Newsletter #61: Patterns Over Features

Ramses Oudt
Ramses Oudt
Newsletter #61: Patterns Over Features

Happy Friday, fellow lovers of knowledge!

This week I'm experimenting with somewhat of a different newsletter format. Because I want to focus less on software features and more on how we can think better, I've divided this week's newsletter into two parts. First I link to some resources to build the foundation for clear thinking, then I move on to crafting systems to help with that.

Being able to think clearly is more important than ever—for me at least. As inflation is soaring in Europe, I've been looking for ways to hedge against risk. While I've been trading and investing in stocks, commodities, and crypto for a good while now, I feel like I need to step up my game to capitalize on the opportunities ahead. I need to be able to stay levelheaded and not let my emotions overwhelm me. Mental and software tools are an enormous help with this.

However, in recent months several people told me that they're disappointed that I no longer focus on Roam features. In my opinion, they miss the point by staring themselves blind to a specific tool and not giving enough attention to their way of thinking. No tool is going to help you if you don't know what you need to get out of it, and this goes further than churning out a piece of content or retrieving meeting notes. Do you agree with it or do you think I'm full of it? Please hit that reply button and let me know.

For now, on to the resources!

Building the foundation for better thinking

🤔 How can we develop transformative tools for thought?
This week I've been reading and digesting this massive essay (20K words!) by Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen. In it, they look at ways that we can use memory systems to learn more deeply.

Much of their argument is based on the research they've done through their Quantum Country book, but the essay isn't a dry summary of research. It has lots of useful advice on how to deeply understand topics using well-made flashcards—instead of just memorizing facts.

Are you a note-taker who wants to learn from your notes but rarely revisits them? Then this essay will give you lots of practical advice.

🧠 How to augment long-term memory
If you like the idea of flashcards and enjoyed the previous essay, then this piece by Michael Nielsen is a must-read. In it, he describes how he uses Anki for a wide range of things.

Starting with memorizing keyboard shortcuts, Michael now uses Anki to grok complex academic papers. This shows that well-written flashcards are much less about memorization and more about programming attention. If you've ever considered using flashcards for more than memorizing facts, you should read and re-read this essay.

🔺 Can Bloom's taxonomy be more effective than active recall?
Not a fan of flashcards? No worries! Neither does my girlfriend, so she's been bombarding me with content from Justin Sung. He's a researcher and coach on learning techniques, and creates lots of useful content about how to quickly gain a deep understanding of new topics.

As he points out, we tend to acquire knowledge to the point that we understand it, but often don't apply our knowledge. The question then arises: do we really know what we've learned? And is our hard-gained knowledge even useful?

In this 18-minute video, Justin explains how we can memorize and gain understanding by just applying, analyzing, and evaluating what we learn. This is Bloom's taxonomy applied to personal learning projects, and I've had lots of success with itf when having to learn skills quickly. If you're into note-taking, this technique will translate really well.

Crafting systems for better thinking

🏗 Develop lateral thinking through Algorithms of Thought
Recently I've been reading a lot of Edward de Bono's work on lateral thinking. I first discovered De Bono's through Zsolt Viczián, who's been writing about his ideas for several years. In this article, Zsolt introduces the idea of lateral thinking and gives a few algorithms to think better. Be sure to also check out part 3 of the series on developing creative thinking.

Now, you may think these ideas are not tools. But tools aren't just things we can grab physically or digitally. A structured way of thinking can just as well be a tool. But because we can't touch a way of thinking, it's something we tend to skip over. In future editions, I'll be writing a lot more about ways of thinking and treating them as tools.

Index of productivity patterns
If you've been intrigued by so-called Tools for Thoughts but aren't sure what to do with them, this index of productivity patterns is a great start. While it's just a categorized index of links to productivity methods, I've found it very useful to start thinking about what else I can use my software tools for. Once you know a bit about a pattern, it's much easier to look for ways to apply them to your tool of choice.

✍️ How to increase the value of your personal knowledge system
If you're on Twitter but aren't following TfT Hacker, you're missing out on some very valuable insights. In recent months, he's been hammering more on the need for documenting our PKM systems and the value of making things visual.

In this short thread, TfT Hacker shows how he uses a visual map of his system to keep complexity in check and make sure his system stays valuable. When you have clarity about what part of your system does what, you're less likely to needlessly tinker with your system.

Be sure to check out TfT Hacker's Twitter timeline as he regularly shares how others document their workflows in a visual way.

What do you want to learn next?

That's it for this week! I hope these resources will help you to think more clearly and improve your tool stack for thinking. If you've found or created a useful resource to improve it, I want to hear from you. Reply to this email and share any video, article, or course that you find useful.

Want to connect to fellow learning enthusiasts? Join the Think Stack Club on Discord for free. There's always someone friendly to help you find the right tool or technique for whatever you want to get done. I hope to see you there!


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