This is the number one book I wished I had read ten years ago, ideally before I started university. Describes a system for the managing of ones own thoughts and ideas, and does it in plain English. Turned me onto the importance of understanding metalearning/metacognition.
- It is better to develop our Ideas bottom up, not top down.
- It is through doing work in the right way that interesting questions emerge.
- We bump into Ideas all the time, we must collect them to gain a critical mass and begin generating our own.
- Tools are only as good as our ability to work with them
- Good structures set us up to enable Flow - everything else fades away when we trust the structure, allowing us to concentrate on the important thing at hand.
- Some people ship more than others. We can make all sorts of excuses for why they can and we can't, but really it comes down to the Systems that they employ that are better than ours.
- Only when you trust your system is when your brain can let go.
- There is no such thing as starting from scratch. We all come to the table with something, the question is whether or not we bring something reliable and valuable that can be accessed and processed with ease.
- Creativity depends on the ability to switch between a wide-open playful mind and a narrow analytical frame. If we are inflexiblly one or the other, we will either never have exciting ideas or never actually produce anything of note.
- Groundbreaking Creativity does not spring from nowhere, it emerges slowly over time, with incremental improvement, so long as it is ushered in the right direction, with the right impetus, and with the right structures to support it.
- While multitasking makes us feel more productive, we actually get less done. Turns out, there is no such thing as Multitasking anyway. We actually shift between tasks rapidly - or 'multishift' - and each shift we make fatigues us. We therefore do less and it makes us more tired than simply focusing on one thing at a time until done.
- Notes should always be fleeting and processed within a day so that they retain their value and they can be assigned on the basis of their context
- Notes should be stored in the place you want to stumble upon them again, not where they were found. It's like going shopping and storing your new jeans and your fresh pasta in the same drawer, because you bought them together. Better to put the jeans in the closet and the pasta in the kitchen cupboard.
- Better to err on the side of caution and write it down. But it must always be processed afterwards, otherwise it is essentially pointless and worthless.
- The main work is not writing the notes, but rather to be thinking and Reading and coming up with new connections.
- Good readers are able to think beyond the frames of the text itself and consider what is not said or not argued. Concepts, ideas and arguments can be important by omission as much as inclusion.
- Our ability to create anew is as much about our ability to break old Habits as it is to coming up with new ideas.
- The Zeigarnik Effect: open tasks tend to occupy our short term memory until they are done. So, if we can forget, delegate, complete or otherwise set-aside our open tasks, we will be better able to focus. In other words, take the damn note. #Effects #How T
- The Feature-Positive Effect is where we overstate the importance of information that is readily available to us, therefore tilting us towards the most recently-acquired facts, not the most relevant ones.
- We remember best the things that we understand, because to understand them properly we must naturally connect and link them with other contextually useful information. For example, the differences between veins and arteries
- How we organise our Thoughts is incredibly important because it is the foundation on which all of our other work rests, whether we want to admit it or not.
- People that believe they are Open Minded often aren't. This happens because they often stick with their first impression in the belief that they are not affected by Biases, therefore they have no need to counterbalance them.
- Success does not come from having 'Willpower' or 'grit' - it comes from working in an environment with very little resistance, where you have learned how to deflect and remove it. A bit like Bruce Lee's 'be like water'.
- Writing is not the result of our work, Research and Learning - it is the medium through which it takes place. (So, we should be writing more.)
- The key to successful writing lies in continuous, successful preparation that allows us to assemble our thoughts at a later date.
- Writing is not a linear process. It can go down many avenues and will produce unexpected results.
- Writing is actually an umbrella term for many different and distinct skills, such as reading, noting, summarising, drafting, proofreading and so on.
- An expert is not a planner. If a planner is struck by inspiration, their plans are thrown off and things are ruined. For the expert, this is the exciting part.
- Having a structure is not 'having a plan' - plans do not account for Inspiration striking and associations happening. Nor is it a mess - there is direction, but flexibility.
- Don't make Plans, become an Expert.
- Wisdom comes not from just knowing a thing, but from our ability to make sense of what we encounter through our own schemas of interpretation. Better to learn from the experience of others; learning from experience, then, is a terrible way to learn (there are many things that neither you nor I would want to learn from experience).
- The Brain is unreliable. It's impossible to think systematically without writing anything down.
- Simple structures allow complex Content.
