How to Take Smart Notes

How to Take Smart Notes

Metadata

  • Author: [[Sönke Ahrens]]
  • Full Title: How to Take Smart Notes
  • Category: #books

Highlights

  • Multitasking is not a good idea If more than one thing tries to catch your attention, the temptation is great to look at more than one thing at the same time – to multitask. Many people claim to be quite good at multitasking. For some, it is one of the most important skills to cope with today’s informational overload. It is a common belief that the younger generations are better at it, that it even comes naturally to them as they grew up among the attention-seeking new media. And studies show that those who claim to multitask a lot also claim to be very good at it. Those interviewed in these studies do not see their productivity impaired by it. On the contrary, they think it’s improved. But they usually don’t test themselves in comparison with a control group. Psychologists who interviewed the multitaskers did test them instead of just asking. They gave them different tasks to accomplish and compared their results with another group that was instructed to do only one thing at a time. The outcome is unambiguous: While those who multitasked felt more productive, their productivity actually decreased – a lot (Wang and Tchernev 2012; Rosen 2008; Ophir, Nass, and Wagner 2009). Not only the quantity but also the quality of their accomplishments lagged significantly behind that of the control group.

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  • The good news is that we can train ourselves to stay focused on one thing for longer if we avoid multitasking, remove possible distractions and separate different kinds of tasks as much as possible so they will not interfere with each other.

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  • While the estimations of our long-term memory capacity are wildly diverse and rather speculative, psychologists used to tend to agree on a very specific number when it came to short-term memory: We can hold a maximum of seven things in our head at the same time, plus/minus two (Miller 1956).

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  • The brain doesn’t distinguish between an actual finished task and one that is postponed by taking a note.

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  • Reading, especially rereading, can easily fool us into believing we understand a text. Rereading is especially dangerous because of the mere-exposure effect: The moment we become familiar with something, we start believing we also understand it. On top of that, we also tend to like it more (Bornstein 1989). While it is obvious that familiarity is not understanding, we have no chance of knowing whether we understand something or just believe we understand something until we test ourselves in some form. If we don’t try to verify our understanding during our studies, we will happily enjoy the feeling of getting smarter and more knowledgeable while in reality staying as dumb as we were. This warm feeling disappears quickly when we try to explain what we read in our own words in writing. Suddenly, we see the problem.

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