Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: how to take smart notes

Housekeeping & Some Final Thoughts on my Latest Read

A little housekeeping this morning: I’ve been having some technical issues with my website lately, so while I take some time considering what to do, (where to host, whether I should keep my domain name, or just use the free wordpress site), I’m going to be posting to both for safety.

For my followers on the Roadrunner Musings, I’m back! I don’t have time to sit and play with it today, but I’ll be back to update the site in a couple days. Stay tuned!

And for those who have found me on michellehuelle.com, you might want to follow at Roadrunner Musings. I may end up keeping only that site in the future.

The sun is starting to show itself. How’s that for a special start to the day?


I have a confession. I’m not feeling it today. Feeling what? “It.” You know…that special pull that makes you want to get out of bed and attack the world with a smile. I’m feeling a little lost these days. But that’s normal for me. I’m typically cycle through great highs and pretty deep lows. The rhythm changes though, or maybe “frequency” is a better word. I’m thinking electronics here.

Remember when I started reading How to Take Smart Notes a few days ago and was considering not bothering to finish it? I finished it yesterday. What can I say? I’m afraid I’ll miss something grand if I quit. It’s probably the same reason I keep on living through the downs. If I quit life now…on purpose…I might miss something. Can’t have that!

It wasn’t a boring book, and it wasn’t super long, so I went ahead and steamed through. And I found something interesting.

“We reinvent and rewrite our memory every time we try to retrieve information. The brain works with rules of thumb and makes things look like they fit, even if they don’t. It remembers events that never happened, connects unrelated episodes to convincing narratives and completes incomplete images. It cannot help but see patterns and meaning everywhere, even in the most random things.”

From How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

Why are human minds so damn complicated? Sometimes it just seems like overkill. How in the world did we evolve this way? What purpose does it serve to make memory so unreliable?

Maybe it’s the thing that makes us “in the image of god,” this brain that sees patterns and meaning in everything. Is this what separates us from other animals? Is this the thing that gave us the edge and helped us to create our civilization?

All I do know is that my memory is not reliable. And that’s not just a getting older thing. Unless I take pictures or write things down, it will be lost. Even then, I know that much of what I believe I remember is distorted and warped by time. It’s part of why this blog is so important to me. Sometimes I read old posts of mine and have a hard time believing that I wrote them. I can’t count how many times I’ve come across pictures and stories of my past that I have no memory of happening. And don’t get me started on other people’s version of events we both experienced.

It makes me wonder. If we’re all like this, why do we fight over what we believe to be true? Why can’t we be slightly more rational and think, “You know…maybe I’m wrong” and live and let live?

Here’s another little gem I dug up.

“Learning itself requires deliberate practice, and I mean actual learning that helps to increase our understanding of the world, not just the learning that makes us pass a test.”

From How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

Personal effort. Sigh. Why is everything so hard?

Sorry for the down mood today, my friends. I considered not writing, or at least not posting, today but then I thought, “That’s not very authentic of you, Michelle. You should share the real you.” Back to the electronics analogy, I don’t have a limiter on my signal. You get the intact original signal here.

The good thing is that I know myself pretty well. I’ll be back on the upswing in no time. Nothing gets me down for long.

To end this post on an even better note, I started reading The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings by Jan Harold Brunvand this morning. You’re going to LOVE this one!

Real Learning is Connecting Dots Yourself

Real learning is connecting the dots between experience and information you encounter everywhere you go, all on your own. There is no age limit. From birth to death, this is how humans learn best.

Since I have a couple hot dates today, I’m heading out the door early, so I’ll have to keep these short and sweet today. That’s a good thing because I tried writing about this idea yesterday and it came out all preachy and annoying.

real learning

“But we know today that the more connected information we already have, the easier it is to learn, because new information can dock to that information.” From How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

This quote reminded me of why we homeschooled our boys the way we did. My husband and I didn’t do well in school in different ways, for different reasons. When the boys were very young, we started looking into alternative education models and found that people learn best from simply experiencing things. We decided to live without any kind of school for the first few years to see how it would work and the model stuck.

