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Wikify Your Life: How to Organize Everything

Wikify Your Life: How to Organize Everything
Wedding plans

    In our lives we have all kinds of information that we need to keep track of — to-do lists, gift ideas, books we want to read, exercise or food logs, a budget, phone numbers, a weekly schedule, our goals — the list is endless. The problem is finding a good place to keep all of that information — the usual mode is to have these lists and logs and schedules scattered all over the place, but that is chaos.

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    If you want to be organized, put all you’re life’s info in one place. And if you need a great tool to do that, look no further than a personal wiki.

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    Wikis are everywhere, many are free, they’re easy to use, flexible as anything, an perfectly accessible anywhere, or portable if you want to take them on a USB thumb drive. Put everything into your personal wiki, and you’ll never have to look around for anything again.

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    What can you put into a wiki? Anything you can think of, including images and links to other types of files. Here are some great uses for a personal wiki:

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    • To-do lists: In fact, you can easily do a simple GTD, wiki style. GTD (the written part of it, at least) is just a bunch of lists. Many GTD programs have gotten pretty fancy, but at the heart, it’s just lists. Wikis do lists great. You could have a page with all your context lists, and next to each action, simply put an internal link to the name of the project, and voila — you’ve created a project page. So one page for all your context lists (and someday/maybe) and separate pages for each project. Simple and easy.
      To-do
      • Wish lists: What books, cd, DVDs, games, toys and gadgets you want. Make separate lists for each type of thing, or one great big “If I Were a Millionaire, I’d Own Everything on this List” list.
      • Gift ideas: birthdays or Christmas still months away? If you’ve got an idea, sock it away on this list and come back for it later.
      • Checklists: Never forget anything again. Create checklists for every common thing you undertake, at work or in your personal life, and store them all in your wiki. Packing lists, party planning checklists, chores lists, project checklists … you get the picture.
      • Reading list: I keep a list of all the books I read, along with a list of the books I have lined up to read next.
      • Logs: I like to keep logs of my exercise, but you could do a food diary, spending log, or anything really. If you’re working on a goal or habit, keeping track of them is one of the best ways to get there.
      • Goals: Write out your top goals for the year, and then under that, your mini-goals for this month. Then, of those mini-goals, what tasks you’re going to complete this year. This personal wiki will make your dreams come true.
      • Diary: I like to do a one-sentence journal. It’s easy, fast, and it’s nice to be able to look back on what happened in my life. I was never good at keeping a journal until I hit upon the one-sentence journal idea. Now it’s a habit, and one that’s vastly rewarding.
        Contacts
        • Contacts: Haven’t found an ideal contact manager? Just use a wiki. Easy to add new stuff, searchable, simple.
        • Workspace: If you use multiple computers, a wiki is a great place to do your work, accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
        • Collaborate: A wiki page can be shared with a number of users, all of whom can be authorized to make changes, making a wiki a great way to work on a project with a group.
        • Bookmarks: Save your favorite sites, organize them by categories, and have it all in your personal wiki.
        • Snippets of text: find something useful on the web, or in a document? Paste it here to look up and use later.
          Vacation plans
          • Reference: If you have stuff you’ll definitely look up later, either for personal use or in a project, create a wiki reference page.
          • Plan: plan a wedding, party, event, vacation, home repairs, anything.

          These are just a few examples. You can probably think of a lot more.

          Where do you go if you want to create a wiki? There are hundreds of wikis on the web. Here are a few places to look to start you out:

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          Leo Babauta

          Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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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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