- The Hermeneutic Circle describes the process of understanding a text [hermeneutically](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeneutics). It refers to the idea that one's understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to the individual parts and one's understanding of each individual part by reference to the whole. Neither the whole text nor any individual part can be understood without reference to one another, and hence, it is a circle. However, this circular character of interpretation does not make it impossible to interpret a text; rather, it stresses that the meaning of a text must be found within its cultural, historical, and literary context.
- Handwriting forces us to think and understand because it only gives us limited time to get across the gist of things.
- The Dunning-Krueger Effect applies, where we lack insight into our own limitations. Before we are aware of the value and depth of taking good notes, we think we're fine.
- The Mere-Exposure Effect is where we think we are good at something simply because we have done it many times, although this might not necessarily be true. We confuse familiarity with skill. Bornstein 1989.
- Survivorship Bias or survival bias is the error of focusing only on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because we can't see them. This can lead us to incorrect conclusions. (For example, RAF planes that returned versus those that did not.)
- Our ability to be creative relies on the ability to make abstractions. That is, to liberate our thoughts and ideas from their original context and apply them elsewhere.
- You should focus relentlessly on what you find interesting, both widely and on a narrow basis. It leads to greater motivation, more fun, it's more enjoyable and gives more focus.
- If we try to answer a question before we even know how to, our answer will later be remember better than if we had tried to answer if after understanding.
- It's hard to break a way of thinking unless you are aware that it is, indeed, a certain way of thinking.
- Gain insight, then make it public. Otherwise, what's the point?
'Notes on paper, or on a computer screen ... do. not make contemporary physics or other kinds of intellectual endeavour easier, they make it possible ... no matter. how internal processes are implemented [you] need to understand the extent to which the mind is reliant upon external scaffolding' Levy 2011
'Every individual endeavour starts with a note' p1
'They [writers] struggle because they believe, as they are made to believe, that writing starts with a blank page' p3
'It is no so important who you are, but what you do. Doing the work required and doing it in a smart way leads, somehow unsurprisingly, to success.' p4
'Having a clear structure to work in is completely different from making plans about something. If you make a plan, you impose a structure on yourself; it makes you inflexible. To keep going according to plan, you have to push yourself and employ willpower.' p6
'How do you plan for insight, which, by definition, cannot be anticipated?' p6
'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.' p10
'My project: theory of society. Duration: 30 years. Costs: zero.' -Luhmann p14
'Most people do not expect much from simple ideas. They rather assume that impressive results must have equally impressively complicated means.' p18
'We need a reliable and simple external structure to think in that compensates for the limitations of our brains.' p20
'The more you become interested in something, the more you will read and think about it, the more notes you will read and think about it, the more notes you will collect and the more likely it is that you will generate questions from it. It might be exactly what you were interested in from the beginning, but it is more likely that your interests will have changed - that is what insight does.' p25
'Imagine if we went through life learning only what we planned to learn or being explicitly taught. I doubt we would have learned to speak. ... The best ideas are the ones we haven't anticipated anyway.' p27
'An idea kept private is as good as one you never had'. p36
'We tend to call extremely slow writers, who always try to write as if for print, perfectionists. Even though it sounds like praise for extreme professionalism, it is not: a real professional would wait until it was time for proofreading, so he or she can focus on one thing at a time.' p62
'You should never ask the teachers of paramedics for help if you find yourself in the admittedly unlikely situation where you can choose who should perform CPR on you.' p65
'Nonage [immaturity] is the inability to use one's own understanding without another's guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one's own mind without another's guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere Aude.)' Kant 1784, p83
'If you can't say it clearly, you don't understand it yourself.' John Searle. p85
'The gift of being able to remember everything is a serious liability.' p100
'Learned right, which means understanding, which means connecting in a meaningful way to previous knowledge, information almost cannot be forgotten anymore and will be reliably retrieved if triggered by the right cues. ... If you focus your time and energy on understanding, you cannot help but learn.' p105
'Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they just feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something.' Steve Jobs. p121
'Creative people are better at recognising relationships, making associations and connections and seeing things in an original way - seeing things that others cannot see.' Andreason 2014
'Writing itself makes you realise where there are holes in things. I'm never sure what I think until I see what I write. And so I believe that, even though you're an optimist, the analysis part of you kicks in when you sit down to construct a story or paragraph or sentence. You think, 'oh, that can't be right.' and you have to go back, and you have to rethink it all.' Carol Loomis. p132.