Consumption Driven Organising

Posted on November 17, 2019 by Richard Goulter

I’ve been meaning to try and write down some things about the way I organise things.

I’m still improving, trying to keep the stuff that ‘works’ and ditch the stuff which I’m not consuming.

Anki: I’ve been using Anki for learning Vietnamese vocabulary. Yeah, one tip is to use it on a smartphone; that really reduces friction for revising the sets. I still don’t manage to do it quite every day, but this is almost a metric of how mentally rested I am. (If I’m too stressed or tired, then I won’t be doing my Anki).
What I wish I knew: I find it’s still a bit easy to ‘game’ by remembering it within the first day, but forgetting it after that. (Anki cards start out in a “learning” state where you’re not expected to recall the note. Once a card is learned, not-recalling is bad). So, I adjusted the learning interval. Downside: it can take a long time to ‘learn’ the card, but my impression is that things which do get learned are more solid.
I’d also recommend: feel free to just ‘reset progress’ of cards you get wrong if you have too many cards to revise.
– One ‘motivational technique’ for going through the Anki stuff is: “revise cards until you get one wrong”. (I find, even if I’m tired out of my ass, that I can go for surprisingly long before getting one wrong. But then you’re almost in a flow and you’re fine with “just doing one more”).

Work notes and stuff: I still like using five colours, especially for worklog stuff.

org-mode: It’s still my go-to place for organising stuff. - Tasks in org-mode; org-agenda: I’ve been pretty sloppy about this. I like the rules of thumb: “if it’s right, it will work effortlessly”, “tasks need to be well-organised, reference/notes don’t”. (“capture notes/inputs in as few places as possible” is also nice). - Tasks and Agenda: maybe I need to better organise the ‘TODOs’/tasks. Or maybe the right kinds of tasks for the right times/places. But I’m not really making use of it. - Checklists: one nice use of org-mode is it can be easy to copy-paste a checklist. I found this was useful for me for the start of the day, it would control the distraction of things I needed to do. - Reference: I’ve heard “zettelkasten” is to ‘reference’ what “getting things done” is to TODO lists. AFAIU, ‘zettelkasten’ is about keeping atomically-small reference notes, and linking between the different cards. I think one effect of trying things this way is to make it much easier to use/read the zettels when writing a zettel. I’ve started trying this with org-mode.

A thought which comes to mind is that: this organising is an attempt to save time, hopefully in a way that spending time early saves time later. For a lot of computer / developer stuff, the baseline for how long it takes to find is “google search it”. My experience is: if I’ve googled it before, then I can kinda remember what I searched for and navigate the results better. The best ‘cache hit’ is, from experience, remembering/knowing it.
Anki tries to facilitate the remembering/knowing it. The best criticisms I’ve seen are that: it’s not that Anki doesn’t work, but is it worth doing? If you would benefit from knowing it, you would encounter the stuff frequently enough anyway. (I think this is why med students and language learners benefit. With languages, you don’t know “You Ain’t Gonna Need It” for low-frequency words).

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