Take Notes

What’s the value of stumbling through life and making mistakes if you do not make an active effort to record and study lessons learned? I keep a small Moleskine, Evernote or Google Docs notebook at my fingertips at all times. I take note of bad days, obstacles, discoveries, conversations, ideas and victories (for the record, Android dictation thought I said “a pekingese”). Ninety percent of this blog comes from notes I take day-to-day.

That said, notes are not enough. If you do not organize, consolidate or review your notes, what’s the point of having them at all? In practice, I tend to reduce pages-upon-pages into single fortune cookie-sized takeaways. I put them on sticky notes in discrete places that perpetually inform my decisions and the quality of my day.

Chronicle, recycle and learn from the past. It can sugar-coat your life journey as a personal parable.

Notes on Notes

I take note of any piece of information I may want to draw from in the future – newspaper articles, blog posts, books, lectures, conversations, or films. In the digital equivalent, I have binders full of random insights. While I retain some lessons learned, most disappear into the depths of my computer. Only when I review, organize, and annotate my notes months later do the breadth of lessons really stick. Essentially, I take another full set of notes on top of the old to boil them down again into relevant takeaway kernels. The result is a compounded understanding of the material at hand, a level of review I cannot recommend highly enough.

If you honestly aspire to learn a subject, take notes on anything and everything you want to retain about the subject. Block off a period of time every six months to review and process all of your notes. Take notes on the notes. You will be surprised how much more you walk away with.