How to Take Smart Notes
How to Take Smart Notes

How to Take Smart Notes

poor students often feel more successful (until they are tested), because they don’t experience much self-doubt. In psychology, this is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect (Kruger and Dunning, 1999). Poor students lack insight into their own limitations – as they would have to know about the vast amount of knowledge out there to be able to see how little they know in comparison. That means that those who are not very good at something tend to be overly confident, while those who have made an effort tend to underestimate their abilities. Poor students also have no trouble finding a question to write about: they neither lack opinions nor the confidence that they have already thought them through. (Location 199)

Tags: dunning-kruger effect, confidence

Note: Those who are not good at something often overestimate their abilities

care of in one place and process it in a standardised way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we actually do everything we once intended to do, but it forces us to make clear choices and regularly check if our tasks still fit into the bigger picture. Only if we know that everything is taken care of, from the important to the trivial, can we let go and focus on what is right in front of us. Only if nothing else is lingering in our working memory and taking up valuable mental resources can we experience what Allen calls a “mind like water” - the state where we can focus on the work right in front of us without getting distracted by competing thoughts. (Location 243)

Tags: gtd

Note: .gtd

Studies on highly successful people have proven again and again that success is not the result of strong willpower and the ability to overcome resistance, but rather the result of smart working environments that avoid resistance in the first place (Location 345)

Note: .environment setup your environment to enable good work

Whenever he read something, he would write the bibliographic information on one side of a card and make brief notes about the content on the other side (Schmidt 2013, 170). These notes would end up in the bibliographic slip-box. (Location 380)

Tags: notes

Note: .notes

He did not just copy ideas or quotes from the texts he read, but made a transition from one context to another. It was very much like a translation where you use different words that fit a different context, but strive to keep the original meaning as truthfully as possible. (Location 392)

Tags: notes

Note: Rewrite notes in your own words.

each step is clearly not only within your abilities, but also straightforward and well defined: Assemble notes and bring them into order, turn these notes into a draft, review it and you are done. (Location 442)

Writing is, without dispute, the best facilitator for thinking, reading, learning, understanding and generating ideas we have. (Location 452)

Tags: writing

Note: writing is great for thinking and learning

If you want to learn something for the long run, you have to write it down. If you want to really understand something, you have to translate it into your own words. Thinking takes place as much on paper as in your own head. (Location 454)

Tags: reading, favorite, notes, writing

Note: .writing .notes translate ideas into your own words

You have to externalise your ideas, you have to write. Richard Feynman stresses it as much as Benjamin Franklin. If we write, it is more likely that we understand what we read, remember what we learn and that our thoughts make sense. And if we have to write anyway, why not use our writing to build up the resources for our future publications? (Location 460)

Tags: notes, writing

Note: .writing .notes writing helps you retain what you learn

Whenever you read something, make notes about the content. Write down what you don’t want to forget or think you might use in your own thinking or writing. (Location 473)

Tags: reading, notes

Note: .notes write down what you dont want to forget

After a while, you will have developed ideas far enough to decide on a topic to write about. Your topic is now based on what you have, not based on an unfounded idea about what the literature you are about to read might provide. (Location 504)

Tags: readwise, notes

Note: .notes .readwise your writing is based on what you already have rather than what you may find in your futire research

Turn your notes into a rough draft. Don’t simply copy your notes into a manuscript. Translate them into something coherent and embed them into the context of your argument while you build your argument out of the notes at the same time. Detect holes in your argument, fill them or change your argument. (Location 510)

Tags: readwise, notes

Note: .notes .readwise dont use your notes ver batim

In the old system, the question is: Under which topic do I store this note? In the new system, the question is: In which context will I want to stumble upon it again? (Location 734)

The slip-box is designed to present you with ideas you have already forgotten, allowing your brain to focus on thinking instead of remembering. (Location 745)

Note: Focus on thinking rather than remembering

typical mistake is to collect notes only related to specific projects. On first sight, it makes much more sense. You decide on what you are going to write about and then collect everything that helps you to do that. The disadvantage is that you have to start all over after each project and cut off all other promising lines of thought. That means that everything you found, thought or encountered during the time of a project will be lost. (Location 769)

Permanent notes, on the other hand, are written in a way that can still be understood even when you have forgotten the context they are taken from. (Location 794)

Tags: notes

Note: .notes

If we look into our slip-box to see where clusters have built up, we not only see possible topics, but topics we have already worked on – even if we were not able to see it up front. The idea that nobody ever starts from scratch suddenly becomes very concrete. If we take it seriously and work accordingly, we literally never have to start from scratch again. (Location 877)

Tags: notes

Note: .notes use your existing notes as inspiration for deciding what to write about

As proper note-taking is rarely taught or discussed, it is no wonder that almost every guide on writing recommends to start with brainstorming. If you haven’t written along the way, the brain is indeed the only place to turn to. On its own, it is not such a great choice: it is neither objective nor reliable – two quite important aspects in academic or nonfiction writing. (Location 884)

