Hi! It's Piotr Gaczkowski here. You're receiving this e-mail because you've signed up to Bit Better, a personal growth newsletter. Thank you for reading.

📝Why Is Note-taking the Key to Growth?

We're drowning in the sea of knowledge. Everything we could ever wish to learn is at our fingertips. A lot of it is even available for free! We can become whoever we want. Learn whatever we find valuable or fun.

Yet, the average person is no wiser than our grandparents' generation. Why is it so?

As you may imagine, there is no single answer to this question. One possible reason might be that since we have access to knowledge at all time, we don't have to memorize as much. We can just look up the relevant details just in time.

Another reason is that learning requires time and effort, and we may lack in both departments. Besides, what good does it make if you can recite all the geological facts about your area? This most certainly won't pay your rent.

These are valid reasons and they could form an article on its own. However, I'd like to focus on a different aspect.

How to Retain What You Learn?

Sometimes, the challenge is not that we can't acquire the knowledge we want to learn. The challenge is that we just keep forgetting. We read something one day, share it with someone, but after a week or two, we can't really recall what it was that excited us so.

Fortunately, there is a simple method that helps us remember what we learn but also better connect the dots that the information forms in our minds. And this simple method is note-taking.

I won't give you the best recipe for note-taking. There are many different systems and one could be more suitable for you than the other. What's important is that you write down what you've learned (while reading, doing a course, watching a video, or just talking with your friends) in a single place. This place may be a paper notebook, a file on your computer, or some dedicated software like Notion or Roam Research.

As long as the tool is easy to use for you, it will work. But writing what you learned is only the first step. Learning doesn't just happen when you hear something once. You have to revise it from time to time, so the information enters your long term memory. That's why you want to establish a review of your notes regularly.

Once a week, go through all your notes from a given week. While you read them, some connections and new thoughts may form in your head. Write them down as well. Once a month, review all the notes from that month — both the original ones, as well as your comments on them. Again, chances are you will come up with yet another set of conclusions.

By keeping this ritual of taking notes and reviewing them, you increase the chances of keeping what you learned. As a bonus, you also increase your chances of coming up with some original thoughts and ideas!

The Compound Interest of Information

When you have many disconnected notes and you review them regularly, you will start to notice connections between them. You will see how one idea influenced another, how you can combine them to find your own conclusions. How the world is both much more complicated and also finely interconnected.

This way, you start accumulating the compound interest in knowledge. Compound interest is this magical fact that makes money investing work in the long run. Say you put $100 into a fund that promises 10% growth over a year. After a year, you will have $110, that's obvious. After two years, you have the $110 plus 10% of that, which gives $121. After ten years, you would have around $259, more than twice your initial investment.

The more you learn and retain, the more information you can connect. This, in turn, means you find more conclusions, new ideas, and even more connections. The things you've been learning are suddenly giving you greater possibilities than ever before.

An example? Imagine you play guitar. This skill can help you play in a band if you find others with matching skills. This will require some of your time and a lot of communication skills. And after some time, you may figure out you just don't play along nicely. Now imagine you start learning another skill, singing. Now, your choices are much wider:
  • you can join a band as a guitarist,
  • you can join a band as a singer,
  • or you can launch a solo career as a singer-songwriter.
You've already taken time to read, watch, or listen to the material in the first place. If you want to make the best use of that time, make sure you'll remember what it was about and why it was worth it.

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Copyright © 2020 Piotr Gaczkowski, All rights reserved.

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