Take Notes!

Let’s face it: you won’t remember. Perhaps you’ll still remember later today or by tomorrow, but definitely not weeks or months or years from now when you might benefit from having that memory on hand. I’ve found my memory worsening over the years. Sleep deprivation, alcohol, and a life full of experiences all vying for recollection haven’t helped , either. Therefore, it’s critical to find a note-taking system that works for you and use it.

Using Google Keep and Docs

Where you leave your notes matters as much or more than your system for taking them in the first place. If you cannot find your notes later when you need them most, what’s the point of taking them in the first place?

I vigilantly digitize all notes and leave them in Google Drive so that I can easily search for or within them when I need to. Dropbox and Evernote also serve this purpose well. For handwritten notes, I’ll type them up or just scan them and 98% of the time immediately recycle the originals to declutter my life. I try my best to organize related notes into individual Google Docs for consolidated keeping and searching. For example, I compile notes from things I read or experience in documents by topic titled “Business Stuff,” “Leadership Stuff,” “Life Stuff,” “Politics and Government,” “Film Notes,” “Food,” “Architecture & Urban Planning” and many more. I’ve been maintaining my “Business Stuff” document for over six years and it currently has 107 pages referencing twice that many useful sources and insights. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve searched it to reference or share things.

For taking notes on the fly, I use Google Keep (available for Android and iOS) and block out time later to move the hodgepodge of random notes into their corresponding Google docs. Google made this much easier by introducing a feature in Google Docs under Tools > Keep Notepad to surface your keep notes in view and simply drag the notes into your document.

Thanks, Google! (source)

Cleaning Up Your Notes and Sharing Them

Note-taking, whether by hand or otherwise, helps you remember things better even when you know you won’t really need to have a note on hand. By making the effort to capture something, you’re inherently revisiting it. Reviewing and organizing your notes thereafter has the added benefit of burning the knowledge even deeper into your head through repetition.

When taking notes, I try to reduce the essence of what I’m consuming into tighter summaries or lists of takeaways. Sometimes it takes a pass or two to tighten this up. There’s no point in taking notes on everything, otherwise it’d be easier to just re-read the article (sometimes, I just link to articles in my document without taking any notes if the other delivers the idea more efficiently than I can the first time). If you take the extra step to organize your notes and make them easier to read, you can also save other people the effort of consuming the content in its entirety or experiencing the same thing themselves by sharing it with them. I’ve reformatted a ton of article and book briefs from my notes to pass around at work or socially, some of which appear here on my blog.

Before long, you may even have enough support to write a book of your own. If I went through and sorted those 107 pages of business notes by category, I could very well have an outline for a book and plenty of juicy meat to fill it. Perhaps someday. I took a ton of notes as I planned my high school reunion last year so that I could remember how I did it again in ten years when preparing to plan the next one. My notes were so detailed and have already helped a few others plan their reunions that I’ve decided to turn my notes into an ebook on that topic. Stay tuned.

Notes not only serve to help you remember things and give you better control over retaining information in your life, they can help spread useful knowledge more efficiently to others. Fill your life with notes and have peace of mind that anything you care about can forever live on at your fingertips.