reminder to look into these markings when processing the book.
  • For web articles, copy+paste interesting excerpts into a note in Zotero.
  • For digital books and PDFs, export highlights and annotations in Zotero.

When you are ready to work on a note, create a working note in your writing inbox where you start to play around with these literature notes.

These notes shall remain in the writing inbox until processed iteratively via a spaced repetition writing system. Use the process in how to convert literature notes to permanent notes to create permanent notes.


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

Matuschak, A. (n.d.). How to collect observations while reading. Andyʼs Working Notes. Retrieved September 3, 2021, from

Tietze, C. (200 C.E., 32:57). Making Proper Marks in Books. Zettelkasten.