Shrink notes to build new ideas

Everything connects. That is at the core of my belief. We are not talking about different things – Apples and oranges are fruits.

Like synapses connecting neurons, the thinker has to spend the time to lace together two disparate ideas. Mike Caulfield spends 3-5 minutes after reading articles to write a summary. He searches through his Wikity database to see if he can connect ideas.

It does that by forcing me to suspend my reaction to things until I’ve summarized them and connected them to previous knowledge. It forces me to confront contradictions between new knowledge and previous knowledge, and see unexpected parallels across multiple domains. It forces me to constantly review, rehearse, revise, and update old knowledge.

Caulfield calls his note-taking process a “superpower.” Maria Popova has a similar archival practice. Like a librarian, she summarizes books on a 3 x 5 notecard and puts it the back of the book for easy reference. She also encourages research through discovery and serendipity so don’t forget to get out and go for a walk. To put it another way, via Mr. Rodgers:

“Our society is more interested in information than wonder, in noise than silence.”

One of the benefits of blogging daily for the past five plus years is having access to a wealth of notes. I use both my site search and Evernotes as a point of reference for research.

Whatever your process may be, the key is round out what you read to help shape your ideas. Consume, then synthesize.