Tags: notes, brain

Note: .brain .notes if you dont take notes the brain is the only place to turn to

Having trouble finding the right topic is a symptom of the wrong attempt to rely heavily on the limitations of the brain, not the inevitable problematic starting point, as most study guides insinuate. If you on the other hand develop your thinking in writing, open questions will become clearly visible and give you an abundance of possible topics to elaborate further in writing. (Location 896)

Tags: writing

Note: .writing writing is tough to start if you are relying just on your brain

Those who fear and avoid feedback because it might damage their cherished positive self-image might feel better in the short term, but will quickly fall behind in actual performance (Location 950)

Tags: feedback

Note: .feedback seek regular feedback

We tend to think we understand what we read – until we try to rewrite it in our own words. By doing this, we not only get a better sense of our ability to understand, but also increase our ability to clearly and concisely express our understanding – which in return helps to grasp ideas more quickly. (Location 969)

Tags: memory, reading, kindle, notes

Note: writing notes in your own words surfaces your level of understanding

the more connected information we already have, the easier it is to learn, because new information can dock to that information. Yes, our ability to learn isolated facts is indeed limited and probably decreases with age. But if facts are not kept isolated nor learned in an isolated fashion, but hang together in a network of ideas, or “latticework of mental models” (Munger, 1994), it becomes easier to make sense of new information. (Location 992)

Tags: memory

Note: .memory increasing foundational knowledge increases our ability to retain more knowledge

We know for example that watching television reduces the attention span of children (Swing et al. 2010). (Location 1013)

Tags: tv, parenting

Note: .parenting

gut feeling is not a mysterious force, but an incorporated history of experience. It is the sedimentation of deeply learned practice through numerous feedback loops on success or failure.[20] Even a rational and analytical endeavour like science does not function without expertise, intuition and experience – which is one of the most interesting outcomes of the empirical research on natural scientists in their laboratories (Rheinberger 1997). Chess players seem to think less than beginners. Rather, they see patterns and let themselves be guided by their experience from the past rather than attempt to calculate turns far into the future. (Location 1169)

Tags: gut, pattern

Note: .pattern .gut

We can hold a maximum of seven things in our head at the same time, plus/minus two (Miller 1956). (Location 1190)

Tags: memory

Note: .memory

Zeigarnik effect: Open tasks tend to occupy our short-term memory – until they are done. That is why we get so easily distracted by thoughts of unfinished tasks, regardless of their importance.

We know that we don’t actually have to finish tasks to convince our brains to stop thinking about them. All we have to do is to write them down in a way that convinces us that it will be taken care of.

The brain doesn't distinguish between an actual finished task and one that is postponed by taking a note. By writing something down, we literally get it out of our heads. (Location 1221)

Tags: newsletter23, favorite, gtd

Note: .gtd

willpower is compared to muscles: a limited resource that depletes quickly and needs time to recover. Improvement through training is possible to a certain degree, but takes time and effort. The phenomenon is usually discussed under the term “ego depletion”: “We use the term ego depletion to refer to a temporary reduction in the self’s capacity or willingness to engage in volitional action (including controlling the environment, controlling the self, making choices, and initiating action) caused by prior exercise of volition.” (Baumeister et al., 1998, 1253) (Location 1255)

Tags: willpower

Note: .willpower willpower depletes quickly

ego. It is well known that decision-making is one of the most tiring and wearying tasks, which is why people like Barack Obama or Bill Gates only wear two suit colours: dark blue or dark grey. This means they have one less decision to make in the morning, leaving more resources for the decisions that really matter. (Location 1273)

Tags: decisions, willpower

Note: .willpower .decisions remove unnecessary decisions from your day

To get a good paper written, you only have to rewrite a good draft; to get a good draft written, you only have to turn a series of notes into a continuous text. And as a series of notes is just the rearrangement of notes you already have in your slip-box, all you really have to do is have a pen in your hand when you read. (Location 1299)

Tags: writing

Note: writing starts with taking notes

in terms of understanding the content of the lecture, the students who took their notes by hand came out much, much better. After a week, this difference in understanding was still clearly measurable. There is no secret to it and the explanation is pretty simple: Handwriting is slower and can’t be corrected as quickly as electronic notes. Because students can’t write fast enough to keep up with everything that is said in a lecture, they are forced to focus on the gist of what is being said, not the details. But to be able to note down the gist of a lecture, you have to understand it in the first place. So if you are writing by hand, you are forced to think about what you hear (or read) – otherwise you wouldn’t be able to grasp the underlying principle, the idea, the structure of an argument. (Location 1356)

Tags: notes

Note: .notes hand written notes are said to help retention because students must summarise in their own words due to slowness of the proocess and a need to keep up

“If you can’t say it clearly, you don’t understand it yourself.” (Location 1481)

