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Neat And Organized Is A Mistake


Just stop.


What you need isn’t a better notebook, or computer, or productivity app.

What you need isn’t a better note-taking system, or more tips and tricks to save time reading, or a way to learn something perfectly the first time around so that you never have to think about it again.

You don’t need to fit each new thing into a perfect little box, wrapped up in a bow.

Neat and organized is a mistake.

Look at this… my Partial Differential Equations notebook from Junior year.


It’s the neatest thing I’ve ever done… and it’s probably the one class that I remember the least from.

Neat and organized is just a time trap that’s there to keep you from the work of actually learning something for the first time.


Prioritize speed.

Take messy notes.

Doodle, draw diagrams, make it your own.

Stop thinking about how you “should” be thinking about a new concept, and just jump in.

Do problems.

Study how other people have solved problems.

Make your brain sweat.

You can always go back and make things neat later, but don’t make the mistake of optimizing too early. Learning creates entropy. Just let it happen.

By staying neat and organized you sacrifice those valuable hard repetitions that are so, so important to engraining something new.

So instead buck the convention.

Dig in.

Do work.


Feature photo adapted from Juhan Sonin.

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