If someone were to tell you a small but important piece of information right now, how prepared are you to capture and store that piece of information? I ask this question because over the years, I have seen some very interesting (and some very cringeworthy) attempts to take notes. The most interesting one has to be when a friend sent me a long whatsapp message containing a list of seemingly unrelated items followed by this message: Ignore. I just need a place where I can see this. Quick hint: Don’t use chat applications as a substitute for a good note-taking app.
In my opinion, everyone should develop good note-taking habits because of two reasons:
- You will get ideas at random times during the day. The human brain is very good at coming up with ideas but not very good at remembering them. Research is still ongoing to figure this out but there is a limit to working memory.
- You don’t want to ask for information twice. It will be a shame if a colleague called you this morning to provide you with some crucial detail only for you to call back two hours later asking them to repeat what they told you in the morning.
Healthy note-taking starts from a simple idea: KEEP ALL YOUR NOTES IN ONE PLACE. Whether you choose to go digital or analog is a matter of preference. Personally, I prefer digital. I am particularly partial to Trello’s card layout that enables me to group notes based on themes. The ability to carry my notes with me is also a huge plus. I may not always carry a pen and notebook but I am likely to always have my phone or a digital device.
Once you have decided which medium to use for note-taking, the next thing is to ensure you take all notes immediately. If you hear something that you think you might want to reference later or believe to be important, write a note immediately or risk forgetting. Don’t wait. Reach for your notepad or chosen note-taking app.
If you were like me, your Secondary School teachers worked hard to teach you how to take notes during a lecture and how to summarise a text. You might have chafed under what you felt was needless scrutiny back then (I know I did) but those note-taking skills have proven very vital in my personal productivity journey. After all, productivity starts at the point when one chooses to stop relying on memory and begins writing important things down.