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Eighteen Ways to Invest in Life

Eighteen Ways to Invest in Life
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    Do you invest your money? Putting away a portion of your income into an investment plan creates more money later. With interest rates and financial pundits it is easy to see why financial investment makes sense.

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    But what about investment in other areas? Do you invest in your time, brain, body or space? What about investments in the books you read and friends you meet? Although few areas of life have the precision of an investment account, applying investment principles to other situations can have incredible gains.

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    Here are a few started points to consider your investment into life:

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    1. Mind. How much time do you spend learning? Not just studying for mandatory courses, but subjects you seek out only to learn. You can’t predict the value new information will have until you learn it. So pick up a book and start investing in your brain.
    2. Body. Until medical science allows full body transplants, your stuck with your body for awhile. Putting in the right investments of exercise and healthy eating will ensure it can pay out later. Extra energy, less sick days, increased mobility and a longer life are just a few of the returns.
    3. Skills. What skills may come in handy later? Knowing how to prepare your taxes? How to fix your computer? PHP? Spend a half hour each day investing into a skill.
    4. Order. A small amount of time spent creating an organizing system can save dozens of hours otherwise lost. A simple system to order your tasks and office will keep mess from compounding.
    5. Tools. Need to upgrade your computer? Or maybe you just need to do a quick reformat to clean out the hard drive. Craftsmen keep their tools sharp, why not yours?
    6. Writing. Do your e-mails look like they were written by a thirteen year old on an instant messenger chat screen? Writing isn’t going away any time soon, so learn to communicate clearly in print.
    7. Network. Building a professional and private circle of friends is something you can’t do on demand. It takes considerable upfront investment, often when you don’t really need it. But having an extended network can give you access points to opportunities later.
    8. Communication. How are your speaking skills? Can you do a fantastic cold call? Are you good at talking to strangers? How about empathizing with a friend? Find opportunities to invest in your communication skills.
    9. Stories. Are you living a life worth talking about? I like to see interesting experiences as being investments in stories later. Do something worthy of telling stories later.
    10. Courage. Make getting uncomfortable a habit. If you regularly flex your emotional muscles in handling new situations you are better prepared for when you really need to. You don’t need to take huge steps, just small investments.
    11. Work Ethic. Invest in creating the character traits to get stuff done. Investing in these core traits are easier because the act of investment is useful in itself. While exercising at the gym may lead to a healthy body it doesn’t create new value. Finishing projects, building discipline and developing a productivity system will invest in a work ethic while adding value.
    12. Leaky Faucets. The drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet can waste huge amounts of water over time. But water loss isn’t the only type of leaky faucet you can encounter. If a problem is small but likely to reappear, fixing it immediately can save enormous costs later.
    13. Habits. Your regular routine is an often neglected but incredibly important aspect to consider. You can’t turn yourself into a robot, but you can take simple steps to ensure your daily activities flow smoothly. Eating habits, sleeping habits, work habits and your daily rituals all contribute to your life.
    14. Strong Connections. Networking isn’t just about adding names to a Rolodex or a Blackberry. Having close professional and private bonds can be an incredible asset. Investing in empathy, listening and softer, more passive, skills can be an incredible asset in making you a people person.
    15. Rest. Frustrated stress is an emotional debt. Although it’s good to have a challenge you also need to invest in your psychological well-being. Finding outlets for frustrations and creating rituals to recover your energy can ensure you don’t accumulate debt payments later.
    16. Basics. Invest in the areas of your life that come up frequently. If mastered, basic skills, routines and places can reduce the amount of work you need to do. Basic skills such as cooking, reading, exercising and listening all benefit from investments.
    17. Appearance. You could definitely argue that the world is far too shallow, and I’d have to agree. But your appearance and attire is a subtle form of communication about yourself. So if you’ve been sporting the four day stubble and your shirt has one too many holes, maybe it’s time to invest in that first layer of communication.
    18. Business. Anyone who tells you that running an online business or self-employment is easy is either a liar or a fake. That being said, working on your entrepreneurial skills has advantages that go beyond money. Besides doing something you love, you can make new connections, build a reputation and immerse yourself in an environment of learning. I know many people that have started businesses, and while it definitely takes work, the investment is usually worth it.

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    Scott H Young

    Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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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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