Notes: Is this noteworthy?

In a response to The Dangerous Effects of Reading (an essay I highlighted in a previous note), nlawalker wrote the following comment on Hacker News.

His last point about noteworthiness is an incredibly useful way to avoid wasting time. I started curating and sharing notes on things that I read because I feel that doing so will not only help me retain and determine the usefulness of what I'm consuming, but also help others spend less time filtering through stuff.

I definitely agree about the "filtering crap from gold" bit. Once you reach a certain level of skill it can become a hindrance: you develop an extremely low tolerance for anything that doesn't catch you as interesting within a few seconds, and you start speed-reading absolutely everything. This is good in that you aren't wasting time consuming something that's not really useful, but it's bad in that you end up continuously subjecting yourself to input in this way. You can spend a whole day processing a million inputs, throwing them all away and learning nothing, when the alternatives are to spend your time doing something more fun or productive, or slowing down a bit and maybe actually getting a tidbit or two out of the first few hundred inputs and leaving the rest for another time.

A while ago, when I was reading for the purpose of focused learning (technical books, scouring blogs for information about some framework/API, etc.), I began the habit of taking copious notes. My notes are very wordy; it's almost like I'm having a conversation with myself and rephrasing ideas so I can understand them better. OneNote is my weapon of choice - for me it reduces the "barrier to entry" of starting notetaking because it's easy write now and organize later.

Over time, I realized that when I took notes this way, I had a much higher retention rate and a much greater understanding of what I was reading. So much so that when I find myself sitting at my desk or on the couch and "infosnacking," I try to stop and ask myself, "is what I am reading right now worth taking notes on?" If it is, then I start writing. If it's not, I make the effort to tear myself away and either do something that's more productive or something that I really enjoy.

Overwhelming Organizing

Don’t let things get to the stage where you need to catch up. The more behind you fall, the less likely you are to have the motivation to catch up. After that, things just snowball. That’s what happen with my bills. I have a habit of keeping everything organized in Quicken, and I’m very religious about it. Down to the penny religious. Everything is categorized so I know exactly where my money is going. I keep things reconciled on a monthly, sometimes even weekly, basis. OK, so that’s what I had been doing.

During the last few months of last year, I spent endless days working on building my shed and basement. During that time, I decided to let the organization and reconciling slip. I told myself I’d catch up in January. Well now it’s May and I have 6 months of reconciling and catching up to do. It’s overwhelming because I have so many different things going on; 4 credit cards, 2 bank accounts, 2 savings accounts, 1 brokerage account, 2 life insurance policies, 3 houses (bills), 10 tenants (invoices), a web hosting business with 18 clients (invoices), and 5 consulting clients (invoices) that I need to bill on a regular basis.

As you can see, things can get out of hand pretty quickly. Once everything is caught up with, it takes maybe 20 – 30 minutes a day to keep things organized and running smoothly. On the other hand, since I let things fall so far behind, it’s going to take me days to get things organized again.

Learn my lesson: stay organized and don’t let things fall far behind. If you are falling behind, keep in mind, the sooner you start, the less work you’ll have later. This applies to many things. Keeping up with your workout schedule/diet, and saving money come to mind.