Andy Matuschak first influenced me to start this practice and his technique for note taking and idea development draws heavily from the book How to Take Smart Notes -- other names are 'permanent notes' and 'Temp notes'. I like Evergreen Notes and Maggie Appleton's moniker Seedling Notes of new ideas, or less-mature evergreen notes.
Evergreen Notes are designed to "evolve, contribute, and accumulate over time, across projects." Most of us are used to taking 'transient notes' - momentary snapshots of what we're reading or seeing. It's likely to end up being a pile of disassociated notes that lead nowhere coherent.
Evergreen Notes are a fundamental unit of thought for a knowledge worker. They help you accumulate insight and compound your reading and learning efforts. Understanding requires effortful engagement with the material. Evergreen notes should help improve your thinking over time, as you put what you're learning into your own ideas, connect those ideas together, see what's missing, and create novel insight based on what you're building.
They're guided by the questions: "What thinking practices can help me reliably develop insights over time?" and "how can I shepherd my attention effectively?"
Evergreen notes should be fundamental units of thought.
They're about one single thing, an idea broken down into it's fundamental element. This makes it easy to reuse notes and form connections across topics. It requires notes be densely linked. It helps you build up bigger, more complex ideas over time.
Evergreen notes should be concept-oriented.
Evergreens should be about a concept, an idea. They are concepts that you believe to be true, backed up with sources of inspiration, references where you learned about the idea, or based on your experience.
Evergreen notes should be richly interconnected.
The best ideas are like ingredients, they stand on their own but are most powerful when richly combined. ,Evergreen notes are best when densely linked to other ideas and resources.
Evergreen note titles should be representative of the entire concept. – they need to be titled well and work as an abstraction for the entire note.
Note titles should be declarative and imperative. Titles should make a statement, give instructions or advice, expresses a command, order, direction, or request.
https://notes.andymatuschak.org/About_these_notes (much of what I've written here are to be directly attributed to Andy's work.)
Another exciting signal of the success of this experiment is the 'aha' moment I had yesterday with a new insight on a concept I thought I had already clearly defined. I think in writing via Roam, and making Evergreen Notes it is helping me create my create a more robust digital garden. A digital garden is a space where you develop your own thoughts and ideas about what you are learning as you go. This is becoming a powerful thinking practice!
By learning in public with a digital garden you do not need to seek to only create perfectly polished content before sharing it with the world. You can seek to share smaller, fundamental units of thought that are what some call Evergreen Notes. This is a way to slowly build up a library of your own thinking and knowledge, all connected to valuable resources and citations.
Updated Evergreen Notes and made some small adjustments to a few other pages, such as on digital garden, continuing to learn how roam.garden works and what the implications are in building on this particular platform. It has its limitations, like anything, but it is definitely encouraging me to create more quickly than if I were only waiting to create finished blog posts! This is a great encouragement to me, a signal that this experiment is already beginning to work.
Start by creating an evergreen note. Evergreen Notes. Then create another, and another. You can seek to create one evergreen note a day. This will slowly improve your thinking, capturing what you are learning in your own words (the trees of the garden). Over time you can start to link together your thoughts. This will help you stoke your curiosity (the seeds), identify gaps in your thinking, connect ideas, and come up with new ideas (the fruit).