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80 How-To Sites Worth Bookmarking

80 How-To Sites Worth Bookmarking

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    Sitting on my dining room table, I currently have half a dozen projects in various states of doneness. Some involve vivisected computer parts, others will eventually be wearable and a few are just cool things I’ve ran across on the internet. I like doing things myself — I think the DIY bug is one of the best communicable diseases in the lifehack community.

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    These eighty sites are the places I turn to when I’m trying to figure out how to accomplish any particular goal. Any time I’m facing a new project, I start searching for how-tos that will help me figure out how other people did similar things and how likely I am to finish the project with all ten fingers still intact. I’ve broken them up into a few different categories, just to help you narrow down what you might be looking for. Some are simply archives full of tutorials. Some are blogs that publish how-tos fairly regularly. Some are just great resource sites. But they all have provided me with the information necessary to carry through on a project.

    Every How-To They Can Get Their Hands On

    These ten sites are more than happy to host any how-to around. I’ve seen everything from computer hardware hacks to instructions for brewing beer on these sites. This is the place to start — you can narrow down your search as you get a better idea of your project.

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    1. Make Magazine’s Blog
    2. Instructables
    3. How Stuff Works
    4. Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
    5. wikiHow
    6. flickr
    7. Lifehacker
    8. DIY Happy
    9. Expert Village

    Become a Technophile in Ten Easy Steps

    Each of these sites focuses primarily on providing the hacks you need to make sure that you have the best hardware and software around. One word of warning: you might run across some obsolete answers to your questions in the archives. Software how-tos don’t age as well as tips on building new furniture

    1. Hack A Day
    2. Hack This Site
    3. I Hacked
    4. Hacked Gadgets
    5. Make Use Of
    6. HacksZine
    7. LifeClever
    8. Web Worker Daily
    9. Tipstrs

    Habitat Hacks You Can Live With

    If you’re ready to make your home a little more customized, these sites will walk you through projects ranging from building furniture to home theaters for beginners. Remember, when it comes to your landlord, begging forgiveness is probably easier than asking for permission.

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    1. Ikea Hacker
    2. DIY Ideas
    3. Home Doctor
    4. Acme How To
    5. Hints N Tips
    6. Ready Made
    7. FlyLady
    8. This Old House
    9. Home Tips

    Dining on a DIY Diet

    Frugality gurus and health nuts alike advocate making your own food. Very few of us have access to either Grandma or a professional chef willing to walk us through the steps of homemade food, though. It’s time to turn to a few how-tos and recipes that can help us out.

    1. Cooking for Engineers
    2. Bakers Banter
    3. The Pioneer Woman Cooks
    4. Epicurious
    5. The Amateur Gourmet
    6. Culinary Media Network
    7. 101 Cookbooks
    8. Gourmet Magazine
    9. Simply Recipes
    10. Open Source Food

    Sewing and Other ‘Feminine Arts’

    It seems like most crafters are have two X chromosomes, but there’s no reason to count out knitting just because you have a Y chromosome. Heck, even Rosey Grier, defensive linebacker for the LA Rams, knitted some nice scarves.

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    1. TipNut
    2. Craft Magazine’s Blog
    3. Craft Stylish
    4. Craftster
    5. Craftform
    6. WiseNeedle
    7. GetCrafty
    8. Crafttown
    9. Design Your Life
    10. Geek Crafts

    Doing Business Your Way

    Looking for some instructions on getting your business going a little faster? These sites have all sorts of tips, how-tos and ideas for getting your business up to speed. Keep in mind, though, that not every business is the same. Different businesses have different needs when if comes to growing.

    1. Productivity101
    2. 43Folders
    3. LifeDev
    4. Biz Plan Hacks
    5. Freelance Switch
    6. Anywired
    7. Young Entrepreneur
    8. Bootstrapping
    9. Copyblogger

    Hack Your Wallet and What’s In It

    No matter how you earn your money, keeping those dollars in your hands can be a struggle. Plenty of sites offer tips, tricks and tutorials to help you do just that — beyond improving your earning power, these sites can help you keep what you already have.

    1. Frugal Hacks
    2. WiseBread
    3. Get Rich Slowly
    4. The Simple Dollar
    5. The Motley Fool
    6. Five Cent Nickel
    7. Mighty Bargain Hunter
    8. Money Hacks
    9. Dividend Money

    Get Your Brain to the Optimal Level

    Not all projects have a clear end result. There are plenty of opportunities to improve how you approach new tasks, study for tests and generally use your brain. Personally, these projects are often my favorites: I don’t need lots of tools to carry them out and I can often use them to help my approach to other projects entirely.

    1. Dumb Little Man
    2. Zen Habits
    3. Mind Hacks
    4. Hack College
    5. Study Hacks
    6. The Growing Life
    7. Life Optimizer
    8. Lesson in Life
    9. GTD Times

    There are millions of sites out on the web with tutorials, instructions and tips for just about every project you dream up — not necessarily a site that can tell you how to do what you have planned, but definitely one that can give you a starting point. These eighty sites are just that — a starting point. These are places worth looking when you have a specific project in mind, sites that can get you started on your plans. Oh, and there’s one more that’s worth checking: LifeHack. I’d be horribly remiss if I didn’t mention this site: it’s an amazing resource when you’re trying to decide how to tackle a new project.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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