How to

Think on Paper
Ideas on Note-Making

You want to think
through a problem?
Note-making
is arguably
one of the best tools
this world has to offer.

Here are some ideas
that work for me.

17.12.2014

How to start:
- take a blank A4 sheet
- use it in landscape format
- separate it in 4 columns
- add a page number and a date

1

17.12.2014

Here are some variations:
- use A3 sheets with 6 columns
- use A4 sheets with 2, 3, or 4 columns

1

1A| What is this sheet about?
- it shows a way of note-making,
a way of “thinking on paper”

17.12.2014

_____________________________________
1B| What do you need?
- blank paper in A4
- a non-smear pen
- e.g. mechanical pencil + eraser
_____________________________________
1C| What's the basic layout?
- use paper in landscape format
- draw lines to form 4 columns
Or:
- try A3 in landscape format with
6 columns
- lots of space for your ideas
_____________________________________

How to organize the notes:
- organize your notes in “text boxes”
- number these boxes with
1A, 1B, … in column 1
2A, 2B, … in column 2 etc.
- write your notes in a box
- draw a horizontal line when a box is finished

1

1A| What is this sheet about?
- it shows a way of note-making,
a way of “thinking on paper”

17.12.2014

_____________________________________
1B| What do you need?
- blank paper in A4
- a non-smear pen
- e.g. mechanical pencil + eraser
_____________________________________
1C| What's the basic layout?
- use paper in landscape format
- draw lines to form 4 columns
Or:
- try A3 in landscape format with
6 columns
- lots of space for your ideas
_____________________________________
1D| How to make text boxes
- number the boxes
- in column 1 with 1A, 1B etc.
- write the headline + underline it
- questions make good headlines!
- write down your thoughts
- short but intelligible
- use “outlining”
- indent your lines
- to show hierarchies
- like this
- when you're finished with a box:
- draw a horizontal line
- start a new box

How to fill the text boxes

1

1A| What is this sheet about?
- it shows a way of note-making,
a way of “thinking on paper”

2A| More things you can use
- page numbers
- date
- footnotes at the column bottom1)
_____________________________________ - numbering
1B| What do you need?
- underline, colour
- blank paper in A4
- tables
- a non-smear pen
- diagrams
- e.g. mechanical pencil + eraser - equations ...
_____________________________________ ____________________________________
1C| What's the basic layout?
- use paper in landscape format
- draw lines to form 4 columns
Or:
- try A3 in landscape format with
6 columns
- lots of space for your ideas

Other useful
elements

_____________________________________
1D| How to make text boxes
- number the boxes
- in column 1 with 1A, 1B etc.
- write the headline + underline it
- questions make good headlines!
- write down your thoughts
- short but intelligible
- use “outlining”
- indent your lines
- to show hierarchies
- like this
- when you're finished with a box:
________________________________________________________________
- draw a horizontal line
- start a new box
1) Useful for later remarks
and other things

17.12.2014

1

1A| What is this sheet about?
- it shows a way of note-making,
a way of “thinking on paper”

2A| More things you can use
- page numbers
- date
- footnotes at the column bottom1)
_____________________________________ - numbering
1B| What do you need?
- underline, colour
- blank paper in A4
- tables
- a non-smear pen
- diagrams
- e.g. mechanical pencil + eraser - equations ...
_____________________________________ ____________________________________
1C| What's the basic layout?
2B| How to deal with
- use paper in landscape format
sudden ideas
- draw lines to form 4 columns
- you can mark ideas for
follow-up with a check box :
Or:
- work out a more detailed
- try A3 in landscape format with
check box system

6 columns
- you can later tick off these boxes:
- lots of space for your ideas
- add some remarks on
cross-referencing

_____________________________________
(see 2C)
- you can store unrelated
1D| How to make text boxes
ideas at the bottom of column 4
- number the boxes
- look at the example!
- in column 1 with 1A, 1B etc.
- write the headline + underline it
- questions make good headlines! ________________________________________________________________
- write down your thoughts
2C| How to cross-reference
- short but intelligible
- there are examples in 2B and 3B
- use “outlining”
- referencing box 4C on page 2:
- indent your lines
- see 2:4C
- to show hierarchies
- like this
- when you're finished with a box:
________________________________________________________________
- draw a horizontal line
- start a new box
1) Useful for later remarks
and other things

17.12.2014

1

How to deal with sudden ideas?
How to cross-reference?

