Friday, August 17, 2012

Paper! Paper! What to Do with All the Paper!

Still fighting off a not-so-productive streak, but I am taking good measures to begin setting up a new self-improvement regiment to get me back to my old rigor, such as studying. If I want to regain my enthusiasm for life, I have to perform acts that lead into it. Passion is as passion does.

Anyhow, I'm stepping dangerously back into the territory of dreaded "overplanning," which I've warned myself against, but it looks like it can't be avoided right now. I'm trying to set out my courses as loosely as possible without being so strict in a routine that it intimidates me into procrastination, but I guess it's just a problem that comes with the package.

The most pressing concern at the moment: Notebooks! Oh goodness, notebooks! I want to begin establishing a routine of notetaking again alongside a new study regiment, but how to maintain my notebooks and how many of them to keep is a cumbersome question.

The difficult factor in all of this, because I am not in school, is that I plan on learning in a different and more efficient way. Since I'm striving for pure practical learning, not grades and degrees, I will not be reading every book I pick up cover-to-cover. In fact, my research for any particular learning may lead me to things other than books, such as podcasts, blogs, and videos. The difficulty that adds is that because tiny little minutiae like that won't fill up an entire notebook -- thus meaning I oughtn't prescribe an entire notebook to them -- how can I best maintain my notes accordingly? Sometimes I might dig for information from only half a book, three articles on a website, specific sections of a recorded lecture, and so on. It's so hodge-podge that organizing seems impossible.

The root of the problem is probably that I haven't resolved the conflict yet as to whether or not I want my notes to be referenciable. Written properly, intensively, and clearly enough, I think the mere act of writing the notes could be a sufficient cognitive benefit on its own; do I really need to construct and organize them in a way that I can keep coming back to them for reference? If not, then there's really no problem: Label the notes clearly and don't be too random, such as by assigning certain notebooks to specific subjects, and otherwise don't worry about making them retrievable.

However, if I do want them to be retrievable, then that brings up the organization problem up again. They need to be organized in a fashion where I'd be able to find them again . . . or maybe not? On the other hand, when studying something to any intensive measure it's a given that I'll be focused on it for a time, so perhaps I need not worry about organization, because the present of currently studying something will make the notes retrievable at the time of their writing, both due to a fresh memory of its location and that fact it can be easily located by flipping pages starting from the blank end and working backwards. After a certain amount of time passes maybe I won't need them to be retrievable.

Darn! This open brainstorming isn't seeming to make the questions any more resolvable! At least for just one thing, I know for certain that I'd like to maintain a book titled "Little Reading/Little Thinking," where I can accumulate notes on sporadic readings and thoughts that I survey in non-retrievable form, just leaning on the cognitive benefits of the writing itself. Books that I'll actually study cover-to-cover or mostly cover-to-cover will be easy too, since they'll have entire notebooks dedicated to them. But what of the hodgepodge stuff? And how ought I structure my habits around these writings?

My the confusions of trying to improve your life! Maybe I ought to sleep on it, brainstorm on paper upon waking, and tinker with some other goals first, to distance myself from the problem temporarily. Or maybe just not worry about it and go for broke with the non-retrievable thing. More confusing alternatives!

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