Write Evergreen Atomic Notes

Write Evergreen Atomic Notes

Most people take only transient notes - simply jotting down things they want to remember. This is very ineffective. The problem is that such notes are disorganized, difficult to search through and discover later on. You will never actually get around to rereading most of your notes, so they will never be useful to you (or anybody else) again. They are also unlikely to lead to creating valuable output.

The solution - Write Evergreen Atomic Notes:

  • Evergreen - organize your notes into posts which are designed to evolve and accumulate over time.
  • Atomic - each post is brief (under 300 words), and focused on one specific idea, trying to encapsulate the entirety of that idea as well as possible.
  • Posts - posts are published on your blog, organized using tags, easy to search through, and useful for other people.

Good Evergreen Atomic Posts:

  • Have Strong Titles - a good title is an abstraction of the post itself. Use a succinct phrase which aims to make a clear claim that captures the entirety of the note's ideas. That enables you to use titles as an "API", making it easy to refer to your posts (see Concept handles).
  • Are Modular - apply the programming principle of separation of concerns, each post should only be “about” one thing, making them easy to recombine and interlink later on (like Wikipedia articles).
  • Are meant to Evolve - don't try to make the note complete or perfect right away, don't over-edit it. Develop a practice of looking through your posts, and making incremental improvements every time you read through them.
  • Are Well Interlinked - strive to make links between the posts, they make posts easier to discover and help you to see the connections between different ideas (leading to new insights). Interlinking posts also motivates you to revisit and update your old posts.

Benefits:

Atomic Posts are easy to write:

  • They're based on the notes you're already taking, so you don't have to stare at a blank page searching for ideas.
  • They're brief, so you're less likely to get overwhelmed and procrastinate out of fear of doing the work.
  • Daily posts contribute to your writing habit, posting a micro essay every day is an easier habit to develop than working on big long-term projects.
  • Publishing regularly is satisfying and gives you instant feedback from your readers, so you can get better at writing by interacting with your audience.
  • They help you to avoid perfectionism. Since they're meant to evolve, your first version of the post doesn't have to be perfect. The first version of the post is just your first attempt at expressing your idea, which will improve overtime as your knowledge and skill grows.

Atomic Posts are easy to read:

  • It's easier and more satisfying to read something short and insightful than to struggle through a long article.
  • Since they're interlinked, they can lead your readers down the rabbithole of your writing. Somehow reading through a lot of easily digestible and insightful posts feels more engaging.

Atomic Posts make you prolific because they add up to larger projects. You can create value in small unintimidating chunks (atomic posts), and then assemble multiple posts into longer articles, books, or courses.

Finally, Atomic Posts are better for social media marketing - multiple short posts tend to do better than one big one.

Resources

Learn more at Andy Matuschak's blog.

There's a similar idea of creating Atomic Essays, which I also found very helpful and useful.

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