Instead of school, we lived with the boys right along side us. We went on adventures, read books, watched movies, and played. As parents, we were deliberately setting up the network of ideas and experiences that they would later hang all their learning on.

The older they got, the more involved they became with the direction we took. Which led to this quote.

Learning itself requires deliberate practice, and I mean actual learning that helps us increase our understanding of the world, not just the learning that makes us pass a test.” From How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens

Once they got to a certain age, they took to deliberate practice like ducks to water. I couldn’t stop them from diving deeper into anything that caught their eye. Music, dirt bikes, languages, and then cars, travel, and jobs. Now I find them reading classic literature and listening to podcasts.

College was a priority for one and travel for the other. Both have been done in ways it never occurred to me were possible.

Yeah, I’m taking the moment to plug the whole “life without school” idea. How can I not, especially now? Our lives were so much more beautiful because we took that step toward freedom. And when I read things like this, I’m reminded of how awesome it all was.

Go back to my first post, How to Take Smart Notes, for more thoughts inspired by this book.

How to Take Smart Notes

I started reading How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens yesterday. I picked it up months ago because it promised to help me better use a notecard system that I heard of last year.

how to take smart notes

You guys, I have to admit something. Choosing a new book to read off a very full set of TBR shelves is hard. What do you do if none of those books sound interesting at the moment you need to choose? They’re great books, all of them. At some point I wanted to read them so badly that I bought them and set them there like soldiers ready for battle.

I promised myself that I would not buy a book this month, and I’m hoping to not buy a book next month. My thinking is, if I restrict myself, maybe I’ll be forced to read the ones I have and begin emptying those shelves. I don’t like that many unread books sitting there. It makes me sad to see them waiting like that. Passed over and abandoned for no other reason than my capriciousness.

But then…what if I die next month?! Then I’ll be laying on my deathbed wondering why I wasted my last reading days on books I didn’t really want to read. I’ll be headed to the other side with regrets on my heart, books unpurchased and unread. It’s a conundrum for sure.

Don’t worry too much. I did choose one and started reading it yesterday morning. It’s called “How to Take Smart Notes” by Sönke Ahrens. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? I doubt I’ll be sending out many inspirational quotes from this one. What will I even come up with to comment on?

Hold on a moment. Is that why I read anything? Do I pick books in the hopes of getting your attention and admiration? I haven’t in the past. I usually read the books that grab my attention, the ones that move me closer to understanding the world or help me to learn new skills and ideas. THAT’S why it has been harder to pick a book from the TBR shelf lately. I’m choosing what might be interesting to YOU instead of me.

Like Mickey Mouse says in Fantasmic, “This is MY dream!”

I bought this little self-published book because it promised to help me better understand a note taking method that I had heard of and had been trying to use. I haven’t been very successful at it, but it looks like a brilliant way to organize all these seemingly random thoughts and I ideas I have while I read and listen to podcasts. It should help me write better articles in the future.

I feel bad saying this but…I’m not liking it. Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t a bad book. There is useful information in it. It is encouraging me to refine and continue using the note card system, but the writing isn’t grabbing me. I feel like they are repeating themselves and rambling too much. It could have been a nice long article, but as a book it feels stretched out.

I hate to give up on a book. There may be gems buried inside. Sometimes reading can be like hard rock mining, there is a cost to keep going. Will it be worth my time and effort? Will the resources I spend to get deeper result in finding the motherlode? I’ve decided to skim it instead of reading it too deeply. I’ll keep my eye out for gems and minimize my energy and time output.

I’m halfway through How to Take Smart Notes right now. Even if I don’t get what I came for, I’m sure I’ll find some small spark of inspiration. Let’s see what happens.

Want to read more posts inspired by this book? Check out,
Real Learning is Connecting Dots Yourself

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