There were a couple of questions embedded in the comments that I wanted to address, then provide an update on how the system outlined is working. Comments first.
From Gabriel: I would just make sure the extra work from the voice recognition part is not taking a toll on your work schedule.
This is a really important comment, for two reasons. First, it is taking quite a bit of time to fix up the notes. Second, it is taking all that time in part because I’m even wordier when I talk than when I type. What I come out with isn’t “notes” so much as a summarized narrative. I’m not sure that’s such a good thing.
A simple example: I took a quick read through last weeks notes and tightened them up. When I started I had 6 pages of text. When I finished I had 2, mostly bullet points. No meaning was lost, just unnecessary detail and wordiness. Frankly, it is making me rethink the voice recognition piece.
From Cal: How do you keep track of what you need to read?
I have started using Zotero for tracking references, and I have a specific reference library for things in the queue. Since I am working on my dissertation right now it is all pretty consistent. I suppose if I had more irons in the fire I might maintain several queues.
My Next Actions list contains a pointer to where I left off. That way when I have time again I pick up reading from there. I have toyed with setting specific reading goals, but find that if I just track where I need to start next I can decide when I open the book how much time I have to devote to the effort.
I have taken all the anti-multitasking literature to heart though, and am trying to force myself to only be in the middle of one book at a time. Part of that process is differentiating between items I need to read cover to cover and those I only need a chapter or two out of.
Also from Cal: How do you store and organize your notes?
This is a bit more difficult. I read the article you posted about note-taking databases and it makes total sense, except it doesn’t really reflect the way I take notes. So for now I have a series of word documents in folders relevant to each topic. One document per book. I’m still debating whether that is the best method, but for now it is the lowest impact to capture the material in a searchable manner.
From Jacob: If you’ve got access to a reduced price/free license to the thing,
Endnote is among the best software for organizing and saving academic
My school is cheap – they only provide Refworks, with which I wasn’t impressed. I suppose I could buy Endnote, but I am so impressed with Zotero‘s ability to just suck the citation in that I can’t not give it a chance. Zotero also has note taking capabilities, and I’ve played a little with it. I just am unclear on what the search capabilities are like.
As I mentioned in my response to Gabriel above, I am rethinking the voice recognition piece on account of wordiness. I need to learn to use it either for bullet points or for musing on a topic. Note taking should be succinct and to the point, and that format encourages neither.
I also am becoming convinced that I am taking too long to get through a single book. Partially this is because I am filling in a lot of background details for the specific time period, but I need to get past that and be able to get the jist of the arguments, any new facts, and move on more quickly. One recommendation I’ve seen is that a book of 250-400 pages should take no more than 2-3 hours of concentrated work. Another suggests that with practice you can get it down to an hour.
Regardless of which method I look at, they are all telling me one thing; I’m taking to long, reading to linearly and taking too extensive of the wrong kinds of notes. *sigh*
So, I have one more chapter in my current book, then I will use one of these new approaches for the next one. Test, assess, adjust, retest. Or something like that.