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7 Reasons Why Taking Notes Makes You More Productive

7 Reasons Why Taking Notes Makes You More Productive

If you can’t remember what you had for lunch two weeks ago, what makes you think you’re going to remember the most important points from your staff meeting, presentation or seminar? Taking notes gives you the opportunity to highlight key points and details that might otherwise slip your mind, and you never know when these fragments of knowledge will come in handy!

Tim Ferriss once quipped that he “takes notes like some people take drugs,” and even detailed his note-taking process on his blog. Taking notes not only helps you retain more information (I call the process “backing myself up”), but it’s also the key to boosting your productivity (as proven by Tim), both at work and at home. Here’s how:

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1. It relieves stress.

When your mind’s swarming with loose ends to tie, writing them down helps you reduce your cluttered thoughts, which reduces stress. It’s also a great way to set aside your overwhelm so that you can focus on the task at hand.

2. It helps keep your schedule in tact.

I’ve found that taking notes throughout my workday is the best way to stay focused on my to-do list. So many requests come to us from so many directions–emails, phone calls, text messages–that it becomes hard not to get sucked into the busy-but-not-productive whirlwind this creates. Before you know it, the day’s over and only a fraction of your to-do list is finished because you were too busy focusing on tasks that felt urgent, but really weren’t. I find that taking notes as new requests come in help me incorporate them into my future schedule without derailing my plans for that day.

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3. It is easy to convert your notes into a to-do list.

This is especially true during meetings and classes. Say you have a brainstorming session with co-workers or questions about a lecture you’re watching, so you write down what you need to follow up on afterward. The notes from your brainstorming session can be turned into a to-do list to make sure you accomplish what you need to after the meeting’s over, while your lecture notes give you a checklist to follow when filling in holes on what you’re learning.

4. You create quality reference materials.

If you want to become the best in your field, taking notes is your ticket to making it happen. As you build your career and keep track of what you’re learning, you’ll have easy access to your very own refresher courses.

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5. You can share your notes with co-workers and friends.

Quality notes not only help you build a strong arsenal of knowledge, but they can help make a difference in the lives of those you care about. If a new co-worker needs to get caught up on a project they’re working with you on, they can refer to your notes to catch up without feeling overwhelmed. If a friend misses class due to a family emergency, your notes can help them get back on track. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

6. It improves the quality of everything you do.

Whether you’re putting together a report for work or tweaking a recipe for your next social gathering, taking notes helps you improve every project, every hobby, and every event you participate in. It’s a detail-oriented way to process your learning experience, which eventually leads to expert status at work or satisfied guests at home.

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7. Taking notes makes you look good.

It shows you care and that you’re fully present during the learning process. Taking notes is a subtle action that reveals much about a person’s character: patience, determination, and attention to detail. It also shows you’re efficient and don’t allow what’s important to fall through the cracks.

How has taking notes improved your life?

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Krissy Brady

A women's health & wellness writer with a short-term goal to leave women feeling a little more empowered and a little less verklempt.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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