Tags: understanding

Note: .understanding if you cant express it clearly you dont understand it

Physicist and Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman once said that he could only determine whether he understood something if he could give an introductory lecture on it. (Location 1483)

Tags: feynman, understanding

Note: .understanding

The attempt to rephrase an argument in our own words confronts us without mercy with all the gaps in our understanding. It certainly feels less good, but this struggle is the only chance we have to improve our understanding, to learn and move forward (Location 1501)

Tags: notes

Note: .notes write highlight notes in your own words

Only the actual attempt to retrieve information will clearly show us if we have learned something or not. (Location 1508)

Tags: memory, learning, notes

Note: .notes .learning attempting to retrieve info tells you if you know it or not

“Manipulations such as variation, spacing, introducing contextual interference, and using tests, rather than presentations, as learning events, all share the property that they appear during the learning process to impede learning, but they then often enhance learning as measured by post-training tests of retention and transfer. (Location 1538)

Tags: learning

Note: .learning quizzes,variety and spacing belps learning

Writing brief accounts on the main ideas of a text instead of collecting quotes. And she also stresses that it is no less important to do something with these ideas – to think hard about how they connect with other ideas from different contexts and could inform questions that are not already the questions of the author of the respective text. (Location 1590)

Tags: notes

Note: summarise notes and link these to similar ideas

The brain also doesn’t store information neurally and objectively. We reinvent and rewrite our memory every time we try to retrieve information. The brain works with rules of thumb and makes things look as if they fit, even if they don’t. It remembers events that never happened, connects unrelated episodes to convincing narratives and completes incomplete images. It cannot help but see patterns and meaning everywhere, even in the most random things (cf. Byrne, 2008). The brain, as Kahneman writes, is “a machine for jumping to conclusions” (Location 1649)

Tags: memory, brain

Note: .brain .memory the brain alters memories every time they are retrieved

Learning would be not so much about saving information, like on a hard disk, but about building connections and bridges between pieces of information to circumvent the inhibition mechanism in the right moment. It is about making sure that the right “cues” trigger the right memory, about how we can think strategically to remember the most useful information when we need it. (Location 1765)

Tags: retrieval, memory, learning

Note: we should focus on creating proper connections so that memories are easier to retrieve from various cues

Keywords should always be assigned with an eye towards the topics you are working on or interested in, never by looking at the note in isolation. (Location 1937)

Tags: notes

Note: .notes assign tags with the overarching them in mind

Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, stresses the importance of having a broad theoretical toolbox – not to be a good academic, but to have a good, pragmatic grip on reality. He regularly explains to students which mental models have proven most useful to help him understand markets and human behaviour. He advocates looking out for the most powerful concepts in every discipline and to try to understand them so thoroughly that they become part of our thinking. The moment one starts to combine these mental models and attach one’s experiences to them, one cannot help but gain what he calls “worldly wisdom.” The importance is to have not just a few, but a broad range of mental models in your head. Otherwise, you risk becoming too attached to one or two and see only what fits them. You would become the man with a hammer who sees nails everywhere (Location 2050)

Tags: mentalmodels

Note: .mentalmodels seek to understand key principles in a range of disciplines

If we practice learning not as a pure accumulation of knowledge, but as an attempt to build up a latticework of theories and mental models to which information can stick, we enter a virtuous circle where learning facilitates learning. (Location 2071)

Tags: learning, mentalmodels

Note: .mentalmodels .learning build mental models rather than simply building knowledge

We learn something not only when we connect it to prior knowledge and try to understand its broader implications (elaboration), but also when we try to retrieve it at different times (spacing) in different contexts (variation), ideally with the help of chance (contextual interference) and with a deliberate effort (retrieval). (Location 2089)

Tags: memory, learning

Note: .learning .memory link new info to existing knowledge and practice varied retrieval

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” (Steve Jobs) (Location 2098)

Tags: stevejobs, creativity

Note: .creativity .stevejobs creativity is linking existing things

One of the most famous figures to illustrate this skill is the mathematician Abraham Wald (Mangel and Samaniego 1984). During World War II, he was asked to help the Royal Air Force find the areas on their planes that were most often hit by bullets so they could cover them with more armour. But instead of counting the bullet holes on the returned planes, he recommended armouring the spots where none of the planes had taken any hits. The RAF forgot to take into account what was not there to see: All the planes that didn’t make it back. (Location 2193)

Tags: twitter

Note: .twitter

the long-term, cross-topic organization of notes, which is guided only by one’s own understanding and interest, (Location 2560)

Tags: notes

Note: .notes read whatever is of interest to you

Learning, thinking and writing should not be about accumulating knowledge, but about becoming a different person with a different way of thinking. This is done by questioning one’s own thinking routines in the light of new experiences and facts. (Location 2568)

Tags: learning

Note: learning is about getting different ways of thinking rather than stockpiling knowledge