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Greg had an excellent short post on being slow. He highlights his joy of pen and a notebook specifically because it is slow. I use a notebook to write my initial book notes, for the same reason.
Yes I’ve tried pumping notes directly into Obsidian, and I get more words on the page but I was never convinced I got more words down that mattered.
One of the best things about using the Bullet Journal Method, is that when you don’t move a project forward to the next set of pages you’re voting that it’s not an important enough task to spend time on. I find the same idea goes for my book notes. If it feels like too much work to write down the idea in a book, it’s because I don’t think it’s a valuable enough idea to keep track of.
Based on what type of videos get the most views on YouTube, all people care about is whatever tool is new, and how to get information into their system. The videos where I talk about processing information, or taking less notes get far less views. I can only assume this is because people want to do this easy work of jamming more into their note system instead of doing the hard work of thinking about what they ingest and then producing something worthwhile with it.
The Value in Information
While I still think Tiago Forte fits more with the GTD crowd than the Zettelkasten crowd with his courses/books/writing The PARA Method did have an excellent insight on Page 165 where Forte says that the value in information doesn’t come from inputs, it comes from the outputs.
He rightly observes that you collecting more information doesn’t do anything for building your knowledge. All those articles you have saved in a Read Later service, do nothing for you. All those books on your shelf that remain unread aren’t knowledge that you have, they’re wall art1 and you’d gain just as much knowledge as purchasing books by the foot from a decorator.
This accurate observation is one that’s frustrating for me personally as videos I do about collecting more, or some new tool for collection far outperform any video I’ve done about thinking better or not changing tools just sticking with what you have and getting some words on paper to share your knowledge.
The thing is, collection is easy. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that you’re making progress when you try a new tool or check out some new workflow for grabbing information. But you’re fooling yourself.
Knowledge is gained when you try to remix your notes. When you share what you’ve learned with someone else and had a substantive dialogue about that knowledge.
So…don’t be happy you have 5000 notes, or 500 notes. Be happy and proud of the output you’ve shared from your notes because that’s all that matters.
Choose what is important to you
Continuing on my series on thinking better, and having more thinking time, let’s talk about what’s important to you.
When you want more time to do anything you must realize that you can’t “make time” because you don’t have a time machine, nor can you “find time” because it’s not change in the pocket of your winter coat waiting to surprise you when the seasons turn and you get back to that neglected pocket. We all have 168 hours a week to do stuff that we find important, and all you can do is choose to spend time on what you find important.
This year I made a choice that I wasn’t going to read 52 books in the year, I was going to ride my bike more. I could look at my 24 books read thus far and lament the breaking of a 10-year streak, but I don’t because I made a choice about where I was going to spend my time.
People will tell you all the time what is important to them, and then in the next breath tell you they don’t have any time to do that important thing. All that really says to me is that they don’t value it enough to give up other stuff so that they can do said important thing.
Is that you?
It’s also important to recognize that there are seasons in your life. When all my children were under 10, I had less time to do things for myself because the kids needed more tending to ensure they didn’t injure themselves. If you’ve got a bunch of little kids, you simply have less time than I do with only one child under 10. That means you have less available time to do the things that are important to you.
In that season, be okay with not getting to hours of thinking time. Spend time with your kids and your partner and realize that as your kids get older you’ll have some more time.
You also can’t always be “productive”, you have a finite amount of time you can focus on hard material. A couple nights a week I realize that I’m just a bit dead for hard thinking so instead of reading anything I pull out my Steamdeck and play an hour or so of the current game I’m enjoying. I don’t end up zoned out spending hours playing video games, I’m intentional about doing something I enjoy instead of trying to force deep thoughts out of me when there is nothing left to give in a day.
What is important to you?
What season of life are you in?
Are you generally purposeful with your time in a week? No one is perfect so let yourself off the hook of perfection.
Dan Allosso shared some thoughts on chapter 1 of How to Read a Book. I think How to Read a Book is just as important to read as any other book in the PKM space.
When you’re writing, ignore your worst readers. There is nothing you can do to appease or instruct the worst readers out there. They are going to misappropriate what you say and misconstrue everything to suit their own needs.
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- Yes I also have lots of books and purchase more than I can read so my collection continues to grow. This is fine, but are you reading any of them? Are you making progress on reading your books? If not…wall art. ↩