Taking notes is a common and even natural activity that many of us do. We’ve taken notes to study, to remember great quotes, and to write down our thoughts. We also use simple notes in the form of to-do lists to organize our tasks.
But did you know that note-taking as an activity has a thriving and avid base of practitioners around the world?
For some people, note-taking goes beyond making lists and jotting down their thoughts. Done well, note-taking is a form of personal knowledge management and can be used to create a ‘second brain’.
A second brain is a physical or digital way to store knowledge and access it over and over again. If you’re a content writer who needs to write articles and blog posts constantly, then having a second brain and taking notes can boost productivity and make for better quality writing.
In this post, I’ll share why leaders need to be note-takers and how to optimally take notes. Having a note-taking habit will help you improve your leadership skills and manage your personal and professional lives better.
Create an accessible storage place for your thoughts
When you have come up with good ideas or find interesting information, it isn’t enough to just know about such content.
The value of information lies in being able to learn from it and in using it to make improvements in life.
Start by making note-taking an automatic habit. The next time you get an interesting idea or read a line from a book that inspires you, write it down.
The more often you do this, the easier and more automatic it becomes. In fact, you’ll develop a sense of pleasure from seeing your thoughts in black and white.
Use different formats to take notes
Taking notes literally means writing down ideas and information in the form of words. But we needn’t restrict ourselves to this definition.
Taking notes is really about collecting information in any form. Whenever you find images, audio files, websites, pdfs, eBooks, and any other type of content that interests you, you should save them for future reference.
In fact, feel free to draw or doodle your thoughts instead of trying to express them in words alone. And remember that your phone lets you record your voice so that you can speak your thoughts and save them while you’re on the go.
Organize your notes
As mentioned earlier, the value of the information you possess lies in being able to retrieve what you know.
When making notes, try to organize them at the same time that you save your thoughts, images, and other data types. Depending on the type of tool you use, you should be able to add keywords to a note to make it easy to find.
You can also create folders and place files within them in a logical manner. Use descriptive names for your folders and files. And make sure that your notes have titles that explain what the content within is about.
It may seem convenient to just let the title of a note be the date that you created the note on, but later, when you need to find content, you’ll find it difficult to remember where you saved specific content.
Use the right tool
The most helpful way to support your note-taking habit is by using the right tool. Readily available tools are physical notebooks and online writing tools like text editors.
These basic tools are really all you need to get started on your note-taking habit.
But if you want to take your note-taking to the next level, then it’s critical to use the right app or platform to help you organize content and make connections.
My strong suggestion is to look for tools that allow you to do ‘bi-directional linking’. This means that when you make a post ‘A’, you can link to another post ‘B’. And what happens is that your tool will automatically create links from post B to A.
This feature is critical because people don’t think in a hierarchical and linear fashion. And your note-taking shouldn’t rest on hierarchical methodologies either.
However, not everyone needs the same kind of tools. Complicated note-taking platforms are unappealing to many people and they’d prefer to just take simple notes or write things down in a journal.
Look for what’s best for you. As long as you’re taking notes consistently and using what you’ve saved, you’re doing well.
Use note-taking best practices to grow yourself
Who needs note-taking today? Virtually anyone. If you’re a leader, a content creator, or someone starting a business though, note-taking can grow your skills to the next level.
Start exploring some note-taking apps and platforms today. At the very least, pull out a text editor or find an empty journal and start writing away.
Writing and saving tidbits of knowledge improve knowledge retention. When you go back over your saved content, you’ll also find new connections between disparate data points. This leads to creative ideas and will help you solve problems fast.