Your preferred method for organizing complex notes? (also here's mine)


I’m curious to how people are taking notes on their dynalist. Not for things like journal logs or inbox management, but for project wikis / complex notes. Such as:

  • Mathmatical formulas and calculations , STEM
  • PhD disseration / thesis topics, ongoing research, etc
  • Youtube video notes
  • Notes from a 300 page PDF development manual / Ebook (, wordpress documentation, etc)
  • / Online courses
  • Notes from stackoverflow, quora, blogs, etc
  • Forums like dynalist / reddit
  • Workout out a solution to a complex problem for first time / How-to-guides

I seperate out all of those generally in how I decide how to organize things. Mostly I borrow experience designing catalogs in Indesign to get a “feel” for how my data should look with custom CSS / dynalist workflows

The way I currently organize complex notes / open course notes that I found effective is following:

organizing complex notes in general


NARROW DOWN A PARTICULAR FOLDER TO ZOOM INTO. Say I’m going to learning about wordpress and php. Merge those folders if necessary or put them next to each other. Or just focus on one particular list view


PICK A PREEXISTING OUTLINE or make one up as I go. I start small and expand this out as I go, and merge / unmerge notes all the time depending on what feels right

Ideally, when I outline, the outline should follow a rigid set of rules and formatting that don’t change too much overtime. If you had to develop a wordpress site, think about what things a developer would face and what notes would need to be referenced. For me, its this

#wordpress wp# blog# #blogging (foldername, with lots of CTRL+F ref)
✪✪ How-To-Guides (FTP, how to install, how to modify plugins, local dev environment, etc)
✪✪ Wordpress Themes (Selection Matrix to compare different themes)
✪✪ Wordpress Plugins
✪✪ Manuals / Video Courses
✪✪ Tools (e.g. wordpress theme detector, SEO with Moz, WAMP server, etc)
✪✪ Outlines (Outlining the entirety of the content management system (CMS) of wordpress to understand it more, etc)

Ideally there should be as few top-level parent bulletpoints in this designated view as possible, in my opinion

Things not used should be collapsed / things needed at the time uncollapsed

Notes spanning across several folders need to be inter-linked (course notes in particular)



I think by default, you should have as few “deep level” bulletpoints as possible and this should be reserved as you become more and more comfortable with notetaking

As you take more and more notes, “deep level” notes should be hidden from view and summarized into one line

Like, a lot of times I cannot find resources to do something in particular so I just write up my own method.

For instance, I needed a method for largely scaling in-house photography image assets, post processing, airtable staging for collaboration, redownload the assets so I can immediately rename them all in one go. But it was really complicated and involved many steps, so I didn’t know how to do it off hand

First I outline all the software tools I might possibly need, in no particular order. I didn’t pigeon hole myself in any particular software but rather by what the software actually did instead, since I didn’t know which ones would work best

  1. Data Manipulation (Excel Functions, Excel VBA)
  2. Bulk image downloading (ExtremePictureFinder, Bulk Image downloader)
  3. EXIF data image remover (EXIFtool)
  4. File renaming software (Command prompt + Excel, AdvancedRenamer, Bulk Renaming Utility)
  5. Image preview softare (Adobe Bridge, XNview) etc

Next as I got comfortable with understanding all the tools and resources that I thought I need. I would select the best tool in each category after testing each of them.

Then I made an image outline (optional) in shareX to confirm that I really did understand it.

Then I proceed to condense all my notes into as FEW lines as possible. This is what I reference for later

This is important to make note of at the very end, because then I can automate everything later with excelVBA + Scripts + more macros if I wanted too

I know this was a bad example but it was the one I was currently working on. A complex problem similar to this would be detailing how to produce a high-quality, special effects loaded short film when you’ve never done film development before, had no camera equipment asides a phone, and had to start a film team from scratch with no help but youtube and online resources

organizing open courses like

When I take notes from an open course software thats like 6 hours long (done through a span of 2 weeks), sometimes when I watch a video I start going “that sounds like XYZ I did before, maybe I should look into it” and then I go on a tangent with my notes

Its sort of like when you go on a wikipedia page searching for how bitcoin works, 5 hours later you went down a wikipedia rabbit hole and are reading about what species flower is growing outside your house

That’s just generally how I think though, I cannot adhere to a hard schedule that well

I find that the following workflow works for me


USE THEIR OUTLINE is a good place for me to learn things since its highly condensed information. Normally what I do is learn a subject here to get up and running, then go straight to development manuals + documents later.

Like for instance, I learned ExcelVBA here:

this is how I outlined it in dynalist

✪ Introduction
✪✪ Welcome
✪✪ Using exercise files

✪ 1. Introducing Visual Basic for applications
✪✪ Introducing Object-oriented programming
✪✪ …adding code to a recorded macro

✪ 2. Defining variables, constants and calculations
✪✪ Introducing Excel VBA data types
✪✪ …continued



When I take notes on something I don’t understand I usually have to rewind the video sometimes to catch something

What’s important here is that I CAPTURE EVERYTHING, relevant, so I can understand the topic a bit more

There’s a lot of debate on what the most effective method on taking notes from online videos like these, some recommend going through videos several times throughout the week, but I’m a firm believer in just watching a video once + take lots of notes → condense notes later

Consequently, if I offshoot my notes and go on a tangent here (related to course notes), I just make a note of new bulletpoint here and proceed from there.



