Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Muzangaye gutinda! Taking Smart notes with Ahrens

Written by: on September 9, 2022

The Kinyarwanda saying muzangaye gutinda refers to the challenge of time management in my Rwandan cultural upbringing, even after decades abroad it remains hard to break! That’s one of mine to break as I learn to apply these great tools and resources.

“I only do what is easy” [1] How and where? Like on a few other projects that I have embarked on in this life, learning has felt overwhelming. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed the journey of discovery, especially in communities of feller learners doing the daunting together. I was once advised by a friend and Mentor saying, “You jump and build your wings on your way down!” My life, in general, has been the same, and thankfully the good Lord has kept me safe.

“Write exactly one note for each idea and write as if you were writing for someone else: Use full sentences, disclose your sources, make references and try to be as precise, clear, and brief as possible.” [2] The author makes the writing sound so easy and might be easy for some who have had smooth learning and writing foundations. Mine has always been rocky or simply different. Sometimes I will wonder how much of my ideas would make sense after I have put them down on paper, does my English expression even make any sense?  When you explain slip boxes, dropbox, and all the other boxes that make work easy does sound indeed easy to do but wait until I start. When I started school, my family was uprooted from Rwanda where we started wandering as refugees to Uganda. I did not make it to High School till I was past 20 years old. Studied under makeshift classes, and shades (trees), and sometimes ran away after another bomb had dropped near our shade class.

“He regularly mentioned the slip-box as the reason for his productivity. From as early as 1985, his standard answer to the question of how anyone could be so productive was: “I, of course, do not think everything by myself. It happens mainly within the slip-box”[3]

The author describes the slip-box sounds much like the system that would create an amazing organization of one’s work especially if as disorganized as some can be having loads of things to read, write and make sense of. While the work remains challenging, and the beneficial distance learning comes with the challenges to lose control of many other tasks of daily living I am looking for ways to stay connected from a distance and remain in control of the work needed to complete the program.

Looking at the tools and resources at my disposal I look forward to a year of more learning and coming up with a meaningful project that will lead to a successful doctorate program completion. “The best way to maintain the feeling of being in control is to stay in control. And to stay in control, it’s better to keep your options open during the writing process rather than limit yourself to your first idea.”[4] Putting to use the great learning ahead, I look forward to a better way of working organization work and being on time to complete it successfully.






[1] Sönke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes.

[2] Ahrens.

[3] Ahrens.

[4] Ahrens.


About the Author


Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe

Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe is a Clinical Correctional Chaplain and former Child Refugee from War-torn Rwanda. A member of the Maxwell Leadership Certified Team, Jean is passionate about Servant Leadership and looks forward to seeing more leaders that inspire Lasting Peace and Justice for all, especially "the least of these".

6 responses to “Muzangaye gutinda! Taking Smart notes with Ahrens”

  1. mm Becca Hald says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Jean de Dieu. Having grown up in American, white suburbia, it is hard for me to imagine the challenge of learning in such conditions as you faced. In my own educational context, I have often taken the difficult path. I am with you, wondering how and where to find this easy path. On one hand, so much of who I am today is because of walking the hard road. At the same time, I think I am ready to learn how to find this easy path, to work smarter, not harder. I look forward to this journey and what we will all learn and discover this year. I look forward to seeing you in Cape Town.


  2. Kristy Newport says:

    Hello Jean,
    Thank you for sharing your journey in education. It sounds like your childhood was focused on daily survival which made it difficult to complete your school work. It must have been difficult to go to high school after the age of 20. You have come a long way!

    In Cape Town, Dr. Clark challenged the cohorts to think about what our tendencies are when we pursue our research. He asked what we may be prone to do. He gave us six options to consider.

    1) Perfectionist- There is a perfect way of doing this
    2) Experts- “I don’t know enough”
    3) National Genius- “I am a genius”
    4) Soloist- “Help is for wimps”
    5) Superman/Superwoman
    6) Procrastination

    I am curious what tendency you might have from this list OR do you have a different tendency which this list does not mention?
    I shared that I have a blend of these tendencies. I sometimes think I need to be the expert so I do not know enough to get the work done. This tendency and being prone to perfectionism can sabotage my work. At times this has a compound effect, leaving me to procrastinate! I want to trust the Lord and ask Him to help me regularly (lean not on my own understanding) and let my smart brain recall what it DOES know.
    I like what your friend and mentor advised you to do long ago: “You jump and you build your wings on the way down.” Let’s keep jumping in this learning journey!

  3. Thanks Kristy,
    I think I also have a blend of all in different measures , I however find myself more on the Soloist side!
    For some reason I don’t think “Help is for wimps” The Impostor syndrome must be the real issue, choosing to hide in my little corner and doing something alone. This is a great opportunity here finding a community to partner with on this learning journey for a meaningful experience for the next 2 years.

  4. Shonell Dillon says:

    I to question my ability to write all of the time. I once was a great writer but when you take a break from it the rules get fuzzy and they change. Remember we are learners, if we already perfected everything there would be no need to be here.

  5. Can’t agree more, Shonell,
    Life-long learners!
    Thank you.

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