Fleeting Notes Are Reminders

"Fleeting notes" as described by Sönke Ahrens, refer to the scraps of notes we (should) habitually take while reading or thinking via some ubiquitous capture method (digital or analog). These are the raw material of ideas. They don't serve much purpose on their own but to act as reminders. Put them in an inbox to be processed later—but not too much later. If there's too much of a delay between capturing the fleeting notes and when we process them, we may forget information we wanted to keep.

Don't copy fleeting notes verbatim; translating them into other words helps better understand the content whereas copying quotations word for word may actually alter their meaning by ripping them out of their context. See Writing is thinking.

Forms of capture like highlighting or underlining passages in a book and marginalia are all kinds of fleeting notes.

Because fleeting notes are reminders, they can be trashed after they've been processed.



Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. Sönke Ahrens, 2017.

Luhmann, Niklas. “Communicating with Slip Boxes.” Translated by Manfred Kuehn. Two Essays by Niklas Luhmann. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes.