Make every piece of information you record count. Dumping all the information and notes you find and organizing them later means that you’ve sifted through the information twice. This is a waste of your time and doubles the amount of effort required to get to the information that you really want to keep and tremendously hard to sift through when you need to find that nugget of information that makes sense.

Here’s a typical scenario. When listening to a lecture, talk or class; it’s not uncommon to see someone with a dictaphone recording the whole talk. You may think this is a great idea because then they will have all the information stored and can go back and listen to the entire talk again. Not so, most likely they will listen back to the recording and make notes or lists from the talk. They are effectively summarizing it and editing out the information. But they could have done this the first time round. They are repeating an exercise they could have performed initially when they first heard the talk.

What Happens if You Record Everything

Dumping notes are a bad habit. You get the false idea that you can easily get all the information that you need, whereas what It actually leads to is a mountain of unprocessed notes and you will eventually reach a point where your ‘inbox’ is full of recordings, clips and papers that become a major procrastination point. A few days or weeks later, you look back at your pile of unprocessed notes and get into a panic about, not only finding the correct note, but also processing it.

Process As You Go

When you create a list, everything you write or record has to count. It’s a great way to summarize and organize your notes into digestible pieces. When you are at a talk, making list notes is a more effective way of capturing all the information because it requires you to process what is presented whilst it’s ongoing. This gives the added benefit of you analyzing what is said so that if you do have any relevant questions, you can ask them. Having the points in list form makes it easier to go through your notes to raise the right questions. Dumping all the information and processing it later ensures that you fail to collect more relevant answers to the questions you may have. You discover the questions too late.

Processed lists are easier to organize. That big pile that you have is likely, unorganized and in a generic pile. Now that you process them as you go, you can file them into the right place so that you know where it is when it’s time to use that list. No more relying on search functions. A few days later, someone asks for your opinion on the talk… well you’ve already processed it all and can retrieve it easily in a form that you can easily understand.

Why It Works

You’ll be prepared.

Because you’ve already processed your list is now full of all the data that counts, you’ve effectively created a cheat sheet in advance. There’s no need to sift through the mountain of papers (or virtual notes) and then have to filter out the unimportant things because it’s already been done. This means you can apply laser focus to your objective.

Reduced Procrastination.

A big factor that effects your ability to get things done is how much preparation you need to do before you get down to it. If you’re planning a meal having to sift through a big pile of unorganized recipes that are bundled together in video clips, writing and notes that you previously stored becomes a massive hurdle to get over before you even start on any recipe. It becomes easier to order a delivery or go out. But if you have already processed your list and instructions, it becomes much simpler to pick out the recipe and follow the list that you created that shows you how to cook that meal.

It’s Always Ready.

You’re updating your website and there’s a widget that you wanted to add. You’ve already processed your list so that it contains the code that you want. It’s just a case of grabbing the code and adding the code for the widget. There isn’t the need to search for it again on the web, read through the documents again and find the widget amongst all the documentation. You’ve already prepared it.

It Removes Duplicate Work

“I’ll deal with it later.” Then you dump all that information into a note. Before you did that, you already read it once. That means, if and when you get round to “dealing with it” you’ll be reading it again to process and then summarizing. That’s work you could have completed the first time round and made you more productive.

Common Uses

I’ve already shown how this method can be used for lectures or talks. Here are some other methods it can be used for.

  • Movie Lists – You store a bunch of reviews that you go through later to decide what type of movie it is. By processing this when you come across the review, your list will contain short concise descriptions to about the movie. There’s no need to go through a big pile of reviews that you’ve collected just to find something to watch.
  • Job Applications – You’re job hunting and you’ve collected up a pile of job descriptions. Pre-processing each job description requires you to evaluate the opportunity and helps you to list down the relevant information about each job. When you decide which jobs to apply for, there’s no need to filter through all the descriptions again because that’s already been completed.
  • Apartment Hunting – A big bunch of online descriptions for a variety of houses or apartments that you may be interested in. Dumping them all into one note makes it harder to sift through. Instead, read through each description and separate them out into different lists – bedrooms? location? By preprocessing, it becomes much easier to compare each property before evaluating which place to make an offer on (whether you are buying or renting).

What’s one tool that can help you be more productive, lessen distractions and get more things done at the same time? 4 Ways to Supercharge Your To-Do List

Featured photo credit: Busy desk of a university student with an open agenda ready to be filled-in. via Shutterstock

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