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Blog Action Day Revisited

Blog Action Day Revisited

Monday the 15th October saw the Blog Action Day project begin. Kicking things off with the very and, maybe always, timely topic of the environment.

In my mind, it was a success. And to celebrate how much the blogging community got on board, I want to share some of the best posts that came out of Blog Action Day.

Blog Action Day Stats

Seven tips for how simultaneously to boost your happiness and safeguard the environment (in your own small way) by The Happiness Project suggests some simple practices to make you feel better about yourself and the environment.

Leveraging Ideas suggests there may be an environmental impact from virtual worlds such as SecondLife in Environmental Concerns In Virtual Worlds.

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GearFire Student Productivity has 6 tips to save on the electricity your computer uses while hinting to taking public transport while away from the monitor in 7 Ways To Conserve Precious, Precious Electricity.

Cranking Widgets’ Tips For Environmentally Friendly GTD are using either recycled paper, digital tools instead of paper, or at least using the entire sheet of paper!

On a similar note is Kate Davis’ idea of Using GTD To Reduce Negative Environmental Impacts. After all, GTD is for everything and everybody.

Want to start Getting To Know Your Environment? David Seah tells you how:

More importantly with regards to me, I need to live in it. Even more specifically, I need to be aware of it. From a purely selfish reason, there may be secrets in the Environment that will help me in much the same way that hike through Winchester opened my eyes to just how much more glorious Nature could be, and how I could be bound with it.

If you work from home you may already be doing your part saving the environment, says Success From The Nest as Simply Thrifty talks about your water usage.

Lifehacker has some Easy Ways To Live Greener with software, tips and hacks. If you want to put your two cents in they have a poll for each idea.

Leo at ZenHabits goes all out giving us 5 Ways To Save the World, While Getting Fitter, Saving Money, Simplifying, and Becoming Happier. The topic was only the environment, right?! :)

Scott H Young goes a similar route with Save The World And Improve Your Health At The Same Time. His final suggestion to Get Involved is a vital element when discussing any of these posts. What good is a Blog Day without the Action?

If you think your job can’t be friendly to our environment, then check out Top 5 reasons green workplaces make their employees happy at work by the Chief Happiness Officer Alex Kjerulf.

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Ririan simplifies things again with 10 Simple Ways You Can Save the Planet and Money while The Positivity Blog has 20 Simple Ways to Help the Environment by Using Your Computer.

The Dumb Little Man himself, Jay White, shows us a few Items You Never Thought To Recycle like car batteries and shoes. Pst, have you noticed I’m just recycling blog posts?

Freelance Folder’s How We Can Help Save The Earth drew upon stats, Jon’s own environmental tips as well as a plethora of Blog Action Day resources like this one. Apparently only 3-5% of plastics are recycled in any way!

Get into the habit of things with OrganizeIT and 20 Tips For Laying The Foundations Of Your Environmentally Friendly Habit.

LifeDev has some controversial suggestions like If It’s Yellow Let It Mellow, If It’s Brown Flush It Down. There are indeed Small Changes In Your Bathroom, Big Benefits For The Environment.

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The environmental wellness principle is a term that I’m going to coin right now. If you aren’t benefiting the environment, you’re harming it. It’s as simple as that. If you’re reading this, you have internet access, which means you know, or can easily find out, many ways to be environmentally friendly. The only thing that remains is to choose benefit over harm.

That’s a big call from Alex Shalman, but we understand what he’s saying. It’s that old ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’ mentality that is very warranted in this day and age.

blog action day

On that note, we end with Dustin’s excellent post over here at Lifehack.org called You The Consumer. It includes a brief history of consumerism as well as a checklist for those of us trying to become better shoppers, environmentalists, human beings.

Please feel free to add your own favorites. Over 20,000 blogs participated so be sure to check out BlogActionDay.org to read about them all.

It’s almost a week on, how do you think it went? What have you been doing in response? What are your suggestions for next year?

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More by this author

Craig Childs

Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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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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