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7 Reasons Why Taking Notes Makes You More Productive

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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?

More by this author

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 October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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