Do you take notes? Once we get past the 3rd grade, most of us do. How helpful are your notes? Have you ever considered what would happen if your note taking was 50% more helpful? 100% more helpful? The key to these type gains begins with how you think about this little considered activity.

The journey begins with a mind shift and a simple change in language. Are you ready? From this day forward, I will never TAKE NOTES again. Before you dismiss this for the absurd statement it appears to be, try this instead: I will no longer TAKE notes; rather, I will MAKE notes. This is far more than semantics.

Note taking for many people is a process of attempting to write down as much of what you’re hearing as possible. This approach certainly has value. However, note making is a more personalized process that enables you to create something that can serve you in the days, months and even years after the event. Here are a few ideas to make great notes.

Before you begin, ask yourself – “Why am I taking notes today?” Your answer should inform the style and form of your notes. You may be taking notes to brief a colleague who couldn’t attend a meeting. Perhaps you’re taking notes in a class – and to prepare for a test. Or, maybe you’re doing research for your next book. Sometimes, you’ll be taking notes for your own personal development.

Illustrate your notes as much as you can. Simple diagrams, sketches, even doodles in the margins of the page will stimulate retention and can clarify a complex idea. These don’t have to be elaborate, and you certainly don’t have to be an artist for this to be helpful.

Get a note pad or journal without lines. This will allow you to be more freeform as you work.

Add a second or third color if you can. I’m working on this myself. I’ve historically been a one-color note maker. A couple of felt tip markers in your bag will enhance your masterpiece and improve retention.

Always capture questions that come to mind as you hear the content. For me, this is by far the most valuable part of the notes I make. A stimulating presentation almost always stimulates questions. In the final analysis, the questions, and the subsequent answers, are often extremely productive.

Over time, if you’re attentive, you can learn what type of things help you most. Therefore, don’t be surprised if the notes you make today look very different from what you’ll create a year from now.

When you and I were in kindergarten we loved art – we had a chance to make something. From now on when you have a chance to make notes, remember note making is an art – have fun![GLS_Shield]


Author: Mark Miller

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