After finishing a course over 2 weeks, I like to try and summarize these notes in my own terms from my perspective

Its like making a condensed cheat sheet before an exam. If you took a class, and looked at other people’s cheat sheets besides your own and how they are organized, given that its all the same information for the test, They all look different for each student.

Everyone has a different set of experiences and different Mnemonics for memorizing and learning information. Some use flashcards (anki) , others do not. Some write things by hand, others type. Same thing

Consequently this is how I view taking online course notes in general

I recondense all the information back in my own terminology. As many times as I need to understand it. With my own projects if needed. Kind of like in the first example about how I staged image assets, etc

so how do you guys organize notes that are complex in nature? Using dynalist, other tools, etc

What do you use for taking longer / more complex notes?

my methods.

I create semantic dictionaries for learning languages. for example in Ancient Greek
the first bullets are "sensations, people, virtues, motions, etc"
the second bullets are more specific. in “sensations” they are “courage, vision, hearing, fear,” etc
in the third level, more specific. in “courage” we see now definitions.
and in the fourth level, we can see now derivations from these basic definitions

Basically I group them in few bullets as possible.
then first level bullets are big thematics
second level bullets are more detailed subjects
third level bullets even more detailed subjects
fourth level bullets contain information, and so on…

when writing a course…its identical
first bullets (list of group of courses)
second bullets (list of similar courses)
third bullets (start, process, development, etc etc, subheaders of a course)
fourth bullets (detailed info about the subheader of the course)
fifth bullets (detailed info about a certain bullet, or a sub-list for a bullet)
sixth bullets (more detailed info)

P.S I see your notes hahaha they seem very complex :fearful:


first bullets = topics

second bullets = subheaders

third bullets = more sub-subheaders

fourth bullets , fifth, sixth, seventh bullets = info


I think my notes are a tad too complex sometimes too

I should probably tone it down a little bit

When i took course notes I was creating a 1:1 relationship of notes.

Using annotated images etc

Now I am finding I am barely referencing those notes because I made way too many image links. Also, I find that I don’t need as many sprint notes either and just need more project wikis

Also, I see what your doing with the dictionaries for learning a new language. It makes sense what you are doing. How do you track progress when it comes to verbal communication in learning a new language?

EDIT I think I will also be using less annotated image URLs overall .Maybe 1 for every 10 bulletpoints i make


well I dont track progress at all. although it sounds useful. I think I could implement that


In general I would normally splurge with whatever order comes to mind first, then completely remake the thing with a bit more thought later (I find it easier to remake generally e.g. with two tabs side by side than impose order on a big mess). I’ve created fairly complex systems in dynalist like CRM’s, overlapping checklist and ‘knowledge’ systems, project management etc and it comes down to a choice of tag (I have some knowledge systems which are pure tag based) or nested bullets or more often some combination of both … I usually start by thinking about the system like a set of venn diagrams … Any variable such don’t overlap can be separate lists, any variables which overlap becomes tags. After that I just try to think what will provide the fastest way of retrieving the information I want and even ‘test’ the system for this - if something’s too slow to access maybe I add another tag, or a tag cloud at the top, or a link cloud, or a shortcut etc … I think you can go in with some general organisation idea but there is always some organic process for me too.


I make
a) long lists (looong lists) with each item tagged accordingly.
— this is more needed when each item needs to be in many places at once.
you can introduce new items in the beginning and the search will do the rest

b) or semantic fields. (without tags)
—this is for more like an organized archive or collection…
the disadvantage is each item needs to be carefully organized in the tree.


I find it interesting how you both rely on tags a lot

I actually almost entirely navigate by bulletpoints now and rarely use tags in general now adays. Rather I’m learning to collapse / uncollapse bulletpoints more often

The only time I tag something is if it belongs in two folders, but linking documents is also an option too

I could understand learning a language like @Leonardo_Muzkiz_Ramo case in tagging, that makes sense, since learning a language mostly comes from yourself

Also, I can see your point @Stephen_Dewitt when it comes to CRM based tag navigation (each tag = one client), that makes perfect sense. But I rarely ever put client based notes in dynalist as I don’t get a RoI on it , imo.

The problem with tags in general I find is that its an extra step to navigate.

I guess the best example of tagging that I’m used to in is evernote. Of the hundreds of tags I use, I only shortcutted and remembered / used like 5.

I think, I am intentionally using less tags because I keep them reserved in the event that I need them for more complex notes, when interlinking and nested bulletpoints don’t suffice

E.G. if an item belongs in two “bulletpoint folders”

The tags I do use are the following

@blogposts → whenever I write a forum post on this forum and back it up
@pomodoro → this is my pomodoro 30 minute tasks I set using a dataxx cube timer