A better way to organize your notes - THINKERS Notebook

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A better way to organize your notes

Numerous scientific studies conclude that writing by hand is the best method for improving your memory, creativity, and focus. Unfortunately, for all its benefits, journaling does have its limitations.

Finding and organizing your written thoughts in a paper notebook is challenging.

Yes, you could create an index or organize your thoughts into sections, but these techniques are only a first-tier organizational system and don’t help when you want to map connections between ideas.

But there is a better method for second-tier organization.

It’s a technique for connecting ideas on any page, regardless of what they are. And this technique is simple to implement and one you are probably familiar with already.


Tagging is an essential component in knowledge management for interconnecting individual pieces of content around a common theme or idea.

For example, many online posts include hashtags (#) so readers can quickly discover the post when searching for the tag.

While tagging content online is common, many journalers and note-takers don’t incorporate tagging into their writing.

But sophisticated journalers and note-takers know the value of tagging. They use tags as a way to interconnect ideas across pages and topics.

Instead of wasting time manually reviewing every page,writers can quickly scan pages to discover key concepts that can be used in their ideation process.

Even better, many smart notebooks have apps that automatically recognize hashtags on the page so you can quickly organize and find your notes based on tags.

Smart notebooks are becoming an essential tool for all serious writers because they combine the best of writing by hand with the functionality of organizing and sharing notes using your phone. Tag management is just one example of this symbiotic relationship.

So, what is the best method for incorporating tagging into your writing process?

Let's look to the wisdom of the past for the answers we need today.

How To Use #Tags In Your Notebook

I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
-Rudyard Kipling


These are the first few lines from the classic poem in Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.

Many of you will recognize the “names” as the 5Ws plus H method for information gathering. This method was first discussed by Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics, and it's often taught in journalism and business schools as a key framework for understanding.

In journaling, categorizing hashtags using Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How provides a simple framework for creating a structure that helps you connect ideas.

Let’s put it into action.

Tag Index Page Example

#1 Create a #tag index page

Create a page title called #Tag Index in the front of your journal for easy reference.

#2 Create six sections on your #Tag Index page

On your #Tag Index page create six sections titled as follows:

  • What (objects or items)
  • Why (cause or context)
  • When (event or time)
  • How (process or method)
  • Where (location or place)
  • Who (person or entity)

#3 Add a few #tags under each section

If you are an active journaler or note-taker, you probably have a basic understanding of what concepts you want to include in each section.

If you are new to journaling, don’t worry; think of two or three key concepts that are specific to your life or work and add them to the applicable section.

The key in creating a #tag system is to keep them short and specific, no more than one or two words.

Further, it is best to combine words together in a hashtag using a CamelCase syntax. For example, the term “Sam Jones” would become #SamJones with the letters S and J capitalized.

The reason for using CamelCase syntax is to help automated systems readily distinguish a tag as something different than normal text since it is easy to confuse “#Sam Jones” as a hashtag plus a word and not one continuous tag.

#4 Append #tags to a specific area of the page

Tag example

Now that you have the basics of your #Tag Index ready, dedicate a specific section of the pages in your notebook where you would like to include them.

Pro Tip: Include your #tags in the upper corner of your pages – on the upper right corner for right-side pages and in the upper left corner for left-side pages.

The rationale for this placement is simple; when thumbing through a notebook it is easier to spot #tags on the upper edge of the page than within the middle of the page.

#5 Limit #tag usage to one to three concepts

When adding #tags to your pages, try and keep them to one to three concepts. The goal of using #tags is to quickly find key concepts with the details found on each page.

#6 Create new #tags and add them to your #Tag Index

Anytime you need to create a new #tag, make sure to add it to your index in the appropriate section immediately. This will help you keep a record of what they are while also removing any redundancy that may develop over time.

These six simple steps will help you create and manage your #tag structure while using your notebook.

But there is one more process that you will want to add to maximize the benefit of #tags.

Capture Your Pages On Your Phone

As stated earlier, many serious journalers and note-takers are turning to smart notebooks to help them capture and organize their ideas.

Unlike traditional notebooks, a smart notebook combines a specially designed notebook with an app that improves the ability to digitize and organize written notes.

Smart notebooks provide a number of benefits that journalers and note-takers need, including:

  • Notebook page designs that make it easy to capture pages using an app.
  • Handwriting recognition so you can search for your notes in the app.
  • Creating a digital record of your written notes in case you lose your notebook.
  • Advanced document capture features that improve camera capture from your phone.
  • The ability to organize your notes in customized folders and sub-folders in the app.
  • Advanced sharing options that enable advanced collaboration.
  • Automated cloud storage for easy backup retrieval.
  • Additional features to record audio, video, whiteboard, and photos so you can capture ideas beyond the written page.

More importantly, sophisticated smart notebooks also recognize #tags and include them as part of the capture process so they can be appended to your digital note.

While some casual journalers and note-takers are comfortable just taking a picture of a page from time to time, serious note-takers incorporate page capture as a part of their process.

For #tags to be effective, you will want to consider a smart notebook solution that automatically recognizes #tags on the page while also making it easy to search your pages using those #tags in the app.

And One More Thing…

Hashtags are a great technique for helping you organize your ideas while making it easy to find the connections between those ideas.

And smart notebooks extend that functionality by combining a notebook and app so you can quickly capture, organize, and share your ideas.

If you are interested in incorporating this #tag system into your journaling and note-taking using a smart notebook, then we hope you will consider the new THINKERS Notebook.

The THINKERS Notebook is a premium notebook with a companion iOS App that incorporates the functionality #tags with additional features not found in any other note-taking app.

If you are serious about improving the way you journal, take notes, and engage with your ideas, then please consider purchasing a THINKERS Notebook.