A nerd's fetish for hoarding notes

You ever see those stupid note-taking apps out there?

Ok, alright, yes, I use some of them myself.

It's handy to take notes and organize them if you're a high-information personality. This is an old habit and quite a useful one when you need information on tap. Almost mandatory for such things as writing papers and dissertations and prep for teaching classes.

Read books. Take lots and lots of notes. Fine.

How much of that are you going to use?

Are you ever going to look into that 'second brain' again?

Be honest.

Here's the thing about productivity systems.

They're like the managers infesting bureaucracies.

While they have a stated purpose, the "mission statement" that goes on all the brochures, the purpose revealed in their actions is different:

Do what serves the interests of the managers.

More money for managers. More jobs for managers. Hire more managers. Hire managers to organize meetings for the mangers to talk about meetings to hire more managers at a future date to be decided by a meeting of managers.

It's a miracle that anything in the modern world functions at all.

Note taking turns into this if you let it.

The stated purpose of collecting and organizing ideas for the goal of creativity or productivity or whatever -ivity

Turns into the revealed goal of nerding out over note-taking apps.

Hoarding information for information's sake.

The "other stuff" you planned to do? Forget all that. Got to read this blog post comparing Roam to Notion to Obsidian to Logseq.

The notes, meanwhile, collect dust, forgotten as a Christmas present on New Year's Eve.

They end up in a box, box in the garage, never to be seen again

Have I described you? Here's a rule of thumb you might want to try for yourself.

Rather than writing dozens of pages of notes, highlighting every damn sentence in that book, try this:

Write down three things that you can do RIGHT NOW with what you just read.

You can be flexible on this. Maybe you get five things.

Maybe only one thing.

One might be preferable.

We get into this trap of thinking that more is better. More information, more facts, more data, more ideas, more more more.

Not so.

The wise person will aim for less.

Less items, but each with maximum leverage.

Big egos think that "knowing stuff" is the secret to being smart or wealthy or successful (whatever that means to you).

Nah. Knowing the most facts is a game for egotistical show-offs. I used to play that game myself until I realized that it is obnoxious, shallow, and pointless.

Today I care about one thing only:

What can I do with it?

If the answer is "not much", then I don't care. If it doesn't move me toward a result I don't care, it's irrelevant.

My goal isn't to know the most facts.

I want to achieve specific results in specific parts of my life.

I'd rather have a checklist of 5 things, or 3 things, or even one thing I can do right now.

Sometime this week anyway.

Knowing what to do and how to do it is far more valuable than dead information.

If I'm going to build a second brain, I want that joker to earn its keep with valuable skills.

And that's not all.

When I read, I'm not looking to absorb all the information.

I'm looking for ways to translate concepts into action steps.

Most every book has a 'secret action plan' hidden in it. Often more than one.

But you have to be perceptive. You have to start with action in mind. And you aren't going to see that if you're "taking notes" for no point but taking notes.

What's the result you want?

Answer that question and the what-to-do falls into place.

Be good & take it easy.

Matt Perryman

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