In short, they’re tremendously useful. That’s why I was elated to see that he’s released a new form: the Fast Book Outliner. Dave created the form to keep track of notes to be used for review or his own education (reading an instructional book, for example):
“For me, the biggest pain-in-the-butt about the note-taking process is marking the passages so I can find them again. Highlighting is only good if you use a lot of bookmarks, and you still need to re-transcribe. It’s also difficult to see the STRUCTURE of your notes unless you re-transcribe, and if you’re writing a book review you need to do that at some point. If you’re trying to learn difficult material, you want to access both the structure of your notes AND revisit the original pages for re-reading.
So far, the best part about this approach is the feeling that I can now read books rather superficially at any given time, opening it up in the middle or just skipping around, and if something catches my eye I can add to the existing book outline instead of starting from scratch. My own “Cliff Notes” creator! :) If I am reading with more focus, I am also rewarded by being able to quickly annotate WHERE a particularly-interesting line of prose can be found again.”
That’s fantastic, but I’ll be using them to outline a book I’m writing. The Fast Book Outliner satisfies both my paper fetish and my efficiency-draining tendency to write out ideas in longhand [1. I blame the nuns.]. The form is new, as Dave admits, and I suspect he’ll be tweaking it soon.
I’ll put it to a full, real-world test over the next few weeks. As I work on my next book, I’ll use the Fast Book Outliner to the fullest extent possible, and let you know how it goes along the way. Expect scribbled updates. I’m optimistic.