_____________________________________
4Z| image search on “notemaking”

1A| What is this sheet about?
- it shows a way of note-making,
a way of “thinking on paper”

2A| More things you can use
- page numbers
- date
- footnotes at the column bottom1)
_____________________________________ - numbering
1B| What do you need?
- underline, colour
- blank paper in A4
- tables
- a non-smear pen
- diagrams
- e.g. mechanical pencil + eraser - equations ...
_____________________________________ ____________________________________
1C| What's the basic layout?
2B| How to deal with
- use paper in landscape format
sudden ideas
- draw lines to form 4 columns
- you can mark ideas for
follow-up with a check box :
Or:
- work out a more detailed
- try A3 in landscape format with
check box system

6 columns
- you can later tick off these boxes:
- lots of space for your ideas
- add some remarks on
cross-referencing

_____________________________________
(see 2C)
- you can store unrelated
1D| How to make text boxes
ideas at the bottom of column 4
- number the boxes
- look at the example!
- in column 1 with 1A, 1B etc.
- write the headline + underline it
- questions make good headlines! ________________________________________________________________
- write down your thoughts
2C| How to cross-reference
- short but intelligible
- there are examples in 2B and 3B
- use “outlining”
- referencing box 4C on page 2:
- indent your lines
- see 2:4C
- to show hierarchies
- like this
- when you're finished with a box:
________________________________________________________________
- draw a horizontal line
- start a new box
1) Useful for later remarks
and other things

3A| When to start new columns
and new boxes?
- for important new ideas:
- start a new column
- start a new box
- after leaving some space
_____________________________________
3B| Some advice on
“deep” thinking
- work patiently
- from one box to another
- from one page to another ...
- … always pursuing
- open questions,
- things you don't understand
- things you can make better

17.12.2014

1

All this is about
layout!
What about content?

- use basic questions
1) What would be logical?
2) What's bothering me here?
What's the key problem here?
3) What can I do now?
- use a “Q” section
- “Q” stands for Questions
- use it at the end of a box,
of a column to find open topics
Q
- is there a more refined
system of thinking tools?

_____________________________________
- how can the note-making system
4Z| image search on “notebe improved?

making”

- pros & cons of this method?

(see 4A)

1A| What is this sheet about?
- it shows a way of note-making,
a way of “thinking on paper”

2A| More things you can use
- page numbers
- date
- footnotes at the column bottom1)
_____________________________________ - numbering
1B| What do you need?
- underline, colour
- blank paper in A4
- tables
- a non-smear pen
- diagrams
- e.g. mechanical pencil + eraser - equations ...
_____________________________________ ____________________________________
1C| What's the basic layout?
2B| How to deal with
- use paper in landscape format
sudden ideas
- draw lines to form 4 columns
- you can mark ideas for
follow-up with a check box :
Or:
- work out a more detailed
- try A3 in landscape format with
check box system

6 columns
- you can later tick off these boxes:
- lots of space for your ideas
- add some remarks on
cross-referencing

_____________________________________
(see 2C)
- you can store unrelated
1D| How to make text boxes
ideas at the bottom of column 4
- number the boxes
- look at the example!
- in column 1 with 1A, 1B etc.
- write the headline + underline it
- questions make good headlines! ________________________________________________________________
- write down your thoughts
2C| How to cross-reference
- short but intelligible
- there are examples in 2B and 3B
- use “outlining”
- referencing box 4C on page 2:
- indent your lines
- see 2:4C
- to show hierarchies
- like this
- when you're finished with a box:
________________________________________________________________
- draw a horizontal line
- start a new box
1) Useful for later remarks
and other things

3A| When to start new columns
4A| Pros & Cons 17.12.2014 1
and new boxes?
- compare these notes with
- for
important
new&
ideas:
- mind maps
Some
Pros
Cons
- start a new column
- Cornell Notes
- start a new box
- digital note-making
- after leaving some space
- other note-making systems
_____________________________________ (they all have their pros & cons!)
3B| Some advice on
“deep” thinking
- look at the following points:
- can you focus on your work?
- work patiently
- no distractions from apps etc.?
- from one box to another
- can you develop
- from one page to another ...
long coherent lines of thought?
- … always pursuing
- can you store away sudden
- open questions,
ideas and examine them later?
- things you don't understand
- can you switch to other
- things you can make better
lines of thought without much
document fiddling?
- use basic questions
- do you have an overview
1) What would be logical?
of your notes?
2) What's bothering me here?
- is straightforward, organized
What's the key problem here?
thinking encouraged?
3) What can I do now?
- are your notes still
comprehensible after
- use a “Q” section
3 days, 2 months, 1 decade?
- “Q” stands for Questions
- is the use of tables, diagrams,
- use it at the end of a box,
equations encouraged?
of a column to find open topics
Q
Q
- digital version of this method? 
- is there a more refined
- table for above comparison?

system of thinking tools?

- how can the note-making system _____________________________________
be improved?
 4Z| image search on “note
- pros & cons of this method?
 making”
(see 4A)

Thomas Teepe
Stuttgart 2014