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I sometimes come across good advice like 11 Essential Habits for Success or How To Listen Effectively, and I can't use it immediately but I like it enough to want to keep it around.

However, if I just file it into my archive (A-Z folders) I can be pretty sure to never see it again because I won't remember to look it up when I need it.

What are effective ways to store information like this and being exposed to it so that eventually it becomes part of how I function?

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How do you currently store good advices? – Renan Jun 19 '12 at 13:11
I asked a similar question a while ago that may have some useful answers and comments. – Kyle Hayes Jun 20 '12 at 15:23

10 Answers 10

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Where do you currently keep data you wish to see?

For me, spaced repetition is critical to internalize anything.

I put a lot of stuff on flashcards that magically goes to my phones, tablets, and interwebs.

I still have to consciously spin through my flashcards, but that's become a habit while standing in line, waiting for a long build process, other random, otherwise-empty moments.

I have a few different stacks: life-related, current-task(s)-related, various studying goals.

I also use wikis and mind mapping to great effect; some wikis have "show me a random page" and I'll spin through a few pages fairly frequently. Doing that also gives me an "info gardening" nudge to improve content, improve organization, etc. of whatever I see.

(Caveat: I'm a developer; I customize wiki and mind-mapping software (customized FreeMind for mapping, XWiki and/or Confluence for wiki) to add random functionality I might want–not an option for everyone, but some functionality can be added to some apps via plugins/etc.)

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+1 You should definitely make it part of your system you already use. If you don't already have one, check out Evernote. – scientifics Jun 19 '12 at 15:45
So if I understand you correctly, you digest good advice and anything else you need to remember down to flash cards and then you read flashcards when you have spare time? When do you remove a flashcard from your stack? Any good links to flashcard software you use? – w00t Jun 20 '12 at 10:07
@w00t Well, I aggregate info in multiple forms; flashcards are for the things I specifically want to ingrain relatively quickly. I have multiple stacks, and flashcard programs that do formalized spaced repetition will remove it from the stack/reduce cards' frequencies as it becomes learned. If I remove it manually it's because I either don't care, don't believe it's useful to drill it, etc. For me, any software that does spaced repetition and can import from various sources is fine. – Dave Newton Jun 20 '12 at 11:12
I agree 100% with the spaced repetition method. I use Anki for this. – dotancohen Jun 28 '12 at 19:16

I think the key here is "being exposed to it so that eventually it becomes part of how I function?". If you never cull your online bookmarks or go through the things you've saved to ReadtItLater, you're in the same boat as you are with your file cabinet. Conversely, given the habit of reviewing/purging on a regular basis, you'll be exposed to it whether it's in a paper or electronic filing system.

Personally, I use SpringPad. As I go through my day, I add interesting links & bits of information...advice, things I want to buy, movies I need to see, etc...into springpad. At the end of the day or the beginning of the next (whenever I go through and revise my to-do list, I review the batch of "recently added" (I think they default into an "uncategorized" bucket) add the relevant tags, and quite often, eliminate a few--like the link for a new messenger bag that I wanted, but realized I don't NEED.

More importantly, as I'm going through and reviewing my tags, I am exposing myself to previously stored content, reminding myself of what's there, and if there's something that I need to get to or want to review, I can just add a tag for "immediate action" or something, just to remind myself to look at it.

That's worked pretty well for me...but only if I DO it. While reliability and access are important factors in any data/knowledge management system, be it paper or electronic, it's only worthwhile if you USE it. Find a system that's easy and intuitive for you to use. Then develop the discipline to USE it. Take a different paper folder on the train with you every day to work, and eventually you'll be cycling through purges and reviews. Read a link aggregator on lunch every day and tag things for future review or deletion. Once the habit develops, you'll find yourself managing your information a LOT better.

Good luck!

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So you regularly review everything you stored under your tags? Isn't that a lot of information? Don't you get desensitized to it? – w00t Jun 20 '12 at 10:11
I don't review ~everything~, but as I categorize things daily, I see the items that on my lists. I rely on the cocktail party effect ( to guide me to important things for NOW. I review tags/notebooks every few days...not on any set schedule, but more "I've not looked at the bokos I want to read in a while." I useSpringPad as a to-do list, and have just disciplined myself to not be desensitized and work with it daily to keep it relevant. It's a lot of information, but this works for me to break it into manageable chunks. – dwwilson66 Jun 20 '12 at 10:30

Either I use a knowledge managment software or if it is just a single lonely link and you don't want to add personal notes a bookmarks tagging software like delicious. It also shows you the bookmarks in chronological order.

I explained here how I would tag references/links to find them again fast. Don't use only thematic tags like in a folder system, use 4-6 tags for your links above, e.g. productivity howto career article 2012 frequent/important/interesting. Use the tags also to rate the links.

Sometimes I save the website additionally with ScrapBook, if it is a important and timeless piece of information to me. If it is just a longer article and I don't have the time during the week to read it, I save it with Read It Later for the weekend. (All mentioned addons exist afaik for Chrome/FF)

btw: thanks for the links ;)

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The others have provided some solid advice. The only thing I'd like to add/stress is only implementing advice one strategy at a time. If you're a moderately fast reader, this means you'll be consuming more information than you'll be able to effectively implement. When you find advice that you'd like to practice, make it your goal for that week, or even month, to implement it. It isn't unusual for people to give up or forget to stick to advice; you may choose to persistently practice it until it is almost second nature, or you may interpret this forgetfulness as a sign that the advice just doesn't work for you. Ideally, you'll grow so comfortable with putting the advice into practice that you'll be prepared to discover/implement/modify additional advice.

To more directly answer your question, you may find it best to focus on the current advice-of-interest before moving on to other advice, thereby avoiding the need to store much information at all. It may be easiest to keep a running list of advice/books/strategies you want to check out next, after you have successfully implemented the earlier advice. If you would really like to consistently add to your collection of advice without that pause, I find that self-created wikis are a wonderful way to draw meaningful connections between material (and often this type of material has enough overlap that you will consistently be drilling yourself with information/advice without even realizing it.

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Good thinking! I'll try the flashcard thing to internalize stuff I want to own and then use your queue to stuff in new content. – w00t Jun 25 '12 at 13:41

I would like to share my observations regarding this topic with you, I divided them into two sections:

  1. Technical side - tools that you may use

    You should store such information in a place that is:

    • easily accessible - kind of online storage seems to be the best option
    • allows you to update/modify information easily
    • ideally - integrated with your current tools, todo lists etc.

    I am using RTM (Remeber the milk) lists for simple pieces of advice and .doc document that is stored on Dropbox for longer ones. Apart from that, If I come across some interesting websites, articles I store them in my online bookmarks library - Diigo (great website). All of those tools I use on a daily basis for other tasks.

  2. Conceptual side - collecting advice

    If you are so eager to collect advice, you read many articles on topics like personal productivity, time-management etc. There is a risk that you 'learn' more than you can really try out. So sometimes it is just better to stop reading self-help mumbo-jumbo, clicking "read later" button and just try out things in practice! In that way the amount of knowledge you have to somewhere store and manage will be reasonable and you will be able to verify it immediately. So just keep it mind while collecting, organizing tips, advice etc. .

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Good points. I do try to incorporate only a little new advice at a time :-) – w00t Jun 28 '12 at 11:44

I use digital and physical memo boards

  1. Collecting anything interesting in evernote, categorized into notebooks, acts as my digital memo board
  2. A physical cork board I use to pin things that I find interesting - which I need to remember
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This is what I do 1. Collect all interesting stuff on Evernote 2. Sort by "Updated" date and see the oldest note. Read. Delete sentences in the note you have already internalized or pretty much know very well 3. Move on to the next note

This way every once in a while your note will keep coming up which you will read and update as necessary

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Simple, I like it! I would just be worried about forgetting things again later. I suppose that instead of deleting I would move things I know to an archive section at the end of the note. – w00t Jul 24 '12 at 19:41
You could do that too. But if you read a lot of blogs, the real good advices keep turning up again and again – SandeepR Aug 13 '12 at 6:39

I use Evernote and the browser plugin Clearly. I use Clearly to get rid of all the advertising and navigation around the content and send this to Evernote. This is very easy.

In Evernote I tag these notes with "to read" and "while waiting" and whenever I have to sit and wait and don't know what to do, I can read the stuff I have tagged this way with the Evernote app on my smartphone or whatever.

The output Clearly produces can also be printed very nice.

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So this is what I'm doing currently with OmniFocus:

  • Create an on-hold project called Flashcards
  • Create subtasks per flashcard subject
  • Create a task per question, and put the answer in the task notes
  • Hide all task notes
  • On my daily checklist (also an on-hold project), I have "read 3 flashcards"
  • Pick a subject, read some questions and fold out the notes

So for example, for 1MTD I have these: (the answers are normally hidden)

  • 1MTD: One Minute ToDO
    • Which three levels of tasks are there?
      1. Critical Now: Everything that needs to be done absolutely today or you don't go home
      2. Opportunity now: Less than 20 tasks that can be done within the next 10 days
      3. Over the Horizon: Everything else
    • How should you handle incoming email?
      • File it into a big archive folder or turn it into a task
    • What are task start dates used for?
      • Hiding tasks until they are opportune, and sorting tasks according to staleness (FRESH)
    • What is FRESH?
      • Fresh Requests Earn Sorting Higher: sort tasks in descending start date order so that more recently added tasks are more important, which they probably are. You can change start dates to influence sorting.

I'll update this answer when I've used the flashcard system for a couple months.

Edit: it didn't work. The omnifocus app is not a flashcard system and the little speedbumps you get because of that made me not use this system. Next I'll try Anki or similar as explained on this nice blog post: Memorizing a programming language using spaced repetition software.

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Everyone needs a reliable, safe place to store information. Different people seem to like different programs, depending on whether they're more interested in data capture, organization, presentation or search features.

Evernote is popular with a lot of folks. As I understand it, its strength is capturing information on the fly. Another program available on the Mac (it was originally on NeXT) is Circus Ponies Notebook. Its strength is presentation of information in Notebook-like formatted web pages, etc. I'm not sure it's still being actively developed, however.

None of these were really satisfactory for me, I wanted somewhere (one program) where I could store everything from little tips to lengthy research notes. I use DevonThink, which is only available on the Mac. Its strengths are organization and search, although it's not bad with capture either, since it has a universal inbox applet that can take a wide variety of formats, including .pdf's.

I highly recommend it, though the iOS app is reportedly buggy and supposedly being rewritten, so I can't recommend that yet. BTW, I have since upgraded to DT Pro, but DT Personal is plenty powerful enough for most users.

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