Sönke Ahrens works as a lecturer at the University of Duisburg-Essen. He coaches students and professionals about decision-making and time management. He is the author of the award-winning book, Experiment and Exploration: Forms of World-Disclosure.


How to Take Smart Notes is a guide on how to efficiently turn thoughts and discoveries into written pieces. The book also helps readers to create interconnected notes along the way.

Ahrens has explained one core method for taking notes and maintaining them in the long run. He has segregated different types of notes and explained the use of each one of them. At the same time, he has shared some effective tips on how to take and keep notes under this methodology, including both the do’s and don’ts. The author has also mentioned some useful apps that can help one follow a proper system.

Throughout the book, Ahrens stresses the need for having a procedure that would help readers start a new project with previously taken notes. This, he says, will help them avoid the pressure of facing a blank sheet at the beginning of every endeavor.


How to Take Smart Notes is a unique book in that instead of putting forth multiple methods for taking notes, the author has shared just one simple method to do so. He dispels the notion that taking notes is all about jotting things down; it also involves reading and understanding. The author has also duly delved into each of these steps.


The book could have done with some more examples. While the methodology is both understandable and research-backed, a few more practical examples would have only made this complex topic a bit more relatable.


Even the best tools won’t make much of a difference if they are used in isolation. Only if they are embedded in a well-conceived working process can the tools play out their strengths. There is no point in having great tools if they don’t fit together.

Writing is not what follows research, learning or studying, it is the medium of all this work.

A good workflow can easily turn into a virtuous circle, where the positive experience motivates us to take on the next task with ease, which helps us to get better at what we are doing, which in return makes it more likely for us to enjoy the work, and so on.


Ameya Score:

How to Take Smart Notes is an extremely useful guide for students and non-fiction writers alike. The book is dedicated to help readers come up with a reliable system to become more efficient, instead of having to create notes separately for each project or paper. The book is especially helpful for students preparing for competitive exams. That said, this is definitely not a light-hearted read meant for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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Pooja book review writer

A creative prodigy, Pooja sees writing as the best way of expressing herself.