Tuesday Tip: Personalize Your Note-Taking

Are you a note-taker? If not, I encourage you to develop the habit of taking notes. “You mean in meetings?” That’s one place. But there’s more times to take notes:

  • Meetings
  • Reading a book
  • Preparation for a meeting
  • Sermon
  • Video content you’re listening to
  • Podcast you’re listening to
  • When an idea hits you and you don’t want to forget it
  • Lectures
  • Reading a blog
  • Reading a magazine

You get the idea. Where do you record your notes? That’s up to you. Carry a small notebook to capture ideas. Use a journal. Use your smart phone/tablet/laptop. Use talk-to-text to capture in-the-moment ideas. Just capture your thoughts.

But here’s the tip that makes the most difference for me. I personalize my note-taking.

When I read a book, I’m a highlighter. When I read, I have a highlighter and a pen with me. I highlight a passage I want to remember. I often write a note in the margin that helps me connect dots (from this thought to a future action).

And once I complete reading the book, I often go back and write in my journal what I learned from that book. So, how do I personalize the notes? I put them in first person even if the author did not write that thought in that way. Here’s an example:

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits (I highly recommend reading this book and then following him in social media). In the chapter, “How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)”, he writes about “new identities” in light of moving away from the person (habits and all) to the person we want to be.

He asks this question: Who is the type of person that could get the outcome you want? In my journal, this would be written: Who is the type of person that could get the outcome I want? Other examples:

I become my habits.

The most effective way to change my habits is to focus not on what I want to achieve, but on who I wish to become.

When I make a specific plan for when and where I will perform a new habit, I am more likely to follow through.

I do this because I want to internalize what I’m learning. Making it personal moves new information and ideas to my heart and to my mind and making the likelihood of me following through much more successful. I create a conversation, of sorts, between me and the author as though she/he is talking to me. I pay attention to the content more. I put more of what I am learning into action.

Next time you take notes – especially when you need to take action on those notes – personalize them. It’s one way you can coach yourself to become better.

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