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Why People Who Take Notes All the Time Are More Likely To Be Successful

Why People Who Take Notes All the Time Are More Likely To Be Successful

“Just let me look at my notes.”

How many times have we heard a person say that? It could be a manager, a student, a lawyer, a secretary, a writer, or anybody who has to remember key information. Note-taking is an essential skill in many areas of work and study.

But is note-taking really useful in helping us to understand, remember, and retrieve essential points when we most need them? The answer from research is a resounding yes, although individual styles and methods may vary enormously.

For example, recently when Mark Zuckerberg was addressing a meeting of young entrepreneurs, you could have heard a pin drop: everybody in the room was listening intently. But only TWO people, who happen to be legendary investors in Silicon Valley and arguably the most successful people in the room, were actually taking notes!

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“Great leaders are never too proud to learn.” – John Donahoe, CEO, eBay

Just in case that doesn’t convince you of the importance of taking notes, here are 10 reasons note-takers are on the fast track to success:

1. They are actively learning.

The action of writing information down is a great way to get fully involved in the learning process. Note-takers are much more actively involved because they are processing the information and getting the essential facts down on paper, or on a tablet, or laptop. They are starting the process of understanding and making connections- although this will have to be consolidated later on.

“You have to make your own condensed notes. You learn from MAKING them.” – Peter Rogers, author of Straight A at Stanford and on to Harvard: How to Learn Faster and Think Better.

2. They understand the importance of remembering the information.

Students need to remember all relevant information when confronted with an exam question. A speaker may not have their notes at hand but will still have a better chance of actually remembering the facts if they have taken the time to prepare notes. Research backs this up. Howe in 1970 found that students who had taken notes were 7 times more likely to remember facts a week later than those who had not.

3. They know how to organise their notes and data.

Students and managers face a real challenge when it comes to storing and retrieving all their notes, data, contact information, and customer feedback- just to mention a few sources of information. If a student has a good old fashioned filing system, that may work, but modern technology is now providing remarkable solutions for storing and retrieving a variety of information. Imagine being able to email a client with just two clicks. Here is an example of an excellent tool called Transpose, which does all this and much more. Successful students and managers know that time is of the essence when it comes to finding information easily and quickly, and having a system for effective note-taking helps them to achieve this goal.

4. They know how to prepare for note-taking.

Very often, the student or manager may have to listen to a difficult lecture or be placed in another situation where they worry that taking notes will be more demanding than usual. If it is a lecture, there will usually be a text that the professor will be referring to. Prereading is an essential element here as through doing this they can get a good gist of what the text is about. In doing so, they can look up unfamiliar terms and concepts, check data, dismiss irrelevant or less important information, and begin to understand the main points before the lecture begins.

“Prereading is a game changer. It changed my life…Everyone is smarter when they have seen the material before. You will be too.” – Peter Rogers

5. They devise their own efficient note-taking system.

Who says that getting down information in complete sentences is a great idea? Usually you will need to use shorthand or some other system. In addition, verbatim note-taking leaves out many essential elements in the learning and retention process. Visual mapping is a great way to get around this problem- especially if students happen to be visual learners. Students can devise spidergrams and mind maps which are effective. Naturally, it does depend a lot on the subject matter. Many people invent their own list of abbreviations and symbols of common terms which come up again and again. This is a great time saver.

6. They are clever at spotting cues.

Note-takers have a lot going on. They have to hone their listening skills and get their writing/typing up to speed and also fully concentrate. If their attention in any of these areas fails, then their notes will often feature gaps. I remember my own efforts at college when I sometimes missed the essential point. Efficient note-takers will develop a sixth sense for spotting verbal and non-verbal cues which will be a great help. Here are some examples:

The speaker will often pause and sometimes repeat a point, sometimes speak more softly and maybe change tone or inflection. There are also some non-verbal cues where the speaker will have slides, write on the board, or make a dramatic gesture. Note-takers recognize these and use them to gain time and save mental energy.

7. They do not rely on getting the teacher’s notes.

Lots of students love asking the lecturer for a copy of their notes and with PowerPoint and other software, this can be easily done. But the results for the students are mediocre, to say the least. These students are not going to be high flyers if they do this all the time. The key to successful learning is engaging with the materials, processing the information, and then restructuring it later to boost comprehension and retention of the content. Note-taking is the most effective way of doing this.

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8. They become more efficient readers.

Many students take notes while reading texts and managers may have to plow through tedious manuals. Note-taking is an excellent way of maintaining focus and helping you summarize the key points. They ask themselves, “what were the main points?” and if they have problems remembering, they can always have a quick look at their notes. They invariably become better and faster readers. Their distraction level while reading is also reduced because they have to pay attention to recognize any notes they may wish to make.

9. They are always ready to write down ideas.

Richard Branson has observed that if he had never taken notes during meetings and networking, then many of Virgin’s companies and projects would never have even been born. He makes a great justification for taking notes and ruefully comments that women are much better at note-taking than men.

“No matter how big, small, simple or complex an idea is, get it in writing. But don’t just take notes for the sake of taking notes, go through your ideas and turn them into actionable and measurable goals. If you don’t write your ideas down, they could leave your head before you even leave the room.” – Richard Branson

10. They know that taking notes helps them achieve their goals.

This is no accident or coincidence. There are quite a few studies which now show that the actual process of taking notes, longhand or type-written, helps people to boost their learning and also achieve their goals. Researchers at the Dominican University of California have discovered that writing down goals and sharing them is crucial in helping people to achieve their aims. The researchers estimated that a person’s chances of success were increased by 33% when they actually completed this process. There is also a fascinating book called Write it Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser which explains why and how writing down goals is so important for achieving success.

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Now the next time you attend an event, conference, networking chat or meeting, notice how many people are taking notes. They are the ones who have been or will be the most successful in life. Will you be one of them?

Featured photo credit: Beautiful hipster woman taking notes at modern office via shutterstock.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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