How to Create a Commonplace Book

One of the most effective ways for me to take notes on books and remember what I've read is by using my Commonplace Book. I learned about this practice from Ryan Holiday (another reason why I ❤️it so much), and I've been obsessed with it ever since. So, naturally, I wanted to share my tips for creating your very own Commonplace Book!


Creating Your Notes

When I read a quote or a line from a book that really makes me think or means something to me, I jot it down on a notecard. I use white notecards, but you can also color-code according to the topic! In my notecards, I include:

  • The passage that I want to keep
  • The title of the book
  • The author's name

Writing these notes is such a great reflection process that you can practice while reading. When you're in the middle of a book and something strikes you, you're excited. You highlight it in that moment because it means something to you. But when you've finished reading and you go back to those highlights, it starts to sink in a little more. When you re-write something instead of just reading it, it embeds itself a little deeper into your memory. And when you read that notecard again later on, you're solidifying that idea in your mind. Read, reflect, and remember.

Organizing Your Notes

I use a box from Amazon to keep all my notecards in place. I've found that its much easier for me to use a box instead of a notebook. As a recovering perfectionist, the idea of breaking a notebook into sections only to run out of room in said sections is…yikes.

The box I use comes with slots for your different categories. I label mine with a label maker!

By separating my notes into their own categories, I can easily go back and reflect on the ideas I want to further explore or use for other projects. The topics are pretty broad on purpose. Using bigger, more general ideas allows you to break those ideas down on the individual cards themselves. I do this by including a subtopic on the top of my cards that I can easily see while flipping through the stack. Maybe the card is sorted into the “Conflict” category, but it specifically deals with conflict relationships. I would write “Relationships” at the top. Later on when I really need some advice or guidance on an issue with someone I care about, I know exactly where to find it.

Using Your Commonplace Book

As a content creator, this box has been a total lifesaver for me so many times. If I need a quick prompt or idea or something to inspire a video, I can flip through my cards and find exactly what I need.

It doesn't matter how creative you are. Sometimes, we all need a little jumpstart to dive into that creativity. And honestly, using the Commonplace Book system is like the craft project I always wanted in my life. Apart from getting my creative gears turning, its so fun for me to organize the cards and come up with new sections!

But while it is super fun, it does take time. If you block time on your calendar to read, start to incorporate another hour or so into your schedule dedicated to your Commonplace Book. Use this time to really evaluate the passages you've chosen to highlight — why did they stand out to you? Do they seem like as big of a deal now as they did the first time? Do they make the final cut and go in the box?

You get to decide what you hang onto in your Commonplace Book. And you get to decide how to make it work for you. If you'd rather use a digital file like Evernote or a literal book like a journal or binder, go for it! Find a system that helps you keep track of the actionable ideas you encounter, and make the time to reflect on them.

Hey, bookworms! Want some more note-taking tips?

QOTD: How do you keep track of your favorite quotes?

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