Growing up, I remember my dad made notes. As I think back, he always seemed to have a pen and paper in his pocket. I just realized that I do that also! I guess it’s genetic. Once as a child I saw him pull a small piece of paper out of his pocket and write something down. I asked him what he had in his hand. He said, “Paper Brains.”

A page from my Paper Brains

For my entire adult life, I’ve relied heavily on Paper Brains – in more recent years, these paper brains have been augmented electronically. However, even with technological advances, we’re all still faced with a question:

What do we do with our notes?

Because few of us have photographic memories, this is not a trivial question. If we can crack the code on this, it might help us take a huge leap forward in our personal effectiveness.

I have tried countless techniques over the years. In part, because I’ve never been fully satisfied with the outcome and, in part, because even if something seems to be working, I still want to find a better way.

Here are a few of the things that have helped me.

I always try to review my notes after an event. Sometimes I’ll even rewrite them if they’re difficult to read.

Sometimes I’ll type significant parts of my hand-written notes. I did this a few years ago while attending the 8-week Advanced Management Program at Harvard. I decided to only type Big Ideas, Questions and Action Items. When I finished, I had almost 100 pages of notes!  However, it was much better than the hundreds of pages of notes I started with. I then had the 100 typed pages spiral bound and I refer to it still to this day, almost 6 years after attending the course.

I also code things while I’m taking notes – A large asterisk beside a Big Idea, a question mark beside a Question I want to revisit and a box to be checked off beside an Action Item. This simple system helps me find these things easier after the event.

One last thought – recently, I switched journals. I’m now using an Action Journal by Behance. These journals have a place designated in the margin specifically for Action Items. This feature alone has made it easier for me to keep track of the things I want to get done. [GLS_Shield]

What works for you regarding processing your notes? I’d love to hear